World Health Organization redesignates collaborating center at SGU

As public health has become even more of a focus with the emergence of COVID-19 worldwide, St. George’s University continues to be a beacon for education, research, and service collaboration in the Caribbean. The World Health Organization (WHO), together with its regional representative, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), recently re-designated SGU’s Department of Public Health and Preventive Medicine (DPHPM) as a Collaborating Center (WHO CC) on Environmental and Occupational Health through August 2023.

Such centers are established to support global health initiatives implemented by the WHO, for the benefit of all member countries. The designation provides a foundation for collaborating centers to develop partnerships with national and international authorities, as well as to generate resources from funding partners.

Dr. Christine Richards

“The continued efforts by faculty and students as well as civil society, governmental and international partnerships demonstrate the benefit of collaboration in public health, which the WHO CC symbolizes,” said Dr. Christine Richards, DPHPM interim chair, who leads the Collaborating Center with SGU faculty member Odran Nigel Edwards.

The WHO CC was originally established on the SGU campus in 2012. The DPHPM, together with the Windward Island Research and Education Foundation (WINDREF), also located on SGU’s campus, are uniquely positioned to lend support, having collaborated on several environmental research programs that addressed occupational health among nutmeg workers and health care workers, renewable energy, land degradation, food and water borne diseases, and zoonotic diseases and presently the response to COVID-19.

SGU’s DPHPM, along with WINDREF, also serves as the Caribbean’s only United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Regional Collaborating Centre (RCC) since 2013. The UNFCCC RCC’s primary goal is to work with public and private sector organizations, as well as government agencies, to enhance the implementation of clear technology activities for the Caribbean the region in order to achieve carbon reduction targets to mitigate climate change.

– Brett Mauser

PhD grad: COVID-19 spread resembles prior dengue pandemics

The daughter of a Grenadian, Karin Schiøler, PhD ’06, frequented the Spice Isle as a child, visiting her Grandfather and family in La Digue, St. Andrew’s. Yet there was a period of 18 years where her life and studies brought her elsewhere. She didn’t return until the early 2000s when, while living in Martinique, she first realized that a curious mosquito-borne disease was posing a serious public health threat to the Caribbean and other tropical regions.

Dr. Schiøler seized the opportunity to undertake a research project on dengue in Grenada and simultaneously earned her PhD from St. George’s University, the second such degree to be awarded by SGU’s School of Graduate Studies. She has gone on to study mosquito-borne diseases primarily in Sub-Saharan Africa, and is currently an associate professor in the Global Health section at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark.

SGU News reached out to Dr. Schiøler to learn more about the research she has done, specifically on dengue, and how it applies to the current healthcare situation surrounding coronavirus (COVID-19).

St. George’s University: According to the CDC, up to 400 million people worldwide get infected with dengue each year. Why is the disease such a challenge to control?

Dr. Schiøler: The disease is difficult to control because it is transmitted by a mosquito that is extremely well adapted to the domestic environment of most tropical areas. In other words, it lives in and around our houses. We provide the water containers for its larvae and the blood for its egg production—a rather smart setup, at least for the mosquito. Eliminating the mosquito in an environmentally safe way has proven very difficult. At the same time, vaccine development has taken decades, and although a dengue vaccine was recently marketed in some countries, its wider use is limited as it is deemed safe only for those who have already had dengue at least once.

SGU: What parallels can you draw between dengue and what’s taking place with COVID-19?

Dr. Schiøler: Dengue epidemics are acute in the sense that they erupt more or less unexpectedly, rage through the population and then disappear again after weeks or months. The real problem is not as much the experience of the disease, but when all of a sudden a large proportion of the society has it and are home sick or hospitalized, then you have to worry not just for the individual but for society at large in terms of social and economic consequences. What we are currently experiencing with COVID-19 at a global level, many countries have experienced previously due to dengue. That is a healthcare system under siege and the disease taking hold of the entire society, often triggering a health emergency or even a state of emergency declaration.

