Meet SGU’s New Associate Dean of Clinical Studies—Dr. Toni Johnson Liggins

There’s a new face in the Office of Clinical Studies at St. George’s University School of Medicine! Dr. Toni Johnson Liggins joined the team as associate dean of clinical studies (US) at the beginning of May. Her responsibilities include working alongside Dr. Robert Grant, senior associate dean of clinical studies, to conduct site visits at SGU’s affiliated hospitals and clinical centers to ensure students receive all the resources they need to thrive in this part of their education. Dr. Liggins will also work with Dr. Grant to support clinical teaching faculty who supervise and teach students in these sites.

Dr. Liggins was most recently the director of medical education (DME) and the designated institutional official (DIO) at the Mount Carmel Health System in Columbus, Ohio, where she oversaw the education and training for all medical students and residents in the healthcare system. Before that, she was faculty at the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University in Greenville, North Carolina. Dr. Liggins graduated from the University of Michigan Medical School and completed her residency training in psychiatry at the Cleveland Clinic, going on to practice psychiatry for over 25 years.

SGU News sat down with Dr. Liggins to find out more about her new role and professional passions.

St. George’s University: What are you most looking forward to in your role as associate dean of clinical studies?

Dr. Liggins: The face-to-face interactions with students. One of my favorite aspects of being in a role like this is having an opportunity to meet students and discuss their clinical experience and provide them with advice for how they can thrive in their education. I don’t take the opportunity to interact face-to-face for granted and look forward to making the most of my visits to clinical sites.

SGU: What brought you to SGU? 

Dr. Liggins:  In my previous role, I didn’t have as much opportunity to interact with students as I would have liked. I was just a step away from them, but I loved when I had a chance to speak with students about excelling in medical school and how to set yourself up to get the residency you want. I have 20 years of experience working in undergraduate and graduate medical education, as well as experience overseeing residences in a variety of specialties. As associate dean of clinical studies, I can use all of my knowledge and apply it to helping medical students at SGU get the most out of their education and prepare them to be the best physicians they can be.

SGU: What are some of your professional passions?

Dr. Liggins: As a trained psychiatrist, I am passionate about wellness, particularly mental health. We are finally in a time where the stigma of mental health is being addressed and we can include this part of health in our discussions of wellness.

I am also passionate about diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts. I feel strongly about the importance of recruiting and training a diverse physician workforce and believe this is the best way to meet the healthcare needs of today and the future.

Sarah Stoss

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See the Photos: Aspiring Physicians Take Sacred Oath at White Coat Ceremony

It was all smiles as the newest class of medical students eagerly awaited to don their white coats at the St. George’s University School of Medicine White Coat Ceremony. The future physicians were cheered on by their family and friends as they walked across the stage on April 15 at Bourne Lecture Hall on SGU’s True Blue campus.


During the ceremony, students are cloaked in white lab coats by various members of SGU administration and faculty or sometimes family members and mentors who have become doctors before them. Students then recite the Oath of Professionalism, where they pledge to honor the sacred trust and privilege society places on medical professionals.

What was it like to be coated? Check out the photos from the most recent SOM White Coat Ceremony.

  • Nerves and excitement filled the air as students waited patiently for their name to be called.

  • Dr. Marios Loukas, dean of the School of Medicine welcomed the Class of 2027 and shared three competencies they should always keep in mind—adaptability, positivity, and sacrifice. But above those three, most importantly, they should put their patients first.

  • This year’s keynote speaker was Dolland Noel, MD ’97, assistant dean of clinical studies, Grenada at SGU and head of the Clinical Training Unit at the Grenada General Hospital. A proud alum, Dr. Noel congratulated the students and reminded them that they are not only part of a fine institution but are also part of an amazing family.

  • With both his parents being doctors, SOM Term 1 student, Eric Lang felt privileged to have had a window into the profession that he also had fallen in love with. Coated by his proud dad, Dr. Thomas Lang, a rheumatologist from Baltimore, MD, Eric was grateful for his experiences scribing for his dad and conducting research at the R. Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center.

