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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Laurie Chartorynsky

St. George’s University School of Medicine to Welcome First April Class of Students

St. George’s University School of Medicine announced that it will launch a new spring class that will allow students to begin pursuing their medical degrees in April.

“St. George’s is a leader in medical education, and our new April Class will enable us to offer our world-class educational experience to even more students from all over the globe,” said Dr. Richard Liebowitz, vice chancellor of St. George’s University. “We look forward to welcoming a diverse group of talented students seeking a more flexible medical education to campus this spring.”

Students who enroll in the April class will become part of an intimate learning community that will help them adjust to the rigors of medical school. Members of the April Class will have access to all the same academic supports and services as students who enroll in January and August. Additionally, each student who enrolls in the April class will receive an Inaugural April Class Grant and are eligible to receive other merit- and need-based scholarships.

April enrollees have additional time to prepare for Step 1 and Step 2 of the U.S. Medical Licensing Exam, just as those who start in January do. They’ll also have more time to prepare for residency. They will have the opportunity to complete more electives in competitive specialties and will gain increased exposure to residency directors prior to the match process.

St. George’s is the second-largest provider of licensed physicians to the U.S. healthcare system.[1] In 2019, its graduates matched into residency programs in 18 different medical specialties across 42 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.[2]

“St. George’s strives to make medical school accessible for aspiring physicians from traditional and non-traditional backgrounds alike,” Dr. Liebowitz said. “We are excited to help a new class of students fulfill their dreams of becoming doctors.”

[1] https://www.fsmb.org/siteassets/advocacy/publications/2018census.pdf p. 13-14

[2] https://www.sgu.edu/academic-programs/school-of-medicine/graduate-success/

US News Shines Light on “What to Know about Caribbean Medical Schools”

US News & World Report recently published a news story titled “What to Know About Caribbean Medical Schools,” in which it outlined the success of institutions such as St. George’s University and identified criteria by which aspiring physicians should evaluate all of their options, in the US and beyond.

In the story, reporter Ilana Kowarski spoke with Dr. G. Richard Olds, president of SGU, and Robert Ryan, Dean of Admissions about what separates SGU from other often non-accredited Caribbean schools that haven’t demonstrated a clear path to residency and a career in medicine. They also shed a light on the many qualities that SGU is looking for on applications.

“We often see that our very strong students after year one and two are those that we took that chance on and said, ‘Hey, we’re going to give you that opportunity to show us that you can succeed in medicine,'” Mr. Ryan said.

In addition, Ms. Kowarski interviewed Ashley Steinberg, MD ’11, who graduated from SGU and now serves as a plastic and reconstructive surgeon at The Clinic for Plastic Surgery in Houston.

“The best indicator of how good a school is would be where its recent graduates matched into residency and what they are doing now,” Dr. Steinberg said.

SGU Year in Review: A Look Back at the New Stories that Defined Us in 2019

2019 was a monumental year for students, faculty, and alumni of St. George’s University. SGU became the second-largest source of doctors for the entire US workforce. We placed 979 graduates into US and Canadian residencies—our highest number to date.

But that’s not all.

The School of Veterinary Medicine received full accreditation by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS), and is now one of the few schools in the world that is accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association in the United States and RCVS in the UK. The School of Arts and Sciences welcomed its first Caribbean national as dean.

SGU profiled many graduates who are making waves in human and animal healthcare industries—showcasing the diversity and reach of our global alumni—and how becoming a doctor (or veterinarian) has changed their lives and the lives of their patients.

These are the stories that underscore SGU’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 2019 on SGU.edu.

Match Day 2019

On Match Day 2019, hundreds of SGU students secured first-year residency positions in the United States. Students matched into highly competitive positions in fields such as anesthesiology, child neurology, diagnostic radiology, emergency medicine, family medicine, internal medicine, internal medicine/emergency medicine, internal medicine/pediatrics, neurology, obstetrics and gynecology, pathology, pediatrics, physical medicine and rehabilitation, psychiatry, surgery, urology, vascular surgery. They joined residency programs in 42 US states and the District of Columbia over the summer.

In addition, SGU students and graduates obtained first-year residency positions through the Canadian Resident Matching Service (CaRMS).

Profound Impact: SGU Educated Second-Most Licensed Physicians in US In 2018

For more than 40 years, St. George’s University has provided highly qualified physicians to the United States, and never before has its impact been more evident. According to a report published in the Journal of Medical Regulation, SGU educated the second-most licensed physicians in the United States in 2018.

