Dr. Cheryl Cox-Macpherson to Head Five-Year Campaign to Teach Research Ethics in Caribbean

$1.1M Grant From Fogarty International Center to Enhance Research Ethics in Region

news macpherson cherylDr. Cheryl Cox-Macpherson, Windward Islands Research and Education Foundation Senior Research Fellow, and Chair, SGU Bioethics Department, together with colleagues Dr. Sean Philpott of Union Graduate College in the United States and Dr. Robert Hall of Universidad Autónoma de Querétaro in Mexico, have been awarded a $1.1 million USD grant from the Fogarty International Center, National Institutes of Health, to increase research ethics capacity in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Dr. Cox-Macpherson has been selected to lead the “Caribbean Research Ethics Education Initiative (CREEi)”, a five-year initiative designed to increase the limited number of professionals trained in research ethics and research ethics education in the Caribbean basin. The program will develop and sustain a Caribbean cadre of graduate level teachers of research ethics; a Caribbean research ethics network; an English-speaking center of excellence in research ethics at SGU, and a Spanish-speaking center of excellence at UAQ. These centers of excellence will house related resources, technology, and expertise for use by program faculty, trainees, alumni, and others. Through relationships with national and international organizations, governments, and professional societies, the Program Directors will recruit promising candidates from the Caribbean. Those selected will become part of a ‘train the trainer’ process to ensure sustainability of the program.

“I’m excited about the opportunity for capacity building for research ethics in the region, and for being part of the partnerships and networks that emerge during the process,” Dr. Cox-Macpherson said. “Expertise in this topic is vital to protecting health in today’s world, and is also evidence of the ability to think rationally and objectively about other issues affecting Caribbean health and wellbeing.”

The recent growth in the number of clinical trials and other human subject research studies being conducted in the low- and middle-income countries that border the Caribbean basin illustrates the need to continue developing research ethics capacity and infrastructure.

“Failing to do so puts the 260 million residents of the region at risk, as their safety and rights as research subjects are likely to be compromised unless there is a robust system of regulatory review and oversight,” said Dr. Philpott.

Unfortunately, there are currently only a handful of regional programs that provide investigators, ethics committee members, and other stakeholders with the necessary training in bioethics and research ethics. Through this initiative, the three institutions will work together to train and support a cadre of fellows from the region to function independently or collectively as research ethicists, bioethics educators, and policy advocates.

The program will be managed by Dr. Philpott, while Dr. Hall will head up training for Caribbean Spanish-speaking trainees and Dr. Cox Macpherson for the Caribbean English-speaking trainees. The program is crafted to run sequentially, training students from a less to a more complex curriculum, which allows them to progress in their capabilities through distance learning and on-site modules that allow for maximum contact with minimum cost. Eventually, the initiative will become self-sustaining by transferring the training responsibilities to local institutions and faculty members.

This program is a natural evolution for WINDREF, which established one of the first Institutional Review Boards (IRB) in the region 20 years ago. In response to a rapid increase in research activity, St. George’s University took over the responsibility of the WINDREF IRB in 2002. It remains the only IRB in the region that is registered with the Office of Human Research Protections at the US Department of Health and Human Services.

The timing for a regional ethics initiative is ideal, as WINDREF has recently engaged in discussions about setting up a region-wide IRB with the Director of Research Training and Policy Development at the Caribbean Public Health Agency, Dr. Donald Simeon. Through these initiatives, we look forward to working with our partners to take the next step in promoting research in the Caribbean basin.


John Oliver, MD SGU ’05, Appointed to HRMC 5/15/14

Helena Regional Medical Center in Arkansas welcomes Dr. John Oliver to its diagnostic radiology staff. Dr. Oliver came to HRMC from Mississippi, where he had done his residency and began his career.


Commitment, Collaboration, and Friendship Birth Endoscopy, Radiology and Oxygen Units at Grenada’s General Hospital

Three major hospital units – Endoscopy, Radiology, and Oxygen – were commissioned in Grenada General Hospital through the efforts of St. George’s University at a ceremony on March 17.  The University sponsored the infrastructure for the oxygen plant and radiology unit and donated the cutting-edge digital X-ray machine, while graduate Patrick Tempara, SGUSOM ’86, a gastroenterologist from New Jersey, donated endoscopy equipment for the unit’s creation.

