From the Office of the Dean of Students: Check in with Dean Lucy Clunes

Passionate about providing students with the support they need to succeed and thrive while at St. George’s University, the Office of the Dean of Students is constantly working to ensure an enhanced student experience each term.

“Our mission is to create a dynamic and inclusive campus community that supports students’ personal, social, and academic growth,” said Dr. Lucy Clunes, dean of students. “Our goal is to provide each student with a strong infrastructure that buoys their success.”

One of the major ways they provide this support is by acting as a liaison between students and other departments, including facilities, IT, housing, and academic departments. DOS also stays current with the student body and their needs by meeting regularly with the Student Government Association and overseeing all student organizations to ensure students get the most out of their university life experience.

SGU News sat down with Dr. Clunes to find out what’s new on campus to help students (regardless of their program) acclimate back to campus, and her advice for how all students can make the most of their experience in Grenada.

St. George’s University: This term, most of the student body is returning to in-person learning for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic. How has your office prepared for this return and what are you most excited to share about the plans?

Dr. Clunes: We are thrilled to welcome students back to in-person learning and campus life. We understand that this is the first time some students have traveled since the beginning of the pandemic and that there are anxieties associated with this. DOS provided orientation sessions for all students this term (not just incoming Term 1 students) so that everyone had all the information that they needed for a safe and successful return to Grenada and campus.

We are most excited about the return of both on-campus and off-campus student events such as local health fairs, the School of Medicine College Olympics, and intermural sports. We are also looking forward to seeing students socialize and make those lifelong friendships with their peers that are so important to help support them through their academic journey.

Get in touch! 

Email: DOS@sgu.edu 

For SVM students, email: SVMDOS@sgu.edu

SGU: There are some very exciting new campus developments, including the new Global Student Lounge. What is the significance of this new area?  

Dr. Clunes: The Global Student Lounge contains the Offices of the International Student Services, Accommodation and Accessibility Services, Immigration Services, and the Student Government Association office.

It is a space that has many different functions and is there to support all our students. In the past, the International Student Services supported primarily our students that were non-US, non-Canadian, and non-Grenadian; however, we are aware that many of our students have immigration or other concerns that can be supported by this office. We are always looking for ways to expand our support throughout the entire student population.

SGU: What else is new in the Office of the DOS that those on campus, and/or online, can look forward to?

Dr. Clunes: We have a few new things I would like to point out.

  • The School of Medicine now has an Office of Career Guidance located in the library on campus that is here to support and guide students from the beginning of their medical school journey through officially becoming a physician. We encourage SOM students to reach out and speak with one of our OCG advisors so that they can optimize their path to a successful residency.
  • We also encourage all our SOM students to watch out for announcements on the new College Cup Competition that is being launched this semester!
  • For our SVM students, we have a new email address, SVMDOS@sgu.edu, so that all queries and concerns can be answered as quickly as possible.
  • Another exciting addition, I would like to welcome Dr. Ayesha Sultana to my office as assistant dean of students for the School of Medicine and Ms. Mercedes Velazquez de Zerpa as assistant dean of students for the School of Veterinary Medicine. SOM and SVM will now have two assistant deans, and the new appointees will join the existing assistant deans in strengthening the support of students in their respective schools.
  • We’re also incorporating as many virtual student organization events as possible and are excited to have those choosing an online or hybrid learning environment from SAS, and all students who are on campus, participate.

SGU: How can students make the most of their time in Grenada?

Dr. Clunes: For some students, the adjustment to campus life and Grenada can be challenging but I encourage all to try to utilize as many of the support services on campus as possible. We are here to not only ensure academic success but to make your time in Grenada memorable and enjoyable. We have many student organizations that provide the opportunity to get involved with community projects and allow you to see different parts of the island. Your time in Grenada will pass quickly so make sure that you experience all that it has to give.

SGU: What’s the best way for students to get in contact with the Office of the DOS?

Dr. Clunes: Students are encouraged to drop into the physical office on campus whenever they need as well as utilize our emails: DOS@SGU.EDU and SVMDOS@sgu.edu. Students, of course, can also email any of my team, including me, individually and can be assured of a timely response.

—Sarah Stoss

 

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SGU faculty collaborate on groundbreaking cattle vaccine research

A group of scientists from St. George’s University, Kansas State University, and the Animal Diseases Research Unit of the U.S. Department of Agriculture have made a groundbreaking development in vaccine research with a new study conducted on cattle.

Bovine Anaplasmosis, a tick-borne disease, wreaks havoc on the cattle industry every year. It’s historically been treated with antibiotics, but in a new study published in PLOS Pathogens, another solution is presented.

