Gonzalo Pou, SGUSVM ’11: Clinic cares for animals at low cost

Gonzalo Pou, SGUSVM ’11, helps provide low-cost veterinary care as a member of the Animal Welfare Society of South Florida, which was featured on WPLG Local 10 in Miami/Fort Lauderdale.


MBA and Vet Exchange Program Makes A Difference for Vets an Ocean Apart

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Dr. Heather Douglas first crossed paths with Mr. Austin Kirwan, Assistant Dean for UK Clinical Affairs, for the St. George’s University School of Veterinary Medicine, as they completed their Master of Business Administration residency in Grenada in 2011. As the only two veterinarians in the program at the time, their similar goals drew them together.

They have continued their collaboration through the establishment of a unique exchange program in which visits to each other’s practice provides perspective on their facilities’ effectiveness in treating patients.

First, Dr. Douglas, a 2006 graduate of the St. George’s University School of Veterinary Medicine and recipient of an MBA degree from SGU in 2011, visited Mr. Kirwan at his practice, Barn Lodge Veterinary Hospital, which has three locations in the north of England. She returned home with ideas on how to improve her own practice, Douglas Animal Hospital in Osseo, Minnesota.

“I think this exchange has given me a more global view of veterinary medicine, and the ability to integrate more than one point of view into my practice is priceless,” said Dr. Douglas.

“It opens up an avenue that technicians would have never thought to have experienced in life,” Mr. Kirwan added. “It shifts everything out of the box for them. They go to work in another country such as the States and come back a different, if not better, person.”

Dr. Douglas shadowed staff members at Mr. Kirwan’s practice and learned ways in which her practice could be more efficient. While her appointments tended to run for a half hour, she noted that Kirwan operated a fluid process from check-in to the appointment’s completion that enhanced the clients’ experience and left ample time to meet with patients who required longer visits.

“I couldn’t believe he had five-minute appointments, but he was able to provide great patient care in five minutes,” Douglas said. “Now we’re seeing if we can find a way to improve our efficiency with appointment increments of 15 minutes. Our goal is to improve the experience of our patients with focused appointments that will enable us to provide quality care for our clients.”

Douglas, who after obtaining her DVM went on to earn an MBA in Multi-Sector Health Management from SGU, was also interested in the business aspect of Kirwan’s practice— everything from taking inventory to paying bills. Using the skills she learned in SGU’s MBA program as well as those learned through the visit to Kirwan’s clinic, Douglas’s practice has become more deadline-driven and includes more protocols. Douglas even implemented a pager system, similar to that of some restaurants, that alerts all employees within the practice when a client enters. The streamlined process consequently has improved clients’ experiences at the hospital.

“It makes it appear as though we know what’s happening before it happens and has cut at least 10 minutes off each appointment,” Douglas said.

This winter, one of Kirwan’s veterinary nurses, Adele Duckworth, RVN, traveled to Osseo and analyzed Douglas’s practice over a two-week period.

“Since completing the exchange program, my personal development has had a spring-clean,” Ms. Duckworth said. “My knowledge and understanding of leadership and problem-solving skills in the workplace have been confirmed and built upon. The exchange has also made me realize that I have a particular interest in the business development of veterinary practice.”

Kirwan and Douglas plan to do an exchange every six months and have discussed arranging similar exchanges with other clinics. The initial exchange has been so rewarding that they recommend that similar exchanges be encouraged for other SGUMBA students.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re in the same country or in another country,” Douglas said. “I think it really expands your horizons and allows you to be better at the business of being a doctor.”

St. George’s University School of Veterinary Medicine and the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia Team Up for Combined-Degree Program

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St. George’s University has expanded its list of university affiliations to include the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia (USciences). St. George’s University School of Veterinary Medicine entered into an affiliation agreement with USciences in August 2011 in an effort to grant qualified students the opportunity to pursue a career in veterinary medicine at SGUSVM, after the completion of three years of pre-veterinary studies at USciences.