  • Shivani Rao, an SOM Term 1 student from New Jersey, was happy to follow in her father, neurologist Dr. Chitharanjan Rao’s footsteps and share in the surreal moment of being coated by him.

  • Being at SGU felt like a dream come true for SOM Term 1 student Tina Tran. Originally from Vietnam but now living in Tallahassee, FL, her parents were delighted to travel to Grenada to support her on her big day.

  • SOM Term 1 student Shomari John has spent most of his life working toward achieving his goal of becoming a physician. He was ecstatic to finally be on his way, and though his family back in Trinidad and Tobago couldn’t be there with him, they watched the ceremony online and cheered him on from afar.

  • It was ear-to-ear smiles for SOM Term 1 student Leah Ayad and her father, Dr. Onsy Ayad, as he coated her at the White Coat Ceremony. Originally from Egypt but now working as a pediatric intensivist in Columbus, OH, Dr. Ayad was proud his daughter understood the huge responsibility it was to take care of another human being and chose to join the medical profession.

  • The ceremony concluded with students and other physicians in the audience reciting the Oath of Professionalism—pledging to uphold the highest ethical standards while treating their patients.

  • After the ceremony, students joined their friends and family to capture photos commemorating the special day.

  • SOM Term 1 student Britton Swisher, his wife Mary, and their twins Charlotte and James, share a moment with SGU Chancellor Dr. Charles R. Modica and his wife Lisa.


– Ray-Donna Peters

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MD grad on what it was like to volunteer during Russia-Ukraine war: “I would do it again”

Mariya Vengrenyuk, a 2016 School of Medicine graduate, volunteered during Ukraine-Russian war.

Dr. Mariya Vengrenyuk, a 2016 graduate of St. George’s University School of Medicine, felt the calling to help the people of her native country as the war in Ukraine broke out.

Last year, Ukrainian-born Dr. Mariya Vengrenyuk, a 2016 graduate of St. George’s University School of Medicine, felt the calling to help the people of her native country as the war in Ukraine broke out.

In the spring of 2022, Dr. Vengrenyuk, who moved to the US when she was nine, traveled overseas to volunteer for two weeks with two different organizations. She first offered her medical expertise and language skills to help refugees in the Poland-Ukraine border city, Przemysl, by volunteering with the humanitarian group, SSF-Rescuers without Borders. She then traveled to Ivano-Frankivsk, Ukraine—her hometown—to work with Revived Soldiers Ukraine, a group that helps to bring severely wounded soldiers to the US for costly surgeries and other medical treatments pro bono. She continues to work with the group now that she is back in the US.

SGU News recently got back in touch with Dr. Vengrenyuk, who is a travel hospitalist and a clinical investigator, to learn what it was like to treat refugees and soldiers affected by the Russia-Ukraine war and how she was able to use her medical skills in a war zone setting.

SGU: What kind of aid did you provide while you were there?

Dr. Vengrenyuk: At the border clinic, it was mostly urgent care type of treatments—headaches, cough, chest pain, high blood pressure, high blood glucose, mild scrapes/cuts. I was the only Ukrainian-speaking doctor—other doctors were from different countries—so I helped translate and used medical terms for the people crossing the border.

SGU: You previously shared that you needed to mentally prepare for the trip and that, as a doctor, you must be compassionate but not emotional—was that difficult to do in practice? 

Dr. Vengrenyuk: I tried to be strong in Ukraine and at the border. But the aftermath hurt me. It continues to hurt to this day. I have dreams about the war and the wounded. When I came back from that trip, I felt depressed. I can’t stop the war. It was not an easy trip for me emotionally because I am still very connected to Ukraine, even though I lived in the US for 23 years. I have family there. When I looked at the faces of the people crossing the border, their despair, pain, I could see my parents in them. And the children’s eyes… they were children, but their eyes showed that they had lived through more than many adults have.

Mariya Vengrenyuk, MD '16, volunteered during Ukraine-Russian war.

Dr. Vengrenyuk: “I would do it again. And I would go to other parts of the world.”

