Fishers from Carriacou celebrate earning their captain’s permit through a 12-week training program facilitated by WINDREF. Photos from Roland Baldeo
To strengthen a region that relies heavily on the fisheries sector for its food safety and livelihood, the Windward Islands Research and Education Foundation (WINDREF) recently led a rigorous 12-week training course that resulted in more than 300 men and women earning a fishing vessel captain’s permit, demonstrating their expertise in rules and safety on the seas.
WINDREF, which is based on the St. George’s University campus, carried out the project through funding from a $370,000EC grant from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) through the Climate Change Adaptation in the Eastern Caribbean Fisheries Sector (CC4FISH) project in the Eastern Caribbean. Permits were bestowed to fishers from Grenada, Carriacou, and Petite Martinique.
“This project provided a unique public-private partnership opportunity despite COVID-19 restrictions for services by WINDREF towards regional implementation of climate change adaptation,” said Trevor P. Noël, PhD ’17, MPH ’04, deputy director of WINDREF. “The success of this program is evidenced in the fact that both the United Nations (FAO) and Grenada Government Ministries have requested further dialogue with us for future UN projects that are due to come on stream this fall. It is an exciting time for WINDREF and, by extension, St. George’s University.”
Fishers throughout the region, including in Petite Martinique (shown), were trained on a wide variety of topics focused on rules and safety.
The Grenada graduation ceremony bestowed captain’s permits to more than 250 alumni of the 12-week course.
The training was set up in 12 one-week modules covering rules of the sea, safety at sea, search and rescue, seamanship and boat handling, global positioning systems (GPS), navigation, first aid, conflict resolution, fishery laws and regulations, marine protected areas, engine repair and maintenance, and marine radio operating procedures. Each fisher was required to attend all 12 sessions to obtain their permit.
“This project is an embodiment of ‘being thy neighbor’s keeper’ by improving safety at sea for Grenadian fishers,” Dr. Noël said. “In addition, the importance of food security and the linkage to climate resilience and health is foremost in our mind.”
– Brett Mauser
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For only the second time in the history of St. George’s University, a veterinary student has been elected president of the Student Government Association. Maria Coppola, a Term 6 student from Pittsburgh, PA, will serve as a leader and voice for students from all schools within the University for the Spring 2021 term.
Ms. Coppola is no newcomer to the SGA, having joined in her first term and joined the SVM executive board in Term 4. SGU News caught up with her as she began her tenure as the organization’s president.
St. George’s University: How does it feel to be only the second SVM student to be elected as SGA president?
Maria Coppola: It is a great honor. I hope that SGA’s presidency becomes more diverse over the years and there will be more SAS and SVM presidents to come after me.
SGU: What are some of your top priorities in your new role?
MC: As SGA president in this online environment, my goals are different than what they would be in person. I want SGA to be more than an outlet to voice school-related concerns, and to be an organization that is there for students. It is important to check in with students and help them with motivation and accountability throughout the term. Our executive board is holding weekly office hours, a daily virtual study hall, and an amazing study buddy locator resource. We hope to host some events throughout the term to promote wellness and boost morale.
SGU: How will you incorporate the concerns and issues of students of all schools?
MC: Our executive board positions help me to incorporate the concerns and issues of all SGU students. I check in weekly with the presidents of each school’s affairs to make sure all concerns are being addressed. I also check in with our graduate school SGA representatives to help where I am needed.
“I want SGA to be more than an outlet to voice school-related concerns, and to be an organization that is there for students.”
SGU: What are the qualities you believe a student needs to have in order to be in this type of leadership position?
MC: Passion, courage, and embracing teamwork. An SGA president must be passionate about student concerns and needs in order to succeed in this role. You must have the courage to speak with administration and professors to advocate for the student body in an effective and professional manner. Also, you need to be able to delegate tasks, and to work and communicate with SGA, your colleagues, and administration to make a positive change at SGU.
SGU: How did your prior SGA experience prepare you for the role?
MC: I joined SGA my first term in SVM. I immediately joined committees to get involved, and later joined the executive board in my fourth term. My prior experience on the SGA executive board as vice president of SVM affairs enabled me to see what it took to be president. I was able to see the collaboration of all schools, and the areas that could be improved. I work really hard to make sure that all schools feel equally heard and appreciated.
