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

Equine Veterinarian Shares Path to Horse Country

 

SGUSVM alumnus and equine practitioner Dr. Heath Soignier.

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.”

Growing up on a small farm in Bosco, LA, Dr. Soignier always had an affinity for animals, aspiring to be a mixed animal veterinarian. Yet his career path led him another way—and one nearly 700 miles from his hometown.

“During my third year at St. George’s University, I visited Lexington with some classmates,” he said. “You hear of the Kentucky Derby and how it’s the horse capital of the world, but it’s so different to experience it. My plans [after graduation] were to go back home and work in a mixed animal practice there, but I came here for a week and kind of fell in love with the place.”

Following graduation, Dr. Soignier accepted a one-year internship position at Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital in Lexington, KY and was offered to stay on after his internship was completed. Today he is an ambulatory associate at Rood and Riddle, which is a full-service equine hospital with satellite offices in Saratoga, NY and Wellington, FL. The hospital treats all different breeds of equine, including racehorses, quarter horses, mini-ponies, and donkeys.

“Our surgeons even treated a baby giraffe,” he said. “It’s not just thoroughbreds.”

As an ambulatory associate, much of Dr. Soignier’s time is spent on the road, visiting local farms. “Fall is a much slower time compared to the spring, which is foaling and breeding season for thoroughbreds. I handle a lot of reproductive cases, dentistry, even veterinary spinal manipulative therapy (chiropractic) for my patients,” he said. “It’s a bit more of a demanding schedule and it can be a bit stressful in that regard, but I love it.”

“Horses can’t tell you what hurts—it’s our job to figure that out,” he added. “You have to be patient, but horses can really teach you about life and themselves. It’s very rewarding.”

From equipment to improving procedure techniques, even incorporating holistic methods of healing, Dr. Soignier is always looking at ways to impact a horse’s life in a positive way. For example, “within our practice we have digital radiograph machines that can take X-rays in the field. They’re wireless, which allows easier maneuverability and to be able to do that in the field with high-quality images is especially helpful,” Dr. Soignier said.

When not seeing patients, Dr. Soignier enjoys spending time with his wife and fellow SGU graduate Catherine Hercula-Soignier, DVM ’12, and his two young daughters on their 10-acre farm in Georgetown, KY. He is also an avid sports enthusiast and outdoorsman.

“I think the best thing about St. George’s is your classmates become your family,” and in Dr. Soignier’s case quite literally. “I joke that I left Grenada with a degree, a wife, and three dogs.”

Dr. Soignier’s wife is chief of staff at Banfield Pet Hospital, a small animal cooperate practice. He loves that he can ask for her opinion on particularly challenging cases.

“If you had told me 10 years ago this is where I would be, I would say you were crazy,” he acknowledged. “But I worked hard to get where I am today. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”

–Laurie Chartorynsky

Dermatology Center Becomes Fourth Clinical Elective Site in Canada

St. George’s University has signed an agreement with North Bay Dermatology Centre to expand opportunities for fourth-year students to gain specialized clinical training in Canada. The center is SGU’s fourth clinical site in the country and one of the more than 70 clinical sites across North America.

Students who choose to do a rotation at North Bay Dermatology Centre, located in North Bay, Ontario, will gain general dermatology experience including treating patients with different types and stages of skin cancer as well inflammatory skin conditions. Run by Dr. Les Rosoph, the Centre also sees patients with psoriasis, dermatitis, rosacea, actinic keratosis, infections, connective tissue diseases, hair loss, acne, benign lesions as well as rare conditions.

“We are thrilled to add North Bay Dermatology to our growing list of impressive elective sites in Canada for students,” said Sandra Banner, SGU’s director of admissions for Canada, adding that she first met Dr. Rosoph in Grenada during Family Weekend when he was visiting his two daughters who are also med students at SGU.

“Through a two-to-four-week rotation with Dr. Rosoph and his team, aspiring physicians will be mentored in a highly specialized field and be able to do procedures once they are comfortable with the practice,” she said. “This is a wonderful opportunity for our students seeking to learn more about the dermatology discipline and further gain experience in the Canadian healthcare system.”

