SGU Vice Chancellor Liebowitz Featured in International Business Times

Graduates of SGU's School of Medicine

An op/ed piece by SGU Vice Chancellor Dr. Richard Liebowitz was recently featured in the International Business Times.

The article, Coronavirus Response: How International Medical School Graduates Can Help Fight COVID-19, explained the important role that international medical schools play in training highly-qualified students who eventually become much-needed physicians in the United States, especially when it comes to providing healthcare services to underserved communities.

“To reduce the threat posed by COVID-19—and other infectious diseases like it—our healthcare system must do a better job managing, treating, and preventing chronic disease, especially in vulnerable populations,” Dr. Liebowitz wrote. “Primary care physicians can do that job. And there’s no better source of primary care physicians than international medical schools. It’s time to bring more of their graduates in—and expand post-graduate training capacity to allow them to further their careers as US doctors.”

AMSA SGU Receives Prestigious Chapter Success Award

St. George’s University’s chapter of the American Medical Student Association (AMSA) recently received international recognition, as it was honored with the Paul R. Wright Chapter Success Award at this year’s AMSA National Conference and Exposition.

The award, named after AMSA Executive Director Emeritus Paul R. Wright, emphasizes chapter commitment to improving member solidarity by promoting AMSA’s mission of inspiring future physicians through local events, innovative programming, leadership development, calls to action and the display of teamwork.

“We are honored and deeply humbled to receive this award,” said Tasha Phillips-Wilson, former president of AMSA SGU. “However, the best part about it is being able to give back to a place that has given us so much. We can never repay what Grenada has given us. St. George’s University has opened the door for us to fulfill our dreams and participating in AMSA SGU chapter activities is just one of the ways that we try to show our gratitude.”

AMSA National notified the students of their candidacy earlier this year and invited them to Washington, DC to receive the award at this year’s conference, scheduled for April 16-18. However, in light of travel restrictions and an ever-evolving situation related to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, AMSA National made the necessary adjustments to the 2020 convention and awarded the students virtually. The conference included three days of more than 30 sessions, speakers, competitions, and fairs to join medical students from across the globe through full accessibility from the safety of their homes.

“Winning the Paul R. Wright Chapter Success Award at the 2020 AMSA National Convention in the US is an outstanding accomplishment by our AMSA SGU chapter,” praised Dr. C.V. Rao, dean of students at SGU. “It is a culmination of sustained efforts by our students for over the past two decades. It is also an acknowledgement of our students—future physicians, who have gone above the traditional requirements of the medical school curriculum. It recognizes their passion to help uplift the community even when they don’t necessarily have the time and inspires future medical students to go beyond the books and give more of themselves.”

The SGU chapter is the largest international AMSA chapter and is actively involved in the Grenadian community, coordinating health fairs, blood drives and promoting medical education on the island.

“Being a physician is about service, and AMSA SGU really takes that to heart,” said Ms. Phillips-Wilson. “Our team is always so excited about participating in the community health fair experiences because it parallels our future patient-physician relationships and allows us to build on those skills while serving the Grenadian community.”

The American Medical Student Association (AMSA) is the oldest and largest independent association of physicians-in-training in the United States. Today, AMSA is a student-governed, national organization committed to representing the concerns of physicians-in-training. AMSA members are medical students, premedical students, interns, residents, and practicing physicians. Founded in 1950, AMSA continues its commitment to improving medical training and has more than 62,000 national and international members.

–Ray-Donna Peters

SGU Premed Student Collaborates With Local Police to Encourage Social Distancing

St. George’s University premedical student Hiranya S recently collaborated with the police department in Tamil Nadu, India, on a song that preached social distancing.

According to the World Health Organization’s most recent report, India’s swift measures to prevent virus transmission have resulted in just over 16,000 positive tests, in a country of more than 1.3 billion people. Ms. Hiranya’s message encourages citizens to continue to take precaution.