SGU: What were some of the hardest things to see while there?

Dr. Vengrenyuk: The wounded. Many people in Ukraine are missing limbs, eyes, and they have scars and burns on their faces and bodies. It is a whole new generation of people with disabilities.

The most memorable cases are of young men who were blasted on the battlefield and who still have amputations and shrapnel in their body.

SGU: Were there moments of joy? 

Dr. Vengrenyuk: Seeing how many international people are willing to go and volunteer and how quickly the residents joined the volunteering forces. The morale was high, with everyone trying to stay strong.

SGU: What do you think you learned about yourself as a caretaker while volunteering in the Ukraine?

Dr. Vengrenyuk: I think I need more combat military medicine training. My internal medicine skills were useful, but I would like more surgical skills.

Mariya Vengrenyuk, a 2016 graduate of SGU School of Medicine

Dr. Vengrenyuk: “It was not an easy trip for me emotionally because I am still very connected to Ukraine, even though I lived in the US for 23 years. I have family there.”

SGU: Would you do it again?

Dr. Vengrenyuk: I would do it again. And I would go to other parts of the world. Unfortunately, to do such trips you need to have enough money saved so you can afford to take unpaid leave for one to two months in order to truly make a difference. Taking your vacation time from work is not enough.

I continue to volunteer at home by helping the soldiers we bring to the USA, taking them to their medical appointments, translating medical records, etc.

SGU: What is your advice for physicians who would like to give back on a smaller scale?

Dr. Vengrenyuk: We have enough of a healthcare crisis in the US alone where there is a need. There are homeless shelter clinics, abortion clinics, we have many of our own veterans in the US who are homeless and may have mental disorders, etc. There are ways to volunteer locally, even remotely, via telehealth.


-Laurie Chartorynsky

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O’Connor Hospital DME Shares Crucial Lessons Medical Students Can Learn During Clinicals


Dr. Sharad Dass, a critical care pulmonologist and the director of medical education at O’Connor Hospital.

Dr. Sharad Dass, a critical care pulmonologist and the director of medical education at O’Connor Hospital, shares the crucial lessons that medical students should take away from their clinical rotations.

What should medical students expect to learn during their clinical rotations? Dr. Sharad Dass, a critical care pulmonologist and the director of medical education at O’Connor Hospital, has a few ideas.

The most important part of their learnings: learning to communicate and listening to the patient.

“It’s imperative that students learn to listen to the patient, understand where they’re coming from, and also use other resources [to get answers] because patients may not be able to express themselves clearly or understand what’s happening within their body in terms of their symptoms,” Dr. Dass said. “Students should also learn to communicate with patients in a language that is more familiar and understandable to the patients. We often use large medical terms and describe our medical thought process, which is often not easily understood.”

Another crucial part of their time in clinical rotations is learning how to conduct themselves in a professional and respectful manner with the patients and other staff members in the hospital, Dr. Dass emphasized,

O’Connor Hospital, located in San Jose, CA, is a 358-bed acute care facility owned by the County of Santa Clara. According to its website, it offers a full range of inpatient and outpatient medical, surgical, and specialty programs to the more than 1 million residents of San Jose.

Dr. Dass moved into the hospital’s DME position in mid-2021 after previously being an internal medicine clerkship director there. He was instrumental in helping the hospital expand its medical education program for students.

Read more about Dr. Dass’ advice for clinical students:

SGU: What are the key lessons students should expect to learn during the clinical portion of their training?

Dr. Dass: As instructors, our goal is to bridge the gap for students between book knowledge and applying the knowledge in a practical sense to patients in a hospital setting. Every patient is different, and each may have a different way of explaining themselves that may not come across how students learned it in a book. We try to help students develop their approach to patients which will hopefully allow them to hone in on the diagnosis.

To reiterate, students have to listen and communicate with their patient. It takes practice.

SGU: What clinical rotations can students participate in at O’Connor?

