SGU Physician Humanitarian Network Brings Life-Changing Eye Care to Grenadians

SGU PHuN ophthalmology team

Grenadians received critical eye care services recently through the St. George’s University (SGU) Physician Humanitarian Network (PHuN) ophthalmology clinic—the first specialized eye clinic since before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Former SGU student Dr. Bernard Spier headed the ophthalmology clinic in Grenada, along with two ophthalmologists, Dr. Elliot Crane and Dr. Zachary Mendelson, and two assistants, Ms. Karen Rodriguez and Ms. Carrie Rivera. The clinic took place from February 19 to March 1, 2024.

The team completed 139 examinations and consultations for those suffering from eye-related ailments such as cataracts and glaucoma. Additionally, the team did more than 40 procedures including small-incision cataract surgeries, corneal transplants, YAG laser procedures, and Avastin injections that restored and improved sight for many Grenadians. The team completed these procedures with $117,656 USD worth of donated medical supplies, surgical equipment, corneal tissue, and more, organized by Dr. Spier.

Dr. Spier, an ophthalmologist with a practice in South Orange, NJ, participated in his first PHuN ophthalmology clinic in 2006. This past trip marks his 13th trip to Grenada to serve the local community through PHuN. According to Dr. Spier, he chose to donate his time and skills to the Grenadian people because it is “a basic act of human kindness.”

“For me, it’s the idea of improving a person’s life with these procedures,” Dr. Spier said. “Simply, it feels good to do that.”

Dr. Spier poses with ophthalmology equipment

Dr. Spier stands with a piece of ophthalmology equipment

The SGU PHuN Program has a history of making an impact on the lives of Grenadians in other specialties such as cardiology, vascular surgery, and obstetrics/gynecology.

“The SGU PHuN program is extremely beneficial to the Grenadian community because it provides valuable support in the form of medical services to the people of the island as well as donations of medical supplies to the ophthalmology clinic,” said Dr. Brendon La Grenade, vice provost of St. George’s University. “It also provides an outlet for a variety of SGU doctors of various disciplines to give back to the island where they got both their education and medical career starts.”

For Dr. Spier, the chance to give back to the people of Grenada is deeply meaningful.

“I have a special place in my heart for Grenada because that’s where I got my start in medicine,” said Dr. Spier. “Grenada gave me an opportunity to become a doctor. If I hadn’t gone to Grenada, I would’ve done something else [besides medicine].”

Dr. Spier encourages other former students and alumni of SGU to consider participating in the SGU PHuN program, naming it as a profoundly rewarding experience.

“If you want to help the people of Grenada and want to go back to Grenada you should do it,” Dr. Spier said.


–Juliette Kimmins


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SGU Reinforces Focus on Medical Humanities for Students

Developing a holistic and compassionate approach to the treatment of patients is a key competency needed by physicians in order to address today’s global healthcare needs. Learning these soft skills and acquiring knowledge that focuses on the humanities is an important part in a med student’s overall training. St. George’s University School of Medicine students can expand their humanities knowledge and learnings through the recently formalized Department of Medical Humanities and History of Medicine.

“Medicine is not merely a profession. It’s a noble pursuit—a calling to serve humanity and alleviate suffering,” said School of Medicine Dean Dr. Marios Loukas. “Being a good doctor means actively seeking to understand the unique experiences and perspectives of patients by acknowledging and addressing health disparities and providing the highest quality of care to every individual.”

SOM’s new Department of Medical Humanities and History of Medicine aims to emphasize and integrate humanities and history of medicine courses throughout SGU’s four-year MD program. The department is led by Robert Hage, MD, PhD, DLO, MBA as chair, and Arlette Herry, PhD, assistant dean of multicultural affairs, as its deputy chair.

Disseminated information will strengthen students’ communication skills and empathy, enrich their patient relationships, help build rapport with patients and colleagues, enhance their cultural competency, and mitigate burnout, among other benefits.

“Pure curriculum-based biomedical sciences do not pay sufficient attention to quality of life,” Dr. Hage said. “SGU’s medical humanities department helps students tap into crucial attributes such as introspection/reflection, empathy, and cultural humbleness—all of which are pivotal in creating a physician who is ready to serve a global community.”

What are the medical humanities?

The field of medical humanities is an interdisciplinary approach that incorporates various aspects of the humanities and social sciences into the study of medicine and healthcare. It provides a broader and more holistic understanding of health, illness, and medicine, taking into account the cultural, social, and ethical dimensions of these topics.