Translated into English, the song reads …

There are possible ways to escape from corona virus attack, please listen.
government instructions will help us and doctors’ advice will guide us to face the virus infection
as individual by facing alone without fear. chase out the virus infection from our society
it is a deadly virus and dangerous, but if we are cautious, we can win.
it is important to wash your hands, and wear a mask
keep the distance
if you have cough, cold and fever, immediately do testing
if anybody have symptoms, you should inform
stay home, stay home, stay home.

stay at home and obey the law
if you roam around, you will get virus infection
we (the police) are protecting you and you must realize that
even though we know we will get infected, we are doing our duties to protect you
the police is your friend
the whole world is worrying about this situation
we have to save our lives; we have to save the mankind
stay home, stay home, stay home.

First-Year IM Resident Shares How Coronavirus Pandemic Has Impacted His Training

Matt Heckroth, MD '19, IM resident

Matt Heckroth, MD ’19, a first-year internal medicine resident at University of Louisville, was interviewed by his hometown local paper, the Tallahassee Democrat, on what its like to be a resident during COVID-19 pandemic.

“The things I am sure I am going to see over the next couple of weeks and the next couple of months are going to be helpful,” Heckroth told the newspaper. “We are learning about this virus and about how it affects people.”

Dr. Heckroth had a nontraditional path to medicine. The aspiring gastroenterologist originally wanted to become a professional baseball player. He was a highly touted pitching prospect before suffering a shoulder injury that prevented him from playing past his sophomore year in college.

He credited his strong relationship with his orthopedic surgeon for helping him decide on medicine.

St. George’s University Awards Nine Students with Prestigious Scholarships

St. George's University 2020 CityDoctors scholarship recipientsSt. George’s University announced that it has awarded nine incoming students with CityDoctors scholarships. The winners hail from several cities and towns, including Bronx, Brooklyn, and Monmouth County in New Jersey.

“This program gives medical students from New York and New Jersey the unique opportunity to return home after graduation and serve their communities,” said Dr. G. Richard Olds, president of St. George’s University. “We’re thrilled to welcome the 2020 recipients to our campus community.”

Created in 2012, CityDoctors Scholarships are awarded cooperatively by St. George’s University and several partner hospitals in New York and New Jersey to applicants who wish to start their studies in the January term.

Students chosen for a NYC Health + Hospitals CityDoctors Scholarship must commit to working in one of the system’s 11 public hospitals following graduation. Those who receive a CityDoctors Scholarship from Jersey Shore University Medical Center or HackensackUMC need not commit to working in those hospitals.

To be eligible for a NYC Health + Hospitals CityDoctors scholarship, students must have maintained a permanent residence within the five boroughs of New York City for five or more years, graduated from high school or college in New York City, or have other ties to NYC Health + Hospitals.

Residents of Monmouth County, Ocean County, or Bergen County, as well as students with some connection to JSUMC or HackensackUMC, are eligible for the CityDoctors Scholarships from St. George’s New Jersey hospital partners.

In 2019, more than 375 St. George’s University graduates entered residency programs in New York and New Jersey. St. George’s is the second-largest provider of practicing doctors to the U.S. healthcare system.

“New York and New Jersey need more highly skilled physicians to meet the needs of their residents,” Dr. Olds said. “We have no doubt that this class of CityDoctors scholarship winners will emerge as leaders in the practice of medicine.”

2020 SGU/NU Entering Class Begins on Path Toward Unique Role in Society

Thirty-eight students commit themselves to the medical profession with last month’s White Coat Ceremony in the UK, part of St. George’s University of Grenada School of Medicine/Northumbria University Four-Year MD Program. With last month’s White Coat Ceremony, the 38 students in the St. George’s University of Grenada School of Medicine/Northumbria University Four-Year MD Program not only committed themselves to the medical profession but, through their training, putting themselves in a unique position in society.

“You will develop the skills for close and intimate contact with patients during some of their most difficult times,” said Dr. David Heymann, director of the Center of Bioethics and Humanities, University of Colorado, the evening’s keynote speaker. “You will have their full trust. From your interaction with them and their families, you will see the world in a way that many others cannot. If you take advantage of this special gift of trust, you will gain insight that only the medical profession can provide.”

