A Peek Inside the School of Veterinary Medicine’s Distance Learning Program

Distance Learning at SGU

Learning how to do an ultrasound on an animal is never easy yet it is an important component of practicing veterinary medicine. Learning how to do one virtually is even harder, yet the faculty at St. George’s University School of Veterinary Medicine have been able to successfully make the transition to a distance learning curriculum.

With classes conducted online for the Fall 2020 term, SVM administrators have shared how they were able to make the school’s virtual curriculum an engaging and stimulating experience for students.

“Our distance learning curriculum was developed with the student focus in mind,” said Dr. Neil Olson, DVM, PhD, dean of SGU’s School of Veterinary Medicine. “By working with the SVM Student Government Association and polling students multiple times throughout the spring, we were able to make sure that student input about programs and courses led our conversations about how to implement our virtual curriculum.”

First Steps in Creating SVM’s Virtual Curriculum

“The first thing we did was create a Distance Education Team,” said Dr. Anne Corrigan, associate dean of SVM’s academic programs and professor of small animal medicine and surgery.

Chaired by Brian Butler, DVM­­/MPH ’05, assistant dean of the SVM academic programs for the School of Veterinary Medicine and a pathology professor, the group identified online needs and worked closely with the Department of Educational Services (DES), IT, and the Enterprise Teaching departments to develop the courses needed.

The SVM also polled students to flag concerns and issues and included valuable input from the Student Government Association’s SVM Affairs class representatives in the schedule and syllabi review for the fall term, Dr. Corrigan said.

One such concern: making sure students had access to all the materials needed. “We know that not everyone has a conducive workspace in their home, especially with WiFi issues,” said Jennifer Kirk, DVM ’22 (expected), president of the SVM Affairs. “We have been advocating for these students and, as a result, SVM made recordings downloadable so that students can stay on track despite these problems.”

The SVM Affairs group continues to communicate regularly with its Executive Board, its faculty advisor, Dr. Arend Werners, as well as University and SVM leadership.

Faculty Training

To prepare for the term, SVM faculty has been involved in intensive training on the new educational tools with the help of SGU’s IT team, Dr. Corrigan said.

The Distance Education Team also developed a best practices document for faculty to more appropriately choose the tools that will be of most benefit for their courses. SVM faculty also developed instructional clinical skills videos for students to promote muscle memory and develop the skills to perform certain procedures.

“Because we are delivering curriculum with a blended approach, which includes real-time content delivery and asynchronous programs, it’s really helping us become adaptive to use multiple types of technologies,” Dr. Corrigan said.

Hands-On Learning

One of the biggest challenges SVM faces is how to teach and train students hands-on clinical skills virtually. However, it has turned this challenge into some early successes.

Last term, students sent videos of themselves completing a skill, such as suturing, to faculty, who would then play each recording back during a live interactive session so that all students can watch their peers learning the same skills simultaneously. Students were then graded on how well they were able to master the skill, and received peer reviews from other students, helping all to address common mistakes.

“The key here is they gained confidence,” Dr. Corrigan said. “If we can still give them that confidence, even if they are not doing the skill directly in front of us, it will go a long way to helping them as future veterinarians.”

In addition, wetlabs allow students to attend a demonstration of a specific clinical skills performed by an SVM faculty member—this semester they will be done virtually.

“Even though students will not be able to use their own hands, the 3D demonstration will simulate as if they were really there,” Dr. Corrigan said. “They will be able to see a kidney in longitudinal and cross-section views. They will be able to see my hand moving on the screen. It’s another example of how we’re teaching hands-on clinical skills through online simulations.”

Some skills still must be taught in person, and SVM also developed a large group of private practitioners—more than 100 practices and counting across North America—willing to be clinical mentors for sixth-term students. In this scenario, students are paired with local veterinarians practitioners, including some SGU alumni, to establish professional relationships and receive instructional training.

Staying Connected in a Virtual World

Not lost in all the academia was the need for the interaction aspect of learning, especially since students can’t be together on campus.

“I think it’s especially important to provide the incoming Term 1 students with that inclusive aspect as they are not able to be in Grenada, and they don’t get to facilitate vital in-person relationships with their professors and peers,” Ms. Kirk said.

Dr. Corrigan acknowledged that what students want most within the distance learning platform is to feel connected—to other students, to faculty, and to the school overall. On the first day of classes, 90 students showed up for office hours.