“It’s a very significant pathogen. It causes weight loss, anemia, and even death in cattle which results in billions of economic losses in the cattle industry worldwide, whether it’s beef or dairy,” said Dr. Melinda Wilkerson, professor and chair of pathobiology in the School of Veterinary Medicine at SGU. “This group of researchers basically knocked out a gene that was important for growth so that they could immunize cattle.”

The technique is the first of its kind and has potential implications for treating infections in other animals like dogs, or even humans, who are also impacted by tick-borne diseases.

“The research found that when the cattle were exposed to the field organism through the vaccine, it was able to protect the animals from future exposure,” added Dr. Wilkerson. “That is very significant because any vaccines out now are ineffective. This is the start of a new method.”

 

“This research paves the way for vaccine development for tick-borne diseases, specifically bovine anaplasmosis. The impact will be incredibly significant, and our team at SGU is proud to have been a part of it.”

 

The first author of the research, Dr. Paidashe Hove, is supported by SGU’s School of Veterinary Medicine through the Postdoctoral Scholars Program (PSP). The program provides financial support and resources to researchers and has resulted in a strong collaboration between SGU and universities like Kansas State.

“The PSP has funded two postdocs in the KSU-SGU collaboration,” said Dr. Roman Ganta, university distinguished professor of KSU’s Department of Diagnostic Medicine and Pathobiology, a visiting professor at SGU, and senior investigator of this research. “The SGU-funded PSP scientists published three high-quality peer-reviewed scientific publications, while additional manuscripts are in progress.”

While Dr. Hove and Dr. Ganta were the primary and senior investigators of the project, SGU SVM faculty including Dr. Wilkerson; Dr. Bhumika Sharma, assistant professor of pathobiology; and Dr. Andy Alhassan, associate professor of pathobiology—and a previous PSP candidate who worked alongside Dr. Ganta—have established longstanding relationships that contributed to the success of advancing several collaborative research projects, primarily focused on tick-borne diseases.

“This is a clear demonstration that the PSP is an ideal means of expanding the scope of research at SGU,” said Dr. Wilkerson. “Such collaborations also provide visibility to SGU SVM as an institution that is actively engaged in collaborative research on a global scale.”

As for what’s next for the research conducted by Dr. Hove, Dr. Ganta, and the team, Dr. Wilkerson says this is just the beginning.

“This research paves the way for vaccine development for tick-borne diseases, specifically bovine anaplasmosis. The impact will be incredibly significant, and our team at SGU is proud to have been a part of it,” Dr. Wilkerson said.

—Sarah Stoss

 

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Celebrating Pride Month: How to be an ally to the LGBTQIA+ community

SGU students celebrate Pride Month.

Each year, the LGBTQIA+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex, Queer and/or Questioning, and Asexual and/or Ally, plus) community celebrates its liberation movement throughout the month of June.

Named “Pride Month,” it is a chance for people who identify as LGBTQIA+ and others, such as allies—heterosexual and cisgender people who support equal civil rights, gender equality, and LGBTQIA+ inclusion movements/efforts—to gather and commemorate both the struggle and challenges faced as well as the positive changes made to acknowledge and support this group.

But what does it mean to be an ally to underrepresented groups like the LGBTQIA+ community, and how can we all support these members of the St. George’s University community in our day-to-day lives?

To offer perspective, meet Gabrielle Rivera (she/her), the incoming fall term president of Pride & Equality SGU student club and a Term 5 School of Veterinary Medicine student, shared tips on how we can all become allies to underrepresented groups such as LGBTQIA+ people, and why observances like Pride Month can elevate the importance of diversity and inclusion and create a community of mutual respect and support.

St. George’s University: What does Pride Month mean to you? 

Ms. Rivera: Pride Month means representation for the marginalized LGBTQIA+ community by promoting equal rights and self-affirmation. It allows our community to celebrate, be visible, and stand up for the fundamental right to love. Our ability to celebrate Pride Month would not have been possible without our lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans minority groups of color in the 1960s. Their courage to stand up for equal rights paved the way for LGBTQIA+ folks to be included. I am thankful for their determination, and I hope our community can keep taking steps forward so one day we won’t have to “come out” anymore.

 

 

SGU: How can students, faculty, and staff in the SGU community be an ally to all? 

Ms. Rivera: Allyship is such a pivotal part of our community, and we encourage our allies to join us as we continue to create a safe space for our community at SGU. Allowing yourself to be an ally helps the LGBTQIA+ community feel safe and seen within your presence.

