More Than 1,025 Future Physicians Secure US Residency Positions on Match Day 2020

With the ongoing coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, St. George’s University students and graduates who will be called on to assist in the fight against the virus received much awaited news on Match Day 2020. On Friday, 1,027 soon-to-be physicians learned of where they will begin their residencies in the United States this summer, the news coming down from the National Resident Matching Program (NRMP) as the clock struck noon. The residency match number is expected to climb even higher in the coming weeks and months.

Positions were secured across a wide range of specialties—including anesthesiology, emergency medicine, orthopedic surgery, pathology, and many more—and spanned 43 of the United States. The newest class of residents join a proud network of SGU physicians who are making a difference in healthcare throughout hospitals around the world.

“It is especially in times like these that we, as physicians, are turned to in order to provide valuable, high-quality care in communities around the world, for individuals who desperately need it,” said Dr. G. Richard Olds, president of St. George’s University. “With the skills and knowledge with which they have been equipped, I am confident that our students are prepared to meet this challenge head-on.”

 

 

In the place of in-person celebrations, SGU students and graduates utilized technology to celebrate Match Day with their colleagues. For Nick Mulchan, MD ’20 (expected), he and his medical school friends connected via video chat, each opening up their emails from the NRMP simultaneously to simulate SGU’s annual Match Day Luncheon in New York City, which was canceled for the safety of all attendees.

Mr. Mulchan’s excitement was evident on the call, having matched into a neurology residency at New York University Grossman School of Medicine.

“It was helpful to experience it with everyone who I went to med school with,” he said. “We all looked out for each other. It was great to see and hear from everyone. A lot of us got our top choices. We all did really well and I’m so proud of everyone.”

“We all worked hard, and SGU prepared us really well,” he added. “SGU went above and beyond my expectations, which allowed us to excel.”

Mr. Mulchan was a biological engineering major at Cornell University before going on to earn a master’s degree in biomedical engineering at Columbia. He then enrolled in the St. George’s University of Grenada School of Medicine/Northumbria University Four-Year MD Program (formerly the Keith B. Taylor Global Scholars Program), where he built a strong bond with his fellow students. Through studying in the United Kingdom, Grenada, and the United States, he built a strong foundation for his medical career. It set him up to go on “15 or 16” interviews, primarily in the northeast US, but he felt especially at home in NYU, citing its reputation, wealth of resources and fellowship opportunities, as well as the proximity to his roots on Long Island.

 

“A lot of us got our top choices. We all did really well and I’m so proud of everyone.”

Nick Mulchan, MD 2020

 

Another native New Yorker—Raven Crusco, MD ’20 (expected)­—will be headed south this summer, having matched into a combined pediatrics/emergency medicine residency program at University of Maryland Medical Center. It is one of fewer than 10 such positions in the entire US.

“Between the hardships, the stress, and the studying, it has been quite a journey, but it’s all been worth it,” she said. “It all paid off. I’m so happy to say that I got my first choice. I have had the program on my radar for a while. I couldn’t be more excited.”

Ms. Crusco came directly to SGU after obtaining a Bachelor of Science in neuroscience from Binghamton University. Early on, her affinity for pediatrics was clear, and throughout her experience in the hospitals and with the Emergency Medicine Club at SGU, she was drawn to both.

She finished her final clinical rotation earlier in the month, and she waited anxiously ever since for the residency news to arrive. That she matched into a combined residency will allow her to become board certified in both pediatrics and emergency medicine after five years.

“Going to SGU is clearly a good path to medicine, and I’m just really happy to be a part of it,” she said.

 

“It all paid off. I’m so happy to say that I got my first choice. I have had the program on my radar for a while. I couldn’t be more excited.”

Raven Crusco, MD 2020

 

Her close friend, Evan Maisel, MD ’20 (expected), will complete his intern year in internal medicine at Mather Hospital in Port Jefferson, NY, before going on to an anesthesiology residency at Kendall Regional Medical Center in Miami, FL. It’s not far from where he did his undergraduate studies (University of Miami) and where his parents expect to retire.

“When you’re in the trenches during medical school, it feels like it’s going so slowly, but looking back, I feel like I blinked my eyes and it was over,” he said. “It was all worth it. I got the field and the place that I wanted, and it’s an amazing feeling.”

Mr. Maisel grew up around medicine—his dad a cardiologist on Long Island, his uncle specializing in anesthesiology. In going through his coursework and clinical training, he felt more drawn to the latter.

“I’ve always been interested in pharmacology, and I did well in it too,” he said. “When I got to my clinical years and found myself in the OR, I liked being hands-on with the patients and caring for them during a vulnerable time, as well as there being a mixture of continuity of care perioperatively with acuity of care intraoperatively.”

