A First of its Kind: SGU Launches Center for Integrative Medicine

 

Amid a global pandemic, St. George’s University’s School of Medicine recently launched the Center for Integrative Medicine—the first of its kind for the University and the island of Grenada. The virtual center aims to broaden patient-care training for SOM clinical students by teaching them non-traditional methods of care.

Officially launched on September 14, clinical students can learn non-surgical, non-pharmacological, alternative therapies like tai chi, qigong, yoga and meditation for chronic healthcare concerns including cardiovascular and respiratory ailments, osteoarthritis, and musculoskeletal ailments such as back pain.

While SGU has always offered courses on non-traditional medicines as selectives, the establishment of the Center for Integrative Medicine provides a look at all alternative methods of patient care.

“Our mission is to teach medical students how to offer alternative therapies to patients who are ill or want to stay healthy,” according to Dr. Stephen Weitzman, dean of the School of Medicine. “It is important for our students to know and understand how to use all different kinds of therapy and that integrative medicine exists in order to best treat and care for their patients.”

Instrumental to the establishment of the Center is Mr. Michael Weitzman, director of Thai Services, and Dr. Robert Hage, a senior professor of anatomy, who also is the Center’s director. Both lectured integrative medicine selectives to clinical students in the past.

“Our mission is to teach medical students how to offer alternative therapies to patients who are ill or want to stay healthy.”

– Dr. Stephen Weitzman

 

“The Center was created to ensure that students can receive training in a group of therapies that are essential today,” said Mr. Weitzman. “The biggest health issues of our times can have these eastern self-care healing therapies as part of the treatment process—from stress, obesity, back pain, and cardiovascular disease to lowering one’s risk of dying from COVID. The four modalities I teach in my selectives should be an essential aspect of any medical students training.”

Students have demonstrated significant interest in non-traditional patient care methods. “This past summer, I taught two online selectives—Tai  Chi and Qigong, and Yoga and Meditation as Integrative Medicine,” said Mr. Weitzman. “Over a period of six weeks, there were approximately 200 students who registered and participated in the Yoga and Meditation selective alone.”

To learn more about the SGU’s Center for Integrative Medicine, register for a virtual information session, which features a live question-and-answer segment featuring current students and alumni.

– Tornia Charles

Showcasing SGU Doctors: University’s New Marketing Campaign Features Real-Life Graduate Success Stories to Prospective Students

For more than four decades, St. George’s University continues to educate highly qualified physicians who are helping to alleviate the physician shortage in the US and around the world.

Recently, 13 School of Medicine graduates including emergency medicine doctors, anesthesiologists, vascular surgeons, cardiologists, pediatricians, and others, participated in a two-day photo and video shoot in New York City that will allow SGU to showcase alumni success in its upcoming digital marketing campaign. Candidates were asked to share their career paths and SGU experiences in video.

“SGU-educated physicians are well positioned to make a positive influence on the global healthcare system—particularly during the COVID pandemic,” said Nadav Levinton, who led this marketing initiative for St. George’s University. “There is no better way to celebrate our impressive graduates than by stepping up to tell their stories in the same way they would: without hesitation, with a primary concern for the well-being of others, and with well-planned teamwork.”

Robert Alig, vice president of alumni affairs for SGU, said: “We thank all of the alumni who participated in the photoshoots. With busy schedules both personally and professionally, we greatly appreciate their time and candor. Hearing about the wonderful work they’ve done, and the paths taken to get where they are in their careers, is truly inspiring. We know these testimonials will inspire those individuals who are eyeing a career in medicine themselves.”

SGU is cognizant of the precarious and difficult situations that healthcare workers everywhere are facing as a result of COVID. As a result, the University took strong precautions to keep both the subjects and the crew safe while completing the photo/video shoot. Such precautions before, during, and after the photoshoots included:

  • Each subject and crew member was required to have a negative COVID test result prior to filming.
  • The production crew was kept to a minimum to lower the number of people interacting with each other. All were required to wear masks, sterile suits, hair nets, and booties provided by the clinic where filming commenced. Crew members were provided eye protection as well.
  • The medical clinic received a special cleaning the night before and again after SGU completed the filming.
  • SGU had a COVID compliance coordinator on site taking temperatures and asking questions before anyone entered the location.
  • Subjects were required to wear N95 masks for the majority of the time on location. Photographers only shot a few takes with masks off.

