Med-Vet Summer Leadership Academy Draws Rave Reviews

For the past year and a half, 17-year-old Marco Turner mulled the idea of becoming a veterinarian. Originally from the Bahamas, he had volunteered in a veterinarian’s office, where he helped nurse the community’s pets back to health, and then began researching opportunities that would help further his career in veterinary medicine.

Enter the St. George’s University Med-Vet Summer Leadership Academy, which has welcomed nearly 900 aspiring physicians and veterinarians to Grenada to receive an insider’s view of their future careers since 2002. In the program’s 15-year history, 46 Academy graduates have gone on to enroll in the School of Medicine or Veterinary Medicine.

“This experience so far has been great,” said Mr. Turner. “Today, we had a suture clinic where we learned how to do three different kinds of suture patterns. While working at a vet’s office, I would see these sutures done, and I always wished that I could do it myself. Now I have the chance.

“This has been a valuable opportunity for my own learning and development that I would definitely recommend to anyone interested in a med or vet program.”

This summer, 74 students hailing from the United States, Canada, Trinidad, Bahamas, Bermuda, United Kingdom, and Puerto Rico successfully balanced a challenging academic program with extracurricular activities such as hiking, sailing, and snorkeling. Both the med and vet students engaged in courses that combined didactic lectures, small-group problem solving sessions, practical lab work in state-of-the-art facilities, and hands-on training through simulated and real-life situations.

This year’s class included Charlize Espinoza, who had undoubtedly been regaled with stories of SGU by her aunt, Cholene Espinoza, MD SGU ’15, now a PGY-3 OB/GYN resident at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. When asked in kindergarten what she wanted to be when she grew up, Charlize replied “a doctor.” A decade later, that answer still hasn’t changed.

“I jumped at the chance to attend the Med-Vet Summer Leadership Academy because I really wanted the opportunity to plan out my future and get a glimpse of what attending medical school would be like,” Ms. Espinoza said. “However, as someone who suffers from anxiety attacks, I thought this might not be right for me—being in a different country, living in dorms, and being away from my parents. But since being here, I haven’t had any anxiety issues. Instead, I’m really enjoying this experience, and everyone has been so warm and welcoming. It’s been a very intensive program so far but the lectures are very interesting and the doctors are very accessible. The Academy is a great place to test the waters and get ready for medical school.”

In 2017, four Academy alumni—Kristen Sellar, DVM; Abigail Maynard, DVM; Lisa Dyke, MD; and Virginia Vazzana, MD—earned their degrees at commencement in New York City. Dr. Vazzana, daughter of SGU alumnus Thomas Vazzana, MD SGU ’85, attended the Med-Vet Summer Leadership Academy in 2010 after it received rave reviews from her older sister, who had attended three years earlier. She accepted a seat at SGU’s School of Medicine, where she met and married her classmate Hamfreth Shaul Rahming, MD SGU ’17. Dr. Vazzana began her pediatric residency at The Dwaine and Cynthia Willet Children’s Hospital of Memorial Health University Medical Center in Savannah, Georgia, this month.

“The Academy was truly the first experience that I had of what medical school and becoming a physician is really like,” stated Dr. Vazzana. “I still remember the first time I worked on a human cadaver, the first time I wore a white coat and shadowed doctors to see real patients, the first time I learned to use an ultrasound machine, and so much more. These things all happened at the Academy. For me, being exposed to these opportunities really was a perfect way to confirm what I wanted to do with my future and is a huge reason I became a doctor.”

St. George’s University Remembers Lloyd Noel

St. George’s University mourns the loss of Lloyd Noel, former Attorney General of Grenada (1979-1980), who passed away on Monday, July 3, 2017 in New York. An early advocate for the University, Mr. Noel served as Lead Grenadian Council of St. George’s University, playing an integral role in its government and labor relations.