“They were not there for office hours,” Dr. Corrigan said. “They were there looking for a way to connect with the SGU family.”

This term, with the help and guidance of faculty advisors, vet-centered student clubs will be looking at further ways to offer students a sense of community by hosting virtual events. In addition, SVM is also looking to put together virtual mentoring relationships between lower- and upper-class students.

“We want students to stay engaged and stay in communication with us, because we’re here for them, even though we are not physically together,” Dr. Corrigan said.

— Laurie Chartorynsky

SGU Partners with San Jose State University for Virtual Nursing Experience

Traditionally, 15 to 30 nursing students from San Jose State University (SJSU) would have spent the summer honing their public health skills at St. George’s University in Grenada as part of a more than seven-year partnership between the institutions. This year, however, with a global pandemic bringing much of normal activity to a halt, meeting in person was impossible.

However, with the support of leadership from both universities, the first-ever virtual service-learning placement was created, while still ensuring quality and parity were achieved.

“I thought long and hard about this decision,” said Deborah Nelson, a nursing lecturer at the College of Health and Human Services, SJSU. “I felt a commitment to all the students, both universities, and the Grenadian community. We wanted to be sure to explore any and all possible solutions to maintaining this partnership before cancelling. Therefore, the online version had to not only meet the courses’ and programs’ learning outcomes but it had to be meaningful to all involved.”

According to Ms. Nelson, this is one of the first programs of its kind in the US to offer credits towards a major global senior nursing practicum, while also granting the SJSU students the opportunity to graduate a semester earlier. Spearheaded by Dr. Tamara McKinnon, a lecturer in community health and research at the Valley Foundation School of Nursing at SJSU, she also played an integral part as one of the three faculty members involved in both the creation and execution of the new venture.

Though virtual this year, the course’s main objectives still remained the same—including using evidence-based nursing to promote health, analyzing the influence of health policies on individuals, delivering education that impacts health literacy, and conducting environmental assessments. All classes and lectures were held jointly via Zoom, while coursework was integrated and joint projects evenly balanced with SGU and SJSU students partnering.

“COVID-19 continues to have an adverse impact on many,” stated Ms. Nelson, “However, it is an amazing feeling to be able to say that all involved made it possible for these nursing students to not only participate in an intercultural learning experience but to stay on track for their graduation. This allows them to soon be able to join the global nursing workforce when they are most needed.”

Among those who participated in the program was Chelsea Moreno, a part-time float nurse currently completing her final semester in the RN to BSN program at San Jose State. Ms. Moreno, who decided to pursue a career in nursing after witnessing her brother go through his first surgery as an infant, chose to participate in the virtual service-learning placement because it gave her the opportunity to both graduate a semester earlier and be a part of a group to do something different.

“Even with such short notice and a hurried transition to go from a physical faculty-led program to a virtual course, I definitely believe this class was a success,” commented Ms. Moreno. “I learned about cultural awareness in a new way and I was a part of something never done before at SJSU. I was able to bond with nursing students from across the globe and was truly sad during our last meeting. We even started a group phone chat in hopes to one day meet in person and further deepen our understanding of each other and our different cultures.”

Also attending the virtual course was Marci Yaeger, she too completing her final year in the BSN program at SJSU. After spending eight years in the field as a medical assistant, she was inspired by the nurses she worked with, whose knowledge and skills in medicine motivated her to do more.

“One of the main objectives of the program was to be able to communicate effectively in a cross-cultural setting,” stated Ms. Yaeger. “By having small group discussions with the students from Grenada, I learned that what is natural for me—such as language, slang, or mannerisms—may be confusing to someone from a different culture. This really gave me a new perspective as to how I present myself to peers and to patients who may not share my culture, values, and experiences.”

“As course directors, we had to be strategic in designing this virtual course,” said Dr. Jennifer Solomon, chair and director of the Nursing Department at SGU. “We looked at how we could offer a course that met the objectives, while utilizing innovative teaching that would allow the students the opportunity to gain the experience and credits they needed without losing time.”

As to be expected, having classes via Zoom included minor technical difficulties and the balancing of two different time zones between California and Grenada. Nevertheless, both students and faculty touted the virtual service-learning placement as a success.

“For me, the design and collaboration with my SJSU colleagues has been an extremely empowering and positive experience and showcases what can be achieved,” added Dr. Solomon. “It may have been easier to cancel, but I am incredibly proud that we did not.”