Maria Coppola becomes the second vet student in SGU history to serve as president of the University-wide Student Government Association.
A Term 6 student, Ms. Coppola looks forward to beginning her clinical year at Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine later this spring.
SGU: What prompted you to pursue this position, and what influence do you hope to have?
MC: I wanted to be a voice for students and to join an organization that encompasses all schools. I hope that I influence other SGA representatives to have a strong voice and to continue to work for positive change on campus.
SGU: What are your career aspirations?
MC: In May, I will start my clinical year at Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine, where I will track Small Animal Medicine. My expected graduation is June 2022. I plan to practice small animal medicine in Georgia or Florida after graduation.
SGU: How will being SGA president help you in your career?
MC: My role as SGA president has helped me improve the leadership and interpersonal skills needed to be a successful veterinarian. Veterinarians are team leaders at the hospital and should possess these skills to lead a successful and encouraging team. As with many other careers, veterinarians rely on their team to efficiently get things done. I am thankful to be in this current leadership position to continue improving my skills.
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From being on the front lines of animal care during the COVID pandemic to discussions on diversity and equality within the veterinary field, St. George’s University School of Veterinary Medicine students, faculty, and alumni made their mark in 2020.
In early June, 180 SVM graduates joined the network of more than 1,900 Doctors of Veterinary Medicine making an impact through veterinary medicine around the world. Many of these graduates took the next step in their careers as aspiring veterinarians by matching into highly competitive postgraduate positions.
When it comes to the ongoing COVID pandemic, it’s not just human healthcare that has been dramatically impacted—animal medicine had its own challenges and some surprising opportunities for veterinarians, including in zoos and aquariums. In Grenada, School of Veterinary Medicine also sprung into action as the country’s national testing site at the onset of the pandemic.
It was also a year in which diversity and equality was brought to the limelight. The University had frank discussions with its entire community about the importance of listening, learning, and supporting, not only in the current climate but going forward.
These are the stories that underscore the School of Veterinary Medicine’s strengths and define us as a University as we aim to enhance student success and grow the number of animal health professionals around the world. Read on to see the top SVM news stories of 2020 on SGU.edu.
SVM Commencement 2020
The School of Veterinary Medicine celebrated its 17th annual commencement on 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 COVID-19 pandemic.
Many SVM alums began highly competitive postgraduate positions in a variety of clinical specialty areas such as orthopedics, cardiology, ophthalmology, anesthesiology, immunology, diagnostic imaging, and pathology, matching into positions at reputable veterinary hospitals throughout the US and Canada.
It’s not just human healthcare that has been dramatically impacted as a result of the COVID pandemic—animal medicine had its own challenges and some surprising opportunities for veterinarians.
Heather Douglas, DVM ’06, for example, discussed how the disease is changing the way that small animal veterinarians treat patients and interact with pet owners.
“Initially, businesses like my own were slow when lockdowns were in place,” said Heather Douglas, DVM ’06, owner of Douglas Animal Hospital in Osseo, MN. “Then in mid- to late-April the floodgates opened. This influx was due to clients waiting to bring their pets in during lockdown, clients paying more attention to their pets while at home for extended periods so that illnesses were being detected much sooner, and people adopting new pets to decrease loneliness and feelings of isolation at home. … I’ve had to become more efficient and spend more time communicating with owners.”
A Look Inside SVM’s Large Animal Resource Facility
SGU’s Large Animal Resource Facility (LARF) is a one-acre farm that is home to the equine and bovine teaching herds that students of the School of Veterinary Medicine use to gain crucial large animal clinical skills prior to their fourth year.
Dr. Inga Karasek, director of the Large Animal Resource Facility, was one of a handful of SGU staff who remained on the island to care for the animals during the early days of the global pandemic. In this video, she shared why the farm’s ecosystem—even while students are learning remotely—is important to studying veterinary medicine at SGU.
The Laboratory Personnel Behind SGU’s COVID Testing Site
Even before the coronavirus disease reached the shores of Grenada, the School of Veterinary Medicine, together with the Government of Grenada and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), were prepared for it. With the proper equipment and a team led by two staff members—both SGU graduates—in the SVM’s molecular virology lab, served as Grenada’s national testing site at the onset of the pandemic.