St. George’s University is dedicated to providing those passionate about the field of veterinary medicine new opportunities to obtain a first-rate education. Under the terms of this new agreement, students who complete the program will earn a Bachelor of Science degree from USciences and a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from SGUSVM after seven years of study. Students can apply for the program upon application for undergraduate admission to USciences or during their first year of study.

Dean of Enrolment Planning Margaret Lambert feels that this new partnership is a continuation of the ideals upon which the school was founded. According to Dean Lambert, “St. George’s University has always been conscious of the rigorous and stressful nature of applying to veterinary school. This exciting new program allows capable and driven students the opportunity to plan their academic future early on, leaving them time to focus solely on learning their new profession.”

Both St. George’s University and the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia are devoted to making sure all students with the potential for greatness are given every opportunity to follow their dreams.

Bound For Down Under: Rachel Halbert Becomes First DVM Licensee in New Zealand

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St. George’s University School of Veterinary Medicine has prepared Dr. Rachel Halbert well for her next adventure, which will take her across the globe. In January, Dr. Halbert will begin serving as Veterinary Technical Supervisor for the New Zealand Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, becoming the first-ever SGU DVM graduate to be licensed in the country.

The global education she received at St. George’s provided the Wisconsin native with a natural springboard for her professional horizons upon graduation. She attained her Master of Public Health (MPH) and Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) concurrently, fast-tracking her for a career in a leadership role in veterinary medicine and public health, which she found to be a “much more satisfying route” compared to traditional veterinary medicine.

“Going to St. George’s gave me a global perspective on different disease processes,” Dr. Halbert said. “I valued having professors from all over; everyone had personal stories from where they lived, and the education reflected it as well. Just because something happens in the US doesn’t mean it happens someplace else, and vice versa.”

The Ministry, one of the largest veterinary employers in New Zealand, contributes toward the country’s long-term economic and nutritional growth by maintaining its agriculture, food, forestry, fisheries and marine industries. According to the Ministry, exports from the country climbed from $39 million to $44.2 million from 2010 to 2011, an increase of 13 percent. The sharpest increase by percentage (25%) came in the dairy sector, on which Dr. Halbert concentrated throughout her career in veterinary medicine.

She will be based in the port town of Timaru, located approximately two-and-a-half hours from the city of Christchurch. Her primary responsibilities will include maintaining humane conditions for animals, performing health checks and ensuring that communicable diseases aren’t introduced into the food chain or general population.

With more than 140 countries represented on the Grenada and UK campuses, St. George’s University is an international institution with a conscious international outreach. Just months before Dr. Halbert’s appointment in New Zealand, Dr. Lauren Havenga, DVM (SGUSVM ‘10), became the first SVM graduate to be licensed to practice in South Africa. The University is one of just 12 AVMA-accredited veterinary medical schools outside the United States and Canada. The University encourages students to take advantage of the opportunity to take dual degrees in public health and/or business, leading to leadership roles in the professions.

As she embarks on her next adventure, when she must be prepared for anything that comes her way, Dr. Halbert is thrilled to have a solid foundation in place – the education she received at St. George’s University’s School of Veterinary Medicine.

“I’m open to whatever comes my way with time,” Dr. Halbert said. “I don’t have a clear vision of where I want to go from here, but I would love to see where this opportunity takes me. St. George’s prepared me to consider a world of opportunities.”

Lauren Havenga is St. George’s University’s First DVM Graduate to be Licensed in South Africa

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St. George’s School of Veterinary Medicine graduate, Dr. Lauren Havenga, DVM ’10, is the first to be licensed to practice in South Africa. While the University has a long history of strong ties within the African region through its graduates, international selectives, and collaborations with African health organizations, the medical licensure in South Africa further cements the University’s presence in the region

“Dr. Havenga has paved the way for future veterinarians hoping to practice in South Africa,” explains Laurie Hinrichs, Director of International Admissions, on the significance of the medical licensure. “South Africa recognizes St. George’s as producing capable veterinarians who will contribute to animal welfare and public health for the nation. Dr. Havenga’s success reaffirms that SGU’s School of Veterinary Medicine upholds international standards and will likely lead to further students pursuing careers in the region.”

