SGU professor looks back on one year combating COVID-19

Dr. Sylvie de Souza (front) and the emergency medicine team at The Brooklyn Hospital Center in New York. Photos provided by Sylvie de Souza

Dr. Sylvie de Souza, director of emergency medicine at The Brooklyn Hospital Center (TBHC), and a clinical assistant professor for St. George’s University, was on the front lines when it all began. The day was March 1, 2020, when the first COVID-19 case was reported in New York City.

As the coronavirus spread throughout the city, putting pressure on the people and the mechanisms to treat ill patients, she remembers as much about what happened as the way it made her and her colleagues feel. It reminded her another catastrophic event—September 11, 2001.

“We immediately went into preparedness mode while the memory of 9/11 lurked in the back of our minds,” Dr. de Souza said. “Although the nature of the event was different, we all sensed that something major and perhaps terrible was about to happen. The anxiety of the unknown heading our way was palpable.”

A year later, Dr. de Souza reflected on the entire experience, how she and her team weathered the storm, and the hope she has for—and sees in—future SGU medical students who she trains for the fast-paced world of emergency medicine.

 

“As emergency workers, we had always known the importance of functioning as a team. This time, however, there was a whole new twist.”

St. George’s University: How would you describe the past year in the emergency department at TBHC?

Dr. Sylvie de Souza: In September 2001, many of us remember standing by and watching New York’s bravest selflessly run into the burning building when everyone was running out, running toward the danger, into the fire, to save as many as they could. Sadly, when the unthinkable happened, we were the ones who went to the firehouses, like most New Yorkers, to praise the bravery and console the unimaginable loss. As emergency workers, there was not much else we could do other than what we had been trained to do: treat the walking wounded and the first responders. And we did, for weeks to come. Our lives were never directly endangered on 9/11.

This all changed in March of 2020 when the danger came directly at us. The fire came to us, and it grew uncontrollably with each day that passed. We stood in it, day after day, for hours on end, with little sleep, food, or drink, hardly recognizable in our plastic gear, trying to help as many as we could, with our own fear in the pit of our stomach, watching some of us fall, victims of the vicious enemy we were fighting. Many came to help in every way they could, but everybody knew, as we did, that this time around, it was as though we were the ones standing in the burning building, right there among the victims we were trying to save.

What an amazing twist of fate it was that, this time around, it was us New York’s bravest who came to clap for every evening. If anyone knew what we were feeling, I thought, it would be them. They clapped with the rest of the bystanders, a daily incantation of sorts, to harness the courage they knew we needed to keep going.

SGU: How did 2020 change you as a physician?

Dr. de Souza: I once read this sentence in a French publication. I do not recall who the author is, but it stayed with me: “Courage does not consist of doing the work that is expected of you; that is competence. Real courage is to conquer one’s fear and see the duty before the effort.”

I cannot recall a time in my entire career when this sentence rang truer or when I was, along with my colleagues, tested to honor the oath we had taken to come to the aid of others. It took all we had to overcome our own fears. We worked endless days and nights, not knowing what the fate of our patients would be, or our own, instead trusting that we were doing exactly what we were supposed to do—to follow our calling and answer the call of duty.

Many lessons were learned in the face of such adversity and uncertainty: 2020 was a year of great loss, but also a year filled with a sense of community, resilience, and hope. I face 2021 with a renewed sense of purpose and the knowledge that preparedness and togetherness are likely the most important tools we possess to confront adversity.

  • Dr. Sylvie de Souza on the floors with her colleague at TBHC.

  • All-important medical supplies

  • Makeshift hospital rooms helped with the patient overflow.

  • Messages of support and gratitude poured in from people of all ages.

  • As healthcare workers supported patients, New York City lent its support too.

  • National media outlets told Dr. de Souza’s story.

  • Dr. de Souza has found SGU students to be “driven, focused, and resilient.”

SGU: In what way has your role changed the most during the pandemic?

Dr. de Souza: With the restrictions imposed by NYC Department of Health at the beginning of the pandemic, no visitors were allowed in the hospital. Those measures were in place to protect those who were not yet infected.

