Dr. Kenneth R. Bridges, Expert in Sickle Cell Research, Delivers Annual Keith B. Taylor Memorial/WINDREF Lecture

More than 100 years ago, sickle cell disease was discovered while two doctors examined Grenadian-born Walter Clement Noel. One of the world’s leading authorities on the disease, Dr. Kenneth R. Bridges, Founder and Director of the International Sickle Cell Anemia Research Foundation, delved into this disease, and its treatments, in his keynote address at the annual Keith B. Taylor Memorial/WINDREF Lecture on January 18 at St. George’s University’s Bourne Lecture Hall.

“Sickle cell disease is the world’s most common single gene disorder,” said Dr. Bridges in his address. “However, the disease is not simply a blood disorder but a systematic disorder that affects every part of the body. Tell me which area of the body you’re interested in studying and I will tell you what sickle cell disease does to it.”

Sickle cell disease is a disorder of the blood caused by an inherited abnormal hemoglobin (the oxygen-carrying protein within the red blood cells) that causes distorted (sickled) red blood cells leading to tissue and organ damage and chronic pain.

The current treatment of sickle cell disease focuses on treating symptoms while the more challenging and expensive treatments like disease modification therapies remain underutilized, including a promising new drug treatment called GBT440, which causes the inhibition of polymerization of deoxygenated sickle cells.

“The GBT440 drug was specifically and carefully designed to fit into this one area of the body where it stops the abnormal hemoglobin cells from sticking together in the first place, which is at the very start of the problem,” explained Dr. Bridges. “Now with the help of our colleagues here in Grenada, we’re hoping to recapitulate this treatment in a much more profound way and to really deliver on the promise made to Walter Clement Noel 100-plus years ago in that we will now be able to effectively treat this disorder.”

Dr. Bridges received the MD degree from Harvard Medical School, and subsequently trained in internal medicine and hematology in Boston, at Massachusetts General and Brigham and Women’s Hospitals, respectively. Following medical subspecialty training, Dr. Bridges worked on the biology of cellular iron metabolism for three years at the National Institutes of Health in Maryland. He later returned to Harvard as a member of the Hematology Division at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, where he reached the faculty rank of Associate Professor of Medicine. During this time, Dr. Bridges also maintained active clinical work and established the Joint Center for Sickle Cell and Thalassemic Disorders at the two aforementioned Boston-based institutions, emphasizing bench-to-patient translational research.

WINDREF and St. George’s University have long attracted world experts on climate change, health needs, and drug abuse and addictions, among other topics to its various lecture series. Past speakers have included Dr. Robert C. Gallo, best known for his role in the discovery of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV); Dr. Ruth Macklin, a bioethics pioneer; and renowned cardiologist Dr. Valentin Fuster.

The annual Keith B. Taylor Memorial/WINDREF Lecture is named for SGU’s second Vice Chancellor, whose vision and dedication to the international growth of St. George’s University led to the creation of the Windward Island Research and Education Foundation (WINDREF) in 1994; was instrumental in instituting the School of Arts and Sciences in 1996; and whose memory was honored with the creation of the Keith B. Taylor Global Scholars Program and the establishment of Keith B. Taylor Hall on the True Blue campus in 2007.

St. George’s University Adds Borrego Health to Clinical Network

St. George’s University’s network of clinical affiliates recently welcomed Borrego Community Health Foundation (BCHF), a non-profit Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) based in southern California. Starting in 2017, SGU clinical students can complete their family medicine rotations at the Cathedral City Health Center in Cathedral City, California. Borrego Health joins a family of more than […]

St. George’s University and Botswana Demonstrate Commitment to Reducing the Medical Brain Drain

Medical Doctors, Doctors of Veterinary Medicine and Public Health Graduates Celebrated at Gaborone Ceremony

Thirty-five Batswana graduates from St George’s University, the centre of international education on the Caribbean island of Grenada, will celebrate their achievement at the commencement ceremony on Saturday, 19 November at the Botswana TraveLodge in the country’s capital city.

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This is the second time that such a graduation ceremony has been held outside the United States in the 40 year history of St George’s University. The first occasion was in 2012, also in Gaborone. The Batswana students have graduated from St George’s University schools of medicine, veterinary medicine, and the graduate studies programme.

“We are very pleased to be honouring the hard work of these graduates and now expect them to make a major contribution to medical and other professional services in their own country”, commented Dr G Richard Olds, the President and Chief Executive Officer of St George’s University.

“We have had a long and successful relationship with the University of Botswana’s medical school and with the Ministries of Education and Health. With four doctors for every 10,000 people in Botswana, it is vital that the medical doctor graduates in particular help to redress the brain drain which has resulted in 800 Batswana doctors working overseas or outside their own country”.