On the blog: What makes a good doctor? 7 surprisingly useful skills for physicians


SGU’s School of Medicine currently offers  offers students a range of extracurricular selectives to choose from delivered by faculty with a special interest and are far from the normal standardized courses. Faculty from other departments, such as the Department of Public Health and Preventative Medicine, will collaborate to offer relevant courses to basic sciences students. Clinical students will be able to register for a medical humanities elective through the New Jersey-based hospital system, Atlantic Health.

“Currently, we are creating the foundation to coordinate all these activities, including involvement by student clubs,” according to Dr. Herry.

SOM students can earn recognition in the medical humanities through research activities, certificates, a diploma, and eventually, a Master of Science.

On the blog: Recognizing the importance of cultural competence in healthcare


“Medical humanities play a vital role in broadening the education and training of healthcare professionals by emphasizing the importance of cultural and social contexts, effective communication, and empathy in patient care,” Dr. Hage said.

Students interested in learning more go to the department’s section on the University portal.


— Laurie Chartorynsky


7 key benefits of the medical humanities

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3 Pieces of Advice from Dean of Students Dr. Lucy Clunes


For students pursuing challenging degrees, having a sense of community and creating a home away from home is fundamental to wellness and success. Fortunately, there are many ways for students to acclimate and find support on campus at St George’s University.

Dean of Students Dr. Lucy Clunes describes campus support as being like family for the duration of students’ time at SGU. She describes it as a community, emphasizing the various organizations and societies students can join.

“We want to give students the best possible learning opportunities available so they can reach their full potential,” said Dr. Clunes.

SGU News sat down with Dr. Clunes to learn more about how students can make the most of their education. Here are three pieces of advice she shared.


lucy clunes

1. Seek mentorship opportunities

Dr. Clunes highlights the importance of seeking mentorship from different individuals, as areas of expertise vary between departments.

“Students are encouraged to seek guidance from all faculty members,” said Dr. Clunes. “Faculty are always available to help guide students, and anyone can be approached for mentorship opportunities.”


2. Take advantage of the dedicated support services on campus

Resources for students at SGU include academic and non-academic support, such as assisting with accommodations and accessibility requirements, helping international students with transit visas, providing health and psychological services, and familial support. Students can get involved on campus through a variety of organizations and societies, such as the student government association, recreational activities, cultural, spiritual and academic organizations, intermural sports, and events on and off campus.


3. Prioritize your physical and mental health

Dr. Clunes emphasizes the importance of managing both mental and physical health, especially given the stress and pressure of being a student.

“Balance is critical since efficiency productivity as a student requires you to be physically and mentally healthy,” said Dr. Clunes.

To encourage students to take care of their health at SGU, the wellness center on campus is an excellent resource offering fitness classes including yoga, cardio, and high intensity interval training. Rounding out SGU’s focus on health, are treatments from weekly massages to aromatherapy, as well as wellness days offered throughout the semester.

With a full-service wellness center, mentorship opportunities, and more than 80 student organizations and societies to choose from, incoming students can rest assured they will receive as much guidance and support as they need while acclimating to a new environment. The available resources support all SGU students as they create a sense of community and work toward their future careers.

—Sarah Stoss and Madeleine Otto

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SOM Spring White Coat Ceremony: The Legacy Continues for SGU President and Son

With a distinguished career spanning more than 30 years in medicine, Dr. G. Richard Olds, president emeritus at St. George’s University was thrilled to have his son, Trevor Olds follow in his footsteps. In addition to being this year’s keynote speaker, Dr. Olds also had the honor of coating Trevor at the Spring 2023 School of Medicine White Coat Ceremony.

“I’m extremely proud of Trevor and happy to share in this milestone moment as he takes his first official steps into the medical profession,” said Dr. Olds. “I have three wonderful sons, but none of whom seemed to want a career in medicine. In fact, Trevor started his career as a professional actor, but I’m delighted he decided to transition into the MD program here at SGU and that I had the special privilege of coating him.”

The future Dr. Olds joined his fellow students in the Class of 2027 as they walked across the stage on January 28 at Patrick F. Adams Hall to receive their white coats. At the end of the ceremony, which marks their entry into the field of medicine, they recited the Oath of Professionalism, where they pledge to uphold the highest of ethical standards while treating their patients.

In his keynote address, Dr. Olds shared three moving stories providing lessons on what it means to be a good physician. His second story centered on Trevor giving his family a medical scare but ended with them being comforted by a physician wearing a white coat.

