Several graduates of St. George’s University who recently started their residencies at hospitals in the state of Nevada were featured in an article by the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Of the 14 residents who started this July, all but two are in family medicine or internal medicine, both areas where Nevada is in short supply of physicians.
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which “really stresses a hospital system, particularly from a manpower standpoint,” having residency training programs is particularly important, said Dr. G. Richard Olds, president of St. George’s University.
More than 40 SGU graduates have matched into Las Vegas-area residencies over the past five years.
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In a recent edition of the Los Angeles Times, pulmonary and critical care specialist Baljinder Sidhu, MD ’06, was praised for the role that he played in the treatment of a patient who was intubated and on a ventilator at Marian Regional Medical Center due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19). Even after receiving a plasma infusion, she remained extremely ill and it was recommended that she be moved to another facility to be put on a lung bypass machine.
To facilitate this move and avoid any adverse consequences, Dr. Sidhu accompanied the patient in an ambulance for the three-hour trip to Providence St. John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, CA.
“I owe this doctor everything,” said the patient’s husband. “I’m not kidding you, this guy went above and beyond, riding in the ambulance all the way to make sure she got there safely.”
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“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.”
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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.
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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.
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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.
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St. 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.
“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.”
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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.”
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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.”
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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.
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