 

“It was all worth it. I got the field and the place that I wanted, and it’s an amazing feeling.”

Evan Maisel, MD 2020

 

The Match Day news comes three weeks after 13 St. George’s University students secured residency in Canada through the Canadian Residency Matching Service (CaRMS). For a complete list of 2020 residency appointments, visit our website.

In the US, Canada, and around the world, this year’s class of residents join the medical profession officially this summer, in a time when new doctors are especially welcome to assist. Currently, more than 10,000 St. George’s University physicians are practicing in the United States alone.

“With the number of people being impacted by the coronavirus and without knowing how long it’s going to go on, I’m thankful to be a part of the task force that’s going to help to beat this virus,” Mr. Mulchan said. “There’s more of a need now than ever.”

– Brett Mauser

St. George’s University Students Form a Line of Pride in Support of Grenada

TRUE BLUE, Grenada, March 14, 2020 — St. George’s University (SGU) has been continuing to follow the global outbreak of Coronavirus (COVID-19) and has been working collaboratively with the leaders of the Government of Grenada to address the Coronavirus pandemic.

The safety and well-being of our students, faculty and staff and the larger Grenadian community continue to be of paramount importance to SGU. At this time, we continue to encourage students to leave the island to lessen the burden on Grenada, and a significant portion has chosen to do so. To facilitate these efforts, SGU has chartered aircrafts that have already made a number of flights to major U.S. hubs.

“The measures we are taking are in line with best practice and guidelines being encouraged by global health organizations and followed by universities throughout the world,” said Richard Liebowitz, MD, Vice Chancellor of St. George’s University. “Our goal is to ensure our students and faculty help reduce density on campus and on the island of Grenada to reduce any potential future spread of the virus and free up resources on the island for those who may need them most. Our actions were not related to any specific medical situation on the island, but to achieve the goal of lessening the spread of disease in the future.”

SGU is working collaboratively with key stakeholders in the Grenadian community, including the Ministries of Health and Education, as well as the Grenada Airport Authority to help manage the situation and facilitate a smooth process. SGU will not direct students to return to Grenada until it is safe to do so for all and will be transitioning to online learning activities for all students, including the School of Medicine, Veterinary Medicine and Arts and Sciences, over the next week.

While SGU continues to facilitate students, who want to leave the island, some have chosen to remain in Grenada, both on and off campus. The campus will remain operational, and SGU intends to maintain full staff pay and benefits during this pandemic. SGU is continuing to assess the situation and is actively communicating with those on campus.

SGU is also continuing to work closely with the Government of Grenada to assist with preparations for enhancing the public health infrastructure on the island.

“As in past crises, SGU stands with the people and Government of Grenada to address any challenges and provide appropriate support as we face this challenge together,” Dr. Charles Modica, Chancellor of SGU, stated. “Our students lined up at the airport represent a line of pride for their medical education in Grenada and their commitment as future physicians to unburden the Grenadian health care system during this unprecedented pandemic.”

Chancellor Modica added: “We are actively in the process of assisting in procuring and providing medical equipment to the Grenada General Hospital and laboratory, as well as professional assistance to support both local needs and those of students and best prepare the island’s health care system for the potential threat.”

To date, no member of the university community has contracted COVID-19. SGU remains vigilant and will continue to coordinate with Grenada’s Ministry of Health, and our international partners.

St. George’s University Follows Guidance for Institutions of Higher Education to Stem the Spread of COVID-19

TRUE BLUE, Grenada, March 12, 2020 – St. George’s University has been closely following the global outbreak of Coronavirus (COVID-19), including its recent characterization as a pandemic as well as the potential implications it may have on our True Blue Grenada campus and the larger community in Grenada.

While at this time there are no confirmed COVID-19 cases in Grenada, the safety and well-being of our students, faculty and staff and the larger Grenada community are of paramount importance to us. Our goal is to make prudent decisions that reflect our commitment to the ongoing safety of our campus community and that of the people of Grenada.

SGU has decided to encourage all international students on the Grenada campus to return home with the situation being re-evaluated by April 15. Students will only return to Grenada when it is well advisable and the global pandemic has stabilized. We will be in close coordination with the Ministry of Health regarding the timing of students’ return. Some students and faculty, both local and international, will remain in Grenada and our campus will remain open for all who continue to reside there, with full use of campus facilities. This approach is consistent with recommendations for Institutions of Higher Education from public health officials, and mirrors the actions taken by many universities around the globe to limit the density of large populations on their campuses. The plan is for only small groups to meet face to face, with appropriate social distancing, with the further development and implementation of online education to reduce the need for face to face classroom gathering.