 

Using the tagline “Are You In?” the images and interviews will be on display starting in mid-December through various digital ads as well as on SGU’s website and social media pages. SGU News will highlight the final assets in the December issue of the SOM alumni newsletter.

SGU is hoping to schedule additional photo shoots in the US and Canada in 2021. Details will be forthcoming on how alumni can participate. In the meantime, visit SGU’s Alumni Association website to learn other ways that SGU graduates are invited to get involved.

 

–  Laurie Chartorynsky

 

 

Working in underserved communities “resonates with the soul”

Jeremiah Madedor, MD ’20

From up close, and from a young age, Jeremiah Madedor, MD ’20, has gained intimate knowledge of the disadvantages that stem from a lack of healthcare access. His mother, who immigrated to the United States from Nigeria, pushed him to volunteer at the local veterans affairs hospital and homeless shelter, and he also went on mission trips with the family’s church. Then as a medical student at St. George’s University, he got hands-on experience working with the homeless population in New York City, as well as those who struggled to make ends meet.

“Those things really resonate with the soul and need to be addressed,” said Dr. Madedor. “I feel that, as a physician, I can do that.”

Now a first-year internal medicine resident at Spectrum Health in Grand Rapids, MI, Dr. Madedor sat down with SGU News to discuss ongoing healthcare issues in underserved communities, as well as his experience entering medicine in an especially challenging time.

St. George’s University: What are the most significant problems facing healthcare in underserved communities?

Dr. Jeremiah Madedor: Means and access. Patients usually fall into those two categories. In terms of means, we’re talking about money, resources, insurance, and connections to get to a primary care provider or the medical help you need. For financial reasons, a lot of patients don’t see physicians. An emergency department visit can cost thousands of dollars even without surgery, and with surgery, you can be looking six or seven figures for the cost.

Access is just as bad as means, because people may have the money or insurance, but if they don’t have the time to go for care, then nothing will be done. Several patients I see in the clinic skip appointments because they don’t have a babysitter or they work long workdays, and the list could go on.

SGU: What was it like entering medicine in the thick of a coronavirus pandemic? How would you describe the hospital and the community in Grand Rapids?

Dr. Madedor: My hospital has been preparing for COVID spikes since March, and has handled it as well as you can. Residents are educated on cases with didactics, and MICU/pulmonary attendings have been instrumental in learning managements of COVID. During my clinic, I have been tasked with seeing COVID patients with virtual visits, and while on the intensive care unit I have been seeing patients firsthand and managing them with the guidance of pulmonary attendings. It’s definitely been a life-changing experience seeing the complications firsthand of this new disease.

SGU: How has the recent social justice movement energized or changed you personally and/or professionally?

Dr. Madedor: I don’t believe it has energized or changed me personally because I have always fought for those disenfranchised or less fortunate. As an African American, I live this fight every day, so with my patients, I can empathize with them. I relate to them on a personal and ethnic level. A lot of people say ‘hi’ to me on the hospital floors or in the clinic and are happy to have their skin color represented by the physician they see.

“SGU took a student who was a potential diamond in the mine and refined him.”

 

SGU: Is there a case or experience that you can point to that brought your career path into focus?

Dr. Madedor: When I worked at Brooklyn Hospital as a medical student, there are incidents I can always lean on that fueled my fire. Working with Dr. Mansur and Dr. Bakshi is something I will always cherish. They taught me not see a patient as a pit stop but, as a physician, you become their conduit who will guide them to their next destination. So with that in mind, I did my best to learn their cases better and do thorough chart reviews so I could prevent potential oversights. Then in the rooms, I treated them like human beings, because patients are more than stats, and sometimes we forget that with a busy schedule.

