SGU Premed Student Collaborates With Local Police to Encourage Social Distancing

St. George’s University premedical student Hiranya S recently collaborated with the police department in Tamil Nadu, India, on a song that preached social distancing.

According to the World Health Organization’s most recent report, India’s swift measures to prevent virus transmission have resulted in just over 16,000 positive tests, in a country of more than 1.3 billion people. Ms. Hiranya’s message encourages citizens to continue to take precaution.

Translated into English, the song reads …

There are possible ways to escape from corona virus attack, please listen.
government instructions will help us and doctors’ advice will guide us to face the virus infection
as individual by facing alone without fear. chase out the virus infection from our society
it is a deadly virus and dangerous, but if we are cautious, we can win.
it is important to wash your hands, and wear a mask
keep the distance
if you have cough, cold and fever, immediately do testing
if anybody have symptoms, you should inform
stay home, stay home, stay home.

stay at home and obey the law
if you roam around, you will get virus infection
we (the police) are protecting you and you must realize that
even though we know we will get infected, we are doing our duties to protect you
the police is your friend
the whole world is worrying about this situation
we have to save our lives; we have to save the mankind
stay home, stay home, stay home.

SGU Alumna Sheds Light on COVID Impact in New York City

St. George’s University graduates around the world are on the front lines in the fight to suppress the coronavirus disease (COVID-19). One of them is SGU alumna Daniela Tello, an emergency medicine physician in New York City, joined a FOX News affiliate in Orlando to offer a glimpse of how the virus is impacting her hospital, its healthcare personnel, and its patients.

“The rate at which this virus progresses is scary,” she said. “Please, please, take this seriously! You can enjoy your life later when this is gone. The only way we’re going to make it go away is if people follow directions and respect the social isolation.”

Giving Back in 2019: SGU Student Organizations Contributed Valuable Funds and Expertise to Host Country

Since St. George’s University opened more than 40 years ago, Grenada has been a second home for SGU students who have descended upon the True Blue peninsula from countries all over the world. Collectively, through the more than 60 student organizations on campus, these students have given back to the country that has welcomed them warmly.

The connection between a student body and the community was clear in 2019. In addition to promoting and developing their specific club interests, these organizations were extensively involved in more than 1,100 events and volunteering over 9,000 hours of their time, benefitting the people and animals of Grenada through the donation of funds, supplies, and services, according to SGU’s 2019 Student Organization Report.

“Grenada and its people have been very kind to us as the host island of our institution so there’s a very strong bond between the students of the University and the community at large,” said Dr. C.V. Rao, dean of students at SGU. “Whether it’s raising funds for the Grenada General Hospital or donating to the elderly and orphanages on the island, students have an overwhelming desire to give back to the country helping them to receive their medical and veterinary education.”

Among the wide range of active student groups was Women in Medicine, which advocates for the interests of women physicians-in-training and promotes women’s health. Over the course of the year, the organization raised approximately EC$18,000 for the Grenada Cancer Society and contributed more than 900 service hours through health fairs and pap smear clinics on the island.

Tropical showers couldn’t stop the more than 100 participants who came out for WiM’s annual 5k Pink Run and fundraiser in November, where students, faculty, staff—and pets—ran, jogged, and walked to raise money for the Grenada Cancer Society. In addition, after the run, WiM faculty and students provided cervical cancer screenings at the University clinic—all part of an ongoing effort to enhance the quality of care for women battling reproductive cancers in Grenada.

 

“Students have an overwhelming desire to give back to the country helping them to receive their medical and veterinary education.”

Dr. C.V. Rao, dean of students at SGU

 

The School of Medicine Surgery Club raised and donated a total of EC$6,000 to various organizations, including the Grenada General Hospital, Mt. Gay Psychiatric Hospital, and the Fund for the Orphans and Elderly. The organization, which provides students an opportunity to learn suturing techniques as well as observing surgeries in the local hospital, counts nearly 500 students as part of its constituency.

“We are extremely grateful to be given the opportunity to come to a country that has opened their arms to us to learn medicine, and we want to give back as much as we can,” said Juxhesta Cakrani, vice president of finance for SOM’s Surgery Club and a fifth-term medical student.