A gifted lawyer, Mr. Noel joined SGU in 1984, diligently representing the University and working to protect its rights while striking an effective balance between the needs of the people of Grenada and the University. In 1986 he was appointed as an Assistant Professor in the department of Medical Jurisprudence at St. George’s University School of Medicine in September. Mr. Noel served on a number of committees which furthered the University’s presence in Grenada, including the Fund for Orphans and Elderly and the SGU Monitoring Committee.

As a fervent advocate for free speech, Mr. Noel also authored an editorial column in the local newspaper that provided critical analysis of the Government of Grenada, as well as addressing many social issues in the country and various parts of the world. Mr. Noel was a devout Roman Catholic who was active in his parish of St. John and the wider community. A devoted husband and father, he was compassionate, fair-minded and affable and could always be counted on.

“As General Counsel of SGU, I interviewed Lloyd and made the decision to hire him for the position of Lead Grenadian Council of St. George’s University”, said Patrick F. Adams, Esq., co-founder, Trustee, and former General Counsel. “With his no-nonsense style, Lloyd was a person whose “yes” meant “yes” and his “no” meant “no.”” “As a family man, he was a dedicated father and a husband who deeply loved his wife. Lloyd was a talented lawyer but more importantly, he was a great man. His invaluable impact on the growth and success of SGU will not be forgotten. I will greatly miss him as a colleague and friend.”

Mr. Noel is survived by his wife and children, including Mr. Larry Noel, Athletics Coordinator of Field and Facilities, Athletics and Activities Department, SGU. His outstanding contribution to St. George’s University is immeasurably appreciated and he will be greatly missed by his family, friends, and colleagues.

Banner: Addressing Canada’s Rural Doctor Shortage

Sandra Banner

An opinion piece by Sandra Banner, former director of the Canadian Resident Matching Service (CaRMS) and currently a consultant at St. George’s University, appeared in the Vancouver Sun on Sunday, June 25.

In it, Ms. Banner explained how medical schools such as SGU address the rural doctor shortage in Canada, citing a Canadian Institute of Health Information report that states that fewer than half of residents can secure same-day or next-day appointments with their family doctors.

“Canada’s leaders must act to reverse these shortages,” Ms. Banner wrote. “Doing so will require an aggressive effort by medical schools and governments to encourage more young people to consider careers in family medicine—careers that have an outsized impact on the health of Canadians.”

St. George’s University has graduated more than 1,300 Canadian doctors, more than 70 percent of which have entered a career in primary care. Read the entire opinion piece by visiting the Vancouver Sun website.

St. George’s University Honored by Chicago’s Norwegian American Hospital

Daniel Ricciardi, MD SGU ’81, Dean of Clinical Studies (left) and Dr. G. Richard Olds, President of St. George’s University, accepted the Power of Community Award from Jose R. Sanchez, President and Chief Executive Officer, Norwegian American Hospital.

CHICAGO — On June 22, St. George’s University received Norwegian American Hospital’s Power of Community Award for its leadership in the quest to provide quality care to patients across Chicago.

“We are privileged to receive this honor from our friends at Norwegian American Hospital,” said Dr. G. Richard Olds, President of St. George’s University. “We have made educating the primary care workforce of the future our mission, and we are grateful that Norwegian American Hospital supports that mission.”

Power of Community Award recipients are selected for their dedication to the community served by Norwegian American Hospital and their efforts to provide great medical care in the area. This is the third year the award was presented.

The award ceremony coincided with the inauguration of Norwegian American Hospital’s newly-accredited Family Residency Training Program, which will begin training medical graduates on July 1. The program was developed to address the shortage of primary care physicians in Illinois. There are less than 13,000 primary care doctors available to serve Illinois’s population of nearly 13 million.

“The shortage of primary care physicians is one of the chief public health challenges our state faces,” said Jose Sanchez, Chief Executive Officer of Norwegian American Hospital. “Together with St. George’s University, we look forward to doing our part to help solve it.”

