Scholars From Botswana, Where 1 in 5 Doctors Graduated From SGU, Begin Medical Studies in Grenada

Aerial images of Sir Eric Gairy Hall and Andrew J. Belford Centre.

Three students from Botswana have taken their first steps towards a career in medicine at St. George’s University (SGU), the leading international medical school in the Caribbean, after being awarded full-tuition scholarships to study on the four-year MD program.

Wathata Onalethata Ntwayapelo, Lungowe Kabasiya, and Chevula C. Munaani arrived last month, in the latest example of St. George’s long-standing relationship with the Ministry of Health and Education and the Government of Botswana, which offers full-tuition scholarships to qualified students to pursue medical degrees.

Approximately one in every five practicing doctors in Botswana is a graduate of SGU—a remarkable demonstration of SGU’s commitment to training qualified global physicians to work across the world in areas of need. SGU is now the second largest source of doctors for the entire US workforce, and a further one in every five physicians in Trinidad and Tobago are also SGU graduates, underlining the exceptional range of career opportunities for qualified doctors trained in Grenada.

“At St. George’s University, our international student body has always been our greatest asset and building the capacity of young doctors in training to address global health challenges is part of our philosophy as a medical school,” said Dr. G. Richard Olds, president of St. George’s University.

“We recognize that there are two aspects to this: helping ambitious and qualified students who may not otherwise have access to a leading medical education to study with us in Grenada, but also acting as a provider of doctors for those places of need, helping to address shortages in healthcare provision and combating health inequality,” Dr. Olds said. “Few countries exemplify that better than Botswana, and we are tremendously proud of our joint achievements in this area.”

Added Dr. Olds: “We’re pleased to welcome Wathata Onalethata Ntwayapelo, Lungowe Kabasiya, and Chevula C. Munaani to our True Blue campus and look forward to helping guide them on their path to a career in medicine.”

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 recent report published in the Journal of Medical Regulation, SGU educated the second-most licensed physicians in the United States in 2018.

The research, titled “Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB) Census of Licensed Physicians in the United States, 2018,” showed that 10,791 US-based doctors had graduated from St. George’s University, the most among international medical schools, including those in the Caribbean. SGU stood behind only Indiana University School of Medicine with 11,828 graduates worldwide.

“St. George’s University physicians are making a positive influence on US healthcare every day and in every corner of the country,” said Dr. G. Richard Olds, president of SGU. “We are proud of the quality of care they provide and look forward to continuing our mission of training doctors of the highest caliber.”

In 2019 alone, SGU graduates secured more than 960 US residencies in 43 states and in specialties ranging from anesthesiology and emergency medicine to pediatrics and surgery. It marks the fifth consecutive year that SGU was the number one provider of new doctors to the US healthcare system.

The FSMB report also revealed that the percentage of practicing doctors who graduated from a Caribbean medical school had grown by 78 percent since 2010. Since opening its doors in 1977, SGU has trained more than 16,000 School of Medicine graduates who have gone on to practice in all 50 United States and more than 50 countries around the world.

“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 of SGU. “Our graduates have not only demonstrated their excellence in a hospital setting but also the profound effect that, collectively, they have on medical care in the US and globally.”

-Laurie Chartorynsky

First-Year MD Student Presents Research at International Anatomy Conference

Pinthusorn “Blue” Eiamratchanee, a first-year medical student in the St. George’s University/Northumbria University 4-Year MD Program in the United Kingdom, recently presented the initial findings from a research collaborative between Mahidol University International College (MUIC) and SGU at the 19th Congress of the International Federation of Associations of Anatomists (IFAA) in London.

Blue’s research presentation titled, “Novel insights into the anatomy and function of intertendinous connections in human hand” was part of a collaboration established by Dr. James Coey, Assistant Dean of Basic Sciences at SGU, and Athikhun Suwannakhan, a PhD student in the Department of Anatomy at MUIC. The research group was also the first to classify the Linburg-Comstock variation—an anatomical variant of flexor tendons of the hand—into three different types with immunochemistry, and proposed that its etiology is secondary to a traumatic injury or an excessive use of the hand.

“It was such an honor to work with Dr. Coey, an expert in the field of anatomy, and Mr. Suwannakhan, who comes from one of the most prestigious universities in Thailand,” said Ms. Eiamratchanee. “I was really excited about participating and presenting my work at the IFAA conference. It was an amazing opportunity for me to engage in both technological and educational discussions with different associations of anatomists from around the world.