The 38-year friendship between St. George’s University and the Government of Grenada led to this project coming to fruition.   “Today is a happy day for health care providers,” said Dr. Kester Dragon, Medical Director General at the hospital, in his remarks at the ceremony. “We are very well on our way to the modernization of our health services. We look forward to making maximum use of these new facilities.”

The new units, which are valued at approximately US $1,000,000, demonstrate the University’s and Government’s mutual commitment to the improvement of health care in Grenada. The critical upgrades for the hospital eliminate the necessity for Grenadians to travel abroad for basic services and offering modern, quality diagnosis and care in Grenada.

“Becauase Grenada has been a part of our international educational programs and has provided our 6,000+ students and 13,000 graduates with a warm and safe environment throughout their studies, we are happy to help the country improve its healthcare infrastructure.” said Dr. Charles R. Modica, Chancellor of St. George’s University. “We are really proud to be a part of this.”

In addition to further clinical training for SGU medical students at the hospital, the upgrade to digital equipment opens the door for further collaboration with various parties in the future, among them SGU alumni who can provide real-time consultation for specialty cases no matter where they are practicing.

“The hospital as an institution is extraordinarily devoted to providing really good medical care although hampered in many ways by infrastructural challenges,” said Dr. Fred Jacobs, Chair of the Department of Medicine at SGU. “We embrace this amazing opportunity to contribute to the health and welfare of this wonderful country that has given us such support over the years in a way that is so in tune with our fundamental mission. We know that this equipment will be used in the best of hands for the benefit of all the people of Grenada.”

“The government alone will never be able by itself to provide all of the necessary resources to do all that is needed for healthcare in our country,” added Dr. the Right Honorable Keith Mitchell, Prime Minister of Grenada, in his address. “St. George’s University has been a true friend to Grenada, Carriacou, and Petite Martinique.”

St. George’s University Increases U.S. College Affiliations to Provide Pre-Medical and Veterinary Students New Options

Two new agreements between American universities and an international medical school will provide more doctors and veterinarians in the United States according to school officials.

“St. George’s University joined forces with Springfield College in Massachusetts and Long Island University (LIU) in New York to address the country’s physician and veterinarian shortage,” said Charles R. Modica, Chancellor of St. George’s. “Students starting in these two new programs will join the more than 13,000 physicians, veterinarians, scientists, and public health and business professionals who matriculated at St. George’s since we were founded more than 35 years ago.”

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Combined BS/MD and BS/DVM degrees will be offered at both Springfield College and LIU. Through the partnership with St. George’s, Springfield students who complete three in biology, sports biology or a science-based major, as well as meet the requirements for promotion to St. George’s University, will gain entrance to the University’s Doctor of Medicine or Doctor of Veterinary Medicine program. Upon completing their first year at St. George’s, students will obtain their Bachelor of Science from Springfield, and will then be eligible to complete the remaining three years of study at St. George’s University. Upon finishing the combined degree program, students will have obtained both their undergraduate and tertiary degrees over a seven-year span, one fewer than if they pursued the degrees separately.

LIU students who complete four years in biology, sports biology or a science-based major, as well as meet the requirements for promotion to St. George’s University, will gain entrance to the University’s Doctor of or Doctor of Veterinary Medicine program.

The programs are the latest affiliations in a growing worldwide network of academic partnerships St. George’s maintains in the United States with Monmouth University, the New Jersey Institute of Technology/Albert Dorman Honors College, St. Michael’s Medical Center, Caldwell College, Franklin Pierce University and University of the Sciences. The University has created similar partnerships with international schools in the United Kingdom, Bermuda, Grenada, Guyana, Hong Kong, Sri Lanka and Uganda.