  • One way to be an ally can include integrating inclusive language in your everyday life. Asking someone their pronouns when you first meet them shows you are open-minded and inclusive.
  • Another great way to be an ally is becoming involved in the events/opportunities for the LGBTQIA+ community by the Pride and Equality club or the other clubs/events on campus.
  • Denouncing anti-LGBTQIA+ comments or jokes during your everyday life helps the fight against the discrimination that is still present. All of your allyship efforts help build up our community as we continue to push for acceptance and understanding.

 

“Allowing yourself to be an ally helps the LGBTQIA+ community feel safe and seen within your presence.”

 

SGU: What does it mean to be supportive of all different walks of life? 

Ms. Rivera: When you are supportive of all different walks of life you are open to all people despite their gender, sexual orientation, religion, ethnicity, etc. You create a safe space for someone to be their authentic self without judgement.

SGU: How can we create a community of mutual respect and support? 

Ms. Rivera: We create a community of mutual respect and support by the acknowledgment that not everyone is the same. Even though you may not understand someone’s identity or sexual orientation, you still hold mutual respect and support for that person. This will bring togetherness within a community.

SGU: How do observances like Pride Month elevate the importance of diversity and inclusion in healthcare? 

Ms. Rivera: Observances like Pride Month elevate the importance of diversity and inclusion in healthcare by bringing awareness to the essential need for embracement towards all different people no matter their identity or sexual orientation. Having acknowledgements that promote diversity allow healthcare professionals to live their lives freely and with integrity as we give back to our human or animal patients. Creating a more accepting environment for medical workers will only help people feel safe and comfortable in their work environment amongst colleagues.

SGU: How can the SGU community get involved with P&E SGU?

Ms. Rivera: All members of the University are eligible for membership within P&E SGU including faculty, students, and staff. You can join by filling out our form. Also follow us on Instagram @PrideandEqualitySGU and Facebook Pride & Equality SGU.

 

 

 

–Jessica Epps and Laurie Chartorynsky

 

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A Shared Resilience: SAS, SGS Class of 2022 Celebrates at Grenada Commencement Ceremony

It was a sight to remember. After facing uncertainty throughout their studies from the COVID-19 pandemic, the St. George’s University Schools of Arts and Sciences, and Graduate Studies Class of 2022 stood with pride and gratitude as they received their degrees on Saturday, May 14.

Held in-person for the first time since the pandemic began in 2020—and for the first time outside the True Blue campus—the event featured 1,400 attendees at the Grenada National Cricket Stadium, while more than 10,000 viewers tuned in online to watch the ceremony live.

“This is a significant ceremony because it is a post-pandemic ceremony,” said Dr. Charles R. Modica, chancellor and co-founder of SGU, and this year’s keynote speaker. “There were many hardships along the way, but you managed to find a way to succeed. I have the greatest admiration and respect for you as the first post-pandemic in-person graduating class.”

 

 

Among the 200 graduates from 40 countries were husband and wife duo, Clevon Noel, BSc ’11, MBA ’22, and Sallisha Noel, BSc ’22. Mrs. Noel received her undergraduate degree in business management while her husband, this year’s class speaker gave a rousing speech on behalf of his fellow graduands in the School of Graduate Studies. Proudly cheering them on in the stands were their two children and other members of their family.

“I feel ecstatic today not just as the wife of the class speaker but for also having earned my place upon that stage,” shared Mrs. Noel. “I’m elated that we get to share this moment together and with [our peers]. In the future, I look forward to pursuing my master’s in operations and logistics while also working with my husband in his company, Metarelic.”

Mr. Noel was selected as class speaker for his scholarly achievements and community participation. He has established himself as a respected digital expert and strategist in Grenada, and using his considerable talents as a techno entrepreneur, he has founded a number of award-winning digital companies, which today serve clients such as The World Bank.

 

“One of the greatest endowments of being SGU’s Class of 2022 is knowing how to discover and rediscover ourselves in the face of adversity. I commit this class to what I call the ‘how’ principle. How can my actions make a better world for my friends, family, community, country and beyond? If we keep these questions in mind, we will be impactful wherever we go.”

 

“One of the greatest endowments of being SGU’s Class of 2022 is knowing how to discover and rediscover ourselves in the face of adversity,” stated Mr. Noel. “I commit this class to what I call the ‘how’ principle. How can my actions make a better world for my friends, family, community, country and beyond? If we keep these questions in mind, we will be impactful wherever we go.”