Dr. Dass: The hospital offers internal medicine, family medicine, surgery, and OB/GYN core rotations as well as specific electives within these fields. For example, pulmonary & critical care, GI, emergency medicine, dermatology, and different surgical subspecialties such as vascular surgery and cardiothoracic surgery.

SGU: What residency programs are offered through the hospital?

Dr. Dass: The hospital has a family medicine residency program—that is combined program with Stanford University. They also have a sports medicine fellowship.

SGU: How is the hospital unique?

Dr. Dass: One of the things that I like about this hospital is that the doctors and preceptors are private practitioners. Many students finishing up their residency often go to big group practices. They don’t start up their own private practice because they have no idea how to, and they don’t know what it’s about. Being in our program, they may be able to appreciate the benefits of being their own private practitioner.

Additionally, despite being owned by the county, we’re a community-based hospital. So, it still has that small-town feeling where everybody knows everybody.

SGU: You are a trained critical care pulmonologist, what do you love about the specialty?

Dr. Dass: I’ve found that understanding pulmonary and critical care medicine made sense to me, working with the ventilators and in the intensive care units with patients with vascular issues—to me, I just enjoyed learning this field and found it challenging. I liked the physics and mechanics of the field. That’s a large part of understanding pulmonary function testing. I actually have my bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of California, Irvine.

In critical care, you kind of have to be the jack of all trades. You have to understand what can cause a critical situation. It could be different parts of the body, not just the lungs. It could be the heart. It could be the endocrine system. It could be the GI system. It could be anything or remain unknown. So, you have to be able to care for patients that may have developed a critical/life-threatening illness from any organ system in the body.  It can be stressful, but I like the level of energy in the intensive care.

SGU: What made you venture into academic medicine?

Dr. Dass: I’ve always been involved in teaching. Teaching helps me grow my own knowledge base and learn new concepts. I like the collegiality of being able to bounce ideas off of each other, ask questions, and so forth. I wanted to bring that back to our hospital with students.

One of my favorite meetings is where I speak with a student committee. The monthly meeting allows me and other administrators to go over any student concerns or suggestions on how to improve on the program. I appreciate the students’ involvement to improve their learning experience.

SGU: What do you think is the most important thing for physicians to remember when public health issues, such as COVID, arise?

Dr. Dass: My first piece of advice is don’t jump on any bandwagons. As physicians our first goal is to do no harm—and if one doesn’t fully understand an unproven treatment and begins to implement such then that can potentially be going against what we should be doing.

SGU: Any last words of advice for clinical students?

Dr. Dass: Concentrate on doing well on your shelf exams and the USMLE. That plays a big role in your ability to get into a residency, especially for those who know they have difficulty with test performance. Seek help because SGU offers lots of assistance for those students who need it for test-taking or clinical skill development. Getting good letters of recommendation is very important as well.  Most importantly, enjoy what you are doing and you will do better.


-Laurie Chartorynsky

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970 St. George’s University Students and Graduates Secure US Residencies in 2023 Match

Match Day 2023 - 970n US residencies and counting

St. George’s University School of Medicine announced today that 970 of its students and graduates secured residencies around the United States in this year’s match cycle.

“Match Day is a pivotal moment in a doctor’s career,” said Dr. Marios Loukas, Dean of the St. George’s University School of Medicine. “On behalf of the entire St. George’s University community, I congratulate this remarkable class of medical students.”

This year, students and graduates matched into residences in 21 specialties across 42 states and the District of Columbia. More students and graduates will find out where they will be doing residency training in the days and weeks to come.



St. George’s graduates will begin residency programs in several highly competitive specialties, ranging from surgery and neurology to emergency medicine and pediatrics. Many will be returning to their home states to begin their careers in medicine.

This new group of doctors will play a crucial role in addressing America’s growing physician shortage. St. George’s is the largest provider of doctors to the U.S. healthcare system and the number-one provider of primary care doctors into the United States annually. Three-quarters of St. George’s graduates enter primary care specialties, and a significant number of SGU alumni work in medically underserved areas.

“St. George’s University graduates have been meeting the medical needs of communities across the United States for decades,” Dr. Loukas said. “We look forward to seeing all the great things that this newest class of St. George’s graduates will accomplish.”