The effort facilitated testing for more than 2,000 SGU students, faculty, and staff, over 1,200 members of the Grenadian community, as well as individuals arriving in Grenada via plane or cruise ship.
VOICE Seeks to Champion Veterinarian Diversity at The Student Level
It’s no secret that Black and Hispanic Americans are underrepresented in the veterinary profession. Veterinarians as One Inclusive Community for Empowerment, or VOICE, a national organization with student chapters across US and Caribbean veterinary schools, seeks to increase “awareness, respect, and sensitivity to differences among all individuals and communities in the field of veterinary medicine.”
VOICE SGU chapter and its current president, Antonia Nickleberry, MBA, a Term 2 student in the School of Veterinary Medicine, discussed with SGU News why diversity in the field matters and how SVM students can get involved.
“The world around is us diversifying rapidly,” Ms. Nickleberry said. “Veterinary medicine seems to have a delayed response to this diversification and therefore, those within the profession are not as aware as they should be. This can lead to major sensitivity issues between classmates and colleagues that can be avoided by educating and empowering those in this profession, starting with the students.”
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For a wide range of reasons, 2020 is a year that we won’t soon forget—from the heroism on the front lines of medicine, powerful demonstrations surrounding racial equality, and the change to our day-to-day lives and our perspectives.
It was a monumental year in so many ways for St. George’s University School of Medicine, its faculty, staff, and students. SGU made history when students and graduates secured 1,124 residency positions across the US and Canada in 2020—a 95 percent residency placement rate for eligible 2020 US graduates who applied for US residencies* and a record for the University. Over the summer, approximately 450 of those grads began their residencies in New York-New Jersey area hospitals, some of the hardest-hit hospitals in the nation during the early days of the COVID pandemic.
SGU profiled many alumni across specialties and locales who tirelessly donated their time and services to help those suffering from the disease, some of those who sacrificed seeing their own families to help the sickest of COVID patients.
It was also a year in which diversity and equality was brought to the limelight. The University had frank discussions with its entire community about the importance of listening, learning, and supporting, not only in the current climate but going forward.
These are the stories that underscore the School of Medicine’s strengths and define us as a University as we aim to enhance student success and grow the number of healthcare professionals around the world. Read on to see the top news stories of 2020 on SGU.edu.
*SGU student data as of November 2020
Match Day 2020
With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, SGU students and graduates were called on to assist in the fight against the virus. On Match Day 2020 in March, they learned of where they would begin their career as physicians. Positions were secured across a wide range of specialties—including anesthesiology, emergency medicine, orthopedic surgery, pathology, and many more—and spanned across the United States.
All told, 1,124 SGU graduates had started residency in the US and Canada in 2020, which equals a 95 percent residency placement rate for eligible 2020 US graduates who applied for US residencies*—a record for the University—including some 450 SGU grads in New York-New Jersey area hospitals. They joined a proud network of 18,000 SGU physicians who have made a difference in healthcare around the world.
A Conversation on Diversity in the Medical Profession: Thoughts from SGU’s Student National Medical Association
With the tragic deaths of people like George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and many others, and as social justice events were held around the world, SGU News connected with SGU chapter members of the Student National Medical Association (SNMA). The national organization is committed to supporting current and future underrepresented minority medical students by addressing the needs of underserved communities, and increasing the number of “clinically excellent, culturally competent, and socially conscious physicians.” SGU chapter members shared their perspectives on the world around us, the importance of the SNMA’s mission, and how students can get involved.
SGU Adds New US Clinical Sites for Medical School Student Core Rotations
SGU’s clinical network is growing. This fall, seven US hospitals joined the SGU family, including several in California as well as a new venue into the South that allow third-year medical students to receive core clinical training during a crucial time in healthcare.
These hospitals included:
Baton Rouge General Medical Center in Baton Rouge, LA
Critical problem solving. A wide array of challenges. The operating room was exactly the type of workplace atmosphere that Georgios Mihalopulos, MD ’18, set out to find when he began working toward a career in medicine. It also mirrored his life as an officer in the Canadian Navy, a position that he held before and during medical school.
“I always say I love stress and I hate sleep, so that’s why surgery is the perfect field for me,” said Mihalopulos, now a third-year surgery resident at Waterbury Hospital in Connecticut. “It just seemed like the most natural thing in the world for me to do.”