— Ray-Donna Peters

St. George’s University Adds New US Clinical Sites for Medical School Student Core Rotations

SGU Students at Clinical Rotations

St. George’s University has finalized agreements with seven new hospitals across the United States, including several in California as well as a new venue into the South that will allow for third-year medical students to receive core clinical training during a crucial time in healthcare.

The hospitals that will now be designated as SGU clinical sites include:

  • 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

Each hospital will offer a range of core rotations for third-year students including: internal medicine, emergency medicine, pediatrics, family medicine, OB/GYN, surgery, and/or psychiatry. The hospitals will also offer students elective rotations; more information on electives available at each hospital will be forthcoming.

“The new clinical sites offer placement for all students, but especially for those who hail from Florida, California, Louisiana, or nearby states, who would like to continue their clinical training closer to home,” said Daniel D. Ricciardi, dean of clinical studies for SGU’s School of Medicine. “In addition, given that each hospital has a residency associated with it, a clinical placement could also lead to opportunity to audition and interview for residencies in any of these hospitals for our students—that’s the key.”

Wyckoff Heights Medical Center

Wyckoff Heights Medical Center in Brooklyn, NY.

With accredited programs in emergency medicine, internal medicine, surgery, obstetrics, and pediatrics—in addition to electives that span the gamut—Wyckoff Heights Medical Center is ready for SGU students to enter its doors for continued medical education, said Dr. Ken Freiberg, vice president of medical education at the institution.

“We are really looking forward to this,” Dr. Freiberg said. “We are going to probably have approximately 100 SGU students at our institution for clinical training by September or October.”

Following rotation fulfillment, students will be encouraged to apply for the highly competitive residency programs at the hospital, he added.

This year, more than 1,100 SGU grads matched in residency programs that span internal medicine to pediatrics, emergency medicine, surgery, and anesthesia, among other specialties.

SGU has developed longstanding relationships with many hospital and clinical center partners in the US and United Kingdom. The additional clinical sites boost SGU’s clinical network to more than 60 locations across the US, with another 17 clinical sites in the UK.

In 1999, SGU’s School of Medicine inaugurated a system of clinical centers to add to its already impressive list of affiliated hospitals. A clinical center is defined as a hospital, or group of hospitals, able to provide at least four core rotations and train 80 to 100 students at all times while providing sub-internships, primary care rotations, and electives.

View SGU’s list of affiliated hospitals and clinical centers on our website.

“Our clinical rotations allow our students to gain knowledge of different patient populations in a variety of settings and environments, offering valuable hands-on experience as they complete their final two years of medical studies,” said Dr. Richard Liebowitz, vice chancellor at SGU. “These clinical site additions allow SGU to expand upon a system that has proven successful not only in the education of our medical students, but also in creating a community for students to thrive. We are thrilled to add these new locations to our broad clinical network.”

Incoming third-year students will be able to apply for clinical rotations at each of the hospitals starting in September. For more information, please email Dean Ricciardi at dricciardi@sgu.edu.



 – 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

SVM 2020 Grads Encouraged to Continue Learning to Keep Pace with The Changing World

Neil Olson, Dean, School of Veterinary Medicine

The School of Veterinary Medicine celebrated its 17th annual commencement on Saturday, June 6, with 180 students from nine countries and 39 US states graduating from the school. For the first time in history, the ceremony was held virtually, due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

“This is a very special day, particularly for the young women and men who have completed four years of rigorous veterinary medical education, in addition to several years of understudies and who in a few minutes will embark upon their professional careers as the world’s newest veterinarians,” said Dr. Neil Olson, dean of the School of Veterinary Medicine.

With the addition of these new graduates, the SVM will have produced nearly 1,800 Doctors of Veterinary Medicine since the first graduating class in 2003.

“This ceremony is a symbol of confidence that you are now equipped (to enter) into the world,” Dr. Olson said. “You must continue learning to keep pace with the changing world around us. Your academic qualification will help to open opportunities, but beyond that you must demonstrate your ability to learn and grow in the fields you choose. You will be stretched in many different directions throughout your career and you must rely on your core values to guide you.”

“Without question the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic demonstrates the enormous need for veterinarians engaged in One Health public health, epidemiology, and biomedical research,” he added.