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Dreams come true on Match Day 2023

On Match Day 2023, hundreds of St. George’s University School of Medicine students and graduates found out where they will head for residency training this summer.

SGU students and graduates matched into more than 970 first-year US residency positions across more than 20 specialties including neurology, urology, emergency medicine, anesthesiology, surgery, and more. The numbers are expected to increase in the coming weeks.



Match Day is a milestone moment in students’ medical education as they learn where their hard work and determination will take them next in their career. Students and graduates will now enjoy the fruits of their labor as the next chapter of their medical training begins—this time with ‘MD’ beside their name.

SGU News spoke with several recently matched students about what it felt like to discover that all their hard work led to a dream come true.

David Townsend

Matched: University of North Dakota at Sanford Hospital

Specialty: Internal medicine

Hometown: Alexandria, MN

“I am excited to grow my career and start on my path to cardiology/electrophysiology!  My children are also very excited to be close to their cousins.”

Jaclynn Do

Matched: Zucker School of Medicine / Northwell South Shore University Hospital

Specialty: Preliminary surgery

Hometown: Costa Mesa, CA

“It still feels unreal that I matched because it has been an emotional rollercoaster throughout this journey, but I can’t help but smile when I think about it. I am most grateful for my friends, family, and mentors who have supported me on this journey and continue to support me as a physician.”

John Crane

Matched: Mount Sinai Elmhurst

Specialty: Psychiatry

Hometown: Boston, MA

“Seeing the words, ‘Congratulations, you have matched!’ was one of the biggest moments of my life. I could finally breathe a sigh of relief. I did it. I felt happy, relieved, and validated for my hard work and perseverance. I called my immediate family with tears of joy in my eyes. I could not have matched without the support of my family and friends.

Match Day has been an unforgettable day. I am truly humbled and honored to match into my number one residency program. As a psychiatrist, I look forward to helping patients improve their mental health. I am eager to work with underserved and disenfranchised populations. Mount Sinai Elmhurst will teach me to provide excellent psychiatric care.

SGU provided me with the opportunity to pursue my dreams. Today, my dreams became a reality.”

Rachel Castillo

Matched: University of Maryland Medical Center

Specialty: Pediatrics

Hometown: Bowie, MD

“For Match Day, I decided to keep things ‘low-key’ and open the email with just my parents. They have been my biggest cheerleaders and the best support system I could ever hope for or pray for. I was shocked more than anything else when I saw the email. It’s a program I’ve admired for several years, and to experience the joy and reality of matching there was overwhelming.

As I look towards residency, I’m most grateful to be back in Baltimore, the city that I love and spent time in as a child and graduate student. I’m honored to be able to care for children in Baltimore and the surrounding area and truly be their biggest champion and advocate.”

Nanditha Guruvaiah Sridhara

Matched: Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center

Specialty: Diagnostic radiology

Hometown: Nassau, The Bahamas

“Match Day was truly one of the happiest moments of my life! It felt like a great weight was lifted off my shoulders because everything I had worked for had culminated to this one important email.

I’m so grateful to my family and friends for supporting me on this long but fruitful journey. Most importantly, I’m thankful for the mentors I gained through SGU. They gave me invaluable advice and encouraged me to continue to strive during tough times.

I’m very excited to start this next phase of my journey. I’m especially looking forward to learning from the faculty at this renowned program. Being in a field such as radiology gives me endless opportunities for innovative research and global health outreach—both of which I’m interested in doing during my residency. I also hope to encourage and support more women who are aiming to pursue the more competitive and male-dominated fields.”

Shedane Latty

Matched: New York Medical College-Metropolitan/Harlem

Specialty: Emergency medicine

Hometown: Jamaica

“I am so excited that I matched my first-choice program for emergency medicine! I cannot wait to get started.

Thank you to SGU for giving me an opportunity to materialize a childhood dream. Thank you for the humanitarian scholarship and thank you to the people of Grenada for welcoming me with open arms. It will forever be a second home.”