The South African Veterinary Council (SAVC) is the regulatory body in the field of veterinary medicine in South Africa. No person in the country can practice veterinary medicine unless they are registered with the SAVC or authorized to perform specific procedures. The SAVC holds examinations once a year in September. The exam consists of two sessions of a computer based examination (CBE) that test a person’s veterinary knowledge as well as specific disease conditions that relate to South Africa. A clinical and oral examination is also conducted by a panel of examiners appointed by the Council once the CBE exams have been passed.

Registering with the SAVC and acquiring licensure has opened considerable opportunities for Dr. Havenga. She joined a well-established research project that is trying to halt the rapidly declining numbers of endangered vulture species. “Vultures are listed as an endangered species by the South African government and the red book of endangered species.” As a non-licensed veterinarian Dr. Havenga was limited to working on specimens in the laboratory or under veterinary supervision. Her status as a veterinarian in South Africa now opens numerous doors to a career in research. She explains, “The licensure has helped because I can now participate in the vulture project more extensively by working independently in the field. I am also able to work as a veterinarian and locum at practices when not involved in research.”

Currently, Dr. Havenga is pursuing an honors degree in veterinary science and masters degree in Anatomy from the University of Pretoria in South Africa. She hopes to combine her passion for anatomy and research in her career as a veterinary professional. Dr. Havenga is grateful for St. George’s small animal surgeon faculty member Dr. Rudolfo Bruhl-Day for inspiring her to get involved with surgery; Professor Dr. Buxton Nyack for providing practical hands-on at the Large Animal Resource Facility during her basic science years; and the University administration for its support as she applied for licensure through the SAVC.

St. George’s University Earns US Accreditation for Doctor of Veterinary Medicine Program

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The American Veterinary Medical Association Council on Education (AVMA COE) announced its full accreditation of the St. George’s University Doctor of Veterinary Medicine program for seven years. This accreditation follows a self study by the School of Veterinary Medicine, and a site visit by a team of AVMA appointed reviewers in April of 2011.

According to the AVMA website, “accreditation by the AVMA COE represents the highest standard of achievement for veterinary medical education in the United States. Institutions that earn accreditation confirm their commitment to quality and continuous improvement through a rigorous and comprehensive peer review.” Furthermore, students graduating from an AVMA COE-accredited institution can be assured the education they receive meets a “competency threshold for entry into practice, including eligibility for professional licensure”.

Dr. Raymond F. Sis, Dean of the School of Veterinary Medicine, led the accreditation efforts. Having joined St. George’s University in 2001 as a professor of Anatomy, and then being appointed Dean of the SVM in 2003, he has brought his knowledge and passion for veterinary medical education to his current role.

“Accreditation of the Veterinary Medicine program is a direct result of the hard work undertaken by our very dedicated faculty, administration, and staff members, “said Dr. Sis. “The AVMA site visit in April was the culmination of more than 10 years of dedicated veterinary education by faculty, administration, and staff that are second to none.”

The AVMA COE site visit team traveled to the St. George’s campus in April for a comprehensive review of the DVM program curriculum, physical facilities, equipment, clinical resources, and library and information resources as part of its assessment of the program’s readiness for accreditation. Admissions policies, faculty qualifications, and the number and quality of professional degree students in the DVM program were also assessed.

Citing the quality of St. George’s DVM program, Dr. Sis provided further comment on the accreditation process, saying, “Completion of our comprehensive self-study and the continuous improvements in curriculum, faculty and facilities helped our accreditation team effectively showcase our academic program to the site visit team. I am thrilled to have been a part of this rigorous process and happy to have our hard work validated through this accreditation.”

Graduates of SGU’s DVM program wishing to practice in North America will no longer be required to sit the examination given by the Educational Commission for Foreign Veterinary Graduates or the PAVE examination, and will now be required to take only the North American Veterinary Licensing Examination (NAVLE) for licensing, as they have graduated from an AVMA accredited program in veterinary medicine. The accreditation decision is retroactive to the date of the council’s site visit on April 21, so all students graduating after this date are considered graduates of an AVMA COE-accredited institution.