About a third of those who are infected by dengue virus experience symptoms, and a fraction of those people die from dengue. In between, dengue may cause a range of different symptoms and severities, just like COVID-19. So another parallel that can be drawn is that of human behavior—risk understanding and risk perceptions. How do people perceive COVID-19 and the risk of infection, and how does that affect their behavior? How much can you control this behavior if people don’t feel at risk? In a way, I think COVID was due to happen one way or the other. It’s a large-scale version of what we see with national or regional epidemics, like dengue, where efforts to control the disease by targeting the mosquito often falls short as risk perception is relatively low among homeowners compared to the efforts required to keep the mosquito out of our houses and lives.

“What we are currently experiencing with COVID-19 at a global level, many countries have experienced previously due to dengue.”

 

SGU: How have you addressed the persistence and spread of dengue?

Dr. Schiøler: My colleagues and I focus on understanding the dengue mosquito and its habitat, from the household to a wider community level including institutions and specific commercial settings. I believe that this understanding remains the key to dengue control. One of the projects that I’m directly involved with in Zanzibar, Tanzania, is an effort to integrate dengue control into primary school curriculum so that children can learn and execute mosquito control adapted to the realities of their household and wider community. It’s a mixed-methods study where we aim to determine how the children perceive dengue and other mosquito-borne diseases, what they can and can’t do as children in terms of control activities, and what’s actually accepted in that particular society. In another study, also on Zanzibar, we are working in collaboration with the tourism sector to replace the heavy reliance on chemical insecticides with environmentally sustainable mosquito control measures at hotels.

SGU: How would you describe your experience studying dengue in the Caribbean?

Dr. Schiøler: My thesis focused around understanding who the main risk groups are when an arbovirus like dengue is transmitted in the population. I studied how it spread and how a local active surveillance system worked to address it. In collaboration with both public and private health care providers, I actively went out and pursued cases and set up a system with rapid diagnostic turnover and response to the health authorities.  The aim was to predict outbreaks by picking up on the early cases, and then activate vector control and public dissemination before epidemic onset. My study showed that, after diagnosing the index case, there was a seven to eight week lull before a full-blown epidemic. We learned how to react to the risk of a new virus and how it is likely to spread through a small-island population. This experience was groundbreaking for me in that it gave me the first experience of working across disciplines and with different institutions and actors from the nurses and doctors forming the frontline of Grenada’s health care system and officials at the Grenada Ministry of Health to researchers at the CDC in Puerto Rico, who helped me set up advanced diagnostic techniques in Grenada.

SGU: What led you down the path to becoming an infectious disease researcher?

Dr. Schiøler: For me, research has always been about curiosity. Why is dengue even a public health problem? Why has nobody solved this problem already? Of course, the reason is that dengue is a complex disease—it’s not that easy to solve. You may get a few answers to the problem, but that will create new questions, and you keep seeking new answers for these questions. It’s perhaps frustrating at times, yet very rewarding. I started out fairly narrowly in terms of an immunological interest in dengue symptoms, but that interest lead me in into new directions, where today my primary focus is more on the entomological aspects of disease transmission and the inclusion of the community and other stakeholders in finding sustainable solutions to mosquito control. It’s the prospect of change that makes it exciting, and the realization that there isn’t necessarily a simple biomedical answer to diseases such as dengue. One can argue the same in the case of COVID-19.

– Brett Mauser

 

SGU graduate Karin Schiøler, PhD, with Dean of Graduate Studies Dr. Calum Macpherson.

Working in underserved communities “resonates with the soul”

Jeremiah Madedor, MD ’20

From up close, and from a young age, Jeremiah Madedor, MD ’20, has gained intimate knowledge of the disadvantages that stem from a lack of healthcare access. His mother, who immigrated to the United States from Nigeria, pushed him to volunteer at the local veterans affairs hospital and homeless shelter, and he also went on mission trips with the family’s church. Then as a medical student at St. George’s University, he got hands-on experience working with the homeless population in New York City, as well as those who struggled to make ends meet.