“All of the men in the Olds family are quite sentimental,” shared Trevor Olds. “So, I was glad that I had a bit of time between my father’s keynote address and when I had to go up to be coated—because I needed to compose myself a little bit. It was such a sweet and special moment, and his speech was very touching and meaningful.”

– Ray-Donna Peters

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A Doctor’s View Podcast: Alum shares his medical school experience

There are many questions surrounding international medical schools and what attending one means for a grad’s career outlook. Joshua Ramjist, MD ’11, knows something about that. He is a St. George’s University alum who developed his medical career in four different countries—the UK as part of the SGU/Northumbria University Program, in Grenada to complete his medical education, then on to the US for residency, and two research years in his native Canada.

To share his journey and provide answers to common questions regarding international medical school, Dr. Ramjist joined Dr. Paul Polyvios on the podcast A Doctor’s View in the episode titled “Studying medicine at an international university and working in the USA” to provide insight on his experience at St. George’s University and detail his career that followed.

As for Dr. Ramjist’s advice to those who hope to follow a path similar to his, he said: “It’s not for everyone. But for individuals who are open minded and really are excited to have this experience and are looking for a little bit of variability in their life, it’s one of the greatest experiences I’ve had.”



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Black History Month: SOM Students and Grads Hope to Inspire Next Generation of Doctors

With the need to improve overall representation of minority doctors in medicine, students and graduates of St. George’s University School of Medicine who identify as Black or African American plan to make a difference in the field by advocating for underserved communities and the patients they serve, and by inspiring tomorrow’s minority physicians through mentorship and education.

According to the Association of American Colleges, just 5 percent of active physicians identified as Black or African American in 2018. Even more astonishing, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found only 4.6 percent of surgeons identify themselves as Black or African American.

This year’s theme for Black History Month is “Black Health and Wellness.” SGU News spoke with School of Medicine students and graduates about their motivations to go to medical school and their career path of choice, the challenges they perceive for minority physicians, and how they can inspire the next generation of Black and African American doctors. Our panel consisted of:

  • Jasmine Shackelford, MD ’20, family medicine resident at Emory University School of Medicine
  • Paul Osunwa, MD ’21, first-year anesthesia resident physician at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences
  • Melissa Cheong, SOM Term 5, president of SGU’s Student National Medical Association
  • Amanda Herbert, SOM fourth-year student, Class of 2022
  • Okechukwu Nwosu, SOM fourth-year student, Class of 2022
  • Hannah Terefe, third-year SOM student, who also writes for the blog Women in White Coats.

Jasmine Shackelford, MD ’20, a family medicine resident at Emory University School of Medicine.

St. George’s University: What inspired you to enter the field of medicine?

Dr. Jasmine Shackelford: My inspiration for pursuing medicine started as a young girl where I witnessed a lot of apprehension from family members as it pertained to trusting and maintaining healthy relationships with healthcare providers. I wanted to make a difference in helping to eliminate the health disparities that exist in my community, as well as to encourage people to take charge of their health.

Dr. Paul Osunwa: I was originally a business major in undergrad and switched to nursing when the stock market crash occurred in 2008. I also competed in Division 1 athletics as a shot putter on the track and field team at Texas Christian University. My mother was a nurse and two of my cousins were nurses. I was surrounded by individuals who had been in healthcare. I took it to the next level by attaining my MD.

Melissa Cheong: At the age of five, my mother got extremely sick and was in and out of the hospital as I was growing up. Being around medicine at a young age was intriguing and I always found myself asking questions and wanting to get involved. This passion only grew stronger as I got older. Medicine allows for me to interact with people on a daily, while also using my science background to problem solve. I love interacting with people and making individuals feel comfortable in difficult times and situations.

Okechukwu Nwosu: So many people are going through so much, and I want to listen to their problems and help them make good decisions. I also want to be a role model for my community. If I have little kids looking up to me, and if they watch what I do and consider my advice, whether it’s telling them to look after their body, to eat right, not to smoke, then I’ve set them on a good course.

Paul Osunwa, MD ’21, a first-year anesthesia resident physician at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.

SGU: What are the biggest challenges for black men and women in medicine?

Dr. Shackelford: Representation. Although there has been an increase in the number of women practicing medicine, specifically underrepresented minority women, there are still more advancements to be made. Representation matters and it is critical to combat the long-standing history of mistrust that exists between the healthcare systems in minority communities. We must acknowledge the disparities that exist within this field, the negative clinical outcomes related to those disparities, and collectively work together towards change.