This year’s class joined a network of more than 1,800 SGU students who began their studies at NU’s campus in Newcastle, United Kingdom. The class includes 37 students from countries such as the United States, Canada, the UK, Uganda, Thailand, and Australia. The students were robed in their white physicians’ coats – symbolizing their entry into the medical profession—and took an oath of commitment to uphold the highest ethical and professional standards of “duty and trust.”

“The next four years will help mold you into the doctor you will become,” said Jonathan Ashcroft, MD/MSc ’10, deputy lead microbiologist for the UK’s Public Health Rapid Support Team, who emceed the ceremony. Dr. Ashcroft began his own studies at SGU as part of the program, then the Keith B. Taylor Global Scholars Program. “While the lectures, practical labs, and clinical skills workshops will provide you with the critical and indispensable knowledge and skills, it is the lessons you learn from interactions with your patients that will always remain with you and truly shape what sort of physician you will be.”

Dr. Richard Liebowitz, vice chancellor of St. George’s University, harkened back to his own medical school journey, and spoke of how the experience changed his life. Like the 2020 entering class will do, Dr. Liebowitz spent the first two years learning the basic sciences, but it wasn’t until his clinical rotations that he fully grasped the connection that physicians make with patients and their families.

“I learned that being a physician was much more than being somebody who knew how the body operated,” he said. “I was exposed to a number of people from varying backgrounds, which helped me understand that you are granted access that no other profession has. You’re there at the happiest times—with birth—and also at the most trying times—with death. It’s important to be professional. Being given the opportunity to partake in this part of people’s lives puts a responsibility and a demand on us, and being professional as a physician is critical as you go through training and your practice.”

The SGU/Northumbria joint program, formerly the Keith B. Taylor Global Scholars Program, was founded in 2007 to create a pathway for highly qualified international students to pursue a world-class medical education by spending the first year of their physician training with SGU at Northumbria, before going to Grenada to continue their studies.

“Today is a very special occasion as we recognize the start of our new students’ learning journey on the way to becoming qualified doctors,” said Professor Andrew Wathey, Vice Chancellor of Northumbria University. “Our partnership with St. George’s University is a clear example of both institutions’ global perspective in action, and our shared vision for building on our international reputations for academic excellence.”

Photos by Caed Parker, Class4studios.com

 

From the Navy to the OR: SGU Grad Trades Uniform for White Coat

A high-pressure environment. Critical problem solving. A wide array of challenges. The operating room was exactly the type of workplace atmosphere that Georgios Mihalopulos, MD ’18, set out to find when he began working toward a career in medicine. It also mirrored his life as an officer in the Canadian Navy, a position that he held before and during medical school.

“I always say I love stress and I hate sleep, so that’s why surgery is the perfect field for me,” said Mihalopulos, a second-year surgery resident at Waterbury Hospital in Connecticut. “It just seemed like the most natural thing in the world for me to do.”

His military career began in 2008 when, while completing his undergraduate degree at the University of Western Ontario in London, he joined the Canadian Navy Reserves, convinced by a friend that it would be “the greatest adventure of a lifetime.”

He wasn’t wrong.

“I thought this was something I would do just for two or three years while I was at university,” Mihalopulos said. “But after I graduated, I took an additional two years off and worked for the Navy full-time. I just fell in love with it—the atmosphere, the training commissions, and the unique opportunity that it was. It was a great experience and I think it was the one thing that prepared me the most for medical school.”

Dr. Mihalopulos joined the St. George’s University of Grenada School of Medicine/Northumbria University Four- and Five-Year Program, which offered him the opportunity to learn a new healthcare system, enjoy smaller class sizes, and immerse himself in European culture. As an added bonus, he was able to work with the British Navy, with a naval reserve unit only a 10-minute walk from the NU campus.

“Through our embassy and theirs, we were able to coordinate an exchange program where I got to work with British sailors, do a couple of exercises and learn how they do things, as well as show them how we do things in Canada,” he said.