SGU Commencement 2019

In June, the School of Medicine’s newest class of physicians convened together one last time in New York City for SGU’s annual commencement ceremonies. Family and friends gathered at Lincoln Center to watch the graduates join an alumni network of more than 17,000 physicians who have gone on to practice in all 50 United States and in over 50 countries worldwide.

In addition, animals of all shapes and sizes gained caretakers and advocates when the SGU School of Veterinary Medicine granted Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degrees to 83 new veterinarians in New York City. New veterinarians joined an alumni network of 1,670 veterinarians who built a foundation for their careers at SGU.

In Grenada, graduates from 31 countries were among the 2019 class that included more than 230 students from the School of Arts and Sciences, and 110 from the School of Graduate Studies, with one PhD graduate in attendance.

DVM Program Gains Full Accreditation from Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons

Adding to its growing list of achievements, the St. George’s University’s School of Veterinary Medicine’s Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) program received full accreditation from the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS), the organization that sets the standards of veterinary care in the United Kingdom, through 2024.

Grenada-Born SGU Alum Returns Home to Care for His Nation’s Heart

As a practicing cardiologist, Diego Humphrey, MD ’84, a native Grenadian, serves the retired men and women of the US Armed Forces at the Jack C. Montgomery Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Muskogee, OK. Yet Dr. Humphrey, who never forgot his roots, returns each year to donate his time and expertise to the SGU-Physician Humanitarian Network.

Commonwealth Conference Focuses On Student Success

More than 350 educators from Grenada and around the world descended on SGU for the Council for Education in the Commonwealth (CEC) 2019 annual conference. The 2019 conference marked the first time that the CEC’s annual event had been held in the Caribbean region.

Mother’s Cancer Battle Motivates SGU Grad to Become Breast Surgeon

Joseph Di Como, MD '14

A doctor delivered the news—cancer, an aggressive form. Joseph Di Como’s mother, a cornerstone of the family, would have to undergo surgery and many months of treatment. Her struggle changed the course of his life forever. More than 15 years later, now a doctor, Joseph Di Como, MD ’14, is providing important care and instilling hope in patients as a breast surgical oncology fellow at Brown University, Women and Infants’ Hospital of Rhode Island.

Major Canadian Hospital Joins SGU’s Burgeoning Clinical Network

Adding to more than 70 clinical training locations across North America and the United Kingdom, St. George’s University finalized an agreement with Pembroke Regional Hospital in Ontario, Canada that will offer fourth-year students a range of disciplines to choose from for their clinical electives.

Eugene Becomes First Caribbean National to Lead SAS

As the new Dean of St. George’s University’s School of Arts and Sciences (SAS), Dr. Lucy Eugene is deeply committed to its growth. A native of Trinidad and Tobago, she is the first Caribbean national to become the school’s dean.

Equine Veterinarian Shares Path to Horse Country

When S. Heath Soignier, DVM ’12, CVMST, isn’t visiting his equine patients, one can usually find him practicing new holistic veterinary medicine techniques on his quarter horse, Margarita.

“To me horses and dogs are two of the best animals: if you trust them completely, they are most willing to reciprocate that trust. Not a lot of animals are like that,” Dr. Soignier said. “I love that I get to work with horses all day long.”

—Laurie Chartorynsky

Global Touch of Medicine Selective Celebrates 10-Year Anniversary

This past November, faculty members with the St. George’s University of Grenada School of Medicine/Northumbria University Four- and Five-Year MD Program celebrated the 10-year anniversary of the Global Touch of Medicine (GToM) selective, hosting its landmark 150th event.

Professor Steve Clark, a consultant cardiopulmonary surgeon at Newcastle Hospitals, delivered a lecture as part of the Global Scholars Lecture Series, speaking on the topic of “Robotics in Heart and Lung Surgery – Friend or Foe?” A regular contributor to the GToM selective, Professor Clark is one of over 60 physicians and scientists who have given presentations to the students studying in the SGU/NU program. Other examples of regular contributors include Professor Alan Fenwick from Imperial College, London on “The Fight Against Neglected Tropical Diseases”; Professor Simon Bailey, consultant paediatric oncologist at The Great North Children’s Hospital on “Children with Cancer in Malawi”; and Professor Deiary Kader, consultant orthopaedic surgeon, SW London Elective Orthopaedic Centre, on “The Work of the Newcastle-Gateshead Medical Volunteers in Orthopaedic Surgery in Iraq and the International Red Cross in The Lebanon.” Topics have ranged from the Jehovah’s Witnesses beliefs and practice relating to “Blood Conservation and Non-Blood Management” to the work of Medecins Sans Frontieres in South Sudan, Haiti, Bangladesh, and Sierra Leone).