Dr. Osunwa: The biggest obstacle black medical providers have is believing that we don’t have a place in medicine. Removing the seeds of self-doubt is important.

Melissa Cheong, SOM student, president of SGU’s Student National Medical Association.

Ms. Cheong: The biggest challenge is navigating through a field where we do not see very many individuals who look like us. It can be discouraging at times. Being a minority in medicine also introduces imposter syndrome. The challenge may present itself as us asking ourselves: “Do we belong here?”, “Did I diagnosis my patient correctly?”

Amanda Herbert: Knowing that you are good enough! When you are in a room full of doctors and residents and your skin color, hair, background, and body type are different, the question sometimes arises: Am I good enough to be in this room? I must remind myself, with all my differences, I bring something unique to the table that makes me better than “good enough.”

Mr. Nwosu: People tend to gravitate to people who look like them, people they feel they can relate to and trust. In the rotation I’m on right now, most of the parents and patients are African American. We need more Black doctors so we can educate that community on how to take care of their body and address health morbidities before they even become an issue. Trust is huge in the patient-doctor relationship, so training more minority physicians can help increase medical knowledge and compliance of practices within minority populations.


“Representation matters and it is critical to combat the long-standing history of mistrust that exists between the healthcare systems in minority communities.”


Hannah Terefe: I think there’s always going to be more work to be done in improving the culture we are expected to thrive in. With the increase in awareness and conversations surrounding topics that affect Black and Brown doctors, I’m hopeful that we can one day get to a point where we are able to claim our spaces within the medical field comfortably. Until then, we will continue to further the legacy of those who came before us and fight for our voices to be heard and respected.

School of Medicine student, Okechukwu Nwosu.

SGU: What do you love most about your work/studies?

Dr. Shackelford: By choosing to become a primary care physician, specifically trained in family medicine, I find immense joy in those long-lasting relationships that I can have with my patients and their families through all walks of life. The continuity is unmatched! I thoroughly enjoy being at the center of their healthcare team and making sure that I am doing my best for these individuals to help prevent illnesses.

Dr. Osunwa: I love to see a positive end to any situation I’m dealing with—whether it’s a tough diagnosis that has been worked up for several days or a patient who has been on the decline that finally makes a turnaround for a full recovery.

Celebrating Black History Month: SVM students and grads eager to pave the way for change in veterinary medicine

Ms. Cheong: I love learning about the different systems in medicine and how each system interconnects. It truly allows for me to look at the body holistically and approach medicine with an open mind.

Ms. Terefe: During my last rotation in OB/GYN, I realized that no matter what specialty or field of medicine you’re interested in, there’s always more work to be done in protecting the safety, well-being, and mental health of our patients. This aspect of medicine is what keeps me motivated to continuously study to ensure that I provide my patient with the best holistic care possible.

School of Medicine student, Hannah Terefe.

SGU: How can Black doctors “pay it forward”? How do you plan to make a difference? 

Dr. Shackelford: I think the best way to “pay it forward” is to continue to be advocates for the minority patients we serve and to help create opportunities for future black physicians that will come after us. Working towards eliminating the health disparities that exist within our communities will lead these vulnerable populations towards better health outcomes.

Dr. Osunwa: As the saying goes “charity begins at home.” I plan to continue advocating for those who I am in close contact with and letting that light illuminate others. If each of us take a part in advocating and correcting microaggressions the workplace, it will make a broad difference overall.

Ms. Cheong: By serving underprivileged communities where people don’t have adequate access to healthcare and insurance. And by becoming mentors for the medical community, being available, and remembering where we all started and where we are all heading. I want to serve as a mentor and tutor to students in the field of medicine. I will advocate for minorities in medicine by making sure there is diversity and inclusion programs where we attend school or a residency.


“I plan to pay it forward primarily through mentorship. I’ve watched students give up their dreams of becoming a physician mostly because they weren’t aware of how to seek support.”


Ms. Herbert: We must mentor up-and-coming black doctors every step of the way. The support I received from Black healthcare professionals on my journey was priceless. I plan to make a difference by allowing pre-med students to shadow my practice.

Mr. Nwosu: Black doctors can pay it forward by inspiring our youth by visiting elementary schools. We need to make these areas of expertise as exciting as the areas of athletics and entertainment within black culture. Holding each other accountable and helping each other strive for greatness will increase the interest of young African Americans in going into the fields of science, technology, and mathematics.