“Those things really resonate with the soul and need to be addressed,” said Dr. Madedor. “I feel that, as a physician, I can do that.”

Now a first-year internal medicine resident at Spectrum Health in Grand Rapids, MI, Dr. Madedor sat down with SGU News to discuss ongoing healthcare issues in underserved communities, as well as his experience entering medicine in an especially challenging time.

St. George’s University: What are the most significant problems facing healthcare in underserved communities?

Dr. Jeremiah Madedor: Means and access. Patients usually fall into those two categories. In terms of means, we’re talking about money, resources, insurance, and connections to get to a primary care provider or the medical help you need. For financial reasons, a lot of patients don’t see physicians. An emergency department visit can cost thousands of dollars even without surgery, and with surgery, you can be looking six or seven figures for the cost.

Access is just as bad as means, because people may have the money or insurance, but if they don’t have the time to go for care, then nothing will be done. Several patients I see in the clinic skip appointments because they don’t have a babysitter or they work long workdays, and the list could go on.

SGU: What was it like entering medicine in the thick of a coronavirus pandemic? How would you describe the hospital and the community in Grand Rapids?

Dr. Madedor: My hospital has been preparing for COVID spikes since March, and has handled it as well as you can. Residents are educated on cases with didactics, and MICU/pulmonary attendings have been instrumental in learning managements of COVID. During my clinic, I have been tasked with seeing COVID patients with virtual visits, and while on the intensive care unit I have been seeing patients firsthand and managing them with the guidance of pulmonary attendings. It’s definitely been a life-changing experience seeing the complications firsthand of this new disease.

SGU: How has the recent social justice movement energized or changed you personally and/or professionally?

Dr. Madedor: I don’t believe it has energized or changed me personally because I have always fought for those disenfranchised or less fortunate. As an African American, I live this fight every day, so with my patients, I can empathize with them. I relate to them on a personal and ethnic level. A lot of people say ‘hi’ to me on the hospital floors or in the clinic and are happy to have their skin color represented by the physician they see.

“SGU took a student who was a potential diamond in the mine and refined him.”

 

SGU: Is there a case or experience that you can point to that brought your career path into focus?

Dr. Madedor: When I worked at Brooklyn Hospital as a medical student, there are incidents I can always lean on that fueled my fire. Working with Dr. Mansur and Dr. Bakshi is something I will always cherish. They taught me not see a patient as a pit stop but, as a physician, you become their conduit who will guide them to their next destination. So with that in mind, I did my best to learn their cases better and do thorough chart reviews so I could prevent potential oversights. Then in the rooms, I treated them like human beings, because patients are more than stats, and sometimes we forget that with a busy schedule.

SGU: How would you describe your experience at SGU, and how has it prepared you for your career?

Dr. Madedor: SGU was one of the most challenging and exhausting journeys of my life. I wouldn’t change that for the world because it prepared for me the roadblocks ahead. Now, as I sit here in the ICU, we had two patients code, two admissions, and I had to follow up on multiple patients throughout the night. Without the tools and guidance I received at SGU, I don’t think I would be capable of this feat. SGU took a student who was a potential diamond in the mine and refined him. Now he is a resident living out his dreams amongst the elite in his craft. From the days of eight- to 10-hour study dates, student support sessions, and rounding as a medical student, SGU provided the necessary environment for me to grow. With great resources, teaching, and great hospitals to rotate at, my experience couldn’t have been any better.

– Brett Mauser

On Match Day 2020, Dr. Madedor shared the news that he was headed to Grand Rapids, MI, for an internal medicine residency with Spectrum Health.

What Is Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C)? Q&A with SGU Grads Featured in New England Journal of Medicine Article (UPDATED)

This article has been updated from its original publication date of September 29, 2020, to name additional SGU graduates who contributed to the New England Journal of Medicine article.