With more than 800 members, SGU’s chapter of the American Medical Student Association (AMSA), promotes active improvement in medical education, world healthcare delivery, and the enhancement of social, moral, and ethical obligations of the medical profession. Each semester, the chapter hosts health fairs, including its annual One Health One Medicine Health Fair, where student members visit the island’s communities to provide free healthcare to those in need, including check-ups and diagnostic health services, as well as education on mental health and healthy eating. In total, the group donated in excess of 2,300 of community service hours in 2019 to benefit the Grenadian people, the report noted.

Given the drastic need for life-saving blood donations on the island, SGU’s AMSA chapter also organized two on-campus blood drives this fall to benefit Grenada General Hospital. And through its Valentine’s Day Date Auction, its biggest and popular annual fundraising event, the chapter was able to donate proceeds of EC$16,000 to the Grenada Heart Foundation, which provides lifesaving interventional cardiac care to those in need, especially children.

“Grenada is very underserved—not everyone has access to transportation or the finances to be able to get the healthcare they need,” said Tasha Phillips-Wilson, SGU AMSA’s chapter president for the fall 2019 semester and a third-year med student. “We go out into the community—we set up tents and tables—and students are able to treat patients. The communities are quite grateful and appreciative for that.”

For the students partaking in activities, they are able to apply classroom-learned concepts to real medical situations. “Students get to practice clinical skills and these events are a great opportunity to work on the patient-physician interaction,” added Mrs. Phillips-Wilson.

The report noted several other student organizations that volunteered significant amounts of time in 2019, including:

  • The Significant Others Organization put in nearly 2,500 of service hours through various outreach and aid activities at the Grenada Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the Dorothy Hopkins Home for the Disabled, and Queen Elizabeth Home for Children.
  • The Orphanage Students Organization spent more than 750 hours with children in need from the Bel Air Children’s Home and the Queen Elizabeth Home for Children, taking them to the beach and other enjoying other activities with the children.
  • The Pediatrics Club clocked over 600 volunteer hours through health fairs and clinic days at the Bel Air Children’s Home and the Queen Elizabeth Home for Children.

Students also raised funds for and dedicated their services to the animals on the island of Grenada.

  • Organizations including SGU’s Angels in Armor (AAARF), Feral Cat Project (FCP), and Spay Neuter Pot Hounds (SNP) raised more than EC$30,000 for SGU’s Small Animal Clinic (SAC), which serves the people of Grenada and their pets. These organizations utilized a range of fundraising activities such as sales, raffles, cocktails, and trivia nights.
  • Student members of the American Veterinary Medical Association chapter volunteered nearly 1,500 hours to various veterinary outreach initiatives and SGU’s One Health One Medicine Clinics.
  • SGU’s Exotic and Wildlife Society volunteered more than 2,300 hours to various marine and terrestrial wildlife protection activities around Grenada.

Being a part of these organizations not only helps students hone their clinical skills but teaches many of those who become officers the value of leadership, how to budget, and other managerial skills, added Dr. Rao.

“Some organizations have a budget and it is our expectation that they generate funds for their own organization, and they do it,” he said. “These are additional skills learned that will come in handy as they climb the ladder of their careers.”

Added Dr. Rao: “We are proud of our student organizations and all they have accomplished in 2019. We are looking forward to another year of strong community service and participation from our student groups.”

– Laurie Chartorynsky

MD Alum Grants Early Holiday Wish for Ailing Teen

Through the Gift of Life program, Sean Levchuck, MD ’89, recently performed life-saving surgery on a Gambian teen suffering from a hole in his heart. Dr. Levchuck, the chairman of pediatric cardiology at St. Francis Hospital on Long Island, professed after the surgery that the young man “should be good to go.”

The patient and his father, Simon, will spend more than a month in the United States before returning to their home country. Newsday chronicled the family’s journey last month.

Neurosurgical Spine Specialist Thriving in Syracuse

For Upstate Medical University neurosurgical spine specialist Michael Galgano, MD ’10, with each operation he performs comes the opportunity to drastically improve the course of a person’s life.

There was the 40-year-old woman whose adolescent scoliosis had gone untreated. Debilitating back pain prevented her from completing workdays or from playing with her young daughter. A corrective procedure returned her to normal activity level.

Then there was the 17-year-old lacrosse player who suddenly had difficulty walking. It was discovered he had an osteoblastoma that was crushing his spinal cord, slowly paralyzing him. Dr. Galgano and his team removed the tumor and reconstructed his spinal column, allowing him to return to lacrosse a few months later after a remarkable recovery.

It’s that kind of impact that the 2010 St. George’s University graduate set out to make when he entered medical school, and what excites him the most about his role at Upstate.