As a result, we were no longer simply caregivers to the growing number of critically ill patients. We suddenly became their only “visitors,” their only connection to the outside world and their loved ones, their consolers, their prayer partners, their only and sometimes last human interaction, and most poignantly, the last ones to hold their hands as they slipped into unconsciousness or died. No amount of training could have prepared us to take on a responsibility of that scale. Watching patients die deprived of their loved ones or making their hastened last goodbyes on a video monitor was almost too much to bear.

Surrounded by all this despair and grief, we became closer as a team; we suddenly felt responsible for one another and supported each other through each day. As emergency workers, we had always known the importance of functioning as a team. This time, however, there was a whole new twist. We were now a team who had to operate in constant danger, facing mortality, that of those we cared for … and our own. We shared the same fears about our own unpredictable fate, fighting this vicious invisible enemy, not unlike a platoon sent to combat.

SGU: What can St. George’s University students rotating with the TBHC EM department expect to learn?

Dr. de Souza: Several faculty, myself included, partake in the weekly didactic conferences for EM residents and medical students. Our program has a dedicated clerkship director who organizes a series of didactic sessions and workshops where students receive direct feedback from the faculty. Aside from some exposure to a series of common complaints, medical students rotating through our department will leave the clerkship with a basic knowledge on the approach to the undifferentiated patient and introductory skills for the rapid recognition of the critically ill patient. We also place a lot of emphasis on the ability to communicate and function effectively in a team.

The Brooklyn Hospital Center. The oldest hospital in Brooklyn was one of many in New York City to combat the emerging COVID-19 crisis.

SGU: Is there a personality trait that you find to be common among SGU medical students?

Dr. de Souza: I have had the pleasure of working many SGU students who rotated through our department over the years. Several of them became some of our most stellar residents. I have found them to be driven, focused, and resilient. Most salient is their overall ability to adapt and make the best out of any situation.

SGU: What is one piece of advice that you would give to a student who was considering a career in emergency medicine?

Dr. de Souza: During your ED rotations, immerse yourself in the ED life and culture. Merge with the ED team. It’s not about anyone of us and it’s not about you; it’s about the patient. When the team wins, and you participated, you won. Don’t worry so much about having all the answers. Be perceived as a vibrant, passionate, and compassionate member of the team—someone who anyone would want by their side in the trenches.

– Brett Mauser

Get to Know Dr. Sylvie de Souza

Video produced by The Brooklyn Hospital Center

New On-Campus Lab Strengthens Diagnostics, Education, and Research in Grenada

With the development of a state-of-the-art diagnostic molecular facility on campus, St. George’s University has assured its community and the country of Grenada that SGU will be prepared to do its part should another infectious disease outbreak surface in the near or distant future.

The laboratory is housed in the on-campus Windward Islands Research and Education Foundation (WINDREF) building, and was constructed to meet World Health Organization (WHO) standards.

“By upgrading our laboratory, we can now provide a long-term diagnostic molecular facility that could provide timely and appropriate diagnostic services for the University and potentially the region,” said Dr. Calum Macpherson, director of research at SGU. Previously, most diagnostic testing had to be sent outside of Grenada for analysis, often creating longer lead times for receiving results.

In addition to diagnostics, the lab will serve as a teaching facility for graduate and undergraduate students interested in molecular technology elective courses. It will also be a resource for faculty and students to conduct research on emerging and re-emerging vector-borne diseases and other infections.

By demonstrating the capacity to accurately and safely test hundreds of cases each week, Dr. Macpherson envisions that the lab will further enhance international and regional partnerships with such groups as the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), and universities worldwide.

 

We can now provide a long-term diagnostic molecular facility that could provide timely and appropriate diagnostic services for the University and potentially the region.”

 

Commitment to accuracy and efficiency 

SGU’s molecular lab will be overseen by Elsa Chitan, the head of the WINDREF laboratories, and will be initially utilized to conduct all COVID-19 testing on campus. Vanessa Matthew-Belmar, MSc ’16, a lab technician in the School of Veterinary Medicine, will use the lab to conduct her PhD studies on COVID-19 at SGU.