“I have always wanted to be a medical doctor and a researcher,” she added. “I believe that, by being both, it would give me opportunities to use the current knowledge of science to help people understand the problems and obstacles in providing healthcare to patients, as well as expand the current knowledge as a tool for other physicians to provide better and more accurate medical diagnosis, treatment, and/or surgery.”

St. George’s University was further represented at the conference through platform presentations from Dr. Marios Loukas, dean of basic sciences and research at SGU, along with numerous poster presentations and artwork submitted by Dr. Robert Hage, professor of anatomical sciences at SGU, and his daughter, Lisa Hage, MD ’10.

This research collaboration continues to strengthen the relationship between SGU and MUIC, following the partnership established in 2014 that launched a dual BSc/MD degree between the two universities, and most recently the MOU signed in 2018 allowing Mahidol students who successfully complete a premedical year of study to be eligible to enroll in SGU’s MD degree program.

“Blue is one of the first students to capitalize on this partnership, progressing from MUIC to SGU’s Northumbria program, and in her first year has managed to present at a prestigious international conference,” Dr. Coey said. “Additionally, the fact that this research was a collaboration with Mahidol paves the way for continued joint ventures in the future.”

– Ray-Donna Peters

St. George’s University, NYC Health+Hospitals Awards Twelve Incoming Students with CityDoctors Scholarships

TRUE BLUE, Grenada (September 17, 2019) — Today, St. George’s University and NYC Health+Hospitals announced that it will award 12 students with CityDoctors scholarships.

“We’re thrilled to provide scholarships to these outstanding future doctors,” said Dr. G. Richard Olds, President of St. George’s University. “It’s a priority for us at St. George’s to make medical school accessible and affordable to aspiring doctors from a variety of backgrounds who are intent on returning home to New York to serve in the city’s neediest communities.”

Created in 2012, the CityDoctors Scholarships are available to applicants to the St. George’s University School of Medicine who wish to start their studies in the January term each year. To be eligible for the program, students must have maintained a permanent residence within the five boroughs of New York City for five or more years, graduated from high school or college in New York City, or have other ties to NYC Health + Hospitals.

Winners can receive partial or full scholarships. In exchange, they commit to working in one of the 11 hospitals in the NYC Health + Hospitals system for at least two years after graduating. Since the partnership’s inception, St. George’s has made careers in medicine possible for 113 aspiring and current doctors through the NYC Health + Hospitals CityDoctors program.

“Our commitment to delivering excellent care is reflected in our continued participation in the CityDoctors scholarship program, which provides young doctors, who have expressed an early commitment to primary care along with a heart-felt connection to the citizens of New York, the necessary support to become physicians,” said Machelle Allen, MD, Chief Medical Officer, NYC Health + Hospitals. “As we expand access to health care services to more New Yorkers through initiatives like NYC Care, our partnership with St. George’s University is a great example of our accountability, and active role in ensuring we have a reliable pipeline of well-trained primary care physicians joining NYC Health + Hospitals.”

Jersey Shore University Medical Center and HackensackUMC are also partners in the CityDoctors program. The two New Jersey medical centers have honored an additional 31 CityDoctors who have received scholarships to study at St. George’s. All told, the CityDoctors program has awarded scholarships to 144 aspiring and currently practicing doctors.

St. George’s is one of the leading providers of doctors to New York—and the second-largest source of doctors for the entire United States. In 2019, more than 275 St. George’s University graduates began residencies in New York.

“These CityDoctors will be crucial to addressing healthcare disparities across New York,” said Dr. Olds. “We’re proud to help these New Yorkers, and dozens before them, make their dreams of becoming doctors a reality.”

A Family Affair at School of Medicine White Coat Ceremonies

Oftentimes older siblings have a strong influence on their younger siblings. Such was the case for St. George’s University medical student Moe Badran, who followed in the footsteps of his sister, Nawal Badran, MD ’09, and brother, Sam Badran, MD ’11, each of whose path to a career in medicine wove through Grenada.

With his own SGU education, Moe Badran looks forward to joining his sister, a board-certified physician in internal medicine based in Southern California, and brother, a child psychiatrist in Cincinnati, OH, in the medical field. He took one step closer to that goal, partaking in the Fall 2019 SOM White Coat Ceremonies.

“I grew up hearing about SGU for almost a decade from my siblings,” said the first-year student. “I had always heard great things and knew for a fact that SGU had that prestige and reputation of producing great doctors, so I proudly accepted the offer to come here.”