Dr. Rosoph said by accepting fourth-year students through the elective rotation, students can get a strong hands-on experience in the field of dermatology, which can be beneficial to those who choose primary care or a specialized field.

“I really believe in giving people opportunity and letting them make their own future,” Dr. Rosoph said. “For students that want to dive right in, we have lots for them to do.”

He also hopes to entice aspiring physicians to come north once they graduate.

“There’s really a need to bring doctors to northern Ontario,” Dr. Rosoph said. “Canada is so short of physicians once you leave the larger centers, and there are huge numbers of patients that never have access to primary care here. I’m hoping students will come and see Ontario and they will decide to relocate here.”

Located three hours north of Toronto, North Bay’s hospital and several clinics, including the dermatology clinic, serve as teaching units for the North Ontario School of Medicine’s undergraduate students and postgraduate programs. Dr. Rosoph also teaches at North Ontario School of Medicine.

SGU has been building its clinical network north of the US border. In November, St. George’s University finalized an agreement with Pembroke Regional Hospital in Ontario that offers fourth-year students a range of disciplines to choose from for their clinical electives. SGU also recently announced agreements in Ottawa with Ottawa Cardiovascular Centre and Booth Neurology Clinic—further expanding the opportunities available to students to broaden their skills and knowledge in preparation for residency. The first student to rotate at Booth Neurology Clinic began earlier this month.

Canadians have flourished at SGU and beyond: 18 Canadians who applied through the Canadian Resident Matching Service (CaRMS) secured residencies this year in competitive fields ranging from anesthesiology and emergency medicine to pathology and psychiatry.

Applications for placement at North Bay Dermatology beginning in January are now being accepted. The center has the ability to take two students at a time.

–Laurie Chartorynsky

Doctors Making a Difference: SGU Grads Travel to Colombia for Medical Mission Trip

The days were long yet the need to provide medical care to thousands of Venezuelan refugees living in Colombia was never more critical. Graduates from St. George’s University were among doctors and medical staff who recently travelled to Bogota and Cucuta to provide free medical services to the refugees.

Nathalie Briones, MD ’18, an emergency medicine resident at NewYork Presbyterian-Queens Hospital, was one of three SGU alumni who volunteered for the medical mission trip. “We saw a lot of communicable diseases, people dehydrated from having poor sanitation, parasites in children, and severe malnutrition,” said Dr. Briones. This was her second medical mission trip with trip organizers, Centurion Medical Missions. “We didn’t expect how acutely ill so many patients would be when we got there. Many of them were suffering from diseases that we had only ever seen before in our textbooks.”

Despite the dire conditions of the refugees in Colombia, she added that the team left each day more humbled and grateful than ever before. “The hardest part was hearing their stories about having to leave their homes. Many educated people—including doctors, lawyers, and engineers—were diminished to cleaning toilets or selling candy on the streets just to keep their children alive. These people once had everything, and now they have nothing. Many of us had to hold back tears during patient interviews because we knew that there was nothing we could do to change their circumstances.”

Added Dr. Briones: “Some moments you knew that you saved someone’s life by being there to treat them, and other moments you just wished you could do more.”

 

 

As one of the largest humanitarian crises in recent histories, more than four million Venezuelans—approximately 13 percent of the country’s population—have fled the country due to political instability, poor living conditions, and high crime since the revolution began in 1999. According to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM), more than 1.3 million of those refugees have sought asylum in Colombia, leaving behind loved ones and most of their possessions to search for a better life.

However, once they arrive in Colombia, all is not what it seems. During a site visit this past spring, trip organizers visited one hotel where they encountered at least 100 refugees to a floor, with eight to nine people living in each room.

“All they have with them is what’s in their backpack,” said Gib Gerlach, vice president of humanitarian strategies for Centurion Medical Missions, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. “When they get to Colombia, their money is worthless. One of the greatest things they need is medical care and if they need it, they have no money to pay for it. We saw a great need to help out.”