Dr. Mihalopulos spent 10 years in the Navy, graduating to become a fully qualified naval warfare officer responsible for the day-to-day navigation of the ship, coordinating its activities, and managing inter-ship operations. He has drawn comparisons between the operating room and his military background in how they function day-to-day. The bridge of the ship and the operating room are a lot alike in gathering information, working with a team to coordinate the best course of action, and making critical decisions within a short space of time.

After residency, he will look to complete a fellowship in plastic surgery, and hopes to work with fellow surgeons and medical personnel to coordinate a multi-disciplinary approach to upper- and lower-lip trauma.

“What we’ve found in our research is that if you can have the best people from multiple disciplines approach a problem together you get better results,” he said. “It’s amazing to take muscle or bone from one part of the body and use it to reconstruct another part of the body. You really have the ability to change somebody’s life.

“There’s a saying: ‘the general surgeon can save your life while the plastic surgeon can give you your life back,’” he continued. “You see it especially with breast cancer, which is such a life-changing experience for the patient. I enjoy doing anything that helps get patients back to where they were and get their confidence back.”

–Ray-Donna Peters

 

 

US News Shines Light on “What to Know about Caribbean Medical Schools”

US News & World Report recently published a news story titled “What to Know About Caribbean Medical Schools,” in which it outlined the success of institutions such as St. George’s University and identified criteria by which aspiring physicians should evaluate all of their options, in the US and beyond.

In the story, reporter Ilana Kowarski spoke with Dr. G. Richard Olds, president of SGU, and Robert Ryan, Dean of Admissions about what separates SGU from other often non-accredited Caribbean schools that haven’t demonstrated a clear path to residency and a career in medicine. They also shed a light on the many qualities that SGU is looking for on applications.

“We often see that our very strong students after year one and two are those that we took that chance on and said, ‘Hey, we’re going to give you that opportunity to show us that you can succeed in medicine,'” Mr. Ryan said.

In addition, Ms. Kowarski interviewed Ashley Steinberg, MD ’11, who graduated from SGU and now serves as a plastic and reconstructive surgeon at The Clinic for Plastic Surgery in Houston.

“The best indicator of how good a school is would be where its recent graduates matched into residency and what they are doing now,” Dr. Steinberg said.

SGU Year in Review: A Look Back at the New Stories that Defined Us in 2019

2019 was a monumental year for students, faculty, and alumni of St. George’s University. SGU became the second-largest source of doctors for the entire US workforce. We placed 979 graduates into US and Canadian residencies—our highest number to date.

But that’s not all.

The School of Veterinary Medicine received full accreditation by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS), and is now one of the few schools in the world that is accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association in the United States and RCVS in the UK. The School of Arts and Sciences welcomed its first Caribbean national as dean.

SGU profiled many graduates who are making waves in human and animal healthcare industries—showcasing the diversity and reach of our global alumni—and how becoming a doctor (or veterinarian) has changed their lives and the lives of their patients.

These are the stories that underscore SGU’s strengths and define us as a University as we aim to enhance student success and grow the number of healthcare professionals around the world. Read on to see the top news stories of 2019 on SGU.edu.

Match Day 2019

On Match Day 2019, hundreds of SGU students secured first-year residency positions in the United States. Students matched into highly competitive positions in fields such as anesthesiology, child neurology, diagnostic radiology, emergency medicine, family medicine, internal medicine, internal medicine/emergency medicine, internal medicine/pediatrics, neurology, obstetrics and gynecology, pathology, pediatrics, physical medicine and rehabilitation, psychiatry, surgery, urology, vascular surgery. They joined residency programs in 42 US states and the District of Columbia over the summer.

In addition, SGU students and graduates obtained first-year residency positions through the Canadian Resident Matching Service (CaRMS).

Profound Impact: SGU Educated Second-Most Licensed Physicians in US In 2018

For more than 40 years, St. George’s University has provided highly qualified physicians to the United States, and never before has its impact been more evident. According to a report published in the Journal of Medical Regulation, SGU educated the second-most licensed physicians in the United States in 2018.

SGU Commencement 2019

In June, the School of Medicine’s newest class of physicians convened together one last time in New York City for SGU’s annual commencement ceremonies. Family and friends gathered at Lincoln Center to watch the graduates join an alumni network of more than 17,000 physicians who have gone on to practice in all 50 United States and in over 50 countries worldwide.