Ms. Terefe: I plan to pay it forward primarily through mentorship. In the last few years, I’ve watched students give up their dreams of becoming a physician mostly because they weren’t aware of how to seek support. Mentorship looks different for everyone. For me, it means serving as a bank of experiential knowledge for others. If I can hand off the lessons I’ve gained, then they can continue to build upon their own foundation and path to medicine.


School of Medicine student, Amanda Herbert.



— Paul Burch



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Marine, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology Degree Gains Accreditation from Royal Society of Biology

St. George’s University School of Arts and Sciences (SAS) is pleased to announce that the Bachelor of Science Honors (BSc Hons) in Marine, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology (MWC) has been accredited by the Royal Society of Biology (RSB). It becomes the first program in the Western Hemisphere to obtain this distinction, further establishing SAS as a premier higher learning institution in the Caribbean. 

The degree program is housed within the SAS’s Department of Biology, Ecology, and Conservation (BEC). It is only the 11th program outside of the United Kingdom to earn RSB accreditation, which will last through the end of 2026.  

“We are very enthusiastic not only about the breadth of opportunities available in this program but also about its potential for current and future students,” said Dr. Lucy Eugene, dean of the SAS. “There is nowhere quite like Grenada for studying marine and terrestrial biology, and we’re so proud of what this program has become, and of all the incredible faculty and staff members who helped us attain this accreditation.”  

This marks another accreditation by an international body joining other SGU programs: 

  • School of Medicine: Grenada Medical and Dental Council (GMDC) 
  • School of Veterinary Medicine: American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) 
  • SAS BSc Nursing degree: Grenada Nursing and Midwifery Council (GNMC) and the Caribbean’s Nursing Board
  • Department of Public Health and Preventive Medicine Master of Public Health (MPH) degree: Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH)

“With this accreditation, our students can be confident that their program is consistent with internationally recognized standards and that they are prepared to undertake graduate programs,” said Dr. Cristofre Martin, chair of the Department of Biology, Ecology, and Conservation. “It also gives future employers and advisors confidence that their employees have been well trained in marine and terrestrial biology,” 

To graduate, students are required to complete 121 hours of coursework in lectures, the laboratory, and in the field, where they develop skills required to conduct ecological surveys, measure abiotic parameters, and manage and analyze data, while implementing a research design.  

“Grenada is ideal to study marine, wildlife, and conservation biology,” said Dr. Patricia Rosa, BEC deputy chair and MWC program director. “It offers a unique learning environment considering our classrooms are rainforest, dry forest, mangroves, estuaries, freshwater, and ocean ecosystems. This diversity of ecosystems is also readily accessible; one can go from the beach to a mountain peak in the same day.”  


“We’re so proud of what this program has become, and of all the incredible faculty and staff members who helped us attain this accreditation.”


All students must also complete an independent research project and a capstone thesis in their final year to graduate. Upon doing so, graduates receive an accredited honors degree and a certificate outlining the mastery of 75 technical skills related to marine biology, as well as transferrable job skills such as leadership, communications, and project management. 

“This accreditation will lead to more opportunities and recognition for our students and graduates,” said Dr. Rosa. “It will also enable our department to enhance research capacity and train more highly qualified personnel for conservation in the Caribbean.” 

What graduates are saying about the MWC program

Farihah Khan (Trinidad and Tobago), Class of 2019: 

“I can confidently say that my time at SGU as a MWC student was well spent.  The program’s high academic standards allowed me to develop a solid foundation in science and instilled in me a strong work ethic and sense of professionalism. Its Environment Conservation Outreach (ECO) student organization also encouraged me to balance academic work with extracurricular club activities. The rapport between students and educators was excellent and the teaching is unparalleled. It sets you on a positive trajectory as you enter the working world or continued studies.” 

Saiyana Baksh (Guyana), Class of 2021: 

“My experience at SGU has been no less than exceptional and enlightening. The University overall is challenging, and being an international student had additional challenges. SGU’s commitment to providing students with high academic and professional skills is constant and reliable. It has made me capable of handling anything that’s thrown my way. Their commitment to quality education allowed me to reach a level of maturity and wisdom that may not have been possible under different circumstances.” 

Brief report from October SOM faculty meetings

The SOM faculty meeting and clinical departmental meetings, held on October 16 and 17, were an excellent opportunity to hear updates from basic sciences and clinical colleagues, despite being held virtually.  