Joshua Fernandez

Matched: University of California Riverside Community Hospital

Specialty: Neurology

Hometown: Westchester, CA

“When I opened my email, I couldn’t believe I matched at a UC program! I entered a field that is severely lacking Latino doctors, and now I have an opportunity to give back to my community. I was over the moon with all these emotions after four years of hard work. It was all worth it. I am so grateful that I have an opportunity to represent SGU and all the international medical graduates that will follow me because my journey is proof that anything is possible.”

—Sarah Stoss and Laurie Chartorynsky

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7 Questions with SGA-Clinical President Ramona Mittal

clinical students and attending in hospital

Did you know that the St. George’s University Student Government Association has representatives dedicated specifically to School of Medicine clinical students?

Clinical students can safely express their concerns and questions with representatives of the SGA-C, who work closely with University officials and representatives at various clinical sites to ensure students’ voices are heard and acknowledged.

Ramona Mittal, SGA-C president and fourth-year SOM student, sat down with SGU News to share how the organization can be a resource for students navigating their clinical years.

St. George’s University: What are the unique challenges that clinical students face?

Ramona Mittal - SGA-C president

Fourth-year SOM student, Ramona Mittal, is president of SGA-C.

Ramona Mittal: Clinical students are situated around the world, from sites in California to New York and New Jersey, and even in the United Kingdom! With that, each hospital ranges with requirements and expectations of their students, so what may be standard at one site may not necessarily be standard at another one.

SGU: How is the SGA-C unique from campus SGA? And how does the SGA-C work with the School of Medicine’s deans and administration? 

RM: SGA-C advocates specifically for clinical students. The SGA executive board of the School of Medicine meets with SGA-C representatives once a month, and upon request, to hear any concerns from clinical students.

The SGA president and vice president then address those concerns with School of Medicine deans in meetings as needed.

Get in touch with SGA-C! 



Join the SGA-C Facebook group 

SGU: Can you give an  example of something that was implemented for clinical students as a result of the SGA-C’s advocacy?

RM: Most recently, a number of students voiced concerns regarding off days for Match week. We were able to speak with administration and determine an adequate solution to give Match Friday off to the students.

SGU: Are there any events happening where students can meet SGA-C representatives?

RM: This year, we hosted the SGA-C Match Day party at High Bar Rooftop in New York City! Approximately 250 to 300 people attended, and we were able to have food, refreshments, a DJ, and a photobooth. It was a wonderful celebration for everyone’s accomplishments.

In addition, we are working to have regional representatives reach out to their hospitals and host webinars via Zoom.

SGU: Congratulations on your recent Match, where will you be heading for residency training?

RM: I matched in internal medicine at my top choice hospital!

SGU: Is there anything else you would like to add? 

RM: Being on SGA-C has been the opportunity of a lifetime. If you have any questions or concerns, please reach out to us.




– Laurie Chartorynsky


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World Kidney Day: Transplant surgeon shares keys to kidney health

Kidney disease progresses silently; in fact, according to the World Kidney Day organization, a person can lose up to 90 percent of their kidney function before experiencing symptoms, and eight to 10 percent of the adult population suffers from some form of kidney damage.

World Kidney Day’s goal is to raise awareness of the importance of our kidneys. This year, the annual campaign takes place on March 9, and the theme is “Kidney Health for All—Preparing for the unexpected, supporting the vulnerable.”

St. George’s University School of Medicine alum Sujit Vijay Sakpal, MD ’05, is a multi-organ abdominal transplant surgeon, intensivist, and kidney and pancreas transplantation director at Avera McKennan Hospital & University Health Center in South Dakota. As a physician who works directly with vulnerable populations impacted by issues such as kidney disease, he shared his thoughts on World Kidney Day and why he chose to focus his career on caring for those with end-stage organ failure.

“Everyone should be aware of kidney disease, especially those with risk factors for it such as diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, obesity, or a family history of kidney disease,” said Dr. Sakpal. “Knowing one is at risk is the first step towards a healthier life.”