Class of 2017 Veterinarians Take Next Step in Their Journeys

Commencement marked the ending of one chapter and the beginning of another for St. George’s University School of Veterinary Medicine’s Class of 2017. Before setting off to begin their careers as practicing veterinarians, they convened on June 11 at Lincoln Center in New York City to celebrate their collective success.

This year’s class of veterinarians hailed from 10 countries, as far away as Taiwan, India, and Botswana. Among the 2017 graduates was Abigail Maynard, DVM SGU ’17, from Barbados, who became the first doctor in her family on Sunday. Dr. Maynard plans to go into mixed animal practice before joining the public health residency program at the University of Minnesota. At graduation, she was cheered on by her parents, grandmother, and godmother.

“I feel really overwhelmed right now. I just can’t believe that the dream that I’ve had since I was 6 years old is finally coming true,” shared Dr. Maynard. “I felt very prepared by SGU especially during my clinical year. Comparing myself to other clinical students, I felt there were definitely certain areas in which I was leagues ahead of them. Today, my classmates and I are reunited, and after all our hard work I’m just so happy that we are here to achieve our dreams together.”

Hooded by her uncle, Dr. Albert D. Franklin, a medical infirmary practitioner, an emotional Devan Sacknoff, DVM SGU ’17, became the first veterinarian in her family. Dr. Sacknoff, who admitted to eyeing a career in veterinary medicine since the fourth grade, was joined at David Geffen Hall by her parents, aunt, and uncle. After graduation, she is applying to be a general practitioner in Huntington Beach, California.

“It doesn’t seem real; I’m still in shock,” said Dr. Sacknoff. “It feels amazing to be here, and I’m so glad to see everyone again after being apart for a year.”

A new addition to the program, this year’s ceremony featured heartfelt words by a class member— Clarence Williams, DVM SGU ’17—who was nominated by the graduands to speak on their behalf. Currently working in a small animal clinic in south New Jersey in emergency and clinical care, Dr. Williams shared pleasant memories of their time in True Blue.

“We’ve been on a wonderful journey these past four years. It has been extremely tough. We’ve learned a lot of information and we’re going to have to continue to learn more information,” said Dr. Williams. “But despite all our sacrifices, we did it; we’re veterinarians now, we’re doctors. It’s still hard to believe, but we didn’t do it alone. We had help from our great professors and all these memories have helped me realize that we’ve been like a family—an SGU family.”

Although unable to attend the ceremony in person, Dr. Eduardo Durante, Senior Associate Dean, was awarded the Distinguished Service Award for his longtime contributions to SGU in small animal medicine and surgery at the Small Animal Clinic. During his tenure at SGU, Dr. Durante also served as Acting Dean in 2013, and Associate Dean of Faculty and Academic Programs in SVM in 2010 and again in 2013.

SVM Dean Dr. Timothy Ogilvie, who accepted the award on Dr. Durante’s behalf, was also recognized by Chancellor Modica and President Olds for his outstanding service to the University during his three-year term. Dr. Neil C. Olson, the former Dean of University of Missouri School of Veterinary Medicine, will officially assume the same position at SGU on August 15.

Since opening its doors in 1999, SGU’s School of Veterinary Medicine has graduated more than 1,200 veterinarians from 29 countries. These alumni have gone on to practice in 47 US states and 10 countries around the world.

Living and Learning: Student Lives In Car for 2 Months to Better Grasp Homeless Struggles

St. George’s University medical student Jacob Suazo could bury his nose in verbiage and read about the psyches of homeless individuals. He could see them every day on the streets of Janesville, Wisconsin – cold, hungry, hopeless. As an aspiring psychiatrist and clinical student, which has the largest homeless population in the United States, he has even treated some.

But to really understand the struggles of being homeless, even that was only scratching the surface. Until he chose to live out of his car for two months, he wouldn’t truly feel what it was like. It has been a firsthand investigation into a growing problem, and along the way he has learned about the hurdles they must clear, both broadly and day-to-day, and in doing so has learned where their minds may be when entering treatment.