Dr Olds pointed out that Botswana had graduated more MD students through St George’s University than any African country, apart from Nigeria. “Botswana and St George’s University have produced 97 MD graduates, with 22 students still working for their degrees at our university”, he added. “We believe that Botswana has the potential to become a major medical hub for the region”.

The commencement ceremony held later this month will celebrate the entrance of the Batswana graduands into the country’s workforce and honour St George’s University’s Batswana alumni who are already working towards better health care delivery in Botswana. It will also acknowledge the strong relationship between St George’s University and the government, partner institutions and the people of Botswana.

Published on 11/18/16

SGU Alumnus Raises the Standard for Radiology in Grenada

As part of the St. George’s University 12 Degrees North program, Dr. Randy Becker, MD SGU ’00, has returned to his alma mater each of the past seven years to offer free clinics and radiology training at the General Hospital. This fall, Dr. Becker has taken his commitment one step further with the introduction of the Picture Archiving and Communication System (PACS), providing an economical means of storing, archiving, and transmitting digital medical images like X-rays, CT scans, and MRIs.

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The donation was facilitated by RadNet Comprehensive Radiology Solutions, which provides PACS services for Dr. Becker’s practices in Maryland, and has an estimated value of US $200,000. With the new technology, Dr. Linwald Fleary, MD SGU ‘97, the General Hospital’s only radiologist, can access and assess images from any digital radiology center in Grenada on the PACS system. In addition to this time-saving benefit, and more accurate assessments, radiologists worldwide can join Grenada’s network to offer assistance and even second opinions.

“This is a tremendous milestone for radiology in Grenada,” said Brendon LaGrenade, Interim Vice Provost of Institutional Advancement at SGU. “It is a heartwarming example of what can happen when one person sees beyond a challenge to a possibility, and puts their efforts into making that possibility a reality. Dr. Becker is that special person who saw the need and didn’t let the size of the project stop him. He returned to Grenada in various supportive capacities since shortly after his graduation, and since then has been a central figure in bringing this huge project to fruition in Grenada.”

With SGU’s help, the radiology department at General Hospital had been upgraded to a cutting-edge, digitally equipped facility some years ago. However, the new capability to produce high-quality radiology images created the need to export these images to a radiologist without compromising quality or accuracy.

“Implementing the PACS system was the next necessary step in bringing the standard of radiology in Grenada up to what it needs to be,” said Mr. LaGrenade. “With this new supporting technology, the full effectiveness of the imaging equipment at the General Hospital can be achieved.”

After identifying the need for PACS, Dr. Becker reached out to RadNet. Mr. Ranjan Jayanathan, Chief Information Officer at RadNet, and his team were so touched by Dr. Becker’s work and philanthropy in health care development in Grenada that they agreed to waive all charges other than some hardware, and a fee for system maintenance.
On September 12, Dr. Becker, along with Ralph Stubenrauch, Clinical Applications Manager, and Will Page, Integrations Manager at RadNet, visited Grenada and successfully installed PACS at the General Hospital, University Health Services at SGU, and Princess Alice Hospital, which is currently being upgraded to a digital system. Future plans are to support all digitally capable centers in Grenada who wish to come on board with PACS.

Published on 10/12/16

St. George’s University Links With Pre-Med Program at Erasmus University College in Netherlands

St. George’s University has signed a memorandum of understanding with Erasmus University College (EUC), paving the way for EUC students to receive world-leading medical training. The agreement, the first of its kind between the two institutions, will allow qualified students the opportunity to obtain the Doctor of Medicine degree at SGU.

Photo by Ossip van Duivenbode

Photo by Ossip van Duivenbode

The signing of the MOU between EUC and St. George’s marks an expansion of options to EUC students wishing to pursue medicine at a master level. Currently, EUC pre-med students are able to enroll into a bridging program which links to the Master in Medicine at the Erasmus Medical Centre. The relationship with St. Georges offers an English option abroad for the pre-med students.

“This partnership will provide the opportunity for EUC students to receive some of the best medical training in the world at SGU and our affiliated universities, resulting in more world-class doctors practicing medicine,” said Dr. G. Richard Olds, President of St George’s University. “With this historic agreement we have also strengthened our global network of higher education institutions, and formed a lasting partnership with another excellent university.”