About St. George’s University 
St. George’s University is a center of international education, drawing students and faculty from 140 countries to the island of Grenada, in the West Indies, to its programs in medicine, veterinary medicine, public health, science, and business. St. George’s is affiliated with educational institutions worldwide, including the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and Ireland. The University’s over 13,000 graduates include physicians, veterinarians, scientists, and public health and business professionals across the world. The University programs are accredited and approved by many governing authorities and repeatedly recognized as the best in the region. For more information, visit www.sgu.edu.

Future Veterinarians Don the Emblematic White Coat to Mark their Entry into the School of Veterinary Medicine

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Determination, open-mindedness and adaptation – together they made up the reverberating themes at the Spring 2014 School of Veterinary Medicine White Coat Ceremony, held Monday, February 3, in Patrick F. Adams Hall.

The White Coat Ceremony marked a significant milestone at for the entering class of 100 future veterinarians as students  donned their white coats and recited the Oath of Professional Commitment,.  Dr. Ted Cohn, President-Elect of the American Veterinary Medical Association, delivered an animated keynote address to the Adams Hall crowd, beckoning the incoming class to liken their approach to veterinary school to the attributes of dogs and cats.

“One of the best aspects of being a veterinarian is being able to learn life lessons by observing animals,” he said. “You don’t have to be less cat or more dog to be better, but you must be willing to give yourself the chance to accept challenges as they come along, because eventually challenges turn into opportunities that will allow you to learn and improve yourself so that you can be better veterinarians and people. If we give ourselves half the chance, we can learn from animals all the time.”

Recalling an incident at work with a cat that was bent on retrieving a slice of pizza from his desk, Dr. Cohn encouraged the students to never lose sight of their goals. “Heightened commitment is what got you here, don’t lose it now,” he said. “I guarantee you that it will definitely come in handy over the next few years, and throughout the rest of your career.”

The students were similarly challenged to remain open-minded to various career paths because an unexpected prospect may become the opportunity of a lifetime. Dr. Cohn highlighted adaptation as his favorite animal attribute, referencing that when things don’t go their way or when life throws curveballs, they adapt and persevere. He also said that veterinary medical students – and doctors – can take a page from cats’ behavior.

“Take a break, slow down, enjoy life, and just do what makes you happy,” he said. “Don’t worry about what others think. As the old adage goes, ‘those who matter don’t mind, and those who mind, don’t matter.’ … There’s a world of opportunities out there, so seize it, learn from every experience, don’t miss out on new opportunities, think critically, learn the intricacies of communicating with others, build and maintain relationships, remain flexible, and never give up on your dreams.”

Similar sentiments were echoed by Dr. Brian Butler, DVM SGU ’04, MPH SGU ’05, Master of Ceremonies, and University Chancellor Charles R. Modica who urged the students to take advantage of the unique educational experience at St. George’s University.

“You have been given the opportunity to study in an international university and to work with people from around the world with unique backgrounds,” Dr. Modica said. “You’re in a school where not only will you learn veterinary medicine and learn it well – you will be a part of a global community of healers who have gained a unique understanding of the global impact of all you do as a practitioner.”

St. George’s University to Host Viral Workshop for Journalists

Three-Day Workshop to Teach Media Members About Viruses, Treatments and Vaccinations

Beginning Thursday, January 30, expert virologists from around the world will gather at St. George’s University for the Viral Workshop for Journalists, which will provide reporters from varying US and Caribbean media outlets an opportunity to learn firsthand about the nature of viruses, their spread, and virus treatments and vaccinations.

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The three-day workshop was assembled by the Windward Islands Research and Education Foundation (WINDREF), St. George�s University’s research institution, in partnership with the Global Virus Network (GVN). Together, virologists aim to take what can be a complex subject – the science and epidemiology of viruses – and break it down to a comprehensible level that can be utilized when reporters need to communicate to the masses about important news relating to viruses.

Among those on hand is world-renowned virologist Dr. Robert Gallo, most widely known for his co-discovery of HIV and his development of the blood test. Dr. Gallo also discovered the first-known human retroviruses (HTLV-1 and HTLV-2) which are endemic to regions in the Caribbean, including Grenada. Local officials, including the Rt. Hon C. Modeste-Curwin, Minister of Health, will open the meeting, and SGU students will engage with reporters in the laboratory, among other activities.