“I treat a population of patients with a wide array of complex spinal disorders, ranging from tumors of the spinal cord and vertebral column, to scoliosis and other deformities,” Dr. Galgano said. “I am drawn toward these types of surgeries that require a significant amount of pre-surgical planning and strategizing. Each complex case I do has its own unique spin, and requires some degree of creativity to achieve an ideal outcome. Improving the quality of life in my patients is ultimately what drives me. It is difficult to get bored with this job.”

At Upstate, located in Syracuse, NY, his responsibilities are many—assistant professor of neurosurgery, director of spinal oncology and reconstructive spinal deformity surgery, as well as the medical school neurosurgery clerkship program. Although Dr. Galgano sub-specializes in spine surgery, he also treats neuro-trauma, in addition to brain tumors.

 

“Each complex case I do has its own unique spin, and requires some degree of creativity to achieve an ideal outcome. Improving the quality of life in my patients is ultimately what drives me.”

Michael Galgano, MD

 

Four days a week, Dr. Galgano rounds on his inpatients before logging six- to 10-hour sessions in the operating room on surgical procedures. As a professor, he holds weekly didactic learning sessions for which he lectures to the university’s neurosurgery residents and medical students.

“When I run into the occasional SGU student completing a sub-I at our hospital and they find out I am also an alum, their eyes light up,” he said. “I tell them all to be proactive, and to outwork everybody they can on their rotations. At the end of the day, it boils down to being nothing short of determined to match into the field you are most passionate about, whether that is family medicine or neurosurgery.”

Dr. Galgano performs his craft and extensive research at the very location where his neurosurgery career began as a resident in 2010, weeks after graduating from SGU. He spent seven years in residency at Upstate, and even earned the Outstanding Neurosurgery Resident of the Year Award. In 2017, he went on to complete a complex and oncological spine surgery fellowship at Brown University in Providence, RI.

Dr. Galgano had always had his mind set on entering neurology, but the surgery element came into focus as a medical student when he rotated with general surgeons at Overlook Hospital in New Jersey—one of more than 70 clinical sites available to SGU students. So, for his career, he combined his two passions.

“The rotation centers I went to were fabulous,” he said. “Rotating at a number of different hospitals exposes you to a wide variety of pathology. Instead being at a single institution, you see a diverse case load and patient population, and learn from physicians with different backgrounds. You grow comfortable working with a new set of instructors every few weeks. It keeps you on your A-game.”

Dr. Galgano added: “During neurosurgical training, the more surgeons you get to experience operating with, the better surgeon you become. You take a bit of knowledge from each mentor, and incorporate concepts and techniques you learned from them into your style. That’s kind of the way I look at SGU. We are taught medicine from doctors all around the world, increasing the diversity of our experience. SGU really is an all-star medical school. There is no doubt that our students graduate ready to hit the real world. SGU offers not only a medical education, but a unique and profound life experience. The end product of having received a medical education at SGU is something to be proud of.”

– Brett Mauser

SGU Welcomes Two Canadian Institutions to Clinical Network

Through new agreements with two Canadian facilities, St. George’s University medical students can now receive highly specialized clinical training north of the US border.

In August, SGU welcomed Ottawa Cardiovascular Centre and Booth Neurology Clinic to its clinical network of more than 70 training locations, further expanding the opportunities available to fourth-year students to broaden their skills and knowledge in preparation for residency.

“We’ve been thrilled by the response from our students,” said Sandra Banner, St. George’s University’s director of admissions for Canada. “With these training opportunities, they obtain a close-up sense of the Canadian healthcare system, and are able to experience some of the differences between the US and Canada, inevitably improving their chances of success on their exams and in pursuit of residency.”

 

“With these training opportunities, students obtain a close-up sense of the Canadian healthcare system, and are able to experience some of the differences between the US and Canada, inevitably improving their chances of success on their exams and in pursuit of residency.”

Sandra Banner, Director of Admissions, Canada

 

Applications for training positions at each site are now being taken for the charter class intake in November 2019. Ms. Banner said that SGU students are able to pair up the elective opportunities, giving them two full months in Canada’s capital city. At each clinical site, they will work directly with physicians who have dual appointments with University of Ottawa Medical School.

“Rotating in clinical training facilities throughout Canada, the US, and UK gives our students a worldly view of medicine that they can’t get just anywhere,” said Dr. G. Richard Olds, president of St. George’s University. “We firmly believe that taking advantage of these unique opportunities not only benefit them as they ramp up toward residency but well into their medical careers.”