The 2010-2011 pass rate for students of our school on the North American Veterinary Licensing Examination (NAVLE) was 96% (85/82) as compared to an 80% pass rate required by the AVMA Council on Education’s Outcomes Assessment standard.

Dr. Charles Modica, St. George’s University Chancellor, in conjunction with Dr. Sis and members of the SVM administration and faculty, announced news of the accreditation to current students at a jubilant SVM town hall meeting on campus. “Students who join our veterinary program with its international educational experiences will now benefit from belonging to an AVMA-accredited institution. We are proud of Dr. Sis and his faculty and staff.”

The date of the next site visit is 2018.

St. George’s University School of Veterinary Medicine Produces 100 More Veterinarians

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On Friday, June 10, 2011, 100 graduates had their Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) degrees conferred during the St. George’s University School of Veterinary Medicine Commencement Ceremony at Alice Tully Hall, Lincoln Center in New York City, NY. The Class of 2011 represented eight countries, including the United States, Grenada, Canada, Bermuda, Botswana, Colombia, Pakistan, and the United Kingdom.

Chancellor Charles R. Modica, JD followed Dr. Pensick’s welcoming introductory remarks, reiterating his respect for the veterinary medical profession. He reminded them that as new graduates “you all are setting the pace and we are looking to you.” Dr. Raymond Sis, the Dean of the School of Veterinary Medicine, lead the academic oath. He advised graduates, “Success as a veterinarian depends on your knowledge and life skills, the foundation of which you received during your course of study [at St. George’s University].”

The Commencement Ceremony concluded upon the Chancellor officially conferring the Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree and Dean Sis’ closing remarks. An hour-long reception followed where the new graduates celebrated with their families and friends as well as faculty and administration. St. George’s newest veterinarians will join the nearly 600 veterinary alumni living across the United States and other countries, including Canada, Ireland, and Australia.

The day’s events included a pre-graduation breakfast sponsored by the School of Veterinary Medicine Hill’s College Feeding Program, a program run by Hill’s Pet Nutrition, Inc. that donates pet food to veterinary medicine programs. After spending their first three years together in Grenada, the class went on to complete their fourth year at the University’s clinical affiliations at 23 of the 28 US veterinary schools, two of five Canadian schools, two of seven UK veterinary programs as well as affiliations in Ireland and Australia. The breakfast served to reconnect the students and to celebrate one of the most important occasions of their careers. They also had the opportunity to take professional photographs in their caps and gowns before the hour and half ceremony.

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MBA Transforms a DVM’s Vision into a Successful Business

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Since graduating from the School of Veterinary Medicine in 2006, Dr. Heather Douglas has been hard at work making a name for herself within the veterinary industry. She established Douglas Animal Hospital after assuming ownership of a local pet hospital in Osseo, Minnesota, and she recently founded DVMtoGO, a staffing firm specializing in placements for veterinarians, certified veterinary technicians, and various other professions within the veterinary industry.

Not long after beginning her newfound roles as CEO and business owner, she started to receive emails from the University promoting the new online MBA in Multi-Sector Health Management program, which immediately piqued her interest. “I own a business, and it’s the perfect time to get educated on how multi-sector health applies to veterinary medicine,” she says. Due to the success her DVM degree has brought, coupled with a tuition discount offered to alumni to further support their professional development and the practicality of an online program, she re-enrolled at the University to earn an MBA in Multi-Sector Health Management.

Dr. Douglas is among the 90 percent of veterinary graduates who end up in private practice. An MBA in Multi-Sector Health Management is often a logical step for these students as it equips them with the skills needed to manage every aspect of small- to medium-sized organizations in the private or social sectors. “It’s making a huge difference in the way I run my businesses,” explains Dr. Douglas. “As a veterinarian, I tend to be more emotional, but I have learned to objectively evaluate what’s happening in my practice.”