Photo by Eric Fecken

Photo by Eric Fecken

Students from EUC who have successfully graduated with a Bachelor of Science in liberal arts and sciences, with a grade point average of at least C for the courses that form part of the Pre-Med major, will be eligible to apply for the program. Those who succeed will be free to choose whether to spend their first year at SGU’s Keith B. Taylor Global Scholars’ Program in Newcastle, and their second year at SGU in Grenada, or to spend both years in Grenada. The final two years of the program will consist of clinical rotations at affiliated hospitals in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom.

“It is important that our students are given the opportunity to study medicine overseas, which this MOU will facilitate,” Professor Maarten Frens, Dean of Erasmus University College. “Those on the program will receive international training to complement their education from EUC, and I am excited by the prospect of our students having the opportunity to obtain a US or UK medical practitioners license. I am pleased to have overseen the beginning of a new relationship between Erasmus University College and St. George’s University, and hope that this continues for many years to come.”

Erasmus University College is the international honours college of Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR) and offers a Liberal Arts and Sciences curriculum. EUC is a residential and small-scale programme located in the heart of Rotterdam. EUR is ranked 71st in the Times Higher Education rankings and is known as a centre of excellence for health, wealth, governance, business, and economics.

Published on 9/15/16

St. George’s University Awards Legacy of Excellence Scholarships to 159 Students Over US$2 Million Awarded to Future Doctors

Today, St. George’s University awarded over $1 million in Legacy of Excellence scholarships to 159 students in the School of Medicine’s incoming class of 2020.

SGU campus aerial

“St. George’s is dedicated to making our unique international medical education accessible to the best and brightest students from all over the world — regardless of circumstance,” said Dr. G. Richard Olds, president of St. George’s. “I congratulate these students on a job well done, and look forward to welcoming them in the upcoming academic year.”

Sixty nine students received the Chancellor’s Circle of Legacy of Excellence scholarship this year. The CCLOE is an award to 50 incoming students who meet or exceed an overall undergraduate GPA of 3.7, a science GPA of 3.5, and an MCAT score of 506. The University has awarded CCLOE scholarships since 2009.

“I’m honored that we have such a qualified group of students accepting these awards,” said Dr. Olds.

Ninety additional incoming students received the Legacy of Excellence Scholarship, a partial-tuition scholarship given to students whose academic histories and MCAT scores demonstrate excellent work ethic and a passion for learning. The University began the Legacy of Excellence Scholarship program over ten years ago.

“We created these awards not only to enable these students to attend medical school, but also in the hopes that they will help to fill vacancies in underserved areas that are in serious need of more doctors,” said University Chancellor Charles Modica.. “We at St. George’s are very happy to support them so that they will serve others in the future.”

The University offers a wide variety of institutional scholarships to recognize academic excellence. It has awarded over $100 million dollars in scholarships to more than 5,000 students over the years.

Published on 9/7/16

School of Medicine Class of 2020 Takes Oath at Fall 2016 White Coat Ceremony

The St. George’s University School of Medicine’s Class of 2020 took another step toward their future profession by taking part in the school’s 40th White Coat Ceremony on August 26. The students donned their newly minted white coats, emblems of the authority and professionalism of their chosen field, and collectively recited the Oath of Professional Commitment.

som white coat cereomy august 2016

University President and Chief Executive Officer Dr. G. Richard Olds delivered a touching keynote address, during which he shared anecdotes and lessons from his medical career. In one instance, he learned that a physician must always act in the patient’s best interest, no matter the perception. “When all is said and done, no matter how unpopular, no matter how you might appear, you have to do what is best for your patient,” said Dr. Olds.

For lesson two, he stressed to the students that being a doctor means more than diagnosing illness and recommending treatments. It sometimes means being a friend to your patient who really needs one.

His final lesson was about not letting emotional attachment obstruct recognizing what the patient truly wants. Dr. Olds spoke of a time when he battled to prolong his father’s life in the face of an increasingly complicated medical history. The father, however, wished to be allowed to pass quietly, surrounded by his loved ones.

“There is a tendency to try to do what you think the patient wants, or what you would do in the circumstance, and to forget that you have to listen to the patient and try to do what the patient wants with life,” he said. “The faculty will teach you what you need to know about how the body works, how it goes wrong in disease, how to make a diagnosis, and what is the best way to treat conditions, but it is your patients who will teach you the art of medicine. You have to be open to it, you have to listen to it, and you have to learn from the hard lessons, from the mistakes that you will make in the management of your patients. If you do that, you will all become great physicians.”

The festivities was emceed by Glenn Nanney, MD SGU ’14, a third-year physical medicine and rehabilitation resident at East Carolina University in Greenville, NC. The White Coat Ceremony was first established at Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons in 1993 and has since been adopted by most medical schools. This important ritual, which symbolizes a student’s induction into the medical profession, was embraced by St. George’s University’s School of Medicine in 1996.