Joining Mr. Noel as a commencement speaker was valedictorian for the School of Arts and Sciences, Jesse R. Becker. Ms. Becker completed her bachelor’s in medical sciences with a perfect 4.0 GPA and is currently a Term 2 student in the School of Medicine.

“Our shared experience is truly unprecedented,” said Ms. Becker. “Not many graduates from SGU can say they started classes in person, then studied from home, and returned to graduate in person. The amount of resilience I see in my peers before me is truly humbling and I’m glad to be among such incredible students. I want to remind all graduates that while one chapter closes, [another] one opens and is waiting for you. Your choices will continue to take you to great places, and you truly can achieve anything you dream of.”

Degrees were conferred on the classes of August and December 2021, and January and May 2022 in the Schools of Arts and Sciences and Graduate Studies, and Medicine. In addition, SGU hosts the Gamma Kappa chapter of the Delta Omega Honors Society and inducted the top 10 percent of this year’s MPH graduates into the chapter for demonstrating excellence in education and scholarship in research and service.

Ceremonies for the Schools of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine will take place at Arthur Ashe Stadium in New York on June 4-5.

– Ray-Donna Peters

 

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Charter Class SGS Alum Credits MBA Program for Profoundly Impacting His Career

When Grenadian Aaron Logie received his Master of Business Administration from St. George’s University in 2009, he was one of several charter graduates of the University’s new MBA program that had started two years earlier.

According to Mr. Logie, the program had a profound impact on the course of his career. Today, he serves as the executive manager of finance at the Grenada Co-operative Bank Ltd., where he is in charge of investment portfolios, liquidity management, and regulatory reporting for the institution. In addition, Mr. Logie expects to complete his doctorate in finance from SGU later this year, giving him a unique perspective on the banking sector in the Caribbean.

He shared with SGU News why he chose to complete his MBA degree at SGU and how it aided his career development in business and finance.

St. George’s University: What inspired you to pursue business and finance as a profession?

Mr. Logie: The primary motivation that has driven me along my career path was my love for utilizing logic and reasoning to find solutions to problems. I discovered this early on as a student of accounting. Soon after I took my  Association of Certified Chartered Accountants (ACCA) exams. During my career I have held several roles in the field of finance and accounting prior to joining the Grenada Cooperative Bank Ltd., which prepared me for the role I am in now and the challenges in managing the finances of a bank.

SGU: Why did you choose to enroll in SGU’s MBA program?

Mr. Logie: The launch of the MBA program by SGU in 2007 was a watershed moment in Grenada for higher education and for the field of business management. No longer did one have to travel to another country at significant cost and inconvenience to achieve an MBA or settle for a corresponding degree.

The interactive nature of the program afforded several advantages that attracted me in addition to it being an inexpensive program. Importantly,  being in the charter class has allowed me to network with fellow business professionals who received their degrees from SGU.

 

“I believe that attaining my MBA at SGU enabled me to broaden my perspective of the business environment, particularly the intangibles and qualitative aspects that are not within the domains of the accounting practice.”

 

SGU: How do you think SGU aided you in your career development? 

Mr. Logie: I believe that attaining my MBA at SGU enabled me to broaden my perspective of the business environment, particularly the intangibles and qualitative aspects that are not within the domains of the accounting practice.

SGU: What are some major takeaways from your MBA education that continue to resonate in your job today?

Mr. Logie: Obtaining my MBA encouraged me to hone in on my presentation and team-working skills, since most courses at the MBA level required students to make presentations as part of group projects. This enhanced my confidence and skills in making presentations at board and senior management meetings.

SGU: Why did you return to SGU for your PhD and how will the advanced degree impact your work at the bank?

Mr. Logie: I think it will expand my knowledge. My thesis has a specific focus on the banking industry in the Eastern Caribbean. To be specific, the topic is “Sustainability of the Indigenous Banking Sector in the Eastern Caribbean.” Hence, it will allow be to make an important contribution to not only the bank where I work, but to the entire industry in the Eastern Caribbean.

SGU: Do you still communicate with other MBA graduates from your class?

Mr. Logie: Yes, and we all feel that SGU was a special place.

SGU: What advice would you give both to new students and those about to graduate from the School of Graduate Studies? 

Mr. Logie: Ultimately, the goal of higher education should be to empower one in his or her thinking. Obtaining the certificate or diploma should not be the end game. Rather, getting the degree will enhance one’s ability to utilize a body of knowledge acquired to help shape decision making process that will result in superior results and a better world.