The MBA in Multi-Sector Health Management, offered through the University’s Centre for Advancing International Management, is a US-style master’s program that focuses on managing the dimensions and complexities of community wellness as well as economic enterprise. The convenience and flexibility of the MBA program allowed Dr. Douglas to return to school despite her various roles and obligations in Minnesota.

The 34-credit, 12-month program is taught primarily online with two short supplementary residencies in Grenada. The program begins with a one-week residency in Grenada to build trust and respect among the classmates. Dr. Douglas believes the opportunity to meet her classmates face-to-face was instrumental in the success of the online program. “We interacted directly with instructors and spent a lot of time with our cohort, building strong relationships,” she indicates. “I got to know everybody before jumping online, so now, I’m really comfortable.”

Courses cover practical aspects of developing community enterprise, especially in areas of health, from marketing and finance to decision-making and project management. The goals and objectives of the curricula are built on standards set by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), the UK-based Association of MBAs (AMBA), and incorporate the UN Principles for Responsible Management Education (PRME). Additionally, a distinctive holistic approach underlies the program, keeping with St. George’s University’s focus on internationalism and the concept of One Health, One Medicine.

Though Dr. Douglas isn’t expected to complete her MBA until Fall 2011, she has already applied core principles taught in the curriculum to her career. “I promoted a practice manager and do more of a tiered training when I hire new employees,” she explains. “I have also been promoting more within my businesses, and I learned to deal with clients by communicating more effectively to get my point across to owners on what needs to be done to best care for their animals.”

In earning her MBA, Dr. Douglas hopes her business and clinic will be able to run independently so she can spend her personal time travelling and visiting Grenada a few months a year. Once her business is more established, she hopes to return to working more directly with her patients. Dr. Douglas is a greatly valued alumna through all her continued involvement with the University. Between practicing as a veterinarian, managing a business, and earning her MBA, she still finds time to speak with prospective students at information sessions as an Alumni Admission Mentor Program (AAMP) member.

In addition to an MBA in Multi Sector Health Management, the University also offers an MBA in International Business. This 18-month, 48-credit program speaks in a global voice to business management. Students build on their careers, enhance their managerial skills and knowledge, gain international experience and competency, and put their new learning to use in a global arena. MD and DVM students may also opt for a dual degree in MBA in Multi-Sector Health Management. To date, there are 30 students enrolled in graduate business programs and 93 graduates.

School of Veterinary Medicine Eligible to Award US Department of Education Loans

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St. George’s University School of Veterinary Medicine has been granted a provisional certification for Title IV Federal Funding from the US Department of Education. The University will now be able to award qualified US veterinary students with federal student loans and in-school deferments, helping to lower the total debt incurred by students enrolled in a four-year DVM program. Universities and colleges newly approved by the US Department of Education are initially certified on a provisional basis.

Last week, Chancellor Charles Modica announced the news to members of the SGU community via e-mail, and there have been a flood of positive responses. Many students are relieved and excited that their dreams of earning their doctorate of veterinary medicine degree are now within reach. “St. George’s University School of Medicine has been eligible for federal funding for over 20 years. Now the School of Veterinary Medicine is following suit, emerging as an equally competitive academic program,” stated Chancellor Modica.

Veterinary medical institutions and associations worldwide, as well as prospective students, are recognizing the benefits of St. George’s DVM program’s 6-to-1 student-faculty ratio, early hands-on clinical experience, and on-campus animal hospital and farm. In addition, the School of Veterinary Medicine is listed with the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and is currently in review for accreditation.

“St. George’s DVM program adheres to the same standards and offers even greater hands-on clinical experience than many US veterinary colleges,” said Chancellor Modica. “The US loans will allow many more students to view St. George’s University as a viable option for their education.”