For those with high-risk factors such as diabetes, hypertension, or obesity, Dr. Sakpal recommends getting kidney function checked regularly. In addition, to help prevent kidney disease, there are a few daily choices we can all make.

“Keep fit, be active, eat a healthy diet, and stay hydrated. It’s also important to stay mindful of your blood sugar and blood pressure and not smoke or take over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory pills regularly,” he said.

Although these seem like small changes, they can significantly impact kidney health. Progressive chronic kidney disease could possibly become end-stage and require dialysis. At this point, Dr. Sakpal would recommend seeking early advice and referral for kidney transplantation, which can potentially restore the quality and longevity of the life of those affected. That’s where Dr. Sakpal’s expertise and care would come in.

A profoundly challenging and rewarding career path

“I always wanted to be a surgeon, but a cardiothoracic one initially,” said Dr. Sakpal when asked how he decided on a career in transplant surgery. “That changed in my surgical residency at Saint Barnabas Medical Center in New Jersey, one of the busiest and top-ranked kidney-pancreas transplantation centers in the US.”

During his surgical residency, Dr. Sakpal learned that solid-organ transplantation goes beyond the craft and skill of surgery. It involves staying up to date with innovations in medicine, immunology, and pharmacotherapy.

“Successful organ transplantation care of complex patients requires a multidisciplinary team effort,” added Dr. Sakpal. “All of it piqued my interest. Exceptional mentorship, both at Barnabas and then at Northwestern Medicine in Chicago during my fellowship in abdominal transplant, helped sculpt and build my professional career.”

The complexity involved in transplant surgery, however, comes with challenges. But those challenges make Dr. Sakpal even more grateful and motivated of how rewarding the work is.

“Reciprocity exists between challenges and rewards in all professions,” said Dr. Sakpal. “Challenges in my profession directly affect the lives of patients who need new organs to survive and live healthier and longer. As one can imagine, caring for patients with end-stage organ failure and optimizing their health to undergo lifesaving and life-changing organ transplantation is profoundly rewarding.”

The importance of a well-rounded medical education

For Dr. Sakpal to get to where he is today, he recognizes the significance of his education and how it prepared him for his future in medicine.

“Every educational experience has been enriching and formative toward building and establishing my professional career thus far,” Dr. Sakpal shared. “From my time as an international student from India at Idaho State University to SGU’s School of Medicine with its high caliber of medical education and opportune clinical rotations that led me to my advanced training as a surgical resident and a fellow, all of it was extraordinarily impactful.”

His education and career have taught Dr. Sakpal about the lifelong journey of practicing clinical medicine and surgery. His advice to students hoping to succeed on a similar path is simple.

“Never cease learning, be adaptive, seek mentorship, find and follow your passion, practice self-care, and most importantly, be humble with successes and never fear failure,” he said.

—Sarah Stoss

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St. George’s University to Expand Relationship with NYC Health + Hospitals, Strengthening Pipeline of Future Doctors

St. George’s University announced today that it has renewed and expanded its relationship with NYC Health + Hospitals to bolster the pipeline of physicians from diverse backgrounds into New York’s healthcare system.

The agreement extends opportunities for SGU medical students to complete clinical rotations at affiliated NYC hospitals during their third and fourth years of study. Following completion of basic sciences studies at SGU, students will continue their medical training in clinical environments in the NYC Health + Hospitals system. Training and learning as members of care teams, these students gain first-hand experience in a range of medical fields while contributing directly to serving and caring for patients.

“We’ve partnered with NYC Health + Hospitals for nearly two decades to achieve our mutual goals of diversifying the nation’s healthcare workforce, bringing physicians to underserved areas, and opening doors for talented students from historically underrepresented backgrounds,” said Dr. Marios Loukas, Dean of St. George’s University School of Medicine. “We’re thrilled to continue that important work in the years ahead.”

“New York City is one of the most diverse places in the world. It’s critical that our healthcare providers reflect the patient population they serve,” said Machelle Allen, Senior Vice President and Chief Medical Officer of NYC Health + Hospitals. “Expanding our relationship with St. George’s will help us achieve that goal — and improve patient access to culturally competent providers.”