In addition, animals of all shapes and sizes gained caretakers and advocates when the SGU School of Veterinary Medicine granted Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degrees to 83 new veterinarians in New York City. New veterinarians joined an alumni network of 1,670 veterinarians who built a foundation for their careers at SGU.

In Grenada, graduates from 31 countries were among the 2019 class that included more than 230 students from the School of Arts and Sciences, and 110 from the School of Graduate Studies, with one PhD graduate in attendance.

DVM Program Gains Full Accreditation from Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons

Adding to its growing list of achievements, the St. George’s University’s School of Veterinary Medicine’s Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) program received full accreditation from the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS), the organization that sets the standards of veterinary care in the United Kingdom, through 2024.

Grenada-Born SGU Alum Returns Home to Care for His Nation’s Heart

As a practicing cardiologist, Diego Humphrey, MD ’84, a native Grenadian, serves the retired men and women of the US Armed Forces at the Jack C. Montgomery Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Muskogee, OK. Yet Dr. Humphrey, who never forgot his roots, returns each year to donate his time and expertise to the SGU-Physician Humanitarian Network.

Commonwealth Conference Focuses On Student Success

More than 350 educators from Grenada and around the world descended on SGU for the Council for Education in the Commonwealth (CEC) 2019 annual conference. The 2019 conference marked the first time that the CEC’s annual event had been held in the Caribbean region.

Mother’s Cancer Battle Motivates SGU Grad to Become Breast Surgeon

Joseph Di Como, MD '14

A doctor delivered the news—cancer, an aggressive form. Joseph Di Como’s mother, a cornerstone of the family, would have to undergo surgery and many months of treatment. Her struggle changed the course of his life forever. More than 15 years later, now a doctor, Joseph Di Como, MD ’14, is providing important care and instilling hope in patients as a breast surgical oncology fellow at Brown University, Women and Infants’ Hospital of Rhode Island.

Major Canadian Hospital Joins SGU’s Burgeoning Clinical Network

Adding to more than 70 clinical training locations across North America and the United Kingdom, St. George’s University finalized an agreement with Pembroke Regional Hospital in Ontario, Canada that will offer fourth-year students a range of disciplines to choose from for their clinical electives.

Eugene Becomes First Caribbean National to Lead SAS

As the new Dean of St. George’s University’s School of Arts and Sciences (SAS), Dr. Lucy Eugene is deeply committed to its growth. A native of Trinidad and Tobago, she is the first Caribbean national to become the school’s dean.

Equine Veterinarian Shares Path to Horse Country

When S. Heath Soignier, DVM ’12, CVMST, isn’t visiting his equine patients, one can usually find him practicing new holistic veterinary medicine techniques on his quarter horse, Margarita.

“To me horses and dogs are two of the best animals: if you trust them completely, they are most willing to reciprocate that trust. Not a lot of animals are like that,” Dr. Soignier said. “I love that I get to work with horses all day long.”

—Laurie Chartorynsky

SGU Physician Humanitarian Network Gives Back to Host Nation

Many SGU graduates feel a strong desire to give back to a nation that they credit as playing a major part in successfully achieving their dreams. Now in its 12th year, the St. George’s University Physician Humanitarian Network (SGU-PHuN) continues to allow them to do just that.

Over the years, the program’s visiting specialists have donated their time and expertise to providing much-needed healthcare services, pharmaceuticals, supplies, and other medical equipment to the Ministry of Health and Government of Grenada in efforts to facilitate substantial improvements to the island’s healthcare infrastructure. This year was no different.

“2019 has been another productive and impactful year for the SGU-PHuN in physician participation by our graduates and associates,” said Brendon La Grenade, vice provost for institutional advancement. “SGU-PHuN captures the community spirit of SGU in a very direct way. Our graduates continue to return to the island to deliver a vast array of voluntary specialty medical care including ophthalmology, cardiology, endocrinology, and neurology to name a few. The value in these programs is not measured in the millions of dollars in donations and services delivered but more so in the lives of the individuals we impact in a positive way.”