The Saturday, October 16 plenary session was an overview of the changes to the school’s administrative structure, with  presentations by SOM Dean Dr. Marios Loukas, Dr. Robert Grant, senior associate dean for clinical studies, Dr. Arlette Herry, assistant dean of multicultural affairs, and Dr. Brenda Kirkby, associate dean of accreditation.  

The plenary was followed by breakout sessions on subcommittee topics relating to the accreditation self-study. Breakout session topics included:  

  • Institutional setting and governance;  
  • Curriculum governance and content; 
  • Curriculum delivery and structure, and assessment methods and outcomes; 
  • Students;
  • Academic environment and institutional effectiveness (diversity, learning environment and quality assurance); and 
  • Faculty affairs and faculty development.   

The lively and informative discussions of these sessions were a valuable opportunity for basic sciences faculty, affiliate clinical faculty, and administrators to meet and discuss topics of common interest.  

Clinical department meetings were held on Sunday, October 17.  Discussion topics included: 

  • Changes to clerkship assessments 
  • Comparability across clinical sites within each discipline 
  • Sub-internships, and  
  • Standardized evaluation letters. 

We look forward to seeing you for the virtual SOM faculty meetings March 4-6, 2022. Please be reminded that all SOM faculty are expected to attend.  

Residency success 101: How to ace your application, interview, and first day on the job

With residency application season in full swing, it’s both an exciting and nervous time for medical students. There’s so much to do to plan your next step, and all that has to get done while finishing up medical school.

Three St. George’s University graduates who, as residency directors at their respective hospitals, know the ins and outs of the entire process. They shared some helpful tips on how students can stand out—from their application all the way through their residency years.

The panel:

  • Dorian Alexander, MD ’10, residency director, Department of Critical Care Emergency Medicine, Brookdale University Hospital Medical Center, Brooklyn, NY
  • Amber Billet, MD ’12, residency director, Department of Emergency Medicine, WellSpan Health, York, PA
  • Panagiota Korenis, MD ’08, residency director, Department of Psychiatry, BronxCare Health System, Bronx, NY

St. George’s University: What is the most important thing that students should know or do during the application process?

Dr. Korenis: Time management is critical. If you get your CV or personal statement done early on, it will save you a lot of headaches during the summertime when you’re very busy studying for your Step 2 exam or trying to get letters of recommendation sorted out.

Students also need to find letters of recommendation writers during their rotations. Faculty, especially teaching faculty, are very used to having students ask them for LORs, so don’t be shy during your rotations when they know you the best and you’re doing your best work with them. If you wait until the last minute or after some time passes, that can sometimes lead to less descriptive letters.

Dr. Billet: Metrics often drive the application process. By the sheer volume of applications that they get, a lot of program directors will just simply filter applicants out by a numeric score. We don’t do that—I have three assistant program directors and we look at every single application without applying any filters. But a lot of program directors do it just for the sake of time. So first and foremost, to really stand out, you have to maintain an exceptional GPA during your preclinical years, and secondly, score above average on the USMLE Step 1.

Dr. Alexander: Represent yourself on paper in such a way that programs are interested in pulling out your application from the hundreds or thousands of applications they receive. That prioritization starts well before the application season. It starts with preparation for your boards. You must have competitive board exam scores for specialty for which you’re applying. That doesn’t mean in the 280s or 290s, but I recommend that you score 240 or above to stand out. You must also emphasize your letters of recommendation, which helps us know who you are as a student based on the eyes on the ground in your electives or core rotations.

SGU: What’s your best tip for acing residency interviews?

Dr. Alexander: The interview is probably the largest weighted factor of the entire application process because it really helps us identify who you are and where you want to go in this specialty. Seeing that you’ve taken the time to learn who you are going to be caring for and learning from over the course of your residency, that is a really good impression to make. It lets us know that the person is serious about us because they care about what we care about.

Dr. Korenis: You’re interviewing for a job, so you’ve got to do your homework. It’s critical that you look at the program’s website and see what their mission statement is, do a PubMed search on the faculty you’ll be interviewing with to see if they’ve published papers, and go into each interview with questions. Also, with virtual interviews, you really need to do your best to ensure that you have good lighting, a good background, and that you have a camera-ready presence. Videotape yourself ahead of time and have a colleague or a friend look it over to see how you’re doing.