Canadians have flourished at SGU and beyond, with 94 percent of eligible students and graduates applying for residency in North America successfully obtaining one in 2019. Eighteen Canadians who applied through the Canadian Resident Matching Service (CaRMS) secured residencies in competitive fields ranging from anesthesiology and emergency medicine to pathology and psychiatry.

– Brett Mauser

Cardiologist’s Heart Is With Grenada

St. George’s University graduate Thomas Vazzana, MD ’85, feels compelled to give back to the place where he began his three-decade-long career in medicine. Now a practicing interventional cardiologist in New York, Dr. Vazzana provides essential cardiology services to the people of Grenada free of charge.

The impact of his visits is undeniable, but there is still work to be done, which is why he returns two to three times a year to the island that gave him his start.

“Education is key, especially when explaining how important it is for patients to continue taking their medication—but I think we’re making progress,” said Dr. Vazzana, associate director of the cardiology fellowship program at Staten Island University Hospital. “I see several of the same patients and follow up with them when I’m here, and they’re doing fine.”

His visits are arranged through the SGU-Physician Humanitarian Network (SGU-PHuN), a program that enables St. George’s University alumni and friends to aid the Ministry of Health and Government of Grenada in improving healthcare in the country.

Since its official launch in 2008, the adult cardiology program continues to provide much-needed heart care services for at least 10 months of the year. With each visit seeing approximately 15-20 patients per day and about 80 each week, the program offers consultations, cardiac testing, pacemaker implantations, angioplasties, echocardiograms, and referrals for those needing advanced care. It has provided millions of dollars in service to the Grenadian community, resulting in countless lives saved.

“Dr. Vazzana is a very special member of our cardiology team,” said Brendon La Grenade, vice provost for institutional advancement. “He makes up one of only a handful of interventional cardiologists providing vital cardiovascular services to our population. From the program’s inception under coordinator Johansen Sylvester, MD ’00, to now in its 11th year, we at SGU are thankful to Dr. Vazzana and the vast network of alumni and friends who allow SGU and the Government of Grenada to bridge the cap in healthcare disparity.”

For several years, Dr. Vazzana has been making the trip to Grenada with his wife, Kathleen, a hospital administrator who serves as his clinical assistant while in Grenada. Now, also eager to return is their daughter Virginia Vazzana, MD ’17, who attended SGU after she and her older sister participated in the Med-Vet Summer Leadership Academy a few years earlier. While there, Dr. V. Vazzana also married fellow SGU alum Hamfreth Shaul Rahming, MD ’17. Both are currently completing their residencies in pediatric endocrinology and internal medicine respectively. According to the elder Vazzana, he made sure to pass along his passion for paying it forward.

“I always say, especially to my students, ‘when you get to your final destination, don’t forget where you came from,’” Dr. Vazzana added. “Because if it wasn’t for here, you wouldn’t have gotten to there.”

 

About Dr. Vazzana

Dr. Thomas Vazzana graduated with a bachelor’s degree from New York University in 1981 before earning his medical degree from St. George’s University School of Medicine in 1985. He then completed an internship and residency at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Paterson, NJ, before serving as a cardiology fellow at the former St. Vincent’s Catholic Medical Center, West Brighton (now Richmond University Medical Center). He became an attending physician at St. Vincent’s Catholic Medical Center in Manhattan and held the same position at the former Doctors’ Hospital in Concord and again in West Brighton until July 1991, when he opened his own practice.

Two years later, Dr. Vazzana teamed up with fellow cardiologist, Dr. Marc Bogin and was managing partner at Vazzana and Bogin Cardiology Associates in Staten Island until 2011. Dr. Vazzana also served as co-director of the cardiology division for the Staten Island Physician Practice until 2012 and is currently an associate professor at Donald and Barbara Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra University.

– Ray-Donna Peters

Alumni Association Announces “Art of Medicine” Continuing Ed Conference

 

The St. George’s University School of Medicine Alumni Association (SOMAA) invite SGU graduates and all medical professionals to its annual “Art of Medicine” continuing medical education (CME) conference in Grenada from March 9-12, 2020.

According to SOMAA President Bruce Bonanno, MD ’83, SOMAA president, its goal is to further harvest physicians’ passion for medicine, on the island that, for many, is where it all began.