We will continue to operate the campus in Grenada with full staffing, with no change to current employment status, pay or benefits.

These actions are taken out of concern for our students, faculty and staff and the desire to maintain public health in Grenada, in light of this rapidly changing situation. SGU is also working closely with the Government of Grenada to assist with preparations for enhancing the public health infrastructure on the island.

“As SGU has done in the past during challenging times, we will continue to stand with our Grenadian partners and the people of Grenada with support and close collaboration,” Dr. Charles Modica, Chancellor of SGU, said.

Prime Minister Mitchell stated, “We appreciate the close partnership with SGU and Chancellor Modica, and want to support all efforts to lessen the risk to Grenada of COVID-19. We will continue to closely coordinate with SGU to address this issue and mitigate the impact on Grenada.”

To date, no member of the university community has contracted COVID-19. We have been working diligently with the Ministry of Health, Grenada and our international partners to consider every contingency that will allow us to limit exposure to the disease among members of the SGU and Grenadian community.

St. George’s University Students Match into Competitive Residency Programs in Canada

SGU clinical rotations

Fourteen St. George’s University students will be joining the healthcare system in Canada as physicians this summer, having matched into highly competitive residency programs through the first iteration of the Canadian Resident Matching Service (CaRMS) R-1 Main Residency Match on Tuesday.

Students matched into residency programs in three Canadian provinces, in fields such as family medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics, and psychiatry. More are expected to earn residency positions in the second Canadian match iteration on April 15. The United States match will take place on March 20.

“These students follow in the footsteps of the hundreds of SGU graduates who have returned to Canada to continue their medical careers,” said Sandra Banner, SGU’s director of admissions for Canada and the former director of CaRMS. “I commend them for their aptitude in the classroom as well as in a clinical setting and am certain that their future patients will greatly benefit from their well-rounded care.”

Marissa Solow, MD ’20 (expected), said she “could not be more excited” to have secured an internal medicine residency position at the University of Toronto.

“I got exactly what I wanted,” said Ms. Solow, who grew up 10 minutes from downtown Toronto. “I had high hopes, and I couldn’t have been happier to find out that I was going back to Canada and to my top-choice program.”

She came to SGU as a non-traditional student, having sung opera professionally before setting her sights on medicine. Both of her parents are physicians, and her brother, Max, is an SGU graduate who is a first-year anesthesiology resident at the University of Minnesota.

Like her brother and many Canadian students, her medical school studies began as part of the St. George’s University of Grenada School of Medicine/Northumbria University Four-Year MD Program (formerly the Keith B. Taylor Global Scholars Program), a unique educational experience in the United Kingdom that she would “recommend for anyone who was going to SGU.”

Ms. Solow felt confident going into the CaRMS match, having built her resume with a strong  international medical school experience, by participating in an array of clubs and events such as diabetes clinics and the Palliative Care Society in Grenada, and diverse clinical rotations that included a two-week elective with the clinical teaching unit at the University of Western Ontario. She is strongly considering specializing in hematology and oncology or medical oncology after residency.

Meagan Kaye, MD ’20 (expected), shares her excitement. Ms. Kaye waited anxiously for the 12pm release Tuesday and rejoiced upon learning that she had matched into the pediatrics residency program at McMaster University, a little over an hour from her hometown, Richmond Hill, ON.

In addition to its proximity to family, Ms. Kaye had completed an elective at McMaster last fall. When it came time to apply for residency, the camaraderie at McMaster made it stand out.

“It’s an amazing program and hospital,” she said. “All of the residents and faculty made me feel very welcome. Getting the results was pretty exciting. I’m thrilled to be able to go back and be with my family.”

She came to SGU after earning her Bachelor of Science in chemistry from Queen’s University in Kingston, ON. Her volunteer time and research at The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto solidified her determination to pursue a career in pediatrics. Her medical studies began as a member of the SGU/NU program in the UK.

“It’s been a long journey and it’s required a lot of hard work,” she said. “I loved my time in the UK as well as in Grenada and in Brooklyn, NY for clerkships. Overall, my experience at SGU was very positive, and that I matched back to the program I really wanted to be with made everything worth it for sure.”

Emma Metivier, MD ’20 (expected), distracted herself on the morning of the match – “my apartment has never been so clean,” she said. When noon struck, she celebrated alongside her mom, having discovered she had landed a pediatrics residency position at Western University in Ontario.

“Matching in Canada was beyond my wildest dreams,” said Ms. Metivier. “It’s where I initially learned to love medicine. As a Canadian, it’s exciting for me to go to back to the Canadian healthcare system that I grew up with, and to be with many of my mentors.”