“The molecular lab will provide a diverse group of students and faculty with a molecular facility, which is increasingly the Gold Standard for diagnosing infectious diseases,” said Dr. Trevor Noël, director of SGU’s field research studies in the Office of Research and deputy director of WINDREF. Since its founding in 1994 as a non-governmental organization in Grenada and as a 501(c)(3) non-profit charitable foundation, WINDREF has been committed to health and environmental development through research and education programs, by promoting collaborative relationships between internationally recognized scholars and regional scientists, and by adhering to the highest ethical research and academic standards. WINDREF’s current donors include the NIH, Grand Challenges Canada, Nature Conservancy International, FAO, The Spencer Foundation, Global Challenges Research Fund, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Global Water Partnership, and many other entities.

SGU’s molecular lab in the School of Veterinary Medicine served as Grenada’s initial national SARS-CoV-2 testing site at the onset of the pandemic last year. It was one of approximately 250 quality control labs around the world overseen by the WHO. Its results were in 100 percent concordance with the expected test results from the WHO. The national testing laboratory located at the Grenada General Hospital continues to collaborate with WINDREF personnel on best diagnostic practices.

PCR testing continues at SGU’s Open Modica Hall, where Dr. Kathy Yearwood, director of University Clinical Services and Dr. Jennifer Solomon, chair of nursing and allied health science, join staff from the University Clinic, nursing program, and WINDREF COVID-19 team, have been testing the SGU affiliated community and contractors. The program has tested almost 8,000 individuals over the past year with the majority of the results returned to those tested within eight hours. A rapid turnaround is essential for the test to be useful for epidemiological surveillance, and its success played a significant role in limiting the numbers of COVID-19 infections in Grenada over the past year.

Dr. Trevor Noel receives his COVID-19 vaccine as part of Grenada’s initial rollout.

SGU faculty step forward in Grenada vaccine rollout  

Drs. Macpherson and Noël were amongst the first to receive the COVID-19 vaccine developed by Oxford/AstraZeneca SARS-CoV-2 vaccine on February 12. They joined the Grenada Prime Minister, Dr. the Right Hon. Keith Mitchell; Minister of Health the Hon. Nickolas Steele; and a number of cabinet members, senior administrators from the Ministry of Health, and some frontline workers.

“In Grenada, non-pharmaceutical measures have been in place from the beginning, whether it’s a limited curfew, the mandatory wearing of masks in public, frequent washing of hands, physical distancing, along with a rapid test, trace, and isolate and quarantine program, all helped to maintain the low numbers of COVID-19 infections in Grenada,” Dr. Macpherson said. “As a result, we have had so few cases, which means that almost everyone is immunologically naïve and susceptible to infection. The vaccine is the final piece to protect everyone in Grenada.”

Both Dr. Macpherson and Dr. Noël reported having only transitory mild side effects from the first of two vaccine shots. The immediate rollout of the vaccine will be administered by the Community and Public Health nurses of the Ministry of Health at the Grenada General Hospital. Dr. Yearwood and members of the SGU clinical team and WINDREF COVID-19 team were among those to receive the vaccine early in its rollout.

“The strong partnership between the Ministry of Health, SGU, WINDREF, PAHO/WHO and the participation of the people of Grenada with the non-pharmaceutical measures allowed Grenada to limit the number of cases of COVID-19 in Grenada to extremely low levels,” said Dr. Macpherson. “It has been a pleasure for us to be a part of this remarkable public health achievement.”

– Brett Mauser

Under the Microscope: COVID-19 Vaccines in Grenada

An up-close look at SARS-CoV-2, the virus that vaccines are combatting in Grenada and around the world. Image courtesy National Institutes of Health

Dr. G. Richard Olds, president of St. George’s University, has committed his life to studying tropical and infectious diseases. All over the world, he has seen how viruses—these microscopic parasites that are invisible to the naked eye—can spread through a community, leaving damage in their wake.

One of the best methods to combat the virus is the use of vaccines. A version of the SARS-CoV-2 vaccine began being administered in Grenada last week, and a full program is currently being rolled out that places essential workers, elderly and Grenadian residents with pre-existing conditions on the priority list. Having long studied vaccines and their positive effect on healthcare, Dr. Olds is an ardent supporter of their implementation.