Dr. Billet: In addition to being prepared, I like to see an applicant who has demonstrated resilience. The personal statement gives us a glimpse into who the person is. Every applicant has a different background personally, academically, and professionally. Those who have overcome challenges show a quality of resilience that oftentimes in residency is essential.

“Every applicant has a different background personally, academically, and professionally. Those who have overcome challenges shows a quality of resilience that oftentimes in residency is essential.”

SGU: What qualities are you looking for in a residency candidate?

Dr. Billet: The residents who will excel in our program or any program are the ones who are self-motivated and driven to push themselves to their highest potential, and have demonstrated that.

Dr. Alexander: We want people who have qualities of excellent work, are hardworking, and demonstrate consistency. Residency is not a sprint. To have that sustainable consistency of excellent work, it takes effort. Understanding that effort and identifying individuals who are willing to put in that effort is extremely important.

Dr. Korenis: Curiosity, flexibility, and the understanding that residency is like an apprenticeship that’s going to involve a lot of individual learning. You’re getting a lot of experiential training and you also have to have the aptitude to study while you work. For us, it’s critical to see a paper trail that shows genuine interest in the field and program that you’re applying as well as a paper trail of scholarly activity.

SGU: What should a new resident do on day one?

Dr. Alexander: Everyone thinks that on the first day on the job, you need to have all the answers and see a lot of patients. That’s not what we expect from you. All we expect is enthusiasm, someone who’s willing to learn, who’s interested in getting to know the environment that they’re working in, and loves what they’re doing. We want people who will engross themselves into this environment system and make it their home.

Dr. Korenis: Nobody in any program is expecting you to know how to be an internist, a psychiatrist, or a surgeon on your first day. Our job is to help you on this journey. Just do your best to get to work early to get a lay of the land, to eat breakfast, and to calm some of your nerves. Also, take time during that day to communicate with a loved one or a friend to check in and give yourself a little bit of a break.

Dr. Billet: Greet everybody with a smile and introduce yourself to everyone on the staff. In our department, there are nurses, nursing techs, patient care advocates, social workers, physical therapists, and many others. The residents who do are true team players and go out of their way to establish those strong working relationships early.

SGU: From your perspective, what makes a good resident?

Dr. Billet: The residents who are most successful are those who aren’t afraid to ask for help when they need it. Asking for help and recognizing when you need help is not a sign of weakness; it’s a sign of strength. The other thing is communication. Residency can be a roller coaster. It is extremely rewarding but also very challenging. That’s why communication with your attendings, your residency leadership team, and even your friends and family, to help support you and get you through this process is very important.

Dr. Korenis: A good resident is a team player, someone who is highly ethical and professional, and shows up every day with a positive attitude. A good resident doesn’t cut corners, they do their job thoroughly, and take their time to get to know their patients. And lastly, in times of stress, they rise to action and come up with solutions for their unique situation.

Dr. Alexander: A good resident is a person you want to work with every day. They care for their patients, they have a strong work ethic, they have a good drive, they are teachable, and they make a positive impact in the clinical environment. There are also the intangibles. Is this person nice? Is this person funny? Is this person caring? Is this someone who, when it’s three am, someone I could sit down with and have a conversation. Is this person someone who I want to have by my side when things go awry? Those are the intangibles that are all-encompassing of a person’s character, worth, and personality.

– Brett Mauser

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In the Community: SGU Faculty and Students Providing Crucial COVID Testing and Vaccinations in Grenada

As attempts to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 continues, St. George’s University remains a trusted ally to the Government of Grenada, with several SGU faculty members and students stepping up to volunteer in the Government’s most recent initiative—hosting mobile testing and vaccination clinics throughout the island.

The team of SGU faculty volunteers was comprised of Drs. Nilo Alvarez Toledo, Sharmila Upadhya, Vivek Nuguri, Vajinder Singh, Kesava Mandalaneni, Karl Theodore, Subramanya Upadhya, Anthusia Hortance Pavion, Sheiban Shakeri, Edidiong Udoyen, Clayton Taylor, and Allister Rechea. They worked in close conjunction with the Ministry of Health’s team, including Drs. Carol McIntosh, Tyhiesia Donald, Nicole Forte, Nurse Audrey Lyons, and others, to reach out to the population in the countryside parishes of St. David, St. Patrick, St. Mark, St. John, and St. Andrew.