Like Ms. Kaye, the 2013 University of Guelph graduate came to SGU after volunteering and conducting research at the Sick Kids Toronto. She joined the popular Canadian Student Association (CanSA) on campus, as well as the Iota Epsilon Alpha Honor Medical Society.

For residency, Ms. Metivier interviewed throughout the United States as well as Ontario. She is excited to become a part of the Western team, working just two hours from home and in the  field she set out to join.

“Pediatrics gives you the biggest opportunity to change someone’s life for the better at the very beginning,” she said. “There is nothing better than getting to work with kids.”

The newly matched residents join the more than 140 St. George’s University students who have secured postgraduate positions in Canada over the last 10 years.

– Brett Mauser

SGU Sim Lab Director Receives Prestigious Spice Isle Award

Samantha Dickson, SGU SIM Lab coordinator

For St. George’s University faculty member Samantha Dickson, touching and saving lives has been a lifelong mission. From the age of 17, she has been a teacher, a youth volunteer, an advisor, and a leader in Grenada, and is the first female to have been elected president of the Grenada Red Cross Society (GRCS).

For her contribution of more than 30 years to Grenada’s public service, Ms. Dickson was recently awarded the 2020 Spice Isle Award by the Government of Grenada. She, along with the other awardees, was acknowledged at the 46th Anniversary of Independence Celebrations at Grenada’s National Stadium prior to receiving her award at an official ceremony held at the Governor General’s Residence on February 20.

“I am deeply humbled to have been awarded this honor,” said Ms. Dickson, the coordinator of SGU’s simulation center as well as the American Heart Association (AHA) International Training Center. “Most of all, I am thankful to my family for supporting me because I had to sacrifice spending time with them in order to help others. I am also grateful to the Red Cross because this is where it all started for me. It’s amazing to think that initially I wasn’t sure this was something I would want to do, but after attending that first two-day workshop on how to educate young teachers to become leaders in 1988, that was it; I was converted into a lifelong member of this organization.”

In 1988, she joined the public service of Grenada as a teacher, becoming a youth volunteer and leader of the GRCS a year later. After serving in numerous advisory roles throughout the years, including as a member of the Health Commission of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), today she serves as the organization’s president.

“I’ve always had a calling to make a difference and to save lives,” said Ms. Dickson. “I went into teaching because it gave me an opportunity to have a huge impact on shaping and molding the lives of our nation’s children. Even as a 17-year-old teacher to 16-year-old students, I still felt like I was able to change their lives.”

Established in 2007, the National Honours and Awards Act No. 32 allows for the granting of awards to citizens of Grenada and other persons for distinguished, outstanding, or meritorious services or achievements, or for gallantry and related matters. The Spice Isle Award in particular is awarded to any person who has rendered truly emulative service in any field of human endeavor or for other humane action.

Ms. Dickson has dedicated her life to humanitarian services and has travelled to more than 45 countries experiencing, teaching, and learning. She has served as a teacher, guidance counselor, health director of the Red Cross, and deputy/acting national disaster coordinator of the National Disaster Management Agency (NaDMA).

“After 30 years of service to my country, I have made lifelong friends,” stated Ms. Dickson. “I have touched many lives and have loved the opportunity to be of service and give back to others. In the future, I plan to continue being a role model and mentor, especially to young women, and to set the path to encourage others so that when I can no longer be of service someone else can pick up the mantle and continue on doing an even better job than I did.”

Additionally, Ms. Dickson has functioned as the deputy of operations for the response and recovery to Hurricanes Ivan and Emily in 2004 and 2005. During these operations, she managed the British Housing Recovery Project—rebuilding homes and recovering livelihoods. She has managed the Caribbean Tripartite Agreement—a regional First Aid project between Grenada, Trinidad and Belize—as well as the UNICEF/Grenada Red Cross component of the “Return to Happiness” a psychosocial program, reaching 10,000 children ages 6 to 12 within the span of six months.

In 2005, she had the honor of meeting Queen Sofia of Spain to receive an award on behalf of the outstanding work of the Grenada Red Cross volunteers.

Ms. Dickson is currently completing a master’s degree in emergency services administration at California State University, Long Beach. She continues to participate in numerous humanitarian initiatives including as a member of the coordination group for the Global Network for Women Leaders in the Red Cross and Red Crescent movement (GLOW Red) and as one of only five doping control officers in Grenada for the Caribbean Regional Anti-Doping Organization (Caribbean RADO).

–Ray-Donna Peters

SGU Welcomes Back Familiar Faces at Beyond Spice Family Weekend

SGU Family Weekend - January 2020

When Alex Gantz found out her husband, Benjamin, was accepted to St. George’s University School of Veterinary Medicine, she was thrilled. Even though she was pregnant with their youngest child at the time and would be leaving their New Hampshire home for the move to Grenada, she was still excited about joining her husband on his new journey to becoming a veterinarian.