“I’ve always had a soft spot for the homeless and the marginalized, and I joined the fray as a way to understand their struggles more deeply,” Mr. Suazo said.

By his own admission, he has “always been one to do things a little differently.” He attended an arts high school, and traveled the west coast picking produce with migrant workers after his freshman year in college. During his clinical years at SGU, he and his family stumbled upon their own financial difficulties, and the “perfect storm” encouraged him try what he had imagined doing for a long while.

The decision to live in his car has opened his eyes to the innumerable challenges that the homeless community faces – where to park, how to look professional, how to stay warm, how to cook. And that’s simply for one individual. According to the Wisconsin Department of Administration Division of Housing, about 40 percent of homeless individuals are part of families, including more than 6,000 school-aged children. Mr. Suazo, who is married and a father of two, has lived on his own throughout the experience.

Resources such as soup kitchens and food depots have proven helpful, although Mr. Suazo does not engage with this aspect of the experience so those who are truly needy can benefit. He has frequented the public library, where he is able to study, connect to wi-fi, and use the restroom, and talked to homeless individuals to learn about their successes and challenges.

While staying nourished, bathing, and finding ways to study have proven to be surmountable challenges, he was surprised to find that safety was one aspect of regular life he took for granted.

“I had never really experienced anxiety before living in my car,” Mr. Suazo said. “Here, it is much easier to let problems overwhelm you if you already feel vulnerable. It’s important to have a place to go after the day is over to relax and feel safe.”

The experience has not only brought into the focus the struggles faced by homeless individuals and families but also the strain on the mental health industry, with psychiatrists and social workers treating an increasing patient pool with limited resources. According to the US Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), the US must add 10,000 providers to each of the seven mental health care professions by 2025 to meet the expected growth in demand.

Mr. Suazo hopes to help alleviate that shortage, with his sights on a psychiatry residency upon graduating from SGU.

“Crossing social or economic lines has revealed to me that we are one people in need of each other,” Mr. Suazo said. “The needs can be fulfilled on a micro-level and will often encompass more than clinical remedies. My particular future in medicine, and I hope the future of medicine in general, will consider the whole person – a person with wants and needs – rather than isolated diseases. And beyond that, I hope for a future in medicine that better reaches individuals who are marginalized, not only by the system but also by their loved ones.”

His own experience living without a home has shaped his view of himself and the future.

“I’ve learned that I can’t do it alone,” he said. “This has been the theme through all hardships in medical school and life. I’ve made it through basic sciences with the help of study partners, facilitators, and mentors. My wife has always been there for support. Currently, my fellow students give me company and a couch to sleep on every so often when things get tough. It’s OK to ask for help when you need it. I was afraid to ask for help at first, but something about living in your car, using a laundromat weekly, never having your own bathroom, and being at the mercy of others allows one to let go of some pride.

“This experience has allowed me to see the world from a slightly different lens – it’s not all about me, it’s about all of us.”

Newest St. George’s University Physicians Rewarded For Their Commitment

From all around the world and all walks of life, the St. George’s University School of Medicine Class of 2017 came to Grenada to pursue their dreams of becoming a physician. On June 10 and 11 at Lincoln Center in New York City, they were rewarded for their commitment to their profession and their future, earning the degree of Doctor of Medicine at SGU’s commencement ceremony.

This year’s class is comprised of graduates from 86 countries, from Afghanistan to Zambia. They join the more than 17,000 alumni of St. George’s University, including over 14,000 physicians.

“Graduates, this is truly your day, one in which we celebrate your accomplishments and pause for a moment to dream with you of your future,” said Dr. Joseph Childers, Provost. “As much as this ceremony symbolizes an end to your formal studies at SGU, it also signifies our faith in you, our unshakeable belief that you are moving forward fully prepared to handle the intellectual and professional challenges that you will inevitably face.”