“For 2020, St. George’s University will continue to collaborate with the Government of Grenada and the Ministry of Health in tackling the most critical issues on our priority list,” added Dr. G. Richard Olds, president of SGU. “Working with our alumni and growing network of support, SGU-PHuN will continue assisting with the improvement of healthcare with the goal of ensuring that Grenada and our St. George’s family are given the level of healthcare that everyone expects, and everyone needs.”

With more than 25 visiting physicians, this year cardiology and ophthalmology continued to flourish as the flagship programs, benefitting more than 1,000 patients with 113 surgeries performed. Other specialty visits included OB/GYN, neurology, endocrinology, podiatry, and a first-time otolaryngology visit during which 81 patients were screened. These are all procedures that were once unavailable to the people of Grenada due to lack of access to specialists and the funds to attain these required surgeries.

Particularly noteworthy this year was the new collaboration with Surgical Eye Expeditions (SEE) International, a non-profit organization that treats a variety of sight-impairing conditions around the world. The partnership spearheaded by the father-daughter duo of Orazio Giliberti, MD ’82, and Francesca Giliberti, MD ’10, performed a two-week clinic with six visiting surgeons who evaluated approximately 250 patients and performed 49 surgical procedures, including cataract surgery. Considerably the largest eye care event in Grenada’s history, the overall donation provided free of charge to the clinic, including airfare, shipping costs, patient visits, and ophthalmic surgeries, totaled over $750,000 USD.

“In an amazing outpouring of philanthropy, our team and SGU’s Division of Ophthalmology secured an additional operating scope, slit lamp, phaco machinery, and microinstruments, as well as, pharmaceutical donations to the SGU-PHuN clinic,” said Orazio Giliberti, MD ’82, FACS. “These machines and materials mimic a US-style operating room, which will allow future graduates, physicians, and SGU friends and guests to provide essential ophthalmic services.”

Interventional cardiologist, Mark Lanzieri, MD ’85, was also recognized this year for his 20 years of service, receiving an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters for his selfless contributions of cardiology services free of charge to Grenadian citizens. As the founder of SGU-PHuN’s interventional cardiology program, Dr. Lanzieri and his team, which includes his wife, Annie; an X-ray technologist; and cardiovascular specialist, have seen a wide variety of patients since the program’s inception. The value of their time and the equipment donated has exceeded $1 million and resulted in countless lives saved.

“For many people, this is life changing, whether it is a single-chamber pacemaker, a stent, or simply something that allows them to go back to work or keeps them out of the hospital,” said Dr. Lanzieri, staff cardiologist, Steward Health Care in Massachusetts. “This work is important because there are immediate benefits conferred to patients who do not need to leave their family and social support networks. It is pure humanitarian medicine at its best and I love what I do.”

Highlights from this year also included, visits from two top-tier Grenadian-born physicians, endocrinologist Dwight Matthias, MD ‘92 and Diego Humphrey, MD ’84. The program also hosted a number of legacy visits, as several graduates returned with their children to participate in giving back to Grenada, such as interventional cardiologist Thomas Vazzana, MD ’85 and his daughter Virginia Vazzana, MD ’17, OB/GYN Philip Lahrmann, MD ’81 and his son Jeffrey Lahrmann, MD ’15, and ophthalmologist Dr. Fred Lambrou, whose stepson is currently a student in SGU’s School of Medicine.

According to Mr. La Grenade, 2019 saw tremendous growth both of the program and the University as a whole. With SGU grads now participating alongside their children, this highlights SGU-PHuN as an incredibly worthwhile venture and showcases the reach of SGU and the value it places on the Grenadian community. Continuing to build on the past 12 years of achievements, the program is poised to provide even greater improvements in the future, further strengthening its connection to Grenada’s medical community and reinforcing the bond between the University and its host country.

“SGU, through SGU-PHuN, is all about working with the Grenadian community toward improving access and expanding the range of available healthcare to its citizens,” Mr. La Grenade said.

–Ray-Donna Peters