“Like most of us in the veterinary medical profession, I wanted to become a vet since I was a child,” shared Mr. Gantz, a Term 3 SVM student. “Then life happened. I got married and had two kids. But as I got older and wiser, I decided to go for it. Now I’m in my second year in the Doctor of Veterinary Medicine program. I’m thankful to SGU for giving me the opportunity to fulfill my childhood dream.”

This year the couple was joined once again by his parents, who made SGU’s Beyond Spice Family Weekend their family getaway for the second year in a row.

“At first, it took a little getting used to a new country and culture,” said Ms. Gantz. “But now we love it here and so do Ben’s parents. They’ve had so much fun on the sea excursion and at the sunset barbecue that they just keep coming back. For them, family vacation means SGU’s Family Weekend.”

The Gantz family weren’t the only repeat visitors this year. The University also welcomed much of its alumni, coming back and bringing with them many additions to the incoming class. Francis Rienzo, MD ’88, and his brother, Peter Rienzo, MD ’85, returned to coat their children, Emily and Jake Rienzo, at the Spring 2020 School of Medicine White Coat Ceremony, as did Abayomi Odubela, MD ’83, who also shared in that honor by coating his daughter, Ibironke. Altogether, this spring’s incoming SOM and SVM class welcomed backed five SGU graduates, including members of the Class of 1983, 1985, and 1988 to join in the special privilege of coating their children.

Now celebrating its 12th year since the inception of Family Weekend, SGU continually looks forward to opening its doors to host students’ families who’ve come to visit the country and campus that their students now call home. The bi-annual festivities include guided campus tours; the historical sightseeing tour of Fort Frederick, the famous Grand Etang Lake, and the 30-foot Annandale Waterfalls; and lunch at Belmont Estate, a fully functional and historic plantation, among other activities.

“Family Weekend serves as more than an occasion to bring families together; it is a chance to celebrate the University’s growth and success by now welcoming the children of our graduates to continue their legacy,” stated Colin Dowe, associate dean of admissions. “Additionally, our goal is to also provide an atmosphere where our visitors can explore all that the University and Grenada have to offer and be converted into lifelong visitors to our beautiful tri-island state.”

Family Weekend Fall 2020 is set for August 26- 30. Learn more about the festivities by visiting the Family Weekend webpage or by emailing familyweekend@sgu.edu.

–Ray-Donna Peters

St. George’s University Awards Nine Students with Prestigious Scholarships

St. George's University 2020 CityDoctors scholarship recipientsSt. George’s University announced that it has awarded nine incoming students with CityDoctors scholarships. The winners hail from several cities and towns, including Bronx, Brooklyn, and Monmouth County in New Jersey.

“This program gives medical students from New York and New Jersey the unique opportunity to return home after graduation and serve their communities,” said Dr. G. Richard Olds, president of St. George’s University. “We’re thrilled to welcome the 2020 recipients to our campus community.”

Created in 2012, CityDoctors Scholarships are awarded cooperatively by St. George’s University and several partner hospitals in New York and New Jersey to applicants who wish to start their studies in the January term.

Students chosen for a NYC Health + Hospitals CityDoctors Scholarship must commit to working in one of the system’s 11 public hospitals following graduation. Those who receive a CityDoctors Scholarship from Jersey Shore University Medical Center or HackensackUMC need not commit to working in those hospitals.

To be eligible for a NYC Health + Hospitals CityDoctors scholarship, students must have maintained a permanent residence within the five boroughs of New York City for five or more years, graduated from high school or college in New York City, or have other ties to NYC Health + Hospitals.

Residents of Monmouth County, Ocean County, or Bergen County, as well as students with some connection to JSUMC or HackensackUMC, are eligible for the CityDoctors Scholarships from St. George’s New Jersey hospital partners.

In 2019, more than 375 St. George’s University graduates entered residency programs in New York and New Jersey. St. George’s is the second-largest provider of practicing doctors to the U.S. healthcare system.

“New York and New Jersey need more highly skilled physicians to meet the needs of their residents,” Dr. Olds said. “We have no doubt that this class of CityDoctors scholarship winners will emerge as leaders in the practice of medicine.”

Continuing the Legacy: Class of 2024 Welcomed to Medical Profession at School of Medicine White Coat Ceremony

Cousins Jake and Emily Rienzo join their fathers and proud SGU graduates to accept their white coats at the Spring 2020 School of Medicine White Coat CeremonyFor the Rienzo family, practicing medicine seemed to run in their blood. Thus, it came as no surprise when cousins Jake and Emily Rienzo also decided to join the family business, taking their first steps into the medical profession at the Spring 2020 School of Medicine White Coat Ceremony.