“This conference welcomes doctors to reconnect with their profession, to build upon the foundation they’ve already created, and for SGU graduates, to get back to their roots,” said Dr. Bonanno, an emergency medicine physician based in New Jersey.

The four-day event features presentations from experts on a wide variety of fields, with several discussions led by SGU alumni. They include:

  •  “Hematologic Disease in Older People” – Shannon O’Connor, MD ’05
  • “Headache: It’s All In Your Head” – Paul Mathew, MD ’05
  • “Hypoxia – When Seconds Matter” – Pierre Moeser, MD ’83
  • “Maintenance of Certification: Reform or Reboot?” – Paul Mathew, MD ’05
  • “Monoclonal Antibody Use in Rheumatic Diseases” – Pierre Moeser, MD ’83
  • “Decoding the Alphabet Soup of Interstitial Lung Disease (ILD)” – Nirav Shah, MD ’02
  • “All About Gout” – Suneet Grewal, MD ’08
  • “Genetic Diseases in Cancer” – Shannon O’Connor, MD ’05
  • “Hepatitis is a Cure” – George Gartin, MD
  • “Psoriatic Arthritis” – Suneet Grewal, MD ’08
  • “How to Have a Baby Without Having Sex: New Frontiers in Reproduction” – Samuel Jacobs, MD ’82
  • “Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS): Where Are We Now?” – Nirav Shah, MD ’02
  • “Nutrition in Chronic Disease” – Taraneh Soleymani, MD ’07
  • “Obesity Treatment – How Far Have We Come?” – Sunil Daniel, MD ’07
  • “Non-Alcoholic Steatohepatitis (NASH)” – George Gartin, MD

Conference participants are eligible to receive 16 CME credits certified by the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP). In addition to the discussion schedule, visitors can enjoy a full slate of leisure activities, including campus tours, dinner at the University Club, catamaran cruises, and more.

“Each year, we have added more and more to the continuing medical education conference in Grenada,” said Dr. Bonanno. “We encourage all alumni to take advantage of this opportunity to learn and to once again enjoy this beautiful island.”

First-Year MD Student Presents Research at International Anatomy Conference

Pinthusorn “Blue” Eiamratchanee, a first-year medical student in the St. George’s University/Northumbria University 4-Year MD Program in the United Kingdom, recently presented the initial findings from a research collaborative between Mahidol University International College (MUIC) and SGU at the 19th Congress of the International Federation of Associations of Anatomists (IFAA) in London.

Blue’s research presentation titled, “Novel insights into the anatomy and function of intertendinous connections in human hand” was part of a collaboration established by Dr. James Coey, Assistant Dean of Basic Sciences at SGU, and Athikhun Suwannakhan, a PhD student in the Department of Anatomy at MUIC. The research group was also the first to classify the Linburg-Comstock variation—an anatomical variant of flexor tendons of the hand—into three different types with immunochemistry, and proposed that its etiology is secondary to a traumatic injury or an excessive use of the hand.

“It was such an honor to work with Dr. Coey, an expert in the field of anatomy, and Mr. Suwannakhan, who comes from one of the most prestigious universities in Thailand,” said Ms. Eiamratchanee. “I was really excited about participating and presenting my work at the IFAA conference. It was an amazing opportunity for me to engage in both technological and educational discussions with different associations of anatomists from around the world.

“I have always wanted to be a medical doctor and a researcher,” she added. “I believe that, by being both, it would give me opportunities to use the current knowledge of science to help people understand the problems and obstacles in providing healthcare to patients, as well as expand the current knowledge as a tool for other physicians to provide better and more accurate medical diagnosis, treatment, and/or surgery.”

St. George’s University was further represented at the conference through platform presentations from Dr. Marios Loukas, dean of basic sciences and research at SGU, along with numerous poster presentations and artwork submitted by Dr. Robert Hage, professor of anatomical sciences at SGU, and his daughter, Lisa Hage, MD ’10.

This research collaboration continues to strengthen the relationship between SGU and MUIC, following the partnership established in 2014 that launched a dual BSc/MD degree between the two universities, and most recently the MOU signed in 2018 allowing Mahidol students who successfully complete a premedical year of study to be eligible to enroll in SGU’s MD degree program.

“Blue is one of the first students to capitalize on this partnership, progressing from MUIC to SGU’s Northumbria program, and in her first year has managed to present at a prestigious international conference,” Dr. Coey said. “Additionally, the fact that this research was a collaboration with Mahidol paves the way for continued joint ventures in the future.”

– Ray-Donna Peters