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.

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“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.

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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.”

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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.

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.

Good Shepherd trains residents; some practice in East Texas 6/19/16

Nithin Nayini, MD SGU ’13, chose to start his career at Good Shepherd Medical Center in Texas as a hospitalist.

Orlando medical examiner: ‘It looked like they just laid down’ 6/16/16

Joshua Stephany, MD SGU ’00, the Chief Medical Examiner in Florida District 9, is visited by CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta to discuss his role in overseeing the autopsy process following the Pulse tragedy in Orlando.

In Orlando, young Nebraska doctor found himself in trauma center full of ‘absolute chaos’ 6/14/16

Nicholas Sakis, MD SGU ’15, a surgery resident at Orlando Regional Medical Center, found himself in the throes of rescue efforts following the Pulse tragedy in Orlando.

Physician Class of 2016 Sets Sights on Next Step

Their paths, and their dreams, led them to Grenada not long ago, and on Sunday, the St. George’s University 2016 graduating class convened once again at David Geffen Hall at Lincoln Center in New York City to celebrate the end of one journey and the beginning of another.


“You persevered and you did what you had to do and then some,” Dr. Modica said. “You have my utmost respect and admiration, and everyone in this room feels the same way about you.”
Attending his first commencement ceremony since being appointed University President and CEO, Dr. G. Richard Olds explained how physicians are viewed as heroes in countries around the world, not for their treatment of individuals but for the steps taken to address bigger challenges.

“You are now very well-trained physicians and will go on to wonderful professional careers,” Dr. Olds said. “However, remember that what we do as physicians only represents about 10 percent of the determinants of health. There is far more to health than what we do as professionals, and we must make sure we too are a part of improving the health of all humanity. I congratulate you on becoming physicians today, but I also hope that we are graduating some heroes today as well.”

The 2016 class will set off for residency this summer, but not before gathering once more in New York City, where they joined a network of more than 14,000 physician graduates from St. George’s University.

“It’s great to be here and be around so many bright minds who worked just as hard as you,” said Seth Garrett, MD SGU ‘16. “I feel a sense of accomplishment and relief to a degree. Now we can move forward and actually start the really hard work in residency.”

Dr. Garrett looks forward to beginning his family medicine residency at Baptist Outreach Services in Montgomery, AL. In addition to treating community members, he hopes to use his background in information technology to assist with the efficiency of electronic health records systems.
“I knew people who had gone to SGU and had been successful, and I knew it was a good path,” Dr. Garrett said. “I’m convinced that SGU is the only path that I could have taken to be where I am today. I would do it all over again.”

Natasha Singh, MD SGU ’16, of California is “ecstatic” to be returning home for residency, having accepted an internal medicine position at the University of California, San Francisco’s Fresno location, her top-choice program.

“I’m proud of everyone here – we all made it, we’re all happy, we all graduated,” she said. “For me, I don’t regret going to SGU. I worked really hard, and I’m glad that my efforts paid off. I’m going to a program that I’m more than happy with.”

She was joined at commencement by Rashad Ramkissoon, MD SGU ’16, who came to Grenada from Texas and will continue on as a family medicine resident at Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine in Roanoke, VA. SGU has matched more students to US residencies than any other medical school for the last six years combined, including more than 850 placements in 2016.

“Graduating is a big accomplishment, but it’s just a foundation of where you really want to be in the future,” Dr. Ramkissoon said. “SGU helped us get there. It was a blessing, an opportunity, and it really helped me grow as a person and as a physician.”

He, like all graduating class members, attended lectures held by Dr. Mary Jeanne Kreek, Senior Attending Physician and Professor of Addictive Diseases at The Rockefeller University. Dr. Kreek was bestowed an honorary Doctor of Science for her roles as visiting professor for more than 35 years and longtime member of the Windward Islands Research and Education Foundation (WINDREF) Board of Directors.