Sharing the stage with them were their fathers and proud SGU graduates, Francis Rienzo, MD ’88, and his brother, Peter Rienzo, MD ’85, who had the honor of coating them. Emily, a CityDoctors Scholarship recipient, will also be the first female physician continuing the legacy in their family. Both she and Jake grew up being regaled with stories of SGU by their dads, who even carry their old SGU ID cards with them still to this day.

“I’m just so proud of my daughter; words can’t even express it,” said Dr. F. Rienzo, now an internist practicing in New Jersey. “Jake and Emily are going to be fourth-generation physicians following in both their father’s and grandfather’s footsteps, and I couldn’t be more excited to be back in Grenada for their White Coat Ceremony.”

“I’m elated that they chose to follow in our footsteps and attend SGU,” added Dr. P Rienzo, an anesthesiologist also practicing in New Jersey. “It’s great to be back and see how far the University has come and how it continues to provide opportunities for success for so many people from different countries all over the world.”

The Rienzos weren’t the only alumni coming back to SGU to coat their loved ones. Altogether, this spring’s incoming SOM and SVM class welcomed backed five SGU graduates, including members of the Class of 1983, 1985, and 1988 to join in the special privilege of coating their children.

Among them was alumnus Abayomi Odubela, MD ’83, who also shared in that honor by coating his daughter, Ibironke. Since graduating over three decades ago, Dr. Odubela has been back to Grenada three times to visit the place where he began his medical career.

“Today I am so happy to see the tremendous growth and expansion of SGU,” praised Dr. Odubela. “I am extremely proud that she has chosen to take the same path as I did. SGU’s success rate and the high caliber of its faculty makes me feel confident that she’s in good hands.”

The 2024 Grenada class joined its fellow students from St. George’s University of Grenada School of Medicine/Northumbria University Four- and Five-Year Program, who began their journey two weeks earlier at Northumbria University in the United Kingdom. This spring, SGU also welcomed 277 Caribbean students, 94 of whom are aspiring physicians in the School of Medicine. The students represent 10 countries, including Grenada, Antigua, Barbados, Jamaica, Dominica, Trinidad, British Virgin Islands, St. Lucia, Cayman Islands, and Guyana.

In his keynote address, current president and CEO of The Arnold P. Gold Foundation, Dr. Richard Levin shared the reason behind the creation of the White Coat Ceremony, explaining that it was a “modern invention to correct a modern problem.” The Ceremony was devised after recognizing a shift during the late ’70s and early ’80s of students being taught to move further away from the patients, both literally and figuratively. According to Dr. Levin, rounds moved from the bedside to the hallway and now to the screen. Doctors were spending more time with data than with their patients and it had become harder to remember that illness affected a family and a community as well as the patient in the bed.

“The White Coat Ceremony is designed to remind you, your faculty, and everyone who loves you that fundamentally medicine is a human interaction,” stated Dr. Levin. “Today’s ceremony is intended to emphasize the importance of that connection right from the beginning of your training.”

A highlight of Dr. Levin’s address was his endorsement of this year’s master of ceremonies and alumnus Cholene Espinoza, MD ’15. He called on Dr. Espinoza to share the podium with him as he completed his speech.

“An extraordinary example of humanistic practice is our master of ceremonies today, Dr. Cholene Espinoza,” extoled Dr. Levin.  “She has led a life that has put her in harm’s way: as a pilot in the US Air Force she has been shot at, she was an embedded radio journalist in the Iraq war, and she is now an OB/GYN who believes that humanistic practice is as important as scientific excellence. If any of us are an example for you as you start out on this pathway, I think it is Cholene Espinoza.”

After a resounding round of applause, Dr. Espinoza shared a few words of wisdom of her own with the Class of 2024.

“I want you to really focus today on what it means to be here—to enter this profession which I call a tribe, to wear this white coat, and the immense privilege it is to be able to be a part of this institution and enter into your patients’ lives,” she said. “It is also very important to acknowledge what you have achieved to this point. I know you’re probably nervous about whether or not you’ll make it to the end, but this is an enormous achievement and you need to do a victory lap with your family, who got you here.”

Additionally, the School of Medicine White Coat Ceremonies kicked off the first full day of activities of the University’s Beyond Spice Family Weekend. A customary element to each term in Grenada, students and family members soaked up nature and culture prior to attending the special ceremony that serves as a rite of passage for aspiring physicians. 

– Ray-Donna Peters

 

 

Grad Tackles Hem/Onc and Integrative Medicine Fellowships to Treat Patients’ “Whole Health”

Onyemaechi Okolo, MD ’15, dual fellow in hem/onc and integrative medicine

Onyemaechi Okolo, MD ’15, feels a strong affinity to the world of pathology.