By Davette St. Louis

Published on 9/1/16

St. George’s University’s WHO Collaborating Center for Environmental And Occupational Health Re-Designated for Additional Four Years

The World Health Organization has re-designated St. George’s University Department of Public Health and Preventive Medicine (DPHPM) as a Collaborating Center on Environmental and Occupational Health through 2020.

Campus aerial

Collaborating centers implement activities in support of WHO’s programs, and are beneficial to both WHO and regional countries; the WHO gains access to top centers worldwide and receives the institution’s support in implementing its global health initiatives. In return, the collaborating centers receive visibility and recognition by national and international authorities. Additionally, the WHO affiliation helps collaborating centers develop partnerships with other collaborating centers, which can help generate resources from funding partners.

This center is directed by Dr. Martin Forde, DPHPM Chair and Track Director for the MPH in Environmental and Occupational Health, as well as DPHPM Demonstrator Odran Nigel Edwards. The Center works in concert with the Grenada Ministry of Health and the Pan American Health Organization’s Caribbean Program Coordinator office in Barbados.

“This prestigious designation will allow us to carry out several key research projects under the auspice of the PAHO/WHO name which, in turn, will further enhance our ability to attract additional funding and research opportunities,” Dr. Forde said. “Over the next four years, we look forward to strengthening and expanding the utility of our Collaborating Center so that it can redound to the benefit of Grenada and other SIDS in the Caribbean region.”

martin forde

The first of its kind in the Caribbean, the WHO CC at St. George’s University was established in August 2012. It remains committed to contributing to WHO’s strategic program in a number of ways, including: to assess and manage occupational safety and health hazards; to collaborate with WHO in developing evidence-based research on emerging environmental and occupational health issues, including climate change; to provide, develop and disseminate curricula, training materials and training for environmental and occupational health capacity building in the Caribbean region; and to contribute towards the implementation of the Global Plan of Action on Workers’ Health and collaborate with other collaborating centers to achieve defined outcomes.

In addition to housing this WHO collaborating center, the DPHPM also houses a Regional Collaborating Center for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Recently, the University welcomed 10 regional conservation leaders to True Blue for a “Caribbean Non-State Actor Dialogue.” Under the guidance of SGU professor Hugh Sealy, lead negotiator for the Alliance of Small Island States and co-facilitator of international discussions of Article 6 of the Paris Agreement, the team discussed how to interpret and operationalize elements contained in the COP21 deal in order to assist countries’ efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions and limit temperature increase.

Published on 8/18/16

IFMSA Exchange Students Gain Global Clinical and Research Experience at SGU

St. George’s University welcomed eight medical students from six countries this summer as part of the International Federation of Medical Students Association (IFMSA) Medical Research Exchange Program. The students from Catalonia, Italy, Spain, Canada, Romania, and Poland spent four weeks conducting research and gaining clinical experience while immersing themselves in Grenadian culture.

ifmsa exchange students gain global clinical

The University’s Department of Public Health and Preventive Medicine helps to facilitate IFMSA’s worldwide campaign that provides for approximately 10,000 medical students to participate in bilateral and equitable student exchanges each year in pursuit of international clinical and research experiences.

“I’ve worked with visiting IFMSA students for over three years providing options here at SGU for students to engage in community based research programs in Grenada,” explained Dr. Satesh Bidaisee, Associate Professor of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, SGU.

“This year we focused on Grenada’s Sports for Health program, a community-based exercise program established to mitigate chronic disease risk factors. We have  also been involved in studying alternative medical practices, including herbs, spices, and various plant products that are used for different health purposes on island.”

Among those who participated in the program was Palak Suryavanshi from the University of Saskatchewan, Canada. The first year med student has a previous degree in Kinesiology and studied nursing for three years before b moving into the medical program.

ifmsa exchange students gain global clinical

“Grenada’s use of herbal medication to treat illness seems to be the norm here, more so than the US or Canada,” said Ms. Suryavanshi. “I’m working on an extension of the alternative medicine project previously started at SGU, which explores the use of various plant products for different medical purposes in Grenada and trying to take their work forward by figuring out how to determine the correct dosages and gaining a better understanding of how alternative medicine has been used  in the local community.”

Carmen Alvarez Reguera currently in her fifth year of medical school at the University of Santiago de Compostela traveled from Spain to participate in this year’s exchanges. “We don’t have that opportunity to study research at my university so I chose SGU for an opportunity to do so,” said the 21 year-old med student.

“As part of the Sports for Health program, we monitored participants for four weeks and addressed how to avoid risk factors for chronic diseases. This experience benefitted me greatly as I will be able to draw on it once I am  back at my university and have to write my end of degree research report.”