“As a physician, I know firsthand the importance of getting vaccinated,” said Dr. Vajinder Singh, deputy chair in the Department of Pathology at SGU. “With Grenada’s limited healthcare infrastructure and resources, I felt it was my duty to volunteer for the vaccination drive in the hopes that one day soon we can achieve ‘herd immunity.’ Our overall goal here is to reach the most remote parts of Grenada to spread awareness of the importance of getting vaccinated, and to test and vaccinate as many people as we can.”

“We are so proud of these initiatives and all of those who have been in the field to support our beloved host country with all-important testing and vaccinations,” said Dr. Charles Modica, chancellor of SGU. “The country and the citizens of Grenada have supported the University throughout our journey, every step of the way, and we’re glad to have people within our community who can lend a helping hand at this critical time.”

These mobile clinics are considered extremely beneficial in reaching the elderly and the most vulnerable on island, who by themselves would not have been able to go to the hospital or health centers to get vaccinated. The volunteers were able to administer hundreds of vaccines, provide education on the need to get vaccinated, and conduct testing for COVID-19.


“The country and the citizens of Grenada have supported the University throughout our journey, every step of the way, and we’re glad to have people within our community who can lend a helping hand at this critical time.”


“The need of the hour is to vaccinate as many people as possible against COVID-19,” stated Dr. Kesava Mandalaneni, assistant professor of neuroscience in the SOM. “As a proud Grenadian (at heart), and more importantly as a physician, I feel obligated to stand with my brothers and sisters in the healthcare fraternity, who are working tirelessly to contain the effects of COVID-19 in our communities.”

SGU Nursing Students Heed the Call to Volunteer

Also, eager to lend a helping hand were School of Arts and Sciences students in the SGU Nursing Program. In collaboration with the Ministry of Health, the future nurses have been volunteering at health centers across the country, providing Grenada’s healthcare professionals with much-needed assistance, a chance for a break, and camaraderie. As Grenada enters its second week of a two-week restriction of movements on weekends, the nursing students have also volunteered to work at pop-up testing and vaccination clinics in rural villages island wide.

“I choose to volunteer because I heard the call for help and I decided to answer it,” said Kayonna Jones, a second-year nursing student at SGU. “I also believe that volunteering will not only benefit me as a student in gaining hands-on experience working alongside other healthcare professionals in a pandemic, but also my hard work and commitment to educating, testing, and vaccinating will also help to ensure a safe environment for the Grenadian community.”

“The concepts of altruism and selflessness are synonymous with nursing,” said Dr. Jennifer Solomon, chair and director of the Department of Nursing and Allied Health Sciences, SGU. “Many of our students have volunteered, working above and beyond to assist their colleagues, and local communities during the COVID 19 pandemic. Although students, they have the skills that are needed and, under supervision, can meaningfully contribute—giving support to their future colleagues on the front line. At SGU, we have a commitment to provide excellence in education, which in turn translates to excellence in care. I am so humbled and proud of our SGU nursing students.”

SGU and Grenada Partnership

As many countries, including Grenada grapple with the ramifications of the persistent coronavirus pandemic, St. George’s University has reaffirmed its commitment to its host country. From partnering with the Government of Grenada on managing donations to help combat COVID-19, to providing expert advice from its alumni on Grenada broadcast networks, SGU continues to be a loyal partner in helping to limit the spread of the virus.

In close collaboration with the Government, the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), and the Windward Islands Research and Education Foundation (WINDREF), a research and education foundation based at SGU, one of the first diagnostic testing facilities in the Caribbean and was established at the True Blue campus. SGU’s testing site has since become a beacon of excellence for the entire region, with its diagnostic team helping to design and set up the Ministry of Health’s testing site at Grenada General Hospital, including training of lab staff and troubleshooting with initial qPCR lab testing.

Additionally, responding to the need of the General Hospital, which had just two ventilators, designed to mechanically assist patients with breathing, for the entire population of more than 100,000 people—St. George’s University utilized its international resources to facilitate the acquisition and delivery of 18 additional ventilators.

SGU also secured tens of thousands of pieces of personal protection equipment, ranging from gloves and gowns to goggles and facemasks, for medical personnel as well as members of the community. In addition, the University was able to bring in 18 combination defibrillator monitors, two handheld ultrasound machines, two portable X-ray machines, as well as blood gas analyzers and supplies.

“The people of Grenada, Carriacou, and Petite Martinique are extremely resilient,” added Dr. Mandalaneni. “They have overcome many challenges in the past and will do so once again. With the help from our SGU community, we will all do our part to overcome this challenge together, so that we advance and prosper as one people and one community.”

– Ray-Donna Peters


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