The trip, which took place December 9 to 13, included Dr. Briones, Chelsea Hoenes, MD ’13, and Yalda Hazrat, MD ’16, as well as a local physician, an emergency medical technician, and support staff. Volunteers flew in on Sunday, December 8 and spent the next four days seeing approximately 1,000 patients. The clinic welcomed all comers, including those with high blood pressure, acute respiratory issues, open wounds, malnutrition, urinary tract infections, and pregnant women, among other cases. The group purchases all of its medicine in country to help the local economy and to help build relationships, Mr. Gerlach said.

Dr. Hoenes also shared her perspective of the trip: “On arriving in the heart of Bogota, it is easy to see how the Venezuelan people are suffering one of the largest humanitarian crises in the world. Starvation and disease are their everyday reality. The medical care we provide is excellent but imperfect: the goal of our mission is to provide acute care, immediate access to imperative health resources, and hope, until permanent health infrastructure can be achieved for the growing refugee population.”

Centurion Medical Missions has previously performed medical clinics in La Vega, Dominican Republic. Of the six trips that Centurion Medical Missions has completed to La Vega since March 2018, 18 SGU doctors have so far travelled with the group, and many of them return for multiple trips. However, the need is so great in Colombia that the organization will be solely focusing on the country in 2020.

“We’re really happy to have to that relationship with SGU,” said Bill Honeycutt, founder of JET ICU, an air ambulance provider offering medical evacuation, medical repatriation, and other air medical transport services for patients worldwide and the parent company of Centurion Medical Missions. “It opens a lot of doors for the students and residents to build something down the road and eventually when they go into practice, they can continue to work to help thousands of people around the world.”

Dr. Briones said she hopes to inspire others to volunteer their services and training on future medical mission trips.

“I have always believed that every person in healthcare should try to do some kind of humanitarian work with underserved communities,” Dr. Briones said. “You really won’t know how much you can help until you go and see how much you actually do help.”

Visit SGU’s Instagram page for more images detailing the medical mission trip. 

– Laurie Chartorynsky

SGU Diagnostics Vet Protects the Health of Food Animals

Katie Woodard, DVM ’14Raised in Houston, Texas, Katie Woodard, DVM ’14, grew up raising show pigs for Future Farmers of America (FFA). Not only was it a big part of her childhood, the experience later fueled her interest in swine medicine, and eventually spurred her on toward a career in veterinary medicine.

Today, Dr. Woodard resides in rural Iowa with her husband and three children, working as a veterinary specialist at the Iowa State University Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory (ISU VDL). At one of the largest food animal diagnostic labs in the country, her job is to support food animal veterinarians in the field and provide quality service to the food animal agriculture industry.

“Growing up as I did, I never developed much interest in the small animal side of veterinary medicine,” said Dr. Woodard. “And I knew, even then, that I wanted to be involved in safeguarding the health of food animals, a role perhaps I was always destined for.”

Working at the VDL for the past five years, Dr. Woodard’s case load consists of about 85 percent swine—a reflection of the large swine industry located in Iowa and across the Midwest. On any given day, the diagnostics lab processes between 400 and 500 cases, making for a dynamic and ever-changing work environment. In her current role, she is responsible for all client outreach and education, where she assists her clients with disseminating information coming out of the lab, IT innovations, and retrieving diagnostic data from the lab.

“Our clients are veterinarians, and my job is all about making the diagnostic lab/client interaction as streamlined and straightforward as possible,” Dr. Woodard said. “My position helps to bridge that communication between lab and real life.”

Additionally, each summer she takes on a veterinary student intern to work on a project related to the lab and/or the swine industry. This could include anything from collecting samples in the field to developing better testing protocols or testing different swab types in the lab to make more informed recommendations to her clients in the field.

Continuing her tradition of educating future veterinarians, Dr. Woodard has also chosen to give back to her alma mater. Now, a visiting professor at SGU, she teaches the swine portion of the three-year veterinary students’ curriculum in the School of Veterinary Medicine. In addition, she has interviewed students applying to the veterinary school for several years.