Follow the event on St. George’s University’s official social media pages using the hashtags #GVNVirusWorkshop, #GVN, and #SGU.

Postgraduate Training Slots in Canada

Seventeen St. George’s University Students Obtain Postgraduate Residency Slots in Canada

St. George’s University’s bond with Canadian students and graduates is as strong as ever. Through the Canadian Resident Matching Service (CaRMS), 17 St. George’s University students matched with first-year residency positions in Canada and will begin their postgraduate training this summer.

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St. George’s University students will complete their postgraduate training in the fields of orthopedic surgery, internal medicine, family medicine, pediatrics, and psychiatry at such programs as McMaster UniversityQueen’s University, the University of British Columbia, the University of Calgary, the University of Ottawa, the University of Saskatchewan, the University of Toronto, and Western University. A second match iteration will take place on April 15.

“We congratulate those who will continue their medical careers in Canada and wish them the best of luck,” St. George’s University Chancellor Charles R. Modica said. “We are confident that these institutions will be impressed with the knowledge and character of the SGU students who will enter into residency this summer.”

Among those matching was Matthew Rubacha, who will begin his residency in orthopedic surgery at the University of Toronto on July 1. Originally from Toronto, Mr. Rubacha enrolled at SGU because of its track record for producing successful physicians. After two years in Grenada, he completed his clinical rotations, including many in orthopedic surgery, and complemented the experience by volunteering as a medical student observer in U of T’s orthopedic program.

“I can’t wait to begin the next step of my training,” Mr. Rubacha said. “Like every other medical student, I’m a bit nervous to be put in a position of greater responsibility and expectations. However, I’ve worked incredibly hard and believe that I am as well prepared as any other medical student from any other medical school.”

Noreen Choe matched with the pediatrics program at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. Her affinity for pediatrics began when she volunteered at a summer camp for autism, ADHD, Down syndrome, and cerebral palsy, and carried that passion through her volunteer work, her research in graduate school, and her clinical rotations in New Jersey. Between studies at SGU, she served as president of the Canadian Students Association (CanSA).

“I am absolutely elated to have matched at McMaster University,” she said. “While the workload at SGU was very heavy, it was nice to be surrounded by students who have the same goals, so it was very motivating to study. Also, I was happy to see many guest lecturers come down from Canada, and it made me want to join that camaraderie one day in the future.”

Since St. George’s University opened its doors in 1977, more than 900 Canadians have graduated from the School of Medicine, and over 640 Canadian students are currently enrolled at the University. SGU’s Canadian medical students have excelled on their step exams, with a 100 percent pass rate for those who sat the Medical Council of Canada Evaluating Examination(MCCEE) from 2008 to 2012, and a 99 percent pass rate on the United States Medical Licensing Examination for first-time test takers in 2013.

SGU’s Keith B. Taylor Global Scholars Program was part of a strong pipeline back to Canada. Of the 17 students who matched through CaRMS, seven spent the first year of their medical education at Northumbria University before spending a year in Grenada and two more in clinical rotations.

Boyarsky’s Efforts Result in Allowance of HIV-to-HIV Organ Transplants in US

Three years of research and lobbying brought Brian Boyarsky, at long last, to the White House, where he always hoped his hard work would take him. On November 21, Mr. Boyarsky, a Term 2 medical student at SGU, and a team of individuals watched as US President Barack Obama signed the HIV Organ Policy Equity (HOPE) Act, into law. The HOPE Act is a major move forward as it repeals the National Organ Transplant Act of 1988 which banned  organ transplants between HIV-positive people.

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At the White House in November, SGU medical student Brian Boyarsky (far left) looks on as US President Barack Obama signs the HOPE Act, a bill repealing the ban on organ transplants between HIV-positive individuals.

“It’s hard to wrap my head around the fact that we accomplished this important milestone since we spent so much time and effort developing the research, lobbying, and putting together a coalition of more than 50 national organizations,” Mr. Boyarsky said. “At the same time, the work has really just begun because we have to conduct more research to find out how effective these transplants are.”