SGU: How would you describe your experience at SGU, and how has it prepared you for your career?

Dr. Madedor: SGU was one of the most challenging and exhausting journeys of my life. I wouldn’t change that for the world because it prepared for me the roadblocks ahead. Now, as I sit here in the ICU, we had two patients code, two admissions, and I had to follow up on multiple patients throughout the night. Without the tools and guidance I received at SGU, I don’t think I would be capable of this feat. SGU took a student who was a potential diamond in the mine and refined him. Now he is a resident living out his dreams amongst the elite in his craft. From the days of eight- to 10-hour study dates, student support sessions, and rounding as a medical student, SGU provided the necessary environment for me to grow. With great resources, teaching, and great hospitals to rotate at, my experience couldn’t have been any better.

– Brett Mauser

On Match Day 2020, Dr. Madedor shared the news that he was headed to Grand Rapids, MI, for an internal medicine residency with Spectrum Health.

SGU grad takes to skies to save lives in Florida

It was the fall of 2012 when Larissa Dudley, MD ’13, then an SGU medical student on an emergency medicine/EMS clinical rotation at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center, accompanied helicopter crew on an airlift. It not only left an impression; it changed the course of her life.

“I happened to fly very shortly after Hurricane Sandy, and I was amazed by not only the view but by the amazing responsibility that these flight nurses and medics had,” she said. “Those in the aircraft risk their health and wellbeing to be available 24/7 to triage, stabilize, and safely deliver the most critical patients to their destinations, whether it be an emergency department, trauma center, or to the catheterization lab or operating room for definitive care.”

Dr. Dudley, now an emergency medicine physician in Florida, also serves as the assistant medical director of Health First’s First Flight, a helicopter program that makes approximately 700 flights per year covering the state’s Space Coast. First Flight is called for pre-hospital transports, often for severely injured trauma patients where the crew performs life-saving procedures and stabilization, as well as inter-facility transports. Dr. Dudley’s leadership role means that she is teaching and reviewing cases and best practices, updating and adjusting protocols, and maintaining relationships with local cities and towns to help coordinate seamless care.

“My heart is in EMS—all facets of EMS,” Dr. Dudley said. “As a physician, the oversight is nothing short of imperative, and the responsibility to maintain the crew’s education, clinical competencies, and best practices is humbling.”

– Brett Mauser

Simulation labs critical to emergency room efficiency

Traci Thoureen, MD ’98, in the Duke University Hospital Emergency Department. Photos courtesy Shawn Rocco/Duke Health

Before emergency medicine physicians face the myriad of cases that may come through the door on any given day, they will have practiced—over and over—the techniques and procedures needed to provide quality care with great efficiency. Some of the training occurs in a simulation lab, where practice can save critical minutes and even seconds when they’re needed most.

SGU News caught up with Traci Thoureen, MD ’98, the director of simulation and associate professor in the Division of Emergency Medicine at Duke University Medical Center in North Carolina, to learn more about the role that simulation plays at Duke, and how it was especially important at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

St. George’s University: What is simulation and how important has it become in the training of emergency medicine residents?

Dr. Traci Thoureen: Simulation is one technique that we use in educating our medical school students and residents, as well as to provide context for attending physicians. It’s become paramount to add this live training to our department—such as procedural training, seeing rare cases, and also for team training and leadership. The sim lab allows us to have a safe learning environment that is incredible for practice and evaluation.

SGU: In addition to practical training, what intangible skills can be taught in the simulation lab?

Dr. Thoureen: In the emergency department, most of our day is spent working as a team—with nursing, techs, consultant residents, and/or attendings. We work in teams certainly for our trauma activations, as well as our sick medical patients and resuscitations. This is a skill starting from the first year that our residents are learning, and simulation allows them to practice their roles and the techniques that work well in those roles. Communication is a skill that we don’t often get to take a look at and with simulated scenarios, we really slice and dice it out to improve it.

“Simulation is one of the few ways that we can teach in a safe way yet get a visceral reaction.”

 

SGU: How and why did simulation become your career path, and what do you enjoy most about it?