 

 

– Paul Burch

 

 

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SGU grad dedicates her life to giving back to Grenada

As acting senior medical officer and member of the National COVID-19 Sub-committee in Grenada’s Ministry of Health, Myanna Charles, MD ’16, MPH ’21, responded to the call to serve her country at a very critical time.

Tasked with limiting community spread and preventing as much suffering as possible caused by the COVID-19 virus, Dr. Charles recalled the long days and late nights spent working to ensure that Grenadians had the tools and education necessary to stem the impact of COVID.

Even though there were many challenges, she shared with SGU News that being able to provide technical support and advice in such an influential capacity to a people and a country that has given her so much is what continues to fuel her dedication to her job and to give back to Grenada.

St. George’s University: What motivated you to step up during such a crucial time in your country?

Dr. Charles: This might sound very cliché, but I am a child of the soil. Although it was a heavy call, I responded because I’m dedicated to serving the Grenadian people. In the height of the outbreak, there was no rest, our team was working seven days a week to keep our citizens safe. This country and University have afforded me the opportunity to study and practice medicine and public health. It seems only natural that I would want to give back without hesitation to the people, who have allowed me to achieve my dream of becoming a physician.

SGU: What are some of your responsibilities as part of Grenada’s COVID-19 public health response?

Dr. Charles: In collaboration with and under the leadership of the chief medical officer, Dr. Shawn Charles, MD ’17, MIB ’07, MBA ’08, I provided technical advice on public health measures at the ports of entry and in the community. These included testing requirements, entry forms for travel authorization and health declaration, and quarantine requirements for travelers. I also helped put into place measures to curb community spread, address vaccine hesitancy, and increase uptake in vaccinations. I also assisted with curfew measures, contact tracing, and quarantine/isolation recommendations.

 

“This country and University have afforded me the opportunity to study and practice medicine and public health. It seems only natural that I would want to give back without hesitation to the people, who have allowed me to achieve my dream of becoming a physician.”


SGU: What do you find to be the most fulfilling aspect of your job?

Dr. Charles: Being able to practice an upstream approach to medicine and doing so in my own country. This approach has given me the opportunity to look at and address the root causes and social determinants of health. In doing so, I’m able to improve health and outcomes at a community and country level rather than at an individual level through policy and program management. Instead of treating the disease of individual patients and sending them back to the same environment, I am now able to look at where these patients are coming from and why they have a particular ailment—so that it never happens again. Preventive medicine is dear to me but being able to do so in my home country and for my people means everything to me.

SGU: How well has SGU prepared you for your journey as a physician?

Dr. Charles: My experience at SGU has been instrumental in who I am today. I particularly recall my clinical years in the United Kingdom. The experience there was integral to building up my interpersonal skills but also implanted that preventive approach to medicine in me. It also allowed me to cultivate a network of amazing friends and colleagues throughout the region. Networking is extremely important and I’m now able to tap into many of those resources today.

SGU: Any plans or future projects you’d like to share?

Dr. Charles: I intend to pursue my PhD and to continue my research on carcinogenic exposures. My hope is to improve health literacy in Grenada through effective health education one day, which can have a huge impact in disease care and prevention. People need to be more aware of their health and the importance that lifestyle measures play in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases.

SGU: What advice would you give to anyone considering becoming a doctor at SGU?

Dr. Charles: I want to encourage others to be more open to new experiences within the field of medicine. There is so much to explore so don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone.

 

Dr. Dolland Noel (left), Dr. Charles Modica (middle), Dr. Myanna Charles (right).

 

– Ray-Donna Peters

 

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New DNA sequencing ability at WINDREF aids Grenada in identifying new COVID variants

Drawing on the strong partnership between St. George’s University and the Government of Grenada throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, new DNA sequencing capabilities at the campus-based Windward Islands Research and Education Foundation (WINDREF) will help to identify new variants of the virus in Grenada—and be a resource for the country and other Caribbean nations to identify additional infectious disease variants.

“The potential public health impacts of having this research tool available to Grenada and potentially for the Caribbean region is significant,” said Dr. Calum Macpherson, director of WINDREF and dean of SGU’s School of Graduate Studies. “Being able to provide findings on the variants that are circulating in Grenada, as well as those that have circulated in the past and any new variants that arise, is critical information that can be referred to when creating policies and responses to the virus as a country and region.”

With funding from SGU, WINDREF acquired two DNA sequencing machines in early December to identify pathogen variants. The process, which entails testing infected individuals’ RNA samples for viral load, and then comparing the results to global databases, was used to confirm that the Omicron variant was detected in patients in Grenada as of the end of December.