“I got my first COVID vaccine today,” he said.

Dr. Olds connected with SGU News to shed light on the vaccine that is currently being distributed in Grenada, what citizens can expect when receiving it, and the long-term outlook for COVID-19 in the country.

St. George’s University: What vaccine does Grenada currently have in stock? Is it being administered elsewhere in the world and how does it compare to other versions?

Dr. G. Richard Olds: Grenada is currently using the AstraZeneca vaccine, which is currently being used extensively in England. It was developed in partnership with Oxford University. In contrast to the two vaccines being used in the US, it is a chimpanzee adenovirus that has had the message for the spike protein placed within it. This vaccine can’t make humans sick, but it induces a high level of protection against COVID-2. Just like the mRNA vaccines used in the US, this vaccine requires two doses but has the advantage of being stored in cold but not freezing environments.

 

“If everyone doesn’t take the vaccine, we run the risk that COVID will circulate for a very long time, and the more the virus circulates, the greater the chance that a new variant will develop that the vaccine will not protect people from.”

SGU: How exactly does this vaccine provide protection against SARS-CoV-2?

Dr. Olds: The COVID-2 virus attaches to human cells through a molecule on its surface called a spike protein. All current COVID vaccines target this molecule. Vaccinated people develop antibodies that block the binding of the spike protein to human cells. Unable to bind, the virus is unable to infect cells.

SGU: How long is the protection expected to last?

Dr. Olds: How long the vaccine will protect those who receive it is currently unknown, but it looks like all vaccines provide protection for at least a year and probably longer.

SGU: Is the vaccine available in one shot or does it require multiple shots over a period of time?

Dr. Olds: Most of the seven COVID vaccines require two shots, but the Johnson and Johnson vaccine only needs one shot. This is not currently available in Grenada. The interval between the two shots varies, but about a month is the most common. There are experiments in England now with the AstraZeneca vaccine with longer periods between the shots.

SGU: How safe is the vaccine that is available in Grenada? Are there any side effects?

Dr. Olds: All the COVID vaccines appear very safe. In blinded control studies, no difference was seen between vaccinated people and those that got sugar water in terms of long-term side effects. In the short run, vaccinated people will likely feel soreness in their arm, feel poorly for a few days, and may have a low-grade fever. None of these responses are serious, and they often respond to over-the-counter medicine.

The AstraZeneca vaccine currently in Grenada does not seem to cause severe allergic reactions. All minor reactions to the vaccine appear more commonly in reaction to the second vaccine, and are a sign that they are working.

SGU: Are there any pre-existing conditions that would prevent someone from getting it?

Dr. Olds: If a person is severely immune compromised—such as being infected with the AIDS virus, on high-dose steroids, getting chemotherapy, or having an organ transplant—they should consult a doctor before getting the vaccine.

SGU: Once an individual receives the vaccine, how will restrictions change for them?

Dr. Olds: Even after you get fully vaccinated, people will still need to wear a mask and socially distance until everyone on the island is vaccinated. That’s because vaccinated people are protected from dying from COVID, but they could still transmit the virus to others. Once everyone is vaccinated, life should return to normal.

SGU: Do you believe that all eligible individuals should receive the vaccine?

Dr. Olds: Everyone over 18 years of age should get the vaccine. Soon we will know if children over 12 should get the vaccine. The vaccine is very safe, and COVID can lead to serious illness or fatalities. In addition, COVID can cause long-term health issues for people. By now, millions of people in England have already received the vaccine currently available in Grenada without a problem.

If everyone doesn’t take the vaccine, we run the risk that COVID will circulate for a very long time, and the more the virus circulates, the greater the chance that a new variant will develop that the vaccine will not protect people from. It’s a race, and I hope this time humans win.