Dr. Thoureen: I’ve been doing academic emergency medicine since I finished residency, and I’ve been lucky enough to have great mentors. I was able to learn from some of the best in simulation at Harvard’s Center for Medical Simulation in 2004 and that started my interest and passion for it. I really enjoy being creative in developing new cases and thinking about all the ways to make it more real. Simulation is one of the few ways that we can teach in a safe way yet get a visceral reaction. Also, I really enjoy trying out other educational technologies and seeing how they could fit into curriculum.

SGU: In what ways did simulation scenarios assist with addressing the COVID-19 pandemic?

Dr. Thoureen: We were able to set up a simulated airway area within our emergency department. We first got the attending staff onboarded with the equipment that we were going to be using for addressing intubations with COVID patients. Because of the success and safety we had with that, we extended that to our second- and third-year residents. We were able to see the ins and outs of the equipment on a manikin before having to use it on an actual patient.

SGU: How did the department adjust for online education in the early stages of the pandemic?

Dr. Thoureen: I teach a course to our first-year medical students, “Body and Disease.” It covers pathophysiology, immunology, and pharmacology, and we do four cases over three months. With COVID, I had to rethink and rework how to do simulation patient activity without a simulator. It was an abrupt change, but we were able to creatively mirror the experience virtually. Through Laerdal, one of the main manufacturers of human patient high-fidelity simulators, we could pipe in software and display a patient monitor that could show the effect of vital sign changes, and incorporate other aspects of the case with other instructors who would represent the patient, a nurse, or a family member. In our residency, we transitioned to Zoom conference. It became a wonderful way to incorporate national speakers and alumni to our education, as well as to do creative activities like using Zoom breakout rooms for gamification activities.

SGU: You co-authored the book Emergency Medicine Simulation Workbook: A Tool for Bringing the Curriculum to Life. The second edition comes out next year. What can readers expect to see in the book?

Dr. Thoureen: One of the frustrations that people have with new technology is that they feel like they don’t even know where to start. This is meant to be a catch-all book for novices and seasoned educators alike when it comes to simulation, specifically EM simulation. It can appeal to not only physician groups but nursing groups, RTs, and EMS. It’s broken down from nuts and bolts, to educational objectives, to all the things that you need to run a case. There’s also an online component, with images and labs for each case so that you have everything you need to run a case or a whole EM simulation curriculum.

SGU: How would you describe your St. George’s University experience?

Dr. Thoureen: I have really fond memories of my time at St. George’s. I made great friendships and bonds, and I felt like it was the time where I got to really try my best and move everything forward in my career. Medical school was a period where there were a lot of transitions, but they have served me well in my residency training and going forth in my now 18 years in practice in academic medicine. It’s been really fun for me to read about the expansion of education at SGU and to see SGU residents along the way join academic medicine and emergency medicine.

– Brett Mauser

What Is Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C)? Q&A with SGU Grads Featured in New England Journal of Medicine Article (UPDATED)

This article has been updated from its original publication date of September 29, 2020, to name additional SGU graduates who contributed to the New England Journal of Medicine article.

As the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to affect persons young and old, and increasingly in children, the New England Journal of Medicine recently published an article titled “Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in U.S. Children and Adolescents.”

Among the nearly 50 contributing physicians, five were St. George’s University graduates:

  • Steven Horwitz, MD ’08, a lead author on the paper who is a pediatric critical care specialist and assistant professor of pediatrics at Rutgers University School of Medicine;
  • Michael Keenaghan, MD ’06, the associate chief academic officer at New York City Health+Hospitals/Kings County;
  • Hussam Alharash, MD ’11, a pediatric intensivist and informatics liaison at New York City Health+Hospitals/Kings County;
  • Shira Gertz, MD ’01, FAAP, an attending physician in pediatric critical care at Saint Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston, NJ, and clinical associate professor in the Department of Pediatrics at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School; and
  • Stacy Ramsingh, MD ’15, a third-year pediatric ICU fellow at Advocate Children’s Hospital in Park Ridge, IL.