The research team at WINDREF underwent an intense six-hour online training session in order to learn how to use the sequencer. The training was provided by Dr. Nikita Shadeo, Mr. Vernie Ramkisson, and Mr. Soren Nicholls from the PAHO-WHO Reference Sequencing Lab at the UWI St. Augustine Campus located in Trinidad, which is headed by Professor Christine Carrington.

 

“The potential public health impacts of having this research tool available to Grenada and potentially for the Caribbean region is significant.”

 

Among those who are now qualified to work on the sequencing data is Vanessa Matthew-Belmar, MSc ’16, who is going to use this technique to study the evolution of the variants found in Grenada over time as part of her research work towards her PhD. Ms. Matthew-Belmar is also a member of the COVID-19 testing team that assisted in the nation’s PCR testing program. In the early stages of the pandemic, the testing program was based on the SGU campus.

“I will use the potential of the sequencing equipment to investigate important epidemiological, viral, and public health issues raised by the circulating variants over time,” said Ms. Matthew-Belmar.

Other members of the sequencing team include: Dr. Trevor Noel, deputy director of WINDREF; Clarkson University MSc student, Nandy Noel, WINDREF lab technician, Elsa Chitan, an SGU MPH graduate, and Nikita Cudjoe, WINDREF’S COVID-19 testing team manager.

Going forward, Dr. Macpherson said that any patients admitted to the Grenada General Hospital or who pass away with a diagnosis of COVID-19 will have their samples sequenced to determine the variant.

The sequencing equipment is not only available to analyze the SARS-CoV-2 variants seen in Grenada since the start of the outbreak, but it also will provide a valuable resource for regional requests for disease sequencing to be conducted for other Caribbean countries, said Minister of Health, the Hon. Nickolas Steele.

“We are proud to be able to offer this service, which reflects the close partnership between the Ministry of Health, SGU, WINDREF, UWI, CARPHA, and PAHO-WHO,” said Minister Steele. “As one of only two labs in the English-speaking Caribbean region that can conduct sequencing, we are adding to the global body of knowledge, which is important for PAHO and WHO.”

Beyond COVID, the new equipment also provides “enormous potential” for understanding the further evolution of viral, bacterial, and other infectious diseases, such as dengue and the zoonotic potential of the canine hookworm species, Dr. Macpherson noted.

“Going forward, not only can we use this equipment to sequence any SARs-CoV-2, but we can also use it to sequence all other diseases,” he said. “It’s an incredibly powerful technique that can be an important diagnostic addition in Grenada’s toolbox as we continue to fight this pandemic.”

 

-Laurie Chartorynsky

 

 

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The laboratory personnel behind SGU’s COVID testing site

SAS grad becomes Grenada board’s first female CEO

Leadership has always been a strength for St. George’s University graduate Afia Joseph, from her time as a Grenada Junior Achiever to her current role—chief executive officer of the Grenada Marketing & National Importing Board (MNIB).

As the organization’s first-ever woman CEO, Ms. Joseph, BSc ’08, MBA ’14, heads up the leading purchaser, retailer, and exporter of traditional and local agro-products on the island. She is responsible for the marketing and national export of agricultural produce, and management of the importation and supply of specified commodities to Grenada. She also plays a supporting role in the development and expansion of the country’s agricultural sector.

Nine months into her new role, Ms. Joseph opens up about what she hopes to accomplish at MNIB, the characteristics of a good leader, and offers advice to those seeking higher education.

St. George’s University: How does it feel to be the MNIB’s first-ever female CEO?

Afia Joseph: I feel very privileged to secure this role yet humbled by this responsibility. With great power comes great responsibility. I hope that my appointment sends a signal to the youth in Grenada to get involved in the development of our country. My appointment also confirms to women that there is a clear path to their goals once there is determination and commitment.

 

“My role has the ability to influence change and improve the agriculture sector. My aim is to facilitate further development of the agro-processing industry in Grenada and play a key role in the expansion of national exports, which will benefit many Grenadians. “

 

SGU: What excites you most about your new job? 

AJ: My role has the ability to influence change and improve the agriculture sector. My aim is to facilitate further development of the agro-processing industry in Grenada and play a key role in the expansion of national exports, which will benefit many Grenadians.

SGU: What makes you a good leader?

AJ: My capacity to manage challenging and otherwise difficult environments with a sense of calm resolve while producing results. Also, critical for leadership is the ability to manage ego, maintain humility, see the value in others, and understand that in order to lead others one must first learn to lead oneself.

SGU: How well do you feel that SGU prepared you for the next step in your journey?