At the request of the Ministry of Health, the students also conducted a Knowledge Attitude and Practice (KAP) study on cervical cancer screening as the government considers the use of the HPV vaccine in Grenada.

In addition to the academic side of the trip, SGU IFMSA members ensured that the exchange students also enjoyed an active social life. The students were able to explore Grenada’s famous Grand Anse beach, the Annandale waterfall, experience local cuisine such as the country’s national dish, Oil Down and the always eventful competitive crab racing.

St. George’s University participated in research exchanges as well, sending six medical students to six different countries this year. Among them were Jennifer Virgile, who traveled to Saful Anwar General Hospital in Indonesia to study cough habit patterns among medical workers and Timothy Abels who is currently doing research on immunosuppression due to abdominal post-surgery at Hospital Universitario Virgen de la Victoria in Spain.

Published on 8/17/16

St. George’s University Hosts 48th Ten-Day International Teaching Seminar on Cardiovascular Disease

The International Society of Cardiovascular Disease Epidemiology and Prevention (ISCEP) partnered with St. George’s University for the second time in five years to host the 48th Ten-Day International Teaching Seminar on Cardiovascular Disease Epidemiology and Prevention in Grenada.

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Thirty-six fellows from 26 countries participated in the International Teaching Seminar geared at providing formal training in this area for interested and qualified health professionals, through a program described as “specialty bridging” between epidemiology and cardiology.

Professor Neil Poulter, Chair of Preventive Cardiovascular Medicine at Imperial College, London, UK, and a Board of Trustees Member of WINDREF, co-directed the Teaching Seminar. Dr. Poulter has been involved with the ISCEP for almost 30 years; he participated as a fellow himself in 1980 and later started teaching at the Seminar in 1986.

“It is a very prestigious course to get involved with,” said Professor Poulter. “There’s a huge need and a fantastic opportunity that St. George’s University has given us to come back here for a second time. Grenada is a marvelous place to be; it’s a fabulous environment and relatively central for this region. We are extremely grateful to SGU for this superb opportunity.”

With the awareness of cardiovascular disease (CVD) as a global health problem growing, Drs. Ancel Keys and Jeremiah Stamler of the International Society of Cardiology (ISC) spearheaded the first ISCEP edition, in Makarska, Yugoslavia, in 1968. The ISC recognized a serious practical limitation of its field, namely a lack of trained and experienced scientists and practitioners to address the worldwide need for effective work in epidemiology and prevention of CVD.

Almost 50 years later, the Seminars have since trained nearly 2,000 health professionals from 100 countries, in all continents except Antarctica, with last year’s Seminar being held in Denaru, Nadi, Fiji. The success of the International Seminars has stimulated national and regional Seminars, in countries such as Japan, Mexico, and Spain, where Alumni Fellows have set up local seminars to be taught in their native languages, thus further disseminating the training and education to conduct research and practice in this field.

Over the years, the International Seminars have equipped some of the world’s most prominent leaders in preventive cardiology, many of whom have either taken the Seminar, taught it, or are still teaching it. Today, these fellows are responsible for not only many of the landmark research studies into prevention but also in terms of policy and prevention in governments worldwide. Distinguished alumni include ministers of health from Pakistan and most recently from India, Dr. K. Srinath Reddy, Past President of the World Heart Federation.

According to Dr. Kay-Tee Khaw, Professor of Clinical Gerontology at the University of Cambridge, UK, and Seminar coordinator for the ISCEP, Grenada and other countries in the Caribbean are observing a great rise in diabetes, obesity, and cases of high blood pressure. “Our aim is to both raise awareness of the issue and also increase capacity in terms of people who are able to address this issue,” explained Dr. Khaw.

“Having been to Grenada five years ago, several past fellows have been instrumental in developing many of the surveillance studies on risk factors and improving health policy in the region,” added Dr. Khaw. “Grenada has many positive examples of control of risk factors and has many advantages in being able to be a model for how we can improve prevention of CVD in both the region and the rest of the developing world. We are very grateful to Dr. Calum Macpherson, Vice Provost of the International Program Development at SGU, for graciously hosting the Seminar here.”

The International Seminars remain an essential training resource for cardiovascular epidemiology and prevention and a model for complementary programs needed to meet the growing demands for skilled health professionals in this field throughout the world. The Ten-Day International Teaching Seminars on Cardiovascular Epidemiology and Prevention offer a well-tested and very successful model for introducing young specialists in cardiology and related disciplines to epidemiology and biostatistics as applied in research and practice in the prevention of CVD.