Watch Dr. Olds’ appearance on MTV News in Grenada

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SAS Grad Commits Life to Serving Community as Grenada Police Commissioner

Grenada Police Commissioner Edvin Martin

Edvin Martin, BSc ’08, the current commissioner of the Royal Grenada Police Force (RGPF)  came from humble beginnings. He grew up in a Grenadian household of seven kids, inspired by his hard-working mother and his father,  a police constable who was the motivating factor for his son joining the RGPF. Mr. Martin attributes his humility and simplicity to this family construct, and one he is very proud of today.

Well into his thirties, he made the decision to pursue a degree program at SGU. He recalls one of his scares at the beginning was his conscious weakness in his math abilities. In an interview with SGU News, the recently appointed commissioner talks about the way he conquered his fear of math, how SGU aided in his career development, and being able to achieve success at any stage in life.

St. George’s University: What are your responsibilities as commissioner of the RGPF?

Commissioner Edvin Martin: As Commissioner of Police, my responsibilities consist of a complete superintendence command and control of the entire RGPF apparatus, and in so doing I am supported by deputy commissioners and assistant commissioners of police.

SGU: Can you describe your journey with the RGPF and specifically your career mobility?

Commissioner Martin: In addition to my parental upbringing and guidance, my journey with the RGPF has been very interesting, and certainly one I attribute almost everything to. I will remain eternally grateful for the opportunities afforded to me. From the early days of recruitment, I received the baton of honor, and from then on, I received several successive promotions, where I was subsequently promoted to assistant commissioner of police, deputy and ultimately to the rank of commissioner.

SGU: What do you consider to be the most rewarding aspect of your job?

Commissioner Martin: Certainly it is in service to people. I’ll give you an example. When I launched the police farm watch scheme, a farmer came to me when he noticed that a lot of his yams had gone missing. I understood this was his livelihood and knew we had to help. He was so elated when we found the individuals stealing and was able to get a conviction in court. At the end of the day, if what I do results in elevation and recognition for me, then so be it, but it has never been the driving force. The greatest satisfaction is how I can make people’s lives better and that continues to be my motivation onto this day.

SGU: How have your studies at SGU helped with your career development?

Commissioner Martin: SGU provided the academic foundation that allowed my career to propel in many ways. Predominantly, I didn’t enter with the strongest number of subjects, but my experience and several other courses, including an accelerated promotion course and studies at the US-based Federal Bureau of Investigation Academy, aided as well. Having completed my SGU degree and graduating with honors (magna cum laude), that served me well in getting accepted into UK universities and made it easy in the ultimate decision for my being granted a Chevening scholarship award.

SGU: Were there any services offered at SGU that you would have taken advantage of during your time there?

Commissioner Martin: I used the Department of Educational Services to assist with the issue of building my math capability. I had to start at the foundation level because math was not one of the O-level subjects I had. I received an A in math for critical thinking and a B in statistics, so I pat myself on the back for doing so. You can do well once you invest the time in the extra support mechanisms available to help you succeed.

SGU: What would you say to someone who wants to advance their career later in life?

Commissioner Martin: You can start to achieve success at any stage in life. If you weren’t the best student, it is not the end. I know several persons who did not excel in their earlier years and today these persons have degrees. The opportunities are there. By and large, once you are disciplined, motivated, and believe in yourself, you can aim for the sky and certainly do well.

SGU: How do you respond to comments about you being one of the most eloquent speakers in Grenada?

Commissioner Martin: I am absolutely flattered by the statement but, quite frankly, I think differently. I am humbled by the comment and I will interpret that to mean that when I do speak people understand, digest, and find clarity, and I will use that as a motivating statement.

SGU: What advice would you give to someone thinking of SGU?

Commissioner Martin:  I would wholeheartedly recommend SGU. In fact, my daughter is in her last semester pursuing a nursing degree, and it is testimony of my support and confidence in the school. I have great faith in the institution, and the fact that I was able to use my graduation certification from SGU to leverage further academic education in the UK further justifies that. The University is also very accessible and affordable to Grenadians, as it offers a number of scholarship opportunities.  I highly recommend it.

