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.

Seven Students Awarded Veterinary Mentor Scholarships

Since its inception in 1999, St. George’s University School of Veterinary Medicine has trained more than 550 veterinarians—the majority of whom are in private practice in countries around the world. Every year the School of Veterinary Medicine awards Veterinary Mentor Scholarships as a means to give back to the field of veterinary medicine and support the hard-working and dedicated students who come to Grenada with the dream of becoming veterinarians.

This year’s seven winners from the entering class of August 2010 hail from the United States, Canada and Ireland. The 2010 Veterinary Mentor Scholarship winners are:

  • Kristen Barnes
  • Kristen Cash
  • Erin Cooper
  • Alicia Chivers
  • Lorenza Malaguti
  • Jaclyn Piet
  • Sara Twerdok

Each scholarship recipient is nominated by a practicing veterinarian who feels strongly that his or her protégé has shown academic excellence and has proven dedication to the veterinary medical profession.

Kristen Cash is one such student, having spent six years working with her mentor, veterinarian Dr. Robert Pfister.

“This scholarship has given me an amazing opportunity that I may not have had otherwise. It enabled me to have the opportunity to share one of the biggest moments of my life with two of the most influential people in my life. I would not be where I am if it weren’t for the constant encouragement and support given to me by Dr. Pfister and his wife Dr. Hurley.”

The Veterinary Mentor Scholarship awards between 20 to 40 percent of the full-tuition of the Doctor of Veterinary Medicine Program to accepted students. To apply, students must be nominated by a licensed veterinarian who can answer questions about the commitment and compassion of the prospective student to the veterinary profession. In addition to the partial tuition scholarships, winners are encouraged to invite their mentors to Grenada to witness the White Coat Ceremony, a trip paid for by St. George’s University. The White Coat Ceremony is an important moment in a veterinarian’s career as it marks a student’s formal entry into the profession.

Dr. Pfister is most excited his protégé now has the opportunity to attend an “international school that will open her eyes, providing a worldly experience that will educate her beyond just medical school.” He is confident that in her years ahead she will make St. George’s University proud as well.

St. George’s offers a wide range of academic and needs-based scholarship opportunities to help ensure that the unique international education St. George’s provides remains available to the best and brightest students—regardless of circumstance. The Veterinary Mentor Scholarship is just one way that St. George’s gives back to the veterinary medical profession that has so generously embraced the University and its educational mission since the school welcomed its first class in September 1999.

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St. George’s University Welcomes Families to True Blue Campus

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Running from October 23rd to the 24th St. George’s University is hosting Beyond Spice, a weekend event where family members of enrolled students from the School of Medicine and School of Veterinary Medicine are invited to visit St. George’s campus. A truly international weekend, families from the Caribbean, North America and Europe will converge on St. George’s picturesque True Blue Campus to learn about the University, spend time on campus and experience island life.

Only since 2008 has St. George’s hosted a family weekend and attendance has more than doubled over prior years. With this year as the largest yet, the event is expected to draw more than 200 hundred visitors to St. George’s and its surrounding communities.

Commenting on the growth of this event, Margaret Lambert, Dean of Enrolment Planning, said, “We look forward to this weekend because it gives us the opportunity to host student families from around the world. Many of our attendees stay at local hotels, visit areas merchants and dine in local restaurants. Our goal is to provide a wide range of activities, including opportunities for unstructured time where families can explore all Grenada and the University has to offer and hopefully make plans to visit again.”

Attendees at the event have the opportunity to tour the St. George’s campus, meet administrators and experience he beautiful island of Grenada with island tours, cultural performances and free time for exploring local venues. Visitors will get a taste of local culture with visits to local markets, restaurants and stays at some of the areas most beautiful hotels.

Russ Fielden, President of the Grenada Hotel and Tourism Association and Owner/Operator of True Blue Bay Resort is looking forward to hosting several St. George’s family members at his resort this weekend. “We’re looking forward to providing a relaxing environment for family members to vacation while visiting their St. George’s student. I also encourage them to take in the surrounding areas – as well as the north side of the island during their stay.” While known for its beautiful beaches, Grenada is also home to historic forts, impressive waterfalls and rum and nutmeg production facilities – all of which are accessible to tourists.

“Many families come back to the island at other times,” says Fielden, “and we look forward to developing lasting relationships with them and other members of the St. George’s University family.”

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Seventy-Seven New Students Join SGUSVM

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The School of Veterinary Medicine, which has been a part of St. George’s University for 11 years, held its 23rd White Coat Ceremony on Tuesday, August 17 at the Bourne Lecture Hall. The 77 prospective veterinarians who were honored and welcomed in this ceremony came from ten countries: the US, UK, Canada, Guyana, Jamaica, Botswana, Mexico, France, Ireland and Sweden.

The Chancellor, Dr. Charles R. Modica officially welcomed and congratulated the students. “At St. George’s University, there is an environment of caring,” he said. “You are special to us. You are small in number… but your spirit is great and if you are anything like your predecessors, you will make us proud.” Mistress of Ceremonies, Dr. Emma Hage congratulated the students on their accomplishment. “I wish you tremendous success on your veterinary journey,” she said.

The Dean of the School of Veterinary Medicine, Dr. Raymond Sis, also addressed the incoming students. He said: “You belong to a profession that prides itself in serving society and you have joined a dynamic and exciting international university that will provide you with a unique environment to study modern global veterinary medicine.” He encouraged the students: “In addition to challenging yourself, challenge your classmates. This is your family for the next four years. Mentor each other, help them through the next four years and they will help you.”

Following the delivery of a splendid speech by Keynote Speaker, Bonnie V. Beaver, B.S.,D.V.M., M.S., the students donned their white coats and recited their Oath of Professional Commitment led by Dr. Kristin Chaney.

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