“St. George’s University was actually the only veterinary school I applied to,” stated Dr. Woodard. “Having worked at the Louisiana State University School Of Veterinary Medicine as a technician for two years, I was already familiar with the traditional US model, and wanted to see what other options were out there for schooling. This, combined with my impatience to get started, led me to choose SGU since it offered rolling admissions, a much-needed change of scenery, and a more hands-on approach to learning.”

According to Dr. Woodard, she looks forward to continuing to play her part in the training of young veterinary students and considers it a privilege to be able to introduce them to the work of swine medicine and all the industry has to offer. With her future interests turning toward biosecurity and transportation and the impact those practices have on the health of food animals, she still maintains her commitment to the education of food-animal-oriented veterinary students.

–Ray-Donna Peters

Major Canadian Hospital Joins SGU’s Burgeoning Clinical Network

Pembroke Regional Hospital, Ontario, CanadaAdding to more than 70 clinical training locations across North America and the United Kingdom, St. George’s University has 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.

SGU is the first Caribbean medical school to secure an agreement of this kind with Pembroke. Students will be able to apply for an elective at Pembroke starting in early 2020, selecting from a menu of specialties spanning radiology, surgery, anesthesiology, and more to be announced in the new year.

With more than 80 percent of SGU’s Canadian students from the Ontario area, “this is a golden opportunity for SGU Canadian students to do electives in a major hospital near their home,” said Charles Furey, SGU’s director of admissions for Canada. “Electives are important because of two major reasons—it gives the students the clinical experience and ability to network in a hospital, as well as the opportunity to achieve a letter of reference which is solid gold when seeking residencies.”

Added Furey: “In addition, the agreement also provides an opportunity for Pembroke to have a look firsthand at the quality at SGU students and attempt to recruit them following their residencies. It’s a win-win.”

Located 150 kilometers northwest of Ottawa, Pembroke Regional Hospital delivers a broad range of acute, post-acute, outpatient, and diagnostic services to a mixed urban and rural population of approximately 55,000 residents in the city of Pembroke, the town of Petawawa, and surrounding municipalities, including Petawawa Military Base.

“The medical staff at the Pembroke Regional Hospital are excited to provide an opportunity to SGU students to experience medical practice in a community hospital,” said Dr. Tom Hurley, chief of staff at Pembroke Regional Hospital. “Fourth-year students will be introduced to the Canadian healthcare system through a variety of specialties ranging from internal medicine to surgical subspecialties. Teaching well-trained students is one of many ways we ensure our physicians remain current in their areas of expertise.”

SGU has been building its clinical network north of the US border. SGU recently announced new agreements with two Canadian facilities—Ottawa Cardiovascular Centre and Booth Neurology Clinic—further expanding the opportunities available to fourth-year students to broaden their skills and knowledge in preparation for residency.

Canadians have flourished at SGU and beyond, with 94 percent of eligible students and graduates applying for residency in North America successfully obtaining one in 2019. Eighteen Canadians who applied through the Canadian Resident Matching Service (CaRMS) secured residencies this year in competitive fields ranging from anesthesiology and emergency medicine to pathology and psychiatry.

“St. George’s University is committed to preparing our students with the foundation of knowledge and clinical skills to prosper in their medical careers,” said Dr. Richard Liebowitz, vice chancellor at St. George’s University. “Adding a premier institution like Pembroke Regional Hospital to our clinical network is a major feather in our cap for students who wish to return to Canada to obtain a valuable and rich experience across a wide variety of disciplines.”

– Laurie Chartorynsky

SGU Alum Promotes Advances In Women’s Healthcare In Grenada

OB/GYN specialist Philip Lahrmann, MD ’81 (left)According to OB/GYN specialist Philip Lahrmann, MD ’81, if it wasn’t for St. George’s University, he wouldn’t be a doctor today. And as a proud graduate of SGU’s Charter Class, Dr. Lahrmann has dedicated more than 16 years to providing essential women’s health services to the place where he began his medical career almost four decades ago.