The agreement also increases the number of full-tuition medical school scholarships awarded through the SGU School of Medicine CityDoctors scholarship program from 12 to 15 each year. It will also create 100 full scholarships for employees of NYC Health + Hospitals to pursue a Master of Public Health from SGU, a program accredited by the US Council on Education for Public Health.

“We’ve partnered with NYC Health + Hospitals for nearly two decades to achieve our mutual goals of diversifying the nation’s healthcare workforce, bringing physicians to underserved areas, and opening doors for talented students from historically underrepresented backgrounds.”

“Applying for the CityDoctors Scholarship is one of the best decisions I have ever made. The training I received at St. George’s University and NYC Health + Hospitals gave me the expertise necessary to attend to the mental health needs of our community, especially now as the demand for services is increasing” said NYC Health + Hospitals/Jacobi Attending Physician Eric Behar, MD. “I cannot fathom where my medical career would be without this program. CityDoctors and NYC Health + Hospitals taught me the importance of giving back to our community. I highly encourage all aspiring physicians to apply.”

To date, the CityDoctors program has made a career in medicine possible for more than 80, many of whom now practice in the communities in which they were raised. To qualify, applicants must be New York City residents or graduates of a New York City school. Applicants who are employed by, or have a parent or grandparent employed by NYC Health + Hospitals or the City of New York are also eligible. Scholarship recipients must commit to serving in the NYC Health + Hospitals system after residency, one year for each year of full tuition scholarship received. Interested students may access the application here.

SGU’s Master of Public Health program produces leading public health practitioners and researchers on a global scale. Fully accredited by the US Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH), it is a one calendar year program in three academic terms, which can be completed online. Interested NYC Health + Hospitals’ staff may apply using SOPHAS, the centralized application service for Public Health programs.

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St. George’s University Announces Renewed Admissions Partnership with Springfield College

St. George’s University has renewed its partnership with Springfield College that will grant eligible Springfield students streamlined entry into the St. George’s School of Medicine or School of Veterinary Medicine.

“Since 2014, St. George’s has offered talented Springfield College students the opportunity to pursue a first-rate education and subsequent career in medicine,” said Dr. Richard Liebowitz, vice chancellor of St. George’s University. “We’re thrilled to continue that partnership educating the next generation of doctors and veterinarians so they can return to their communities and help address the critical need for medical and veterinary services nationwide.”

Ashley McNeill, PhD, director of the Springfield College pre-health professions advising, said the College is excited to continue to build partnerships like the one with St. George’s.

“Not only will this provide opportunities for our students to pursue excellent medical and veterinary training, but St. George’s University also offers unique opportunities for our students to continue to live our Humanics mission: educating the whole person in spirit, mind, and body for leadership in service to others” McNeill said. “St. George’s University’s focus on global health and care for underserved populations complements our students’ dedication to creating a better world for all.”

The partnership has established two “4+4” programs in which Springfield College students who complete four years of pre-medical or pre-veterinary coursework and meet all requirements for admission are fast-tracked for admission into four-year programs at the St. George’s School of Medicine or School of Veterinary Medicine. Candidates for the programs must maintain a strong undergraduate GPA and score competitively on relevant entrance exams.


“We’re thrilled to continue a partnership educating the next generation of doctors and veterinarians so they can return to their communities and help address the critical need for medical and veterinary services nationwide.”

Students who wish to take advantage of the combined degree programs must express interest upon applying to Springfield College. Those accepted into the MD program receive a $10,000 scholarship upon matriculating and are eligible for additional scholarships and grants from St. George’s.

Students accepted into the St. George’s School of Medicine may complete their first two years of study in Grenada, or spend their first year at Northumbria University in the United Kingdom and their second year in Grenada. They undertake their final two years of clinical rotations at hospitals affiliated with St. George’s in the United States and the United Kingdom.

Veterinary students complete three years of study in Grenada and their final clinical year at schools affiliated with St. George’s in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, Ireland, and the Netherlands.