 

SGU spoke with three of the SGU-educated doctors to get their take on the article’s findings, and why the research was an important contribution to the expansion of medical knowledge of COVID-19.

St. George’s University: As COVID continues to affect adults and children, what is MIS-C and why is it an important disease to understand?

Drs. Horwitz, Keenaghan, and Alharash: Multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C) is a newly identified inflammatory syndrome affecting children, that is associated with SARS-CoV-2019 infection. The pathophysiology is not clear at this point, and there is much we do not yet know about the long-term prognosis. Some of the children who present with this syndrome are very sick and require ICU-level care, while others have very mild symptoms.

There are several reasons why it is important to understand this disease: Because MIS-C in some ways mimics the presentation of Kawasaki disease, pediatricians are concerned that some of the same sequelae and complications of Kawasaki may develop in children who are diagnosed with MIS-C. We know that some of the children who present with MIS-C are very sick, and since it is unlikely that COVID-19 will disappear in the immediate future, there is a lot of interest in better understanding it and its long-term complications.

SGU: What was the research intending to prove?

Drs. Horwitz, Keenaghan, and Alharash: The study we were involved in aimed to describe the presentation and inpatient course of MIS-C. By looking at a series of patients and characterizing some of the disease’s features, the paper should give clinicians who have not yet seen patients of MIS-C an idea of what to look for and what to expect. It will also help to characterize and pin down the definition of the syndrome, which will help in ongoing research that looks at MISC.

SGU: What were the key findings? Why were the results significant?

Drs. Horwitz, Keenaghan, and Alharash: The study confirmed what many of us suspected. MIS-C was causing cardiovascular symptoms, gastrointestinal symptoms, hematologic abnormalities, and was associated with markedly elevated signs of inflammation.

It also reassured us in some ways because it demonstrated that while a good number of the patients with MIS-C required cardiovascular support in the form of vasopressors and in a few rare occasions extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO), the vast majority of these kids got better and went home.

SGU: What exactly was your part in the research efforts?

Drs. Horwitz, Keenaghan, and Alharash: As the pandemic took hold in the United States, the Northeast and New York City, in particular, were the epicenter of the new cases of COVID and eventually of MIS-C cases as well. Our contribution to this project was to review the patients at our hospitals who presented with features of what would eventually come to be called MIS-C and prepare detailed case reports about the presentation and hospital course for each of the patients. This data was later included in the multicenter analysis that resulted in the publication in the New England Journal of Medicine.

SGU: What practical advice would you give to medical students who want to get research published?

Drs. Horwitz, Keenaghan, and Alharash: Be curious and follow through. There is much we do not know in medicine—being curious will make it more likely that you will become familiar with the questions that are waiting to be answered. Of course, coming up with the question is just the start. Research can be a very long and drawn-out process with many setbacks. Perseverance and follow-through in the face of adversity will be required to keep going.

 

— Laurie Chartorynsky

SGU President: “Everyone Should Get a Flu Shot”

With flu season further threatening an already challenging year due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control is recommending that everyone ages six months and up receive a flu vaccine.

“While it’s not possible to say with certainty what will happen in the fall and winter, CDC believes it’s likely that flu viruses and the virus that causes COVID-19 will both be spreading. In this context, getting a flu vaccine will be more important than ever,” according to the CDC’s website.

 

To understand the science behind flu vaccines and how it helps minimize infections, SGU News spoke with St. George’s University President Dr. G. Richard Olds, an expert in infectious diseases.

St. George’s University: What are the benefits of getting a flu vaccine?

Dr. Olds: Most of the time the flu vaccine prevents you from getting the flu, and even if it doesn’t, it makes your flu illness less severe and shorter in duration.

SGU: Who should get a flu shot?

Dr. Olds: Everyone should get a flu shot every year. There is almost no downside to getting one, and it clearly helps lessen the severity of the flu. In addition, it keeps us from transmitting flu to vulnerable older adults who are at higher risk from the flu. Thus, the vaccine protects you as well as society.

Importantly, all healthcare professionals are required to get it, so they don’t bring the flu to elderly patients and those with altered immune systems.