During the ceremony, Dr. Charles Modica, the University’s chancellor and co-founder, conferred the degrees of the graduands, while Dr. Lauren Nikki Wise, associate professor in large animal medicine and surgery, lead the students in saying the Veterinarian’s Oath.

Ready for Anything

David Shcherbelis, DVM '20

David Shcherbelis, the keynote student speaker for the class of 2020, noted in his prepared remarks that the veterinary school experience has taught him and his classmates to persevere through challenging times. He plans to become an equine veterinarian, after just completing a six-month equine internship at Piedmont Equine Associates in Madison, GA, where he focused on theriogenology, sports medicine, and general practice.

“Today is a symbolic day, a day that we crossed the professional threshold,” he said in his address. “Finally, after all these years and the schooling we’ve done, people will refer to us as doctors. It’s the first day of our future.… All of us share a love for animals and a desire to be the best vet we can be.”

Dr. Shcherbelis celebrated the day with his fiancé and parents at his parent’s home in South Carolina.

“It can’t be understated … SGU taught me to push through,” he said in a follow-up interview. “I feel as though there is nothing I can’t do after coming from St. George’s,” encouraging future and current vet students to always keep pushing to better themselves.

Celebrating Across the World

Constance Nicholl, DVM '20

“St. George’s was some of the best years of my life,” said Constance Nicholl, DVM ’20, who returned to her home in Ireland to finish her clinical year at the University of Dublin. Dr. Nicholl is currently studying to take the UK-licensing exam through The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons in August. She then plans to pursue a career in small animal medicine, specializing in orthopedic and soft-tissue surgery.

Once she is certified in her specialties of choice, Dr. Nicholl also plans to travel abroad to use her skills in different countries and thanks SGU for opening those doors of opportunity.

“For me, I’ve not only learned about veterinary medicine that applies to the United Kingdom and Europe, but I’ve also had the opportunity to learn about vet medicine in the US through St. George’s. It means that I can work anywhere I want in the world. So, having those opportunities is amazing,” she said.

Never Say No To Opportunity

Nia Rametta, DVM '20

“My biggest piece of advice is to never say no—take every single opportunity—because you never know where the opportunity is going to lead to,” said Nia Rametta, DVM ’20. “I am so fortunate for literally the whole SGU experience.”

One of her most treasured memories, besides moving to the island of Grenada, was traveling to Vienna, Austria with the International Veterinary Students Association (IVSA). The group toured the country’s veterinary school and she was able to take in the sights of the city. “That was an awesome opportunity,” she said.

Dr. Rametta, who originally hails from Pennsylvania, will be moving south to work as a small animal general practitioner at Banfield Pet Hospital in Largo, FL. She hopes to pursue an emergency medicine specialty, believing SGU has equipped her with not only critical vet medicine knowledge but the ability to handle any situation she comes across.

“I had so many opportunities for hands-on learning and that was a huge deal,” Dr. Rametta said. “That’s how I learn—I learn by doing. So, working hands-on from day one, I was able to work with live animals and learn the basics. That has helped me immensely during my clinical year at Auburn University because I felt more comfortable and confident of procedures being asked of me. I felt very prepared to be able to do hands-on procedures.”

Dr. Rametta spent graduation with her family, two cats, and adopted dog from Grenada.

Taking a Leap of Faith

Camille Richie, DVM ’20, grew up in Marco Island, FL, with the Everglades National Park and the Gulf Coast as her backyards. With her mother as a marine biologist and her father a ship’s captain, she has a passion for fishing and all things related to aquatic water life.

While going to SGU was a “huge leap of faith,” she said, “it was honestly, the best choice I could have made.”

“Moving to a different country really kind of set me up for getting out of my comfort zone and just kind of thinking through things differently than if I stayed in the US. Grenada really helped me grow as a person,” said Dr. Richie, who went to the University of Florida, Gainesville, for her undergraduate degree.

One of her most memorable experiences while at SGU was to help form the school’s World Aquatic Veterinary Medicine Association (WAVMA) chapter. As vice president of the chapter, she was in charge of organizing lionfish culls with local dive shops.

Along with boyfriend and chapter president Chris McMonagle, DVM ’21 (expected), they worked together to get the club off the ground, providing educational workshops about aquatic veterinary medicine, and bringing together students who had similar interests. The group also organized culls of lionfish, an invasive fish in the Caribbean.