– Tornia Charles

SGU Celebrates Alumnae Impact on National Women Physicians Day

In honor of National Women Physicians Day, St. George’s University’s School of Medicine Alumni Association (SOMAA) held a virtual panel discussion to celebrate its accomplished alumnae making a difference every day in the medical community. The group of esteemed panelists delved into an open and informative discussion about their perspectives on not only being a woman physician but also the impact that female leaders can have on their organizations, as well as the impact those leadership roles can have on the women who hold them.

“I’ve learned to become a servant leader and a collaborative leader,” stated Gina Puglisi, MD ’87, attending adult hospitalist for Envision Physicians in New Jersey and regional medical director of hospital medicine for NEOU. “I’m a leader that gives to their team and makes sure their team is always happy. Everything I do is for the team because if the team is happy then the patients are happy.”

As a physician working in emergency medicine for the past 31 years, Dr. Puglisi has been in a leadership position since her third year out of residency.

“Most studies show that servant leadership and collaborative leadership are the most successful types of leadership,” added Dr. Puglisi. “As a servant leader, I do everything I can to make things easier for my team on a day-to-day basis so, that they can spend more time at the bedside with patients and less time getting bogged down with other aspects of their jobs.”

In addition to sharing their personal stories about the unique qualities that women leaders and physicians bring to the table—and some of the barriers they’ve faced along the way—the panelists also shared insights on how to balance their careers with their personal lives, wellness, and other passions and hobbies they may have.

“Achieving work/life balance is a continued work in progress,” said Marie Raphaelle Jean, MD ’09, a pediatric gastroenterologist at the University of Arizona. “No one has it completely figured out. However, what has served me well is that I became non-negotiable with giving life to activities that brought balance to my mind, body, and spirit. When I focus on those three things, it keeps me grounded.”

“Another good way to strike that balance is that when one vacation ends, start scheduling your next one so that you prevent burn out,” she added. “And lastly, remind yourself that you didn’t get to this place by chance. We have been vetted and we absolutely belong where we are and deserve to be where we are.”

With St. George’s University being the second largest source of physicians for the entire US workforce, the SOMAA was proud to host the online event acknowledging its female doctors who continue to provide excellent care and are committed to making a difference in the lives of their patients every day. The five SGU graduates on the panel represented a variety of specialties, including gynecology, radiology, emergency medicine, internal medicine, and pediatrics.

“It’s impossible to not be inspired by these women physicians—their stories and their impact on healthcare,” said Robert Alig, vice president of alumni affairs at St. George’s University. “It’s incredibly powerful to hear them speak and to connect their experiences back to their education here at St. George’s University. It’s unmistakable that they care deeply about their profession, one another, and about SGU, but most important is their commitment to educating themselves, their peers, and their colleagues to make a difference in healthcare.”

– Ray-Donna Peters

A closer look at COVID-19 vaccines

Matthew J. Memoli, MD ’02, director of Laboratory of Infectious Diseases (LID) Clinical Studies Unit at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, explains what people can expect should they choose to receive a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine, while also sharing what they can do to stay healthy in the meantime.

The Government of Grenada announced earlier this month that the country would receive more than 45,000 vaccine doses for its citizens.

 

From Politics to Academia

When Dr. Damian Greaves changed course in his career, switching from politics to academic, he had always intended to return. But more than 15 years into his time as an educator at St. George’s University, he has reveled in the opportunity to pass on his knowledge to future leaders in Grenada and throughout the Caribbean. 

“When I teach, I am on top of the world because it is not just a job, it is a vocation—to inspire and mold minds,” said Dr. Greaves, a professor in the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences. 

He came to St. George’s University in 2006 after spending five years as the Minister of Health in St. Lucia, first serving as a part-time lecturer while working on a Master of Public Health (MPH) from SGU, and a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) at Walden University.  

“Leveraging on various experiences gives a broader view on what is happening, and therefore translates to a more panoramic and rigorous analysis of matters that may come to my attention,” said Dr. Greaves. “It also gives you a more global prospective.”

Roles Run the Gamut

Even with all of his roles at SGU, he traveled to St. Lucia monthly to attend parliamentary sessions. All told, the former Minister served 15 years in politics, including three as senator, for which he led the opposition in the House. Dr. Greaves was also Minister for Culture and Community Development. His passion for culture led him to write songs, own a Carnival band, and participate in calypso competitions.  