Mr. Boyarsky’s interest in transplants took root at Johns Hopkins University, where he obtained a Bachelor of Arts in Public Health in 2010. For his undergraduate thesis, he devised a plan on how to improve donation rates in the United States. One of the recommendations: to allow transplants from HIV patients to those also inflicted with the virus.

From there, the HOPE Act was born. According to the United Network of Organ Sharing, the waiting list for organ transplants has soared past 120,000, and 19 people die every day waiting for a transplant. By allowing HIV-to-HIV transplants, Mr. Boyarsky estimates that it could help approximately 1,000 individuals per year. His research has taken him all over the globe, studying transplant policies in Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. This summer, he spent two months in Cape Town, South Africa, with transplant surgeons at Groote Schuur Hospital, the facility at which the first HIV-to-HIV transplant was performed. The HOPE Act gained the support of such organizations as the American Medical AssociationHIV Medicine Association, and the American Society of Transplant Surgeons. Still, getting the bill to pass into law required great effort from Mr. Boyarsky and his mentor, Dr. Dorry Segev, a transplant surgeon at Johns Hopkins.

“It was a monumental challenge because HIV still carries a stigma and because of the current political climate,” he continued. “However, the challenge was also a motivational factor. We just decided to work hard and keep pushing.”

In November, the HOPE Act passed in the US House of Representatives (HOPE Act passed the US Senate in June), leaving President Obama with 10 days to sign it. Mr. Boyarsky learned of the Thursday afternoon signing at 8 pm the night before. He recruited a friend to drive him to the airport in Grenada, flew overnight from Trinidad & Tobago to New York City, and then to Washington in time for the signing.

“It was an incredible feeling to stand in the Oval Office and meet the President of the United States –  and to have him thank us for doing something that has the potential to make a big difference.”

Mr. Boyarsky looks forward to continuing research while working toward his MD from St. George’s University. He sees himself in the field of transplantation, as a physician or as a surgeon, upon graduating from medical school.

Fremont Area Medical Center Adds to Medical Staff

Shalu Bansal, MD SGU ’10, was appointed to the medical staff at Fremont Area Medical Center in Nebraska, a 202-bed facility that is the only hospital in Dodge County. She will primarily see patients at Fremont Family Care.


St. George’s University Establishes Peace Through Medicine Scholarship Program

South Sudanese Medical Students Escape War-Torn Country to Begin Medical Course at St. George’s University, Grenada

NAIROBI, KENYA (January 10, 2014) – An exciting collaborative program will allow 11 students from the South Sudan to study medicine at St. George’s University in Grenada, West Indies. St. George’s University is offering free tuition, housing, and a special program to prepare the students for the study of medicine. The Windward Islands Research and Education Foundation (WINDREF) will support the students living expenses for the duration and the government of Northern Bahr el Ghazal is helping the students families while they are studying.

These 11 students were carefully chosen for their academic achievement under extreme adversity and their commitment to return to their home country upon graduation to help build its medical infrastructure.

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We are so happy to be able to offer this scholarship and to work with WINDREF and the government of Northern Bahr el Ghazal to ensure the students are able to take advantage of this opportunity, especially at this time, said St. George’s University Chancellor Charles R. Modica. St. George’s has a long history of commitment to public health and I see no better way to expand that mission than by educating and preparing students from conflict-affected countries to become MDs who can then return to rebuild the health infrastructure of their countries.

The outbreak of hostilities threatened student participation in the program in mid-December, but all students have now reached Nairobi and are on their way to Grenada. The inaugural group is comprised of students from both the Dinka and Nuer communities, and all students are grateful to be able to continue on their path to become a physician. Among them is one student from Jonglei State who was delayed by three weeks and forced to shelter in the UN compound in Juba before being able to leave. Despite losing all his possessions, he shares his fellow students enthusiasm for the start of their studies.

The scholarship had been in the planning stages with officials at St. George’s University, WINDREF, and Minister Tong Deng Anei, Minister of Health for South Sudan’s Northern Bahr el Ghazal state since late last year and was brought to fruition just days before fighting broke out.