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An op-ed by SGU President Dr. G. Richard Olds was recently featured in The Orange County Register.
The article, “Physicians educated abroad can fill COVID-induced doctor shortage,” outlines how the coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated the country’s looming shortage of physicians. Many doctors are choosing to retire early, either out of concern for their health or financial struggles. This disproportionately harms rural areas, many of which already face provider shortages. Dr. Olds explains that internationally trained doctors can help meet these communities’ healthcare needs.
“International graduates also have a history of practicing in high-need areas,” he said. “Compared to doctors trained at US schools, IMGs are typically ‘more likely to look after underserved populations and to live and work in rural areas.'”
He argues that graduates of St. George’s are playing a particularly significant role in meeting the country’s current—and future—healthcare needs.
“Thousands of promising students graduate from international medical schools each year,” Dr. Olds said. “More than 1,100 graduates of the school I lead, St. George’s University in Grenada, began residencies in the United States this past summer.”
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In the article “5 Things to Consider Before Selecting a Caribbean Medical School” on Forbes.com, St. George’s University President Dr. G. Richard Olds and alumna Gaelle Antoine, MD ’19, were shared why SGU offers an excellent “alternative pathway for US students to study medicine.”
The article, written by college counselor Kristen Moon, explains that schools like SGU provide fantastic opportunities and support to their students. She also highlights an interview she conducted earlier this summer with Dr. Antoine, a 2019 graduate of St. George’s.
“According to Moon Prep’s interview with Dr. Gaelle Antoine, SGU graduate and current anesthesiology resident at Brown University, St. George’s University provides endless research opportunities for students … She even took advantage of a six-week study abroad program in Europe to see how healthcare worked in a foreign country.”
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An op-ed by SGU Vice Chancellor Dr. Richard Liebowitz about the importance of internationally trained doctors within the U.S. physician workforce was recently featured in KevinMD.
In the article, “We need more doctors. International medical schools can provide them,” Dr. Liebowitz outlines the increasingly competitive nature of U.S. medical schools. He explains that although our country’s doctor shortage is growing rapidly, these institutions have been unable to respond to the increase in demand. U.S. schools received almost 900,000 applications in the 2019-2020 cycle, but enrolled less than 22,000 new students.
“Consequently, thousands of promising U.S. students who would make excellent doctors are victims of a cruel numbers game,” he writes. “According to a 2019 survey from U.S. News and World Report, the average acceptance rate at 122 U.S. medical schools was just 6.7 percent. And the odds of admission could grow even longer, as the pandemic motivates people to consider careers in medicine.”
Dr. Liebowitz outlines how top-tier international medical schools are resolving this educational bottleneck — and producing the doctors of the future.
“Already, thousands of U.S. citizens head abroad for their medical training. And that number has been growing in recent years. Three-quarters of students at the school I lead are U.S. citizens. Most of them return home to the United States to practice; more than 1,000 started residencies in the United States this summer.”
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Amid a global pandemic, St. George’s University’s School of Medicine recently launched the Center for Integrative Medicine—the first of its kind for the University and the island of Grenada. The virtual center aims to broaden patient-care training for SOM clinical students by teaching them non-traditional methods of care.
Officially launched on September 14, clinical students can learn non-surgical, non-pharmacological, alternative therapies like tai chi, qigong, yoga and meditation for chronic healthcare concerns including cardiovascular and respiratory ailments, osteoarthritis, and musculoskeletal ailments such as back pain.
While SGU has always offered courses on non-traditional medicines as selectives, the establishment of the Center for Integrative Medicine provides a look at all alternative methods of patient care.
“Our mission is to teach medical students how to offer alternative therapies to patients who are ill or want to stay healthy,” according to Dr. Stephen Weitzman, dean of the School of Medicine. “It is important for our students to know and understand how to use all different kinds of therapy and that integrative medicine exists in order to best treat and care for their patients.”
Instrumental to the establishment of the Center is Mr. Michael Weitzman, director of Thai Services, and Dr. Robert Hage, a senior professor of anatomy, who also is the Center’s director. Both lectured integrative medicine selectives to clinical students in the past.