As the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to affect persons young and old, and increasingly in children, the New England Journal of Medicine recently published an article titled “Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in U.S. Children and Adolescents.”

Among the nearly 50 contributing physicians, five were St. George’s University graduates:

  • Steven Horwitz, MD ’08, a lead author on the paper who is a pediatric critical care specialist and assistant professor of pediatrics at Rutgers University School of Medicine;
  • Michael Keenaghan, MD ’06, the associate chief academic officer at New York City Health+Hospitals/Kings County;
  • Hussam Alharash, MD ’11, a pediatric intensivist and informatics liaison at New York City Health+Hospitals/Kings County;
  • Shira Gertz, MD ’01, FAAP, an attending physician in pediatric critical care at Saint Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston, NJ, and clinical associate professor in the Department of Pediatrics at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School; and
  • Stacy Ramsingh, MD ’15, a third-year pediatric ICU fellow at Advocate Children’s Hospital in Park Ridge, IL.

 

SGU spoke with three of the SGU-educated doctors to get their take on the article’s findings, and why the research was an important contribution to the expansion of medical knowledge of COVID-19.

St. George’s University: As COVID continues to affect adults and children, what is MIS-C and why is it an important disease to understand?

Drs. Horwitz, Keenaghan, and Alharash: Multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C) is a newly identified inflammatory syndrome affecting children, that is associated with SARS-CoV-2019 infection. The pathophysiology is not clear at this point, and there is much we do not yet know about the long-term prognosis. Some of the children who present with this syndrome are very sick and require ICU-level care, while others have very mild symptoms.

There are several reasons why it is important to understand this disease: Because MIS-C in some ways mimics the presentation of Kawasaki disease, pediatricians are concerned that some of the same sequelae and complications of Kawasaki may develop in children who are diagnosed with MIS-C. We know that some of the children who present with MIS-C are very sick, and since it is unlikely that COVID-19 will disappear in the immediate future, there is a lot of interest in better understanding it and its long-term complications.

SGU: What was the research intending to prove?

Drs. Horwitz, Keenaghan, and Alharash: The study we were involved in aimed to describe the presentation and inpatient course of MIS-C. By looking at a series of patients and characterizing some of the disease’s features, the paper should give clinicians who have not yet seen patients of MIS-C an idea of what to look for and what to expect. It will also help to characterize and pin down the definition of the syndrome, which will help in ongoing research that looks at MISC.

SGU: What were the key findings? Why were the results significant?

Drs. Horwitz, Keenaghan, and Alharash: The study confirmed what many of us suspected. MIS-C was causing cardiovascular symptoms, gastrointestinal symptoms, hematologic abnormalities, and was associated with markedly elevated signs of inflammation.

It also reassured us in some ways because it demonstrated that while a good number of the patients with MIS-C required cardiovascular support in the form of vasopressors and in a few rare occasions extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO), the vast majority of these kids got better and went home.

SGU: What exactly was your part in the research efforts?

Drs. Horwitz, Keenaghan, and Alharash: As the pandemic took hold in the United States, the Northeast and New York City, in particular, were the epicenter of the new cases of COVID and eventually of MIS-C cases as well. Our contribution to this project was to review the patients at our hospitals who presented with features of what would eventually come to be called MIS-C and prepare detailed case reports about the presentation and hospital course for each of the patients. This data was later included in the multicenter analysis that resulted in the publication in the New England Journal of Medicine.

SGU: What practical advice would you give to medical students who want to get research published?

Drs. Horwitz, Keenaghan, and Alharash: Be curious and follow through. There is much we do not know in medicine—being curious will make it more likely that you will become familiar with the questions that are waiting to be answered. Of course, coming up with the question is just the start. Research can be a very long and drawn-out process with many setbacks. Perseverance and follow-through in the face of adversity will be required to keep going.