Students taking the GToM selective have also benefitted from hearing presentations by some of their fellow students who have been on SGU’s international selectives in India, Kenya, Prague, Thailand and Sweden. The accounts of the experiences of these students are delivered with professionalism and enthusiasm and have inspired many students in their audience to also participate in such selectives when the opportunity arises.

The Global Touch of Medicine selective was initiated in the early years of the Global Scholars Program by SGU faculty members, Drs. Robbie Hage and David Holmes, with the aim of giving the SGU MD students studying in Newcastle the opportunity to learn more about various aspects of global medicine. The Global Scholars Lecture Series has welcomed eminent physicians and scientists to present their experiences of working in various countries worldwide and give students and faculty the opportunity to learn about medical practices in the developed world that may be applicable globally, now or in the future. Selective activities have also included workshops on global medical issues (e.g. FGM and malaria), visits to medical museums in the UK (e.g. The Surgeons’ Hall Museum in Edinburgh), and attendance at the North of England Physicians Symposia at various hospital locations in the North East England.

Cardiology in Ghana

In terms of knowledge and understanding of global health issues, the SGU/NU MD students taking the GToM selective benefit in many ways, not least in the appreciation of the humanitarian ethos that is so fundamental to medical practice. The following account of the work of a group of local UK physicians carrying out cardiac surgery in Ghana, presented in another Fall 2019 GSLS lecture, is a good example of the ethos that the GToM selective attempts to instill in its participants.

In September, students and faculty from the SGU/NU program were privileged to hear a presentation by Mr. Enoch Akowuah, clinical director and cardiothoracic surgeon at South Tees Hospitals NHS Trust, about the work of his team in performing heart operations in an under-resourced region of Ghana. His team included cardiologists, surgeons, an anesthesiologist, intensive care nurses, and technicians. Their destination was Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital (KATH) in Kumasi, Ghana’s second largest city, which they visited in February 2019. The audience learned that Ghana’s only functioning cardiothoracic center is located in southern city of Accra. In central and northern Ghana—the area served by KATH—there has been no access to cardiac surgery for the 15 million people who live there. Although KATH had recently appointed a cardiac surgeon, there was a severe lack of the equipment required to carry out heart surgery for the many patients who require operations.

The incidence of acute rheumatic fever in Ghana is very high, with 13 percent of the population being throat carriers of Group A Streptococcus, 40 percent of whom develop rheumatic heart disease. In KATH itself, rheumatic heart disease accounts for 22 percent of all admissions with heart failure. By contrast, the mainly Western condition of ischemic heart disease accounts for only 4 percent of cases. The median age of patients admitted with heart failure is 29 and, of all deaths in KATH, 29 percent are due to heart failure resulting from rheumatic heart disease. Until the visit of Mr. Ahowuah’s team, no patients received surgery for this condition.

The Teeside team was inspired by the work of Dr. Emily Farkas, a US cardiac surgeon famed for her humanitarian work in developing countries. Dr. Farkas’ CTSNet video on her work in Nigeria was the trigger for Ghanaian-born Enoch Akowuah to bring together a team for the medical mission to Kumasi. Indeed, Dr. Farkas was present on the team’s arrival at KATH to support them with her wealth of experience in similar missions throughout the world.

Mr. Akowuah explained to his audience that, before the mission could start, £30,000 needed to be raised to fund the equipment and medical supplies required for the intended operations. His videos about the logistics of raising that sum of money, together with the purchasing, storing, transporting, and unpacking the equipment in Ghana, allowed the audience to appreciate the amount of work and planning required even before the mission began.

Videos were also shown of the South Tees team enacting a “practice run” operation on a manikin; this highlighted issues, particularly in resources, that needed to be resolved before surgery was performed on real patients. Mr. Akowuah then showed clips of operations involving both heart valve replacement and the fitting of pacemakers on actual patients.

It was sobering to hear that the cost of a pacemaker is about $6,000 whilst the average annual income in Ghana is $2,200. Not surprisingly, the many young adults in the locality who have rheumatic heart disease cannot afford treatment. However, the work of this volunteer team is ongoing, and they hope to continue to fund the equipment required for the operations, including artificial heart valves and cardiopulmonary bypass circuits. In addition to the work the team carried out in Ghana, 10 KATH doctors are currently being trained at the Teeside University hospitals, with the intention of them being able to carry on the work of Mr. Akowuah’s team in the future. Indeed three of the physicians from Kumasi—Dr. Yaw Adu-Boakye (cardiologist) Dr. Lambert Appiah, (cardiologist), and Dr. Samuel