“Our mission is to teach medical students how to offer alternative therapies to patients who are ill or want to stay healthy.”
– Dr. Stephen Weitzman
“The Center was created to ensure that students can receive training in a group of therapies that are essential today,” said Mr. Weitzman. “The biggest health issues of our times can have these eastern self-care healing therapies as part of the treatment process—from stress, obesity, back pain, and cardiovascular disease to lowering one’s risk of dying from COVID. The four modalities I teach in my selectives should be an essential aspect of any medical students training.”
Students have demonstrated significant interest in non-traditional patient care methods. “This past summer, I taught two online selectives—Tai Chi and Qigong, and Yoga and Meditation as Integrative Medicine,” said Mr. Weitzman. “Over a period of six weeks, there were approximately 200 students who registered and participated in the Yoga and Meditation selective alone.”
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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.
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As the world eagerly awaits the results of groundbreaking research and clinical trials during the COVID-19 pandemic, the importance of bioethics—particularly research ethics—has been brought into focus.
A new collaboration between St. George’s University, Universidad Autonoma de Queretaro (UAQ) in Mexico, and Clarkson University in New York, funded by the NIH Fogarty International Center, allows research fellows from low- to middle-income countries (LMIC) to participate in a two-year online Master of Science in Bioethics (MScB) program through 2024. The goal of the program is to increase capacity for bioethics scholarship, research, research ethics review (IRBs), and publication in English- and Spanish-speaking countries of the Caribbean and Latin America.
“We collaboratively designed a bilingual curriculum that offers knowledge, skills training, and opportunities to conduct and publish research, and to become leaders in institutional and national policy, pedagogy, and clinical practice,” said Dr. Cheryl Cox Macpherson, head of bioethics in SGU’s Department of Clinical Skills, and director and principal investigator for the new program. “The diversity of those enrolled enriches the program by facilitating understanding and partnerships across different nations, cultures, disciplines, health systems, and languages.”
Dr. Cheryl Cox-Macpherson
The program is suitable for mid-career professionals looking to increase their understanding of research and bioethics, from doctors and veterinarians to lawyers, pharmacists, and other healthcare professionals. With further development, she envisions delivering the program and creating opportunities for dual degree options at SGU.
“For people who are professionals in health, or on the periphery of healthcare, and have an interest in research ethics or ethics consultation, there is an increasing need for these skills in today’s changing world,” Dr. Macpherson said. “Few physicians are trained to conduct ethics reviews or consultations, and even fewer veterinarians. This is a great opportunity for professionals who are looking to advance their credentials and their knowledge of research ethics.”
Maria de los Angeles Marina Adame Gayosso, the head of the Department for the Promotion of Education in Bioethics of the National Bioethics Commission in Mexico, is part of the charter class that began this fall. In addition to Mexico, the cohort is comprised of English- and Spanish-speaking students from LMICs such as Grenada, Guyana, and Honduras.
“I know what bioethics can do to help transform the lives of people, communities, and countries,” said Ms. Gayoso. “Our continent faces challenges at different levels that need to be analyzed and addressed from a bioethical perspective to generate public policies that are respectful of all forms of life. This program is designed to train leaders and turn students into agents of change for their countries and the region.”
“What we’ve done is really unique in that we are using online software to make it possible to enroll our trainees in both languages at the same time,” added Dr. Macpherson. “They’re talking to each other and working across languages, cultures, and borders.”
The program represents only the latest connection between SGU and the NIH Fogarty International Center, which supports revolutionary research and training in developing countries. As part of the newly launched Caribbean Research Ethics Education initiative (CREEi), SGU, UAQ, and Clarkson received NIH support to establish a one-year certificate program that featured graduate-level online and onsite bioethics courses from 2014 to 2019, which has evolved into the current two-year program. The NIH additionally has provided funding through Dr. Desiree LaBeaud’s laboratory at Stanford to the Windward Islands Research and Education Foundation (WINDREF), a 501(c)(3) research institute located on SGU’s True Blue campus.
The MScB will be supported by the NIH through 2024 and qualified and eligible individuals (must be a national of a regional LMIC) who are interested are invited to email Dr. Macpherson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
– Brett Mauser
CREEi is supported by the NIH Fogarty International Center (FIC) Award #R25TW009731.
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