 

— Laurie Chartorynsky

SGU Class of 2020 Joins Physician Ranks During Crucial Time in Healthcare

The format of this year’s St. George’s University School of Medicine commencement ceremony may have been different, yet it could not put a damper on the achievement, the celebration, and the pride felt by the Class of 2020 on Sunday.

For the first time in the school’s 43-year history, graduation festivities were held online as a result of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, with families and friends from around the world tuning in to witness graduates’ official transition from medical student to physician.

This class of graduates will bolster a healthcare system at a time when highly skilled and knowledgeable physicians are greatly needed. All told, more than 1,100 SGU grads will begin first-year residency programs next month—across a wide range of specialties—in the United States and Canada. They are now part of a network of more than 18,000 SGU-trained physicians who have earned their medical degrees from SGU since its opened its doors in 1977, and over 22,000 grads in all schools.

The 2020 ceremony took place as the world’s attention has been focused on the fight for racial equality in the United States and around the world. Dr. Charles Modica, the University’s chancellor and co-founder, stated that SGU graduates are uniquely positioned to bring positive change to the world.

“St. George’s University has diversity in its core DNA,” he said in his address. “This class includes individuals from over 60 countries, all of whom have studied in Grenada—our home—and worked, lived, and played side by side for years with people from every race, color, creed, and nationality. Our faculty as well as our students are among the most diverse in the world. The totality of your multicultural experience at SGU will prepare you to be an exemplary citizen of the world as well as an extraordinary medical professional.”

Dr. Marios Loukas, dean of basic sciences in the School of Medicine, cited Aristotle in his address:“Excellence is never an accident. It is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, and intelligent execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives – choice, not chance, determines your destiny.”

Dr. Loukas acknowledged that this year’s graduates took many different routes to come to SGU and to earn their MDs, but each is prepared to carry out a mission of helping humanity in their chosen field.

“It has taken hard work, constant effort, repetition, courage, and a lot of energy to overcome challenges, but you have ultimately done it,” he said.

Among those who earned his medical degree was Suyansh Sharma, MD ’20, a native Indonesian who will be headed off to an internal medicine residency at Saint Peter’s University Hospital in New Brunswick, NJ. He is one of more than 450 graduates from the Class of 2020 who will begin their careers in New York and New Jersey this summer.

“I don’t think words can describe the feeling,” said Dr. Sharma. “I remember dreaming about this day when I was still on the island. I feel very grateful, especially to my parents along with SGU, each of which have given me an opportunity to come to the United States and practice medicine. I feel ecstatic that I’m going to be able to serve my community in a way that I think is really meaningful.”

Classmate Emily Wassmer, MD ’20, looks forward to joining residency at her top-choice pediatrics program, Good Samaritan Hospital Medical Center in West Islip, NY. After four years of medical school, seven different apartments and six different clinical training sites, she looks forward to practicing medicine at the very hospital she visited as a patient growing up on Long Island.

“It’s exciting, scary, and surreal,” said Dr. Wassmer. “It’s exciting to have all of these years of hard work finally pay off and to be able to settle in one place for a few years. It’s scary that we now have the autonomy to be responsible for our patients’ lives and that we’re going into this in the midst of a pandemic. And it’s surreal that it’s actually happening and we really are doctors now.”

To equip graduates with the proper graduation attire, the University sent robes and regalia to each new alum, and many shared images from before, during, and after the ceremony on social media. In lieu of an in-person ceremony, the Class of 2020 will be invited to walk with its SGU brethren at the traditional graduation site—Lincoln Center in New York City—next spring.

SGU’s web page celebrating the class of 2020 School of Medicine graduates captured students’ moments of celebration—on social media, with photos, and through stories. Visit the page online.

–Brett Mauser

SGU Preclinical Student Collaborates With Local Police to Encourage Social Distancing

St. George’s University preclinical 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.”

 

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.”

 

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