AJ: I felt thoroughly prepared by SGU to enter the workforce—equipped with the soft skills, confidence, tenacity, and emotional intelligence necessary to succeed. The business management program promoted success through teamwork, which is critical to becoming a leader worth following.

Overall, my experience at SGU has had a profoundly positive impact on my career development. Along with the experience attained, both my Master of Business Administration and Bachelor of Arts in accounting have positioned me for many opportunities and will continue to do so. The principles and knowledge I acquired have supported all my leadership roles and allowed me to excel.

SGU: Was a career in business something you always wanted to pursue?

AJ: Fortunately, I did not choose my field; my field chose me. I was nurtured and nudged into the direction where I can truly give of myself by making a meaningful contribution to the world through my work.

SGU: What advice would you give someone on a similar journey?

AJ: For anyone contemplating whether it is the right time to pursue higher education, I would say that it’s better to be prepared for an opportunity and not have one than to have an opportunity and not be prepared. It is with this in mind that I continue to grow and learn while expecting greater things for myself and others.

 

– Ray-Donna Peters

New SVM Associate Dean Inspires Future Veterinary Researchers

Having grown up in and around New York City, Ray Kaplan was more familiar with city and suburban life than the world he one day found in farm country. In high school, he sought more wide open spaces by spending summers working on dairy farms, a setting in which he felt right at home.

“The farm atmosphere was new to me, but I loved the physical and outdoor nature of the work,” said Dr. Kaplan, a new associate dean of graduate studies at St. George’s University School of Veterinary Medicine. “I also developed an appreciation of dairy cows and found them to be lovely animals to work with.”

He added to his experience by studying dairy science as an undergrad at Virginia Tech, diving deep into parasitology research at Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine, and following that up with a PhD in veterinary parasitology from the University of Florida.

Throughout his career as a clinician, Dr. Kaplan emphasized research, including the US Army Veterinary Corps, where he worked at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research in a malaria drug discovery program. Several years later, he took an assistant professor position at the University of Georgia Veterinary School, where he would spend the next 23 years developing an internationally recognized parasitology research program.

Excited to now start a new chapter at SGU, Dr. Kaplan shares how he plans to use his knowledge and expertise in research to help improve the SGU School of Veterinary Medicine program, mentor students, and help faculty succeed in their research endeavors.

St. George’s University: What led you to join SGU, and what are you looking forward to the most as an official faculty member?

Dr. Ray Kaplan: I am thrilled to be a part of the SGU family. Although I just started as professor of parasitology and associate dean for graduate studies for SVM in August, I have been coming to SGU as a visiting professor for the past 20 years, so I knew that I loved Grenada, and the community spirit of SGU. I also joined because I had reached a point in my career where I wanted to do something a little different. Though I did a considerable amount of teaching in my earlier years at UGA, over time my position evolved into being predominantly research focused, and I found that I missed the interaction with veterinary students.

At SGU, I am looking forward to returning to doing more teaching and engaging with students, including establishing a vet student parasitology club, as well as conducting some new areas of research, such as parasites of aquatic animals. And in my role as associate dean of graduate studies, I look forward to building and improving the SVM graduate program.

 

“I firmly believe that learning the scientific process by participating in research builds critical thinking skills, which are essential to practicing evidence-based medicine, and can be applied in so many aspects of life.”

 

SGU: What do you consider to be some of the benefits to students participating in research?

RK: The field of veterinary medicine is dynamic and ever changing, and the amount of information is increasing too fast for anyone to keep up with everything. However, experience in research gives students a better foundation to critically evaluate what they read and hear, and thus provides a step up in maintaining the highest standards of practice. I firmly believe that learning the scientific process by participating in research builds critical thinking skills, which are essential to practicing evidence-based medicine, and can be applied in so many aspects of life.

SGU: Why is research so important, especially now with COVID-19?

RK: Understanding research and science in general is essential to controlling COVID-19, as well as many other of society’s current concerns. Veterinary researchers play a large and critical role in the animal-based research that provides benefits to both animal and human health. These researchers and healthcare professionals played an important role in responding to this pandemic, and they will continue to play an important role in helping to prevent the next one. Hence, the world needs more veterinary researchers.

SGU: What future research topics and projects would you like to see covered at SGU?

RK: As a large university in the Caribbean, SGU is uniquely positioned to address research on topics relevant to this region, such as aquatic animal medicine and conservation, and sustainable control of parasites in tropical environments. For instance, SGU is the perfect place for developing a major center for aquatic animal health, and the achievements of such an institute could provide valuable international recognition for the school.

SGU: How would you describe the student journey and what will help make students successful here at SGU?