Students currently enrolled who entered as of August 2010 will be eligible to apply retroactively for Title IV loans. In order to be considered for the Title IV Federal Funding, veterinary students must meet the following federal student aid eligibility criteria:

  • Must be a US citizen/permanent resident or eligible noncitizen
  • Must be in good academic standing
  • Must not be in default on any federal student loans
  • Grad Plus eligibility based on no adverse credit history
  • Clinical training must be completed at a US veterinary school

Director of Financial Aid, Diane Beltrani, initally advised current and prospective students to wait for further instructions and information regarding the loans as the school code for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) had not been activated by the US Department of Education. Our School of Veterinary Medicine federal code, G39743, is now active and students can begin the application process. “The ability to award federal student loans is a long-awaited and well-deserved milestone,” said Beltrani. “These loans will provide students who wish to pursue veterinary medicine the confidence in their ability to fund their education.”

“Due to the economic downturn over the past few years, it was becoming more and more difficult for many bright and qualified students to obtain affordable loans for the veterinary program. This announcement changes that,” commented Jeffrey Bates, Director of Veterinary Enrolment. “The approval to award US Department of Education funded loans gives our current and future students a better opportunity to obtain lower interest loans and fulfill their lifelong dreams of becoming a veterinarian.”

About St. George’s University School of Veterinary Medicine
Over the past decade, the School of Veterinary Medicine has trained more 500 veterinarians who are practicing in countries around the world. It is listed with the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and is currently in review for accreditation. St. George’s University has remained committed to its goal to provide a quality education accessible to all students who wish to pursue higher education. Additionally, veterinary students have the opportunity to complete their final clinical year with clinical affiliations with 23 of the 28 US veterinary schools, two of five Canadian schools, two of seven UK veterinary programs, as well affiliations in Ireland and Australia. Federal funding by the US Department of Education will further that goal and allow students to pursue their dreams of practicing in the field of veterinary medicine.

University Student Groups Provide Free Medical Services to Grenada Community

free medical grenada communityStudent clubs and organizations at St. George’s University, along with Grenada’s Ministry of Health and the Town of St. George’s Constituency Organizing Committee, organize multiple health fairs throughout the academic year. The fairs provide free medical services to attendees from the local community.

The most recent health fair, “One Health One Medicine”, took place on November 13. Volunteers provided basic eye and ear screenings and blood pressure and diabetes testing to members of the community at no cost. The student organization, Women in Medicine, conducted breast exams and spoke with participants on the importance of conducting self-exams.  In cases where patients have been advised to seek further medical care, students are tasked with following up with patients to ensure they have seen their personal physician. The Ministry of Health also follows up on patient care using referral data collected from the event.

Additionally, St. George’s veterinarian students were on hand to see four-legged patients at the health fair.    President of the Student Affiliate of the American Veterinary Medical Associate (SAAVMA), Brendan Moulder, proudly announced, “We were extremely pleased to see over 90 feline and canine patients at this clinic on the beach at Grand Mal.  In addition to physical examinations, students provided vaccinations, deworming medications for intestinal parasites, and various other field veterinary services for the animals.”

Because veterinary students only have 3 years in Grenada and medical students only 2 years before they go abroad for their clinical studies, it is important to the students to seize the opportunity to give back. In fact, every semester so many students volunteer that SAAVMA has to create a waitlist. “The events serve as a way for the local population to benefit directly from having a well established human and veterinary medical university right on their island,” said Moulder.

The semesters first health fair was held in early September at the Anglican Church Yard in downtown St. George’s —just in time for children’s back-to-school check-ups. Nearly a dozen physicians as well as several American Medical Student Association (AMSA) members, led by AMSA President Jessica Lennon, attended to over 200 patients. Lennon explains, “The goal of this event was to increase general public health awareness, to ensure a patient’s personal health, and to guide patients in the right direction on how to follow up.” The second health fair on September 23 in Mt. Caramel proved to have an equally successful turnout.

With the primary purpose of the health fair to serve the local community, St. George’s University students benefit as well. Lennon explains, “The health fairs give students the opportunity to see the different parts of the island and to interact with members of the community. Moulder agrees, “As students, the process of hands-on learning and practice is priceless. We are extremely grateful to have a faculty and staff that are so willing to join us during their free time to learn, educate and give back to the community.”

To see more pictures from the Fall 2010 health fairs, please visit the Facebook photo album.