“WAVMA was super important in my time at SGU because it helped me decide on the career path I want to follow, which is aquatic veterinary medicine,” said Dr. Richie, who also became dive-certified while in Grenada.

Dr. Richie will be starting a job at Banfield Hospital in Ocala, FL, at first focusing on small animal and exotics, and eventually working towards a specialization in marine mammal rehabilitation and aquatic veterinary medicine.

“For new students, that DVM degree seems like a long, long way away if you’re just starting Term 1, but trust me, it goes by so fast,” she said. “I can’t believe I’m already here and people are calling me ‘Doc’ now. I’m just super excited to start what I’m supposed to do in life.”

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

— Laurie Chartorynsky

SGS Class of 2020 Encouraged to Embrace Its Uniqueness and the Prospects of Tomorrow

Dr. Calum Macpherson, SGS Dean

The School of Graduate Studies virtual commencement ceremony began with Dr. Calum Macpherson, dean of the School of Graduate Studies, and the University’s chancellor, Dr. Charles R . Modica, who offered the 2020 graduating class a warm welcome as well as congratulatory remarks.

Although the current health climate prompted St. George’s University to move its customary in-person event online, the 2020 School of Graduate Studies (SGS) commencement ceremony nevertheless featured the celebratory nature and well wishes that have become a hallmark of events held each year in Grenada. The virtual ceremony was held on held on Saturday, May 30.

In total, the class’s 150 graduands from 34 countries were bestowed degrees such as a Master of Public Health, Master of Business Administration, Master of Arts, Master of Science and Doctor of Philosophy. In addition, SGU hosts the Gamma Kappa chapter of the Delta Omega Honors Society and inducted the top 10 percent of this year’s MPH graduates into the chapter for demonstrating excellence in education and scholarship in research and service.

To begin the online ceremony—the first of its kind in the University’s 43-year history—Dr. Calum Macpherson, dean of the School of Graduate Studies, and the University’s chancellor, Dr. Charles R. Modica, offered the 2020 graduating class a warm welcome as well as congratulatory remarks. They then gave the virtual stage to this year’s speaker, the Honorable Nickolas Steele, Grenada’s Minister for Health, Social Security, and International Business, who shared his excitement for the graduates’ future.

“Your class is unique in so many ways,” said Minister Steele. “Embrace that uniqueness and let it be the beacon that guides your future steps. You are armed with not just any education but with a St. George’s University education—an institution with not just a spirit but a mantra of overcoming challenges. So, go forward, onwards and upwards with your personal stock, the tools you have been given by SGU, the benefits of the battles you have just fought, and the certainty in the opportunities of tomorrow’s uncertainty.

“The difficult we do today, the impossible—tomorrow,” added Minister Steele. “You are the product of the very institution that epitomizes this and as such, the difficult you will do today, you will graduate today; the impossible you will do tomorrow, you will change the world.”

Class speaker Tanya Martelly, MBA ’20, offered a few heartfelt words on behalf of her fellow graduands, echoing the minister’s words acknowledging that this year had been filled with uncertainty and a range of emotions, including fear, anxiety, anticipation, and excitement.

“However, regardless of the origins of the emotions we felt,” stated Ms. Martelly. “What caused each of us to start our academic journey was courage, and a desire to move forward in our lives. Today, I encourage you to seek and ascertain what your purpose is in this life and decide on the impact you want to have on this world beyond yourself. With courage and God’s leading, you will be able to make the difference that this world so desperately needs. God bless you all in your academic and professional endeavors and congratulations.”

The School of Graduate Studies was launched 17 years after establishing a successful  School of Medicine, further evolving St. George’s University as an international center for excellence. Last year, the school celebrated 25 years of excellence, having graduated more than 1,300 students. At present, the SGS has 34 different graduate degree programs, and also provides students the opportunity to earn dual degrees such as the DVM/MSc, DVM/MBA, MD/MSc, and MD/MPH, which has more than 1,000 graduates and celebrated its 20th anniversary, last year.


–Ray-Donna Peters


SGU Vice Chancellor Liebowitz Featured in International Business Times

Graduates of SGU's School of Medicine

An op/ed piece by SGU Vice Chancellor Dr. Richard Liebowitz was recently featured in the International Business Times.