SGU Medical Student Helps Drive General Surgery Legislation in Washington

When Mohammad “Moody” Kassem, a third-year clinical student at St. George’s University, went to Washington, DC, for the American Clinical Congress’ Leadership and Advocacy Summit in April, he expected to play a supporting role in lobbying for the organization’s objectives. Instead, he found himself as one of the lead voices in the Surgical Workforce’s efforts to ensure the availability of general surgery where it most needed across the United States.

Mohammad-KassemMr. Kassem, who is currently rotating at Mercy St. Vincent Medical Center in Toledo, visited the nation’s capitol from April 8-12. During that time, he and a team of ACS representatives met with a host of politicians on a variety of topics. Mr. Kassem headed his team’s presentation for the Ensuring Access to General Surgery Act of 2016. According to Mr. Kassem, the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) designates funds and resources for its health professional shortage areas (HPSA), or underserved populations in the US, in the realms of dental medicine, mental health, and general medicine. Surgery, however, is not considered, yet the ACS argued that it should be based on the critical service it provides.

“We need to figure out what areas are short on surgeons, what is considered a surgical shortage, and work toward having funds allocated for the areas most in need,” Mr. Kassem said. “We also want to incentivize this program so physicians are encouraged to stay in these communities that are underserved and improve the quality of care and life of these patients. It would give them a better chance of living through a traumatic experience, and it would save money for the government because these are lawsuits that you can prevent.”

The Surgical Workforce throng, approximately 500 people in number, was divided into small groups. Each presented on the five initiatives on the ACS agenda. When it came time to present for his delegate team, Mr. Kassem, who was well versed on his assigned topic, was asked to lead the presentation despite being, by his estimation, the only medical student among the 500 Workforce representatives.

“After giving the first presentation, I felt good about it,” said Mr. Kassem, who is set to earn his Doctor of Medicine from SGU in 2017. “I loved the interaction with such influential leaders. The overall process was extremely interesting. Political leaders forgot about partisan views and reached across the political lines in order to work together and help their constituents. The experience pushed my drive to pursue politics even further.”

The Ensuring Access to General Surgery Act (H.R. 4959) gained the support of US Representatives Larry Bucshon (R-IN) and Ami Bera (D-CA), both of whom are physicians, and on April 15, they proposed the bill, which “would direct the Secretary of the US Department of Health and Human Services to conduct a study on the designation of Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSAs).” Mr. Kassem expects the bill to be brought to the floor of the US Senate and House of Representatives, and if it passes there, it would be brought to the sitting US President to be signed into law.

The experience was a boon for him as he hopes to one day marry his two passions – medicine and politics. For four days, ACS physicians and administrators led demonstrations on leadership and advocacy topics ranging from how to handle stressful situations to how to propose and push a bill through political channels. It led up to the fifth and final day, during which its representatives lobbied with state politicians for their support.

Politics has long been in Mr. Kassem’s blood. He came to SGU after having earned his Bachelor of Science in biological sciences from Wright State University. There he heavily involved himself in student groups, including Director of International Affairs, as well as Student Affairs, for the Student Government Association. He was an active member of the SGA at SGU, while also serving as an Academic Enhancement Program Cohort leader, Footstep Buddy, human anatomy demonstrator, and biochemistry tutor.

“I’ve been involved in leadership organizations going back to middle school,” Mr. Kassem said. “I like coaching, teaching, and being taught. I would like to become a leader in politics, and I think the best path is to get started early, get to know many people, and move your way up.”

In addition to his lobbying experience in Washington, he met and networked with an array of politicians, who offered him guidance on how to launch his political career and balance it with his career in medicine. When he completes his MD, Mr. Kassem hopes to obtain a surgery or emergency medicine residency, and then explore fellowship opportunities in either the surgery or EM realm.

Of his experience in Washington, DC, Mr. Kassem said, “It allowed me to see the possibility of helping my patients beyond the individual level and instead through making a larger impact on patient care by advocating for better medical legislation and policy.”

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