2017 Caribbean medical school graduates read a professional oath.“On behalf of the faculty, staff, and administration of St. George’s University, I want to congratulate all of you in the graduating class of 2017,” said Dr. G. Richard Olds, President. “I also want to congratulate the other people in this audience, without whom this graduation would not have been possible – your family, friends, loved ones, and spouses. Thank you for making this day possible.”

The first to cross the stage on Saturday was Grace Lepis, MD SGU ’17, who was overjoyed to have matched into a categorical surgery residency at Monmouth Medical Center in Long Branch, NJ. Since completing her basic sciences in Grenada, she has returned to the island twice, including for her honeymoon.

“I love the island and I love the University,” Dr. Lepis said. “SGU gave me an opportunity that nobody else gave me. To be here at graduation is very exciting. It’s a humbling experience. We all worked very hard to get to this point, and I’m proud of myself and all of my classmates.”

Eight years ago, Janish Kothari, MD SGU ’17, watched his sister, Megha, graduate from SGU and move on to a career in gastroenterology. Her example and mentorship helped Dr. Kothari through the challenges of medical school. He will begin an internal medicine residency at New York Methodist Hospital in Brooklyn this summer.International medical school graduate at commencement.

“Everything flew by so quickly,” Dr. Kothari said. “I remember getting off the plane in Grenada, and now I’m standing here with my robe and getting ready for residency. It’s a surreal moment. I’m very excited to see what the future has in store for me, and can sincerely say that SGU has prepared me for whatever challenges I may face. I wouldn’t change anything.”

In addressing the graduates and their families, Chancellor Modica took a moment to recognize Nelly Golarz de Bourne, the former Dean of Women and Chair of Histology at SGU and widow of the University’s first Vice Chancellor, Geoffrey Bourne. Dr. Golarz was on hand to watch her grandson, Dr. Gordon Bourne, take the Hippocratic Oath.

“Dr. Bourne and Dr. Golarz made this University what it is today, more than anyone, in the first 10 years of its existence,” Chancellor Modica said. “It’s a great honor to know that Geoffrey, looking down on us now, can see his grandson graduate.”

The Chancellor also awarded Dr. Allen Pensick, Provost Emeritus of St. George’s University, with a Distinguished Service Medal for his more than 30 years of service to the University and Grenadian community, including as Provost from 2004 to 2016. Dr. Pensick’s roles also included Dean of Basic and Allied Health Sciences, Chairman of the University Council of Deans, and Chairman of the School of Medicine Faculty Senate. Bell Hall, an iconic building on True Blue’s upper campus, was renamed Allen H. Pensick Hall in 2011.

SGU Student Receives Prestigious Grant for Prostate Cancer Marker Research

Aleef Rahman’s commitment to prostate cancer research has been unwavering since it began, and now with a prestigious grant through the New York Academy of Medicine, the St. George’s University medical student can take his project—and his passion—even farther.

This spring, the Academy selected Mr. Rahman as the 2017 recipient of the Ferdinand C. Valentine Medical Student Research Grant in Urology. Mr. Rahman will conduct his research project, titled “Characterization and Validation of Novel Prostate Cancer Markers,” under the guidance of his mentor, Dr. Srinivas Pentyala, Director of Translational Research at Stony Brook University Medical Center in New York.

“When I received confirmation of this prestigious award, I was floored,” Mr. Rahman said. “I had previously received a research grant before, but this one being specifically from the New York Academy of Medicine was a great honor. It’s very humbling to know that only one or two people nationally get this award every year, and all the hard work that I put in has paid off.”

In addition to spending the next 10 to 12 weeks conducting research at SBU, Mr. Rahman is expected to present his research findings at the Academy’s annual Medical Student Forum in September, to an audience of Academy Fellows, faculty mentors, research colleagues, and fellow student grant awardees.

Research has always been a passion of Mr. Rahman’s, particularly throughout his years in undergraduate school at Stony Brook University and later in graduate school. Prior to enrolling at SGU, Mr. Rahman was the Director for Research in the Department of Surgery for Mount Sinai Services at Elmhurst Hospital Center. He then decided to combine his research skills with a medical degree to advance his professional career.