The article, Coronavirus Response: How International Medical School Graduates Can Help Fight COVID-19, explained the important role that international medical schools play in training highly-qualified students who eventually become much-needed physicians in the United States, especially when it comes to providing healthcare services to underserved communities.

“To reduce the threat posed by COVID-19—and other infectious diseases like it—our healthcare system must do a better job managing, treating, and preventing chronic disease, especially in vulnerable populations,” Dr. Liebowitz wrote. “Primary care physicians can do that job. And there’s no better source of primary care physicians than international medical schools. It’s time to bring more of their graduates in—and expand post-graduate training capacity to allow them to further their careers as US doctors.”

450 SGU Grads to Start Residencies in New York-New Jersey Area Hospitals

SGU alumni take a break during a shift at Queens Hospital Center to pose for a picture. Photo courtesy of Shivani Dave.

Gillian Woodruff, MD ’20 (expected), is “chomping at the bit” to get started as an internal medicine resident at NYC Health + Hospitals/Queens Hospital Center in Jamaica, NY—one of the hardest hit areas by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

Ms. Woodruff, who aspires to be a gastroenterologist, joins 450 soon-to-be St. George’s University graduates who will enter residency this July at nearly 90 hospitals throughout New York and New Jersey. These new doctors will begin their careers across nine medical specialties, bringing much-needed help to facilities dealing with COVID-19.

With more than 150,000 cases of coronavirus in the New York City area alone (as of press time), Ms. Woodruff is well aware of the conditions she may enter at Queens Hospital when she begins her residency this summer.

“I have really been eager to be useful,” she said during a telephone interview from her home in Davis, CA. “Regardless of where I’m assigned, I am going to be supporting the pandemic effort, whether that’s taking care of primary care patients to free up another doctor or some other task that will be helpful. There is no uninvolved medical practitioner; everyone is going to be able to save lives from this, regardless of what they’re doing. I’m really proud and excited to be able to help in whatever way I can.”

Gillian Woodruff, MD ’20 (expected)

Gillian Woodruff, MD ’20 (expected), is eager to start as an internal medicine resident at NYC Health + Hospitals/Queens Hospital Center in Jamaica, NY—one of the hardest hit areas by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

Hospitals throughout Greater New York City have been dealing with a record number of COVID cases and are in need of additional help to care for critically ill patients. SGU graduates who recently matched at New York and New Jersey hospitals will help to meet an immediate and growing demand for doctors in the region. Of those, 313 SGU students and graduates will start their residencies in hospitals in New York while 137 will begin their postgraduate training in hospitals in New Jersey. They join the 8,209 SGU graduates who have done their post-graduate training in New York and New Jersey hospitals over the years.

Overall, nearly 1,100 SGU students and graduates will begin their residencies across the United States and Canada this summer.

“We are very proud of our graduates and admire their dedication,” said Dr. Richard Liebowitz, vice chancellor of St. George’s University. “We know they are well prepared and ready for the challenge that will be presented to them when they begin their postgraduate training in a few months. These newly matched students join a large number of our alumni who are already part of the heroic response to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Fortifying Tri-State Area Hospitals

As a result of the crisis, Uchechukwu Uneze, MD ’20 (expected), who will start as an internal medicine resident at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center, in Newark, NJ, expects to be much more hands-on with patients than a typical first-year resident would be.

“Our job is to provide relief for the other residents who are working tirelessly and helping them out in any way we can,” said Mr. Uneze, who eventually wants to go into pulmonary care. “In this situation I am going to be in a place where this pandemic has hit really hard. I kind of look at it as this is a rare opportunity to serve, learn, and care for patients, rather than learn from a textbook and experience it years later.”

Uchechukwu Uneze, MD ’20 (expected)

Uchechukwu Uneze, MD ’20 (expected), will start as an internal medicine resident at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center, in Newark, NJ.

Mr. Uneze, who went to Rutgers University in Newark for his undergraduate degree, said living in an underserved area strengthened his interest in medicine as he witnessed how the community was affected by limited healthcare resources. He returned to Newark to complete his clinical rotations there and ranked the hospital for residency because “I thought I would be able make a positive impact in those areas,” he said.

Elsewhere in New Jersey, Payal Patel, MD ’20 (expected), will start as an internal medicine resident at Hackensack University Medical Center. Ms. Patel, who hails from Lake Placid, FL, picked Hackensack as her first choice after completing her clinical rotations there. She said its internal medicine program, with new faculty, a focus toward academic teaching, and connections to big hospitals, appealed to her.