“I love looking at cells under the microscope—they’re actually really beautiful,” said the Nigerian-born doctor, who is a dual hematology-oncology fellow at The University of Arizona Cancer Center, a National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center, and an integrative medicine fellow at The University of Arizona Andrew Weil Center for Integrative Medicine.

But she admits it wasn’t until late in her clinical rotations while at St. George’s University that she had clarity on what type of doctor she wanted to be. “What I loved the most in basic sciences was pathophysiology and learning about normal and abnormal cells; I was particularly intrigued by how cancer cells hijack your body,” she said. “In the clinical setting, it was my experiences with the patients during my hematology-oncology rotation that connected the pathophysiology and clinical aspects of oncology for me. I actively looked forward to learning more every day.”

She furthered solidified her path to medicine while doing her internal medicine residency at The University of Arizona Medical Center. Dr. Okolo became interested in learning preventative health, meditation, and other forms of holistic medicine to further help patients with serious illnesses like cancer and blood disorders.

“I wanted to learn about not only how to treat patients, but how I can help them live better,” she said. “I really enjoy learning both traditional and holistic medicine so that I have a lot more tools in my toolbox to help my patients.”

By completing her fellowships concurrently—she is expected to be finished in the summer of 2021—her goal is to obtain the knowledge and tools necessary to assess and treat patients’ “whole health,” not just the symptoms that brought them to see her in the first place.

“When you tell people they have cancer, their first reaction is ‘I don’t want chemotherapy,’” said Dr. Okolo. “I want patients to know that they have an entire team working for them whose goal is to help heal their bodies, minds, and spirits.”

As a dual fellow, Dr. Okolo spends her days at the Arizona Cancer Center where she actively treats and manages patients with a variety of blood disorders, sickle-cell anemia and hemophilia, as well as tumors and blood cancer. As part of her Hem/Onc fellowship, she is learning how to utilize newer treatment methods, especially stem cell transplants and immunotherapy. That includes CAR T-cell therapy, which involves engineering a patient’s immune cells to recognize and attack specific cancer cells. Right now, Dr. Okolo said that the treatment is approved for use in acute lymphoblastic leukemia and diffuse large B-cell lymphoma. However, “it’s looking like CAR T-cell therapy is going to be translatable to a lot more cancers, so it’s really exciting that we’re also learning how to treat cancer with it.”

At night, she alternates between reviewing her patient cases or working on her integrative medicine nodules that, similar to an online classroom, include instructors and chapter assignments.

“Integrative medicine is more of a healthy philosophy,” she said. “It tends to be more individualized, and we use evidence-based medicine alongside complementary practices from a range of cultures such as following certain diets like the Mediterranean diet. We also stress the benefits of things like yoga, meditative movement, aerobic exercise, and herbal medicine.

“Integrative medicine is especially important in oncology because it’s important for physicians to know what supplements or practices patients should avoid when on certain cancer therapies due to interactions or lack of safety data,” Dr. Okolo added.

FINDING HER PATH TO BECOMING A DOCTOR

Dr. Okolo, who moved with her family to Texas from Nigeria when she was 9, was not always interested in medicine. She originally wanted to major in art, but as first-generation immigrants, her parents wanted her to enter a more traditional profession, such as a doctor, she said. Dr. Okolo graduated from Johns Hopkins University with a bachelor’s degree in cognitive sciences, but still needed a gap year in Spain where she taught English, to think about if she truly wanted to pursue medicine.

“It was probably the most illuminating year of my life,” she said. “I returned to the US and was ready to go to med school.”

However, by the time Dr. Okolo came back to US, she had missed the application cycle for US schools. She didn’t want to have to retake her MCATs, so family members suggested she look into SGU given its January and August admissions cycles.

“My SGU interviewer sealed the deal,” Dr. Okolo recalled. “She was an attending psychiatrist and she was honest and said ‘You’re going to a Caribbean med school. You have to be the person who determines if you will be successful. If you want to be a doctor and plan on working hard and want a little bit of adventure, then this is the school for you.’ For me, going to an international med school was exciting.”

CREATING MEANINGFUL RELATIONSHIPS

As a physician, Dr. Okolo attributed honesty, courage, empathy, and resilience as the most important qualities of a good physician, especially in the field of oncology.

“You’re going to have to look someone in the eye and be able to tell them a lot of difficult news including ‘This is not a curable stage anymore.’ I’ve been in situations where you don’t want to extinguish hope, but you want to be able to prepare them for what is coming,” she said.