SGU: Why is getting a flu shot even more important this year, given the global pandemic?

Dr. Olds: Since COVID-19 symptoms are very similar to flu symptoms—at least in the beginning—getting a flu shot is helpful in avoiding confusion if you develop respiratory symptoms or a fever. It’s important to note that a person can be infected with both flu and COVID at the same time, and it is likely that this double infection will be far worse that either alone.

SGU: How does the vaccine work? Why do some people get “sick” after getting the vaccine?

Dr. Olds: Flu vaccines come in several types. There is a live weakened viral vaccine used primarily for children; there is the killed vaccine, used for many years, primarily for young adults through age 65; and a new high potency vaccine designed for those over 65.

Contrary to popular belief, adults and seniors can’t get the flu from the flu shot given to them. Because we give the flu shot during the fall/winter when many respiratory viruses are around, people often get infected with a non-flu virus around the time they get the flu shot and blame the vaccine for their illness.

That said, children are given a live weakened vaccine that sometimes causes a very mild flu illness. When the child recovers their immune system is ready to fight off the real flu.

SGU: How effective is the flu vaccine?

Dr. Olds: Unlike tetanus shorts or Measles vaccines, the flu virus vaccine must change slightly from year to year in order to work. That’s because the target—the flu virus—mutates rapidly. As a result, the vaccine has to be reformulated every year to match the specific flu virus we expect each flu season. Most years we do a good job of “guessing” what exact flu viruses we will face each fall, but some years the virus mutates in an unpredictable way and the vaccine is not as effective. Even with a mismatch, the vaccine reduces the severity of the illness. Fortunately, we also have antivirals like Tamiflu that we can use to fight flu if a vaccinated person gets infected.

The real problem is that too few people get the vaccine, so the virus circulates effectively and eventually finds the vulnerable members of our society. Very few people would die of flu each year if everyone got a flu shot.

SGU: Can you speak to the speed at which a flu vaccine is created?

Dr. Olds: The entire process takes about four months. Scientists decide what strains they think will circulate in the fall around March and April of each year. Flu shots are usually a combination of three or four specific flu virus strains. Then they have to grow each strain in eggs, harvest the virus, and then formulate the year’s new vaccine. Flu shots first appear in the market in late August or early September.

Since the vaccine is only good for one year (because the virus changes each year), manufacturers try to produce about the same amount of vaccine used the previous year. As a result, if demand going way up, such as this year, we could run out of vaccines before the flu season is over.

 

—Laurie Chartorynsky

SGU and Grenada: A Strong Partnership to Address the COVID-19 Pandemic

For more than 40 years, St. George’s University in collaboration with the Government of Grenada have worked hand in hand to confront challenges both big and small. Their partnership may have never been more stalwart, their mission more resolute, than in 2020, when the country and the world have grappled, and continue to grapple with, the ramifications of a widespread and persistent coronavirus pandemic due to SARS-CoV-2. 

Close collaboration on the development of lifesaving testing capabilities and the donation of critical medical equipment has been a crucial outcome of the partnership between SGU and Government of Grenada. The University and the Grenadian government have upheld their commitment to the nation—to ensure that its residents remain, above all else, safe and healthy. 

“We applaud and thank those with the Government of Grenada for their vision, diligence, and resolve in these unprecedented times in healthcare,” said Dr. Charles Modica, Chancellor of St. George’s University. “When faced with the myriad of challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic presented, we worked collaboratively and in the best interest of the entire Grenadian community, including the alumni, faculty, and staff at St. George’s University.”  

This public private partnership is an exemplar of cooperation,” said the Hon. Nickolas Steele, Grenada’s Minister of Health and Social Security, and member of the Executive Council of the World Health Organization. “Remarkable results have been achieved through this partnership, and we will continue to work together in this fight. 

St. George’s University was the national testing site for Grenada during the spring, testing Grenadian citizens as well as University faculty, staff, and students.