Payal Patel, MD ’20 (expected)

Payal Patel, MD ’20 (expected), will start as an internal medicine resident at Hackensack University Medical Center this summer.

While the COVID-19 crisis does add an extra layer of concern, it will not deter her from fulfilling her dream of becoming a physician, she added.

“I’m definitely both nervous and excited [to start residency], because we’re going to be thrown into the deep end when we start,” said Ms. Patel, who aspires to be a primary care doctor or become a hospitalist. “The hospital is taking good care of its residents, and as long as there is enough PPE and precautions taken, I am ready to face that. I’ve been working toward this goal for 20 years.”

How are our doctors helping during the COVID pandemic? Send us your story ideas. You can also share your story with us on social media by tagging SGU or using the hashtag #WeAreSGU and #SGUAlumni. 


–Laurie Chartorynsky

SGU Graduates Joining Front Lines in Brooklyn

Patch.com recently published a news story titled “Doctors Trained Outside US Making an Impact in Brooklyn,” in which it outlined how SGU alumni are helping to address the borough’s healthcare disparities and fight COVID-19 on the front lines.

In the story, writer Jeff Arnold spoke with SGU Vice Chancellor Richard Liebowitz about the growing role of St. George’s graduates—and all IMGs—in New York City.

“International schools such as St. George’s University in Grenada, West Indies are sending medical school graduates back to the United States to begin residencies and ultimately begin full-time work. Over the past four years, St. George’s has placed 454 graduates into residency programs across nine hospitals in Brooklyn with medical professionals filling roles as emergency medicine, surgery, anesthesiology, and pediatrics. This year alone, 126 graduates of the school will be placed in Brooklyn-based residency programs.”

Dr. Liebowitz also shed light on how international medical schools offer aspiring US doctors a clear path to medicine: “International schools fill a huge void, and I think the key thing is finding the international school that has the quality of the US school.”

On the Front Lines of COVID-19: SGU Grad Shares Experiences Inside Psychiatric Hospital

Ryan Salahi, MD '04, ER Physician at San Diego Psychiatric Hospital

Ryan Salahi, MD ’04, lead ER physician and chief of medical staff for the San Diego Psychiatric Hospital, describes the strong connection with his team that has made caring for their patients, many of whom are now COVID-19 positive, a little easier.

“Finding a balance during these stressful times can be difficult, but I work with great colleagues, administrators, nurses, social workers, and other staff, and we’re like a family—which helps immensely. I’m grateful for them,” Dr. Salahi said.

While a number of patients having been diagnosed with COVID-19, the hospital faces unique challenges due to the nature of his patient cohorts: it’s difficult for many of them to follow instructions, such as social distancing; and they are not allowed to be given masks for fear of wearing them inappropriately or risk of hurting themselves.

To help staff, the hospital has implemented new protective measures, including: the building of entry COVID-19 screening tents; the creation of a decontamination room/ante-room in the entrance to its quarantine/isolation unit where all staff are required to don full PPE and remove properly to decontaminate upon exiting the unit; separating patients who are positive COVID-19 from those who are not; temporary suspension of family visitations; and other changes. In addition, the hospital is able to get direct access to prioritized testing and PPE distributions from San Diego County’s Emergency Operations Center, and other helpful resources.

Dr. Salahi and team have been using extra lengths to educate their patients about the coronavirus. “Interestingly, our psychiatric patients, while often times difficult and argumentative, were extremely open to learning about COVID-19 and we were able to successfully test 100 percent of our inpatients with no refusals,” he added.

Many St. George’s University graduates like Dr. Salahi are on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic, using their expertise to treat those who are critically ill, joining teams searching for short- and long-term solutions, and contributing in many other ways to help patients in need. SGU is sharing a number of these stories, with the hope that by hearing the experiences of others who are making a difference around the world, we can help reaffirm our students and doctors’ commitment to the medical profession.

“I’ve always known I wanted to be a doctor. As doctors, we care for sick people. It’s what we’re trained to do,” he said.

How are our doctors helping during the COVID pandemic? Send us your story ideas. You can also share your story with us on social media by tagging SGU or using the hashtag #WeAreSGU and #SGUAlumni. 

– Laurie Chartorynsky


Ryan Salahi, MD '04, ER Physician at San Diego Psychiatric Hospital