Nevertheless, Dr. Greaves remained at SGU as an instructor, teaching Social Sciences and Medicine to premedical and preveterinary students, as well as sociology courses such as Race, Class and Gender; Caribbean Social Structure; Caribbean Government and Politics; and Introduction to Political Science. 

When you are teaching, you have to be well read. One of your toolkits is to continue to research and read, particularly in this ever-evolving technical age.” Dr. Greaves said. “If you’re a sociologist and you don’t have a working knowledge of economics, political science, other areas of social sciences and even outside of those, your analysis will be the limited because you must engage other subject matters that impact what you’re interrogating.” 

He also leads a very active campus life, serving as president of the School of Arts and Sciences Senate as well as the University Senate. He is also a member of various committees such as the Graduate and Undergraduate Committees, Accreditation Committee, and SGU IRB; a body with a mandate to review the content of research studies. 

Outside of SGU, Dr. Greaves is the director of the Healthy Caribbean Coalition, sits on the National Advisory Board for National Health Insurance, and is chair of the Grenada National Commission on Non-Communicable Diseases, a position he has held since 2017Dr. Greaves is also writing his first book, which focuses on health management in the Caribbean.   

– Tornia Charles

The News Stories that Defined the School of Medicine in 2020

2020 Top News Stories

For a wide range of reasons, 2020 is a year that we won’t soon forget—from the heroism on the front lines of medicine, powerful demonstrations surrounding racial equality, and the change to our day-to-day lives and our perspectives.

It was a monumental year in so many ways for St. George’s University School of Medicine, its faculty, staff, and students. SGU made history when students and graduates secured 1,124 residency positions across the US and Canada in 2020—a 95 percent residency placement rate for eligible 2020 US graduates who applied for US residencies* and a record for the University. Over the summer, approximately 450 of those grads began their residencies in New York-New Jersey area hospitals, some of the hardest-hit hospitals in the nation during the early days of the COVID pandemic.

SGU profiled many alumni across specialties and locales who tirelessly donated their time and services to help those suffering from the disease, some of those who sacrificed seeing their own families to help the sickest of COVID patients.

It was also a year in which diversity and equality was brought to the limelight. The University had frank discussions with its entire community about the importance of listening, learning, and supporting, not only in the current climate but going forward.

These are the stories that underscore the School of Medicine’s strengths and define us as a University as we aim to enhance student success and grow the number of healthcare professionals around the world. Read on to see the top news stories of 2020 on SGU.edu.

*SGU student data as of November 2020

Match Day 2020

Match Day 2020

With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, SGU students and graduates were called on to assist in the fight against the virus. On Match Day 2020 in March, they learned of where they would begin their career as physicians. Positions were secured across a wide range of specialties—including anesthesiology, emergency medicine, orthopedic surgery, pathology, and many more—and spanned across the United States.

All told, 1,124 SGU graduates had started residency in the US and Canada in 2020, which equals a 95 percent residency placement rate for eligible 2020 US graduates who applied for US residencies*—a record for the University—including some 450 SGU grads in New York-New Jersey area hospitals. They joined a proud network of 18,000 SGU physicians who have made a difference in healthcare around the world.

*SGU student data as of November 2020

 

A Conversation on Diversity in the Medical Profession: Thoughts from SGU’s Student National Medical Association

With the tragic deaths of people like George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and many others, and as social justice events were held around the world, SGU News connected with SGU chapter members of the Student National Medical Association (SNMA). The national organization is committed to supporting current and future underrepresented minority medical students by addressing the needs of underserved communities, and increasing the number of “clinically excellent, culturally competent, and socially conscious physicians.” SGU chapter members shared their perspectives on the world around us, the importance of the SNMA’s mission, and how students can get involved.

 

Wyckoff Hospital

SGU Adds New US Clinical Sites for Medical School Student Core Rotations

SGU’s clinical network is growing. This fall, seven US hospitals joined the SGU family, including several in California as well as a new venue into the South that allow third-year medical students to receive core clinical training during a crucial time in healthcare.