Partnership Aces the Test 

This spring, COVID-19 outbreaks around the world forced government and university officials to act decisively. The Government of Grenada, the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), and the Windward Islands Research and Education Foundation (WINDREF), a research and education foundation based at SGU, worked to establish one of the first diagnostic testing facilities in the Caribbean and was established on the lower campus. 

Under the leadership of Dr. Calum Macpherson, Dean of the School of Graduate Studies and SGU’s Director of Research, qPCR testing operations at St. George’s University have so far resulted in more than 3,000 individuals (with and without symptoms) receiving safe and prompt COVID-19 diagnostic tests, with results received within eight hours.  

Crucial to its success was the Minister of Health’s procurement of the necessary primers, probes, and reagents through PAHO, as well as an ample supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) from the onset of testing. Results were shared each night by Dr. Trevor Noel, SGU’s Director of Field Research, with the Ministry of Health, as well as PAHO and University officials. These outcomes helped guide government COVID-19 policies, including at airports and ports of entry, during the peak weeks and months of the pandemic. 

“Because there was a global shortage of reagents, we couldn’t have had the testing capacity if not for the extraordinary efforts of the Minister of Health,” said Dr. Macpherson. “We have one home—Grenada—and our common agenda was to diagnose the virus, implement a test, trace, and isolate policy from early on in the epidemic, which has served us well.”  

This testing was administered by the University’s School of Veterinary Medicine, which had the necessary equipment in place due to its ongoing influenza research efforts, as well as qualified personnel to administer the tests. The campus-based site served as the national testing service into the summer months, and still operates as one of approximately 250 quality control labs around the world overseen by the WHO. Results from SGU’s lab have been in 100 percent concordance with the expected test results from WHO. 

“SGU was one of the first vet schools to do COVID-19 testing. In April, we began testing the community in Grenada and helped the Government of Grenada test repatriating Grenadians who returned home by ship and by air,” said Dr. Neil Olson, dean of SGU’s School of Veterinary Medicine. “We were so happy to have had the equipment and the expertise—including lab and technician expertise—to take this on.” 

According to the WHO, Grenada has reported 27 COVID-19 cases and zero COVID-19 related deaths to date. SGU’s testing site has since been a beacon of excellence for the entire region. SGU’s diagnostic team helped design and set up the Ministry of Health’s testing site at Grenada General Hospital, including training of lab staff and troubleshooting with initial qPCR lab testing. 

 

Since breaking ground more than 40 years ago, all the way to present day, we truly believe that we couldn’t have chosen a better partner for this university.”

 

Equipped for the Challenge 

Grenada General Hospital is responsible for the great majority of emergency healthcare services throughout the islandUpon the arrival of COVID-19 in the global conversation, it braced for a surge of patients like other facilities around the world. 

Its primary need: ventilators. The hospital had just two ventilators, designed to mechanically assist patients with breathing, for the entire population of more than 100,000 people. Responding to that need, St. George’s University tapped into its international consortium of resources to facilitate the acquisition and delivery of 18 additional ventilators.  

“The substantial support from SGU served to bolster our efforts to tackle COVID-19,” said Dr. Carol McIntosh, Director of Hospital Services. “Their acquisition and donation of critical medical resources such as ventilators and PPE for health workers helped to ensure that we were better prepared to deal with any potential outbreak of the disease here in Grenada.”  

SGU also secured tens of thousands of pieces of personal protection equipment, ranging from gloves and gowns to goggles and facemasks, for medical personnel as well as members of the community. In addition, SGU was able to bring in 18 combination defibrillator monitors, two handheld ultrasound machines, two portable X-ray machines, as well as blood gas analyzers and supplies.  

The equipment has been crucial to providing critical care to patients throughout the pandemic. The fight with COVID-19 is still ongoing, both in Grenada and around the world, and St. George’s University and the Government of Grenada are committed to continuing to collaborate and innovate, with the health and safety of its citizens in mind. 

“Since breaking ground more than 40 years ago, all the way to present day, we truly believe that we couldn’t have chosen a better partner for this university,” said Dr. Modica. “Our mission has always been to improve healthcare on a national, regional, and global levels, and we are thrilled to have had the support of the government—and the people—of Grenada throughout this journey.” 