“SGU and Grenada gave me the chance that I wouldn’t have gotten elsewhere to be a physician,” said Dr. Lahrmann, a practicing obstetrician and gynecologist at Hartford Hospital in Connecticut. “I feel a strong sense of obligation to give back, and even though there are other places I could go, I always choose to come here. Whenever I come back, I’m always welcomed from everyone on the campus to the people I meet out in the community. I especially enjoy meeting up with familiar faces and friends from my time here.”

Returning twice a year, Dr. Lahrmann routinely presents lectures at SGU’s clinical teaching unit at the Grenada General Hospital, in addition to regularly donating vital family planning supplies, including intrauterine devices which are frequently in short supply on island.

During his most recent visit, Dr. Lahrmann also brought along his son and fellow alum, Jeffrey Lahrmann, MD ’15, currently a fellow in the UCONN/Hartford Hospital Neurology Department. The duo was invited to give an alumni talk to SGU students entitled, “Life Beyond the Caribbean.” The talk spanned their respective experiences attending SGU, general guidelines for succeeding in a medical career, and discussed their individual specialties.

“It was one of the proudest days of my life to share the podium with my son,” said Dr. Lahrmann. “It was a unique opportunity for both of us, as parent and child and being a grad myself I know that the number of legacy students enrolling at SGU continues to grow each year. My son actually visited SGU as a high school student—this was before the creation of SGU’s Med-Vet Summer Leadership Academy. I’m honored that he chose to follow in my footsteps.”

As the lead OB/GYN, Dr. Lahrmann visits are arranged through the SGU-Physician Humanitarian Network (SGU-PHuN), a program whereby a collection of St. George’s University alumni donate their time and expertise to providing much-needed healthcare services such as ophthalmology, podiatry, endoscopy, and cardiology among others at no cost to the Grenadian public.

“Programs like the SGU-PHuN are extremely beneficial not only to the people of Grenada but to the University community as well and need to continue,” added Dr. Lahrmann. “In addition to our continual efforts to further advance the level of care for women’s health in Grenada, we should also strive to strengthen our connection to the Grenadian medical community and reinforce the bond between the University and its host country. As graduates, we have a unique opportunity to act as ambassadors.”

“Dr. Lahrmann is one of our cherished SGU graduates,” said Brendon La Grenade, vice provost for institutional advancement. “He holds SGU and Grenada very close to his heart. This is evident in both his personal and professional life. In addition to his son also being an SGU grad, Dr. Lahrmann has continued to give back as a volunteer physician returning to the island of Grenada with the SGU-PHuN, supported SGU growth initiatives through the Alumni Admission Mentor Program (AAMP), provided academic support with the basic sciences department, and he features SGU prominently in his profile as his alma mater.”

About Dr. Lahrmann

Dr. Philip Lahrmann graduated from St. George’s University School of Medicine in 1981 and completed his residency at Sisters of Charity Hospital, in Buffalo, NY. He began his career with a solo obstetrics and gynecology practice in Connecticut, which eventually expanded to five physicians and three certified nurse midwives. After serving as the lead physician for 25 years, his interest in teaching led him, in 2010, to a full-time position at Hartford Hospital, where he teaches medical students at the University of Connecticut and Dartmouth University as well as residents in the University of Connecticut’s obstetrics and gynecology program.

In Dr. Lahrmann’s work he focuses on patient safety and adoption of new techniques, including advanced laparoscopic techniques in the hospital and in office-based surgery. He currently practices at the Women’s Ambulatory Health Services (WAHS) clinic at the Hartford Hospital Campus in Connecticut. Dr. Lahrmann also has a medical practice in West Hartford, CT named “A Woman’s Life Center”.

–Ray-Donna Peters 

SGU Veterinary Students Present Research at Parasitology Conference and Heartworm Symposium

 

SGU Veterinary Students Present Research at Parasitology Conference and Heartworm Symposium

St. George’s University School of Veterinary Medicine student Rebecca Howell has stayed the course. An animal aficionado from a young age, she shadowed a veterinarian in both middle school and high school, and later worked in a vet’s office.