Similarly, Dr. Cameron Charchenko, a urologist from Bismarck, ND, was very influential in his sister Celeste’s decision to attend medical school. According to Dr. Charchenko, coating his sister was the second greatest day of his life, after his wedding day.

“My field of interest is surgery, but I’m hoping that one day my brother and I can work together,” Ms. Charchenko said. “He’s shown me a bit of urology surgery that I find really interesting so I’m hoping to grow up to follow in his footsteps. Sharing this moment together and him coating me was amazing and something I will never forget.”

This sentiment of families following in each other’s footsteps and working together was echoed by alumnus and master of ceremonies Leonard Levin, MD ’83. He returned to SGU after coating his son, Jacob, in this very same ceremony last year. Dr. Levin looks back fondly on his medical student experience.

“SGU is a family,” stated Dr. Levin. “There are families you’re born into and families that accepted you and you accepted them. Unlike being an undergraduate where there’s a lot of competition, here a rising tide floats all boats. So be there for each other, help each other, work with each other, be a team, and support each other through the trials and tribulations that will be out there in the future.”

Delivering the keynote address was Dr. Ross Upshur, who in 2015 was named one of the Top 20 Canadian Pioneers in Family Medicine Research and Family Medicine Researcher of the Year by the College of Family Physicians of Canada. He reminded members of the Class of 2023 that they stood on the threshold of commencing a career in one of the most respected professions and that, after donning their white coats, they would join a tradition of service to humanity that dates back through millennia.

“I’m thrilled that you have chosen to make the practice of medicine your career,” said Dr. Upshur, Dalla Lana Chair, Head of the Division of Clinical Public Health, Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto. “You will be constantly stimulated, seldom bored, and often awestruck by what you learn from your patients. They will be your greatest and most humbling teachers. You will garner insights about humanity that few others can.

“You will have enormous power and privilege—use it wisely and judiciously,” he continued. “Be generous and give back. I wish each of you success in your studies and hope that you have long and rewarding careers.”

In addition to serving as a rite of passage for aspiring physicians, the School of Medicine White Coat Ceremonies coincide with a weekend of activities that help make up Beyond Spice Family Weekend. The University’s bi-annual event welcomes students and family members to soak up nature and culture in Grenada.

– Ray-Donna Peters

Global Medical Students Welcomed Onto Path of “Lifelong Learning” at White Coat Ceremony

Students from around the world took their first steps into their medical education at the traditional White Coat Ceremony, inaugurating the 12th year of a partnership between St. George’s University and Northumbria University in Newcastle, England.

Seventy-five students from countries including Canada, the United States, United Kingdom, Hong Kong, Thailand, and Botswana were formally inducted into the St. George’s University School of Medicine/Northumbria University Joint MD Program. Since its establishment in 2007, the SGU/NU program has welcomed more than 1,700 students to the medical education track.

Path of Lifelong Learning

Emceeing the ceremonies was Leah Ratner, MD ’14, an alumna of the joint program who is now a pediatric global health fellow at Boston Children’s Hospital in Massachusetts. Recounting stories from her time practicing in the US and attending conferences in Mexico, Dr. Ratner advised new students to adopt a multidimensional approach to medicine that goes “beyond the exam room” and encompasses the social determinants of health. She urged them to “empathize with others” and the personal and structural problems that their patients may face, and to take personal responsibility for working toward equity and justice in healthcare and medical institutions.

Dr. Matthew Wynia, director of the Center for Bioethics and Humanities at the University of Colorado, and a former visiting professor at SGU, delivered the keynote address. He encouraged the students embarking on a “path of lifelong learning” to think of medicine as a series of complex adaptive systems, where knowledge of individual parts is not the same as an understanding of the whole, and outcomes will depend upon doctors’ abilities to constantly address these evolving challenges.

“We are creating our professional culture all the time, in every ordinary decision we make,” he told students, echoing Dr. Ratner’s advice to address the “hard questions” about doctors’ social responsibilities.

Special Tribute

To open the day’s proceedings, Professor Jon Reast, pro-vice chancellor at Northumbria University, paid special tribute to Baroness Howells of St. Davids, a former trustee of the St. George’s University UK Trust and a firm fixture of White Coat Ceremonies in years past.

Baroness Howells, who stepped down from the House of Lords earlier this year, is the only Grenadian to join the peerage and is a former president of the Windward Islands Research and Education Foundation (WINDREF), a Grenada-based research institute that collaborates with SGU.