RK: Students of veterinary medicine are a fairly unique group in their level of passion and dedication to their pursuit. This intense pursuit to become veterinarians involves a lot of emotional and economic investment. Veterinary students tend to be high-achieving idealists who have chosen the profession because they want to help animals.

Over the years of coming to SGU as a visiting professor, I have been impressed with the academic skills and enthusiasm of SGU students. I think building on those core strengths through increasing opportunities for pre-professional groups and professor-student interactions will aid in their success. I also believe that the geographic location of Grenada and being away from their homes creates a stronger student community, which creates an environment where students help other students be successful.

— Ray-Donna Peters

 

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India consulate recognizes SGU faculty members for excellence in medicine and medical education

In honor of the 75th anniversary of India’s independence, the Office of the Honorary Consul of India to Grenada honored two longtime St. George’s University faculty members—Drs. Vishnu Rao and Narasimhan Prabhakar—for their commitment to medicine and medical education.

Each was feted at a ceremony at the Botanical Gardens in Tanteen, St. George’s, on August 15. Awardees received the accolades from the Honorary Consul of India to Grenada Shadel Nyack Compton, as well as the Honorable Minister Oliver Joseph.

“An honor like this would have been unimaginable to me as a little boy growing up in India,” said Dr. Rao, who recently was appointed dean of university alumni affairs. “To end up in a beautiful country such as Grenada and have the opportunity to make a meaningful difference in the lives of so many students and so many Grenadians is just wonderful. All the while, I have made lifelong friendships with Grenadian people and families, who are so kind and intelligent, and I thoroughly enjoy the everyday living and beauty here on the island.”

Dr. Rao has taught and mentored SGU students for more than 40 years, having joined as an assistant professor in the School of Medicine in January 1977. He is the embodiment of SGU’s commitment to student support, serving as assistant dean of students from 1977 to 1997 before assuming the role of dean of students from 1997 to April 2021. With his help, more than 300 Grenadians have earned their MDs from SGU, and thousands more have graduated from the Schools of Veterinary Medicine, Arts and Sciences, and Graduate Studies.

Dr. Rao and colleagues at the 2015 Orphans and Elderly Gala

“You cannot measure the positive impact that Dr. Rao has had on this university, our students, and people all around the world who have indirectly benefited from the wisdom, values, and commitment to educational excellence,” said Dr. Charles Modica, chancellor of St. George’s University. “SGU would not be where it is today without Dr. Rao, and I’m forever grateful for all he’s done for the island of Grenada and for our students.”

Additionally, Dr. Rao was instrumental in establishing the Orphans and Elderly Fund, which has raised more than $1.8 million to support caregiver programs throughout Grenada since 1991. He also helped build the Grenada Association of Retired Persons (GARP).

As dean of university alumni affairs, Dr. Rao is supporting the Alumni Association by staying connected with SGU’s more than 24,000 graduates. “I have greatly enjoyed speaking with our alumni, finding out how they’re doing, how they can stay involved, and how they can promote the spirit of SGU,” he said.

 

“To end up in a beautiful country such as Grenada and have the opportunity to make a meaningful difference in the lives of so many students and so many Grenadians is just wonderful.”

 

The Consul also recognized Dr. Narasimhan Prabhakar, a psychiatrist who has been affiliated with SGU for more than 30 years, including presently as a professor in the clinical teaching unit at Grenada General Hospital and in a clinic within SGU’s Health Services department. He also teaches SGU’s Term 5 students as a psychiatrist at Mount Gay Psychiatric Hospital, and meets with patients the Richmond Home for the Elderly. Dr. Prabhakar was honored for his contributions to mental health, psychiatry, and medicine in Grenada and sister islands Carriacou and Petite Martinique.

“I am very humbled by this honor bestowed upon me by the Consul of India,” Dr. Prabhakar said. “I am also indebted to the administration of SGU, the Ministry of Health, and the Government of Grenada for making the person I am today. Teaching communication skills and psychiatric interviewing skills to young and enthusiastic students gives me great pleasure, as does keeping in touch with my patients in the community, which I have been involved in for 40 years. I am proud to be an Indian and an adopted Grenadian.”

Dr. Marios Loukas, dean of the School of Medicine, praised Dr. Prabhakar’s contributions to SGU. “We are thankful for the invaluable contributions that Dr. Prabhakar has made to the University and our student body,” he said. “He has played a crucial role in their growth and well-being, both on campus and in the field, and has long been a pillar of psychiatric care for the wider Grenadian community.”

– Brett Mauser

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