These hospitals included:

  • Baton Rouge General Medical Center in Baton Rouge, LA
  • Doctor’s Medical Center in Modesto, CA
  • Hemet Valley Medical Center in Hemet, CA
  • MacNeal Hospital in Maywood, IL
  • Mission Community Hospital in Panorama City, CA
  • Westchester General Hospital in Miami, FL
  • Wyckoff Heights Medical Center in Brooklyn, NY

 

Georgios Mihalopulos, MD '18

True Calling: From the Navy to the OR

Critical problem solving. A wide array of challenges. The operating room was exactly the type of workplace atmosphere that Georgios Mihalopulos, MD ’18, set out to find when he began working toward a career in medicine. It also mirrored his life as an officer in the Canadian Navy, a position that he held before and during medical school.

“I always say I love stress and I hate sleep, so that’s why surgery is the perfect field for me,” said Mihalopulos, now a third-year surgery resident at Waterbury Hospital in Connecticut. “It just seemed like the most natural thing in the world for me to do.”

 

SGU and Grenada partner to address COVID-19 pandemic

As the coronavirus pandemic spread throughout the world, SGU and the Government of Grenada worked hand in hand, developing and operating a COVID testing facility, and bringing in new devices to treat ill patients.

SAS grad: Don’t miss out on “the entire experience” at SGU

2020 graduate Dominic Gaspard has used his degree to earn a teaching position at Anglican High School in St. George’s.

From his time as a student at St. George’s University, Dominic Gaspard values the people he met and the adventures he went on as much as foundation it provided for his career

“If you come to SGU with the mindset of obtaining a degree as fast as possible, you would have missed the entire experience,” said the 2020 School of Arts and Sciences alum who earned degrees in international business as well as accounting and finance.

Currently a teacher at the Anglican High School in Grenada, Mr. Gaspard is also a full-time entrepreneur involved in two business ventures, one of which started as a project for the SAS Principles of Marketing course in which they were tasked with creating a marketing plan for a new product. Their product of choice: insect repellent candles.

SAS grad Dominic Gaspard encourages students to take advantage of the “entire experience” at SGU

After receiving positive reviews, he encouraged his classmates to join him in pursuing the concept further. They later took the idea to the Grenada Industrial Development Corporation’s Young Innovators Challenge where similar sentiments were echoed.

“Most of my time at SGU was actually spent with the SGU community and forming relationships. I’ve learned so much more outside the classroom thanks to the network I’ve built,” said Mr. Gaspard. “The level of student support and student engagement greatly enhanced my studies, especially given the additional responsibilities at home with my mom.”

The highlight of his time was the opportunity to participate in the 2018 Global X-Culture Conference and Symposium held at the University of Macerata in Italy. There he competed among 140 students from 29 countries, and he and his team captured one of only four company challenge trophies. In addition, the international experience provided him with the opportunity to learn about various cultures, interact with different nationalities and understand the importance of global perspectives.

“To SGU, I would say thank you—it’s the most enlightening experience I have ever had is my university experience,” he said. “That slogan ‘Think Beyond’ is something that has been branded into me and I don’t see the world the same way as I used to. I’m always looking at the bigger picture.”

It was not only a reward for him and his colleagues, but when he was faced with personal challenges leading up the Symposium—prompting him to second-guess his participation—he was instead buoyed by the enormous outpouring of support from his fellow classmates, as well as faculty and staff alike.

“I have been involved with another universities, and when I assess the level of student support systems SGU has in place, I can tell there is a conscious effort to take care of both students and staff,” he said.

During his time at SGU, Mr. Gaspard was also named president of the Business Students Association and served as a key member of the orientation team.  For those who aspire to pursue any number of careers locally, regionally, or around the world, he would implore them weigh all their options but also to know that “being a product of St. George’s University, including the quality of the education, the level of student support, and the extensive ability to network, prepares you for life.”

– Tornia Charles

Then a student, Dominic Gaspard (left), aided by his team of international students, was presented with one of the four company challenge trophies at the 2018 Global X-Culture Conference and Symposium held in Italy.