– Brett Mauser

Clinical Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Ninad Desai, Chair of Pediatrics for SGU’s School of Medicine

Dr. Ninad Desai, chair of pediatrics, School of Medicine

As a longtime pediatrician, Dr. Ninad Desai has cared for children across the globe, practicing first in his home country of India, as well as Saudi Arabia, before emigrating to the US.

Today, Dr. Desai is the chief of pediatrics at NYC Health + Hospitals/Kings County as well as the institution’s chief academic officer, a role for which he oversees clinical trainees and resident trainees across all of the hospital’s departments, including medical students from St. George’s University.

Dr. Desai is also the chair of the pediatrics department for SGU’s School of Medicine. As chair of SGUSOM’s pediatrics department, he ensures that students receive an optimal clinical experience and education in pediatrics across SGU’s 70-plus clinical sites by supervising the creation of the pediatric curriculum and making sure it meets all educational and regulatory needs. Above all, Dr. Desai said he enjoys helping to “foster a sense of compassion, care, and a true sense of medical ethics” in today’s students.

Dr. Desai shared with SGU News why specializing in pediatrics can be a rewarding and fulfilling career.

SGU: Why did you choose pediatrics as a medical specialty?

ND: I was always passionate about caring for the most vulnerable amongst us. I went to medical school at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi, India, followed by a three-year residency in pediatrics there and a year as chief resident. This led to three years as a pediatric specialist in Saudi Arabia, then fellowship training in pediatric hematology/oncology at SUNY Downstate in Brooklyn, NY. I spent much of my career caring for children born with HIV infection. Today I am a steward of a large pediatric department, mentoring trainees at all levels.

SGU: What are some recent developments in the pediatric medicine field that is on your radar?

ND: We are closely watching the pervasive use of genetics in diagnosis, detection, and treatment of diseases as well as the use of advanced therapies such as biologic drugs in medicine. Many childhood illnesses have identified genetic aberrations and newer technologies such as CRISPR, for which this year’s Nobel Prize was given in chemistry, will help us cure/prevent many of these conditions. Biologics are already being used widely in many immune-related and cancer-related conditions.

On the education front, I am deeply interested in incorporating quality, equity, and safety in pediatric medical education.

SGU: Why is pediatrics a gratifying specialty? What keeps you going in your job every day?

ND: The specialty is amazingly fulfilling. To me, if I save one child, I feel like I am saving the entire world. The care of children requires a special sensitivity, empathy, and involves not only the child but the entire family.

In addition, I am passionate about educating and inspiring the younger generation to become caring physicians—a legacy that will self-perpetuate, in my opinion. I enjoy mentoring and guiding students to hopefully inspire them to forge a career in primary care pediatrics or pediatrics-related specialties.

SGU: What is challenging about the field? 

ND: It’s not easy to comprehend that the health of children is set to a very different tune than adult healthcare. Children are not just small adults; they come with their own unique set of problems and issues, and the skills and understanding required to bring a high quality of life to every child are different.

SGU: Can you share a key piece of advice for students who are considering pediatrics as their specialty?

ND: If you are seriously considering pediatrics as a career, I strongly urge you to choose a fourth-year elective in pediatrics at one of our great clinical sites. While the third-year core rotation is great, the elective will help you get a well-rounded experience.

 

— Laurie Chartorynsky 

SGU President: What Are Your Chances of Getting Into Medical School?

 

SGU President Dr. G. Richard Olds was recently featured in a US News and World Report article about successful medical school admissions strategies. The article, titled “What are Your Chances of Getting into Medical School?”, includes insights from medical school administrators, faculty, admissions counselors, and other experts.

Dr. Olds explains that school selection is a crucial component of the application process and can make or break a student’s chances of admission to their institution of choice. “The most common mistakes in the med school admissions process are either not applying to a sufficient number of schools or not applying to the most appropriate types of schools. Olds says it’s crucial to apply to a wide range, including reach, match and safety schools.”