The SGU/Northumbria joint program, formerly the Keith B. Taylor Global Scholars Program, was founded in 2007 to create a pathway for highly qualified international students to pursue a world-class medical education by beginning their physician training with SGU at Northumbria, before going to Grenada to continue their studies. Earlier this year, the universities announced that the joint program would be expanded to allow students to complete up to two years of their pre-clinical medical education in the UK.

SGU Vice Chancellor Featured On RealClearEducation.com

An op/ed piece by Dr. Richard Liebowitz (right), vice chancellor of St. George’s University, recently appeared on realcleareducation.com. In it, he explained the crucial role that international medical schools play in training highly qualified students that eventually become much-needed physicians in the United States.

“The odds of gaining admission to U.S. medical schools are growing longer,” Dr. Liebowitz wrote. “But bright young Americans don’t have to give up their dreams of becoming doctors. They can turn to top-notch international medical schools. Their future patients will surely thank them.”

SGU Dean Speaks on the Future of Ultrasound

In Hong Kong, more than 400 students were in attendance as St. George’s University dean and professor Dr. Marios Loukas presented at the Global Aspiring Medic Conference (GAMC) on July 20. The conference, organized by ARCH Community Outreach (ACO) in collaboration with The University of Hong Kong (HKU), is the largest student medical conference in Asia. As one of the keynote speakers, Dr. Loukas gave a presentation on “Translational Research in Clinical Anatomy; The Way Forward”, which introduced the application of translational research as a tool to address the gap between gross anatomy and patient care.

“Our aim was to show these students how medicine relates with research,” said Dr. Loukas, dean of basic sciences and research at SGU. “We demonstrated how we can use new surgical techniques and approaches that we discovered at SGU, and how we can apply them to solve typical problems that we see in the hospital in patients. We identify a problem, take it back to the lab, solve it, and then go back into the hospital and implement that procedure. This approach is now being used in hospitals all over the world, from Japan to the United States.”

In addition to his keynote speech, Dr. Loukas also held a practical workshop titled, “The Use of Ultrasound in Everyday Practice”, where he performed ultrasounds on eager volunteers, wowing the 50+ students attending. He explained how a doctor could diagnose a patient through the use of an ultrasound scan and also gave each participant invaluable hands-on experience operating the ultrasound device.

“I think the students enjoyed both the lecture and the ultrasound session,” stated Dr. Loukas. “I believe ultrasound is the stethoscope of the future. It has so many uses and has become a cost-saving modality these days, and much less expensive. My hope is that many of these students here today will eventually become doctors treating patients and remember these experiences at the GAMC that were crucial to following this career path.”

At the end of the workshop participants received a copy of Dr. Loukas’ new book, Essential Ultrasound Anatomy, which he co-authored with Dr. Danny Burns. The book provides today’s students with a solid foundation in regional ultrasound anatomy by offering practical, comprehensive coverage of the ultrasound images and important structures that are most frequently encountered in daily practice.

“The book project started three years ago,” Dr. Loukas said. “Dr. Burns and I wanted to combine anatomy within ultrasound, so that students from other courses such as physiology or pathology could understand how we use ultrasound. This forms the basis for any type of student or even resident to start diagnosing different conditions.

“Interestingly, the entire design of the book’s pictures and illustrations were all created here at SGU in our new illustration unit,” added Dr. Loukas. “Since we have medical illustrators in-house, that makes it much easier for us when we’re publishing a paper or writing books. In fact, the quality of the finished product then becomes that much higher.”

In 2011, SGU introduced ultrasound teaching into the Department of Basic Sciences. Today, the department now offers a Point of Care Ultrasound Certification course, allowing students to become certified in ultrasound, which provides an enormous advantage during their clinical years and residencies. St. George’s University is one of the few schools that provides such an intensive ultrasound course.

Additionally, the University has substantially invested over $1 million in the ultrasound technology at the True Blue Campus. Currently, it has more than20 ultrasound units that are operated in conjunction with standardized patients. Each ultrasound station can hold up to four students, paired with a standardized patient and a clinical tutor demonstrating how the device is operated.

– Ray-Donna Peters

2019 SGU Graduate Follows in Father’s Footsteps

Tracey O’Brien, MD ’19, with Chancellor Charles Modica and father John O’Brien, MD ’81, at commencement ceremonies in New York City

Connecticut native Dr. Tracey O’Brien travelled thousands of miles to attend St. George’s University. But for the 2019 graduate, a new internal medicine resident at Queens Hospital Center in New York, studying medicine in Grenada also represented a homecoming of sorts.