Now in her sixth term at SGU, the aspiring veterinarian seized the opportunity to present her first poster at the 27th Conference of the World Association for the Advancement of Veterinary Parasitology (WAAVP) in Madison, WI. Her research titled, “Leptospira: Asymptomatic Carrier Status and Seroprevalence in Unvaccinated Canines Presented for Elective Sterilization to the St. George’s University School of Veterinary Medicine Junior Surgery and Anesthesia Lab” focused on spreading awareness of the zoonotic bacteria, which poses a serious public health concern since it can be transmitted from animals to humans, as well as encouraging exercising safe practices when cleaning up after pets, since the disease is spread through their urine.

“Attending my first-ever conference was a great experience,” Ms. Howell said. “In addition to connecting with fellow vet students and analyzing research from all over the world, I also learned about new technologies being used in the field today. For example, in Europe there’s an app that allows pet owners and veterinarians to report ticks, therefore it can help track the migration of ticks from one country to the next. This is something that is useful in animal adoption, especially from other countries, because when you adopt an animal, you adopt their diseases as well.”

Also representing SGU at her first international conference was fellow SVM fifth-term student Kathleen Kila. She presented her poster at the 16th Triennial Heartworm Symposium, in New Orleans. Titled, “Reducing ambiguity in canine heartworm disease classification” Ms. Kila’s research unveiled a new classification scheme for identifying heartworm disease in dogs.

“Attending the American Heartworm Society’s meeting was a big deal for me,” stated Ms. Kila. “Getting the chance to present our research on the international stage has been an invaluable experience. With this study, we hoped that by making the process of classifying the different stages of heartworm disease easier, it would remove much of the overlap between classifications that was found within the old system. Our goal was to improve the system by getting rid of that ambiguity thereby making it more objective when evaluating each clinical case of the disease.”

The research conducted by Ms. Howell and Ms. Kila both stemmed from their Veterinary Research Investigator class, a series of SVM core curriculum courses developed in order to enhance student exposure and involvement in research. Students from terms 1 through 4 were placed into small research groups and paired with a faculty mentor, together with whom they worked through each step of designing and implementing a small research project—tackling a different phase of research each term, including writing a manuscript and creating a poster.

“I think the opportunity for our students to conduct research is beneficial because it exposes them to research methodology,” said Dr. Tara Paterson, associate professor in the Department of Small Animal Medicine and Surgery. “Having the knowledge of how research is conducted allows them to gain a better understanding of evidence-based medicine, which is what we encourage throughout our curriculum so that our students learn to be more critical in their review of scientific work.

“For Rebecca and Kathleen, I believe allowing them the opportunity to present their work to the wider veterinary community at these conferences has not only boosted their self-confidence but has also helped to validate the work they’ve done during this series of courses.”

– Ray-Donna Peters 

Diabetes Diagnosis as a Child Leads SGU Alum to Forge Path in Pediatrics

Madelin Brinson, MD '19Madelin Brinson, MD ’19, was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when she was just 6 years old—following months of illness and unanswered questions of why she could not hold food down and was drinking gallons of water—literally—each night. The detection and ongoing management of her diabetes not only changed the course of her life forever, but strongly influenced her future career path, even at such a young age.

As a first-year pediatrics resident at the UF (University of Florida) Health Shands Children’s Hospital in Gainesville, FL—her first choice for residency—Dr. Brinson is repaying her positive experience with healthcare professionals who treated and helped her manage her diabetes. Dr. Brinson sees children who come to the hospital with a variety of ailments and focuses on giving her patients’ families proper information and education so they can make informed health decisions.

“Every time I am caring for a diabetic patient, I love sharing my experience with them, so they know that I am on their side and they’re not alone,” said Dr. Brinson, who’s originally from Orlando. “I think putting yourself in the child’s and family’s shoes is important. Some health issues that are routine to us as doctors might be terrifying or confusing to parents. I make sure to always try to see things from their point of view, especially when diagnosing something like Type 1 diabetes that will affect the patient for the rest of their lives.”