Working with Dr. Pentyala for almost a decade, Mr. Rahman’s research project will expand on his mentor’s previous discovery of three different diagnosis markers for prostate cancer. Mr. Rahman’s intention is to characterize what these markers look like, their genetic code, and how physicians in the future can utilize his findings as a novel marker for prostate cancer.

“Once this summer project is complete, my goal is to continue working with Dr. Pentyala, with the hope that one day doctors can use our results for earlier detection and diagnosis of prostate cancer,” added Mr. Rahman. “It’s exciting to think that the work we’re doing now can have a significant impact in saving the lives of patients in the future.”

SGU Signs Agreement with Uiduk University, Republic of Korea

Uiduk University in Kyungju, Gyeongsangbuk-do, South Korea

St. George’s University has signed an agreement with Uiduk University, Republic of Korea, creating an avenue for students and academic staff to study and work together via reciprocal exchange programs.

The broad-ranging agreement between the two institutions confers a number of benefits to both, including:

  • The exchange of professors, graduate students, researchers, administrative staff members, and academic information
  • The exchange of undergraduate students for both curricular and extracurricular activities
  • St. George’s University in True Blue, Grenada

    The organization of joint research programs, including for publication in academic and professional journals

  • The organization of joint academic conferences, workshops, and meetings

These provisions make way for St. George’s and Uiduk to develop comprehensive exchange and cooperation programs, providing opportunities for international study for students and faculty at both universities.

“This agreement strengthens our global network of higher education institutions and furthers our mission to be a truly international University,” said Dr. G. Richard Olds, President of St. George’s University. “We look forward to welcoming students and faculty from Uiduk University to our campus.”

Uk Heon Hong, PhD, President of Uiduk University, said “I am pleased to have overseen the beginning of a new relationship between Uiduk and St. George’s University, and hope that this continues for many years to come. This agreement allows for broad cooperation in a number of areas, which will serve to enrich the academic experience for our students and staff.”

The broad-ranging agreement promises that students and staff from both universities can study and work together via reciprocal exchange programs.

St. George’s University and North Carolina State Launch Medical, Veterinary Partnership

RALEIGH and GRENADA—St. George’s University and North Carolina State University have entered into a new partnership that will enable qualified NC State undergraduates to pursue postgraduate medical and veterinary degrees at SGU.

“We are excited to welcome North Carolina State University’s best and brightest to our campus,” said Dr. G. Richard Olds, President of St. George’s University. “This partnership will enable numerous NC State graduates to work toward their dreams of becoming the next generation of doctors and veterinarians at St. George’s.”

“This partnership between NC State and St. George’s University serves as a great opportunity for pre-vet students to pursue their life goal of becoming a veterinarian at an AVMA-accredited school,” said Dr. Shweta Trivedi, Director of North Carolina State’s Veterinary Professions Advising Center. “NC State pre-vets are thrilled to know that they have a guaranteed spot if they meet the requirements. They already have peers at SGU who speak highly of the program.”

The partnership will identify undergraduates at North Carolina State who have excellent academic records and a passion for medicine or veterinary medicine. Upon graduation, they’ll have the opportunity to work toward MD or DVM degrees at SGU.

Those who attend St. George’s University School of Medicine will complete their first two years on campus in Grenada and their final two years in clerkship programs programs in the US, UK and other countries. Those who enroll in the veterinary school will study for three years on campus before completing their final clinical year elsewhere.

North Carolina State joins a diverse group of 24 medical schools and 27 veterinary schools in the United States, United Kingdom, and Canada that have partnered with St. George’s. SGU has similar partnerships with Mahidol University International College in Thailand and colleges and universities in Bermuda, Grenada, Hong Kong, Guyana, and Uganda.

“To solve the world’s biggest public health challenges, doctors and veterinarians must have a global perspective,” Dr. Olds said. “We look forward to inculcating a new generation of students from North Carolina State with that perspective.”