“My dad was a member of the St. George’s University charter class,” Dr. O’Brien said. “He’s taken my family on multiple trips to Grenada. I became very familiar with the island, the school, and all those who live there.”

On one trip, her father brought her and her family to a local hospital. Seeing the amputees’ limited access to care prompted him to open a prosthetics clinic. The entire O’Brien family worked at the clinic, which has since helped dozens of Grenadians walk again.

“The resilience of the patients was inspiring,” Dr. O’Brien said. “At the beginning, they’re leaning on your shoulder and struggling to move by themselves. But within just a half hour, they’re walking out the door. They were so appreciative, and it was so rewarding to see that.”

Dr. O’Brien’s work in the prosthetics clinic helped her realize her dreams of becoming a doctor—but not without a few detours along the way.

Initially, she planned to pursue veterinary medicine. She received an undergraduate degree in animal science from the University of Connecticut and worked at a zoo and a veterinary office. But she could not help but feel that something was missing.

“I’d gained significant experience with animal science,” Dr. O’Brien said. “But I also wanted to give back to the community and help people who were suffering. That’s when I realized I wanted to become a physician—and to start my career at the school where my dad learned to help people.”

St. George’s was the perfect fit for multiple reasons. Dr. O’Brien enjoyed SGU’s lecture-based curriculum and collaborative work environment. Her love of engaging with others made picking a specialty for residency an easy choice.

“I really am a people person, and that’s why I fell in love with internal medicine,” she said. “You get to know your patients so well, and really help them with all facets of their health.”

Dr. O’Brien is thrilled to be practicing medicine in New York. But she’s looking forward to returning to Grenada—to give back to the community that set her on the path toward becoming a doctor.

“I definitely plan on returning and providing the community with the healthcare services they need,” she said. “I would love to do that.”

2019 Resident: Time at SGU Was “Best of My Life”

Kate Alemann, MD ’19

Dr. Kate Alemann has racked up quite a few frequent flyer miles. The New Zealand native, a 2019 St. George’s University graduate and newly minted resident, has traversed the globe to pursue her dream of becoming a physician.

“Living in Grenada was entirely new to me. But when I got to St. George’s University, I realized I was surrounded by people who shared my love for medicine,” said Dr. Alemann, who joined the emergency medicine residency program at Saint Louis University School of Medicine this summer. “Like me, they were willing to travel thousands of miles to prove they had what it took to be a physician.”

Dr. Alemann grew up in Auckland and spent much of her youth sailing, surfing, and playing basketball. She excelled on the basketball court, ultimately joining New Zealand’s national team and playing in the Australian Youth Olympic Tournament at the age of 17.

Her athletic prowess caught the attention of colleges in the United States. She played at Mineral Area College in Missouri from 2010 to 2012 and then transferred to Mercer College, a Division I program in Macon, GA.

For Dr. Alemann, choosing to play basketball at an elite level was a given. Choosing a major proved more difficult.

“I really struggled with deciding what I wanted to study. But my favorite class in high school was a sports science course,” she said. “It dealt with the science behind optimizing physical performance. I really loved learning about the human body, so I decided to declare pre-med. Looking back, it was the best decision I ever made.”

After college, Dr. Alemann worked in an urgent care clinic as a patient care representative. Once she arrived at SGU, she served as an instructor and guidance counselor at the Department of Educational Services.

“I loved every subject at SGU. As we progressed each semester, the material became even more interesting,” she said. “I really feel that SGU gave us all the tools we needed to excel.”

When it came time to select a specialty, Dr. Alemann knew she wanted to work in a fast-paced, active environment.

“I remember one particular night shift in the emergency department that was insanely busy,” she said. “That might have been stressful for some people. But when I left the hospital afterward, I was happier than when I’d walked in the door 13 hours earlier.”

Now, Dr. Alemann experiences that sense of fulfillment every day, as an emergency medicine resident in St. Louis.

“It’s the best feeling to finally practice as a doctor,” she said. “I’m thrilled with my match, and I’m already learning so much.”

“On the interview trail, I heard from multiple hospitals that SGU graduates are some of the most hardworking and professional residents,” Dr. Alemann said. “For anyone considering SGU, I can honestly say my years on the island were some of the best of my life.”