DIAGNOSED AT A YOUNG AGE

An estimated 23.1 million people in the US have been diagnosed with diabetes, more than 7 percent of the American population. Of those, about 1.5 million, or 5 percent of all diagnosed cases, have Type 1 diabetes, according to the Diabetes Research Institute Foundation, citing the Centers for Disease Control. In 2015, approximately 193,000 Americans under the age of 20 were estimated to have diagnosed diabetes.

Dr. Brinson recalls that as a child she had a particularly rough stomach virus, which at first was brushed off only later to be determined as a trigger for developing diabetes. After months of suffering, her mother finally realized something was very wrong.

“She noticed that I was constantly fatigued and drinking a lot of fluids,” she said. “I had empty jugs of water on my bed, and I would go to the garage to get more water in the middle of the night. We finally went to get a second opinion, and the doctor tested my blood right there and immediately sent us to the hospital where I was diagnosed with diabetes.”

While she remembers being “pretty scared” at the mention of going to the hospital, “every part of the treatment was a positive experience including good patient education—they gave me a teddy bear to practice insulin shots,” Dr. Brinson said, adding that her mom encouraged her to learn how to give herself insulin shots to become more independent while living with the disease.

 

“Every time I am caring for a diabetic patient, I love sharing my experience with them, so they know that I am on their side and they’re not alone.”

Madelin Brinson, MD

 

As she got older, she attended and then eventually volunteered as a counselor at the Florida Camp for Children and Youth with Diabetes, a University of Florida program devoted to providing a fun and safe environment for children living with Type 1 diabetes, while also educating campers and giving them more control over their diabetes. Working with the kids, “I realized I was not alone,” she said, and found role models in the doctors and medical specialists who ran the camp.

“With diabetes, if you get sick, you’re prone to get a lot sicker than a regular kid. When I talked with doctors and nurses, I was able to get a preview of the medical field and it piqued my interest,” Dr. Brinson said. “Having those good role models and seeing them help other people, I wanted to do the same thing. But it was after my pediatric rotation at Brooklyn Hospital Center that I knew I really wanted to be a pediatrician.”

MANAGING DIABETES AS A RESIDENT

Diabetes is caused by the body’s inability to create or effectively use its own insulin, which is produced by islet cells found in the pancreas. Insulin helps regulate blood sugar (glucose) levels – providing energy to body cells and tissues. Without insulin, the body’s cells would be starved, causing dehydration and destruction of body tissue. People with type 1 diabetes must have insulin delivered by injection or a pump to survive, according to the Diabetes Research Institute Foundation.

Long hours and stressful workloads can take a toll on a person with diabetes more severely than others. Dr. Brinson said these days she is extra vigilant, making sure she always has insulin with her at work and frequently checking her glucose levels. “One time I had come down with a virus and my blood sugar was not coming down. I woke up three times in one night to give myself insulin which caused me to wake up late for work, but my colleagues understood,” she said.

Dr. Brinson is joined in Gainesville by her fiancé, Jack Schneck, MD ’19, whom she met as a student at St. George’s University. Last March, they couples-matched on Match Day, him into an anesthesiology residency at UF. Between an intense work schedule each, they are set to be married on November 30.

“Advances in management of diabetes has been game changing for Maddie. New devices allow her to monitor 24/7 on the fly, right to her phone and even mine,” Dr. Schneck said. “It’s definitely a challenge to balance residency and your health in general, especially adding in a chronic illness. She’s really dedicated and does an amazing job at controlling her diabetes. I’ve learned how to help her monitor and give reminders when things get hectic. “

As a resident, Dr. Brinson is getting experience in a variety of pediatric sub-specialties from GI to nephrology to NICU and endocrinology—a rotation she is particularly looking forward to doing, given her diabetes illness. She is also working with some of the same doctors that run the camp, allowing her to come full circle in her life.

In pediatrics, Dr. Brinson said sometimes it’s difficult to stay objective especially when seeing issues with infants and children that may not be medical-related. “Sometimes it’s hard as a doctor, but I want to try to make a difference in their lives—even if it’s a small difference,” she said. “I am super fulfilled—exhausted, but very fulfilled.”

–Laurie Chartorynsky