“It’s a hard field. You definitely share in their joys, but also their heartbreaks. You have to remember to go home and be present in your life and be with your own family,” added Dr. Okolo, who is recently married.

In order to be able to do both fellowships concurrently, Dr. Okolo formed a strong support system while at Arizona Cancer Center. Ravitharan Krishnadasan, MD, FACP, an associate professor of clinical medicine in the department of hematology and oncology at the University of Arizona Cancer Center, is one of Dr. Okolo’s mentors and an attending physician.

“Integrative medicine is one of the things that Onyema has a passion for,” said Dr. Krishnadasan, who is also an SGU graduate. “It makes her more of a comprehensive physician because she is not closed off to other treatments or medication to help decrease, for example, the anxiety that comes along with a diagnosis of cancer.”

Yet Dr. Krishnadasan noted that it is Dr. Okolo’s strong rapport with patients that will make her an excellent physician. “In oncology, you really do have the opportunity to have relationships that are so much deeper because a patient looks to you to really guide them to what they’re going to face in the future. If you handle it correctly, as a physician, it can make your life so much more rewarding,” he said.

Dr. Okolo credits her early experiences at SGU as helping her form a good patient-doctor bond.

“SGU really exposed me to variety,” she said. “When you go into St. George’s Hospital, there were some people who were incredibly grateful to have the students there and other patients who were there and you could feel the distress immediately. I definitely learned how to read a patient when you first walk into the room and understand where they are coming from. If you’re sensing distress and mistrust, it’s your job to help them understand you want the best for them. People can tell if you are being honest or not with them.”

– Laurie Chartorynsky

2020 SGU/NU Entering Class Begins on Path Toward Unique Role in Society

Thirty-eight students commit themselves to the medical profession with last month’s White Coat Ceremony in the UK, part of St. George’s University of Grenada School of Medicine/Northumbria University Four-Year MD Program. With last month’s White Coat Ceremony, the 38 students in the St. George’s University of Grenada School of Medicine/Northumbria University Four-Year MD Program not only committed themselves to the medical profession but, through their training, putting themselves in a unique position in society.

“You will develop the skills for close and intimate contact with patients during some of their most difficult times,” said Dr. David Heymann, director of the Center of Bioethics and Humanities, University of Colorado, the evening’s keynote speaker. “You will have their full trust. From your interaction with them and their families, you will see the world in a way that many others cannot. If you take advantage of this special gift of trust, you will gain insight that only the medical profession can provide.”

This year’s class joined a network of more than 1,800 SGU students who began their studies at NU’s campus in Newcastle, United Kingdom. The class includes 37 students from countries such as the United States, Canada, the UK, Uganda, Thailand, and Australia. The students were robed in their white physicians’ coats – symbolizing their entry into the medical profession—and took an oath of commitment to uphold the highest ethical and professional standards of “duty and trust.”

“The next four years will help mold you into the doctor you will become,” said Jonathan Ashcroft, MD/MSc ’10, deputy lead microbiologist for the UK’s Public Health Rapid Support Team, who emceed the ceremony. Dr. Ashcroft began his own studies at SGU as part of the program, then the Keith B. Taylor Global Scholars Program. “While the lectures, practical labs, and clinical skills workshops will provide you with the critical and indispensable knowledge and skills, it is the lessons you learn from interactions with your patients that will always remain with you and truly shape what sort of physician you will be.”

Dr. Richard Liebowitz, vice chancellor of St. George’s University, harkened back to his own medical school journey, and spoke of how the experience changed his life. Like the 2020 entering class will do, Dr. Liebowitz spent the first two years learning the basic sciences, but it wasn’t until his clinical rotations that he fully grasped the connection that physicians make with patients and their families.

“I learned that being a physician was much more than being somebody who knew how the body operated,” he said. “I was exposed to a number of people from varying backgrounds, which helped me understand that you are granted access that no other profession has. You’re there at the happiest times—with birth—and also at the most trying times—with death. It’s important to be professional. Being given the opportunity to partake in this part of people’s lives puts a responsibility and a demand on us, and being professional as a physician is critical as you go through training and your practice.”

The SGU/Northumbria joint program, formerly the Keith B. Taylor Global Scholars Program, was founded in 2007 to create a pathway for highly qualified international students to pursue a world-class medical education by spending the first year of their physician training with SGU at Northumbria, before going to Grenada to continue their studies.

“Today is a very special occasion as we recognize the start of our new students’ learning journey on the way to becoming qualified doctors,” said Professor Andrew Wathey, Vice Chancellor of Northumbria University. “Our partnership with St. George’s University is a clear example of both institutions’ global perspective in action, and our shared vision for building on our international reputations for academic excellence.”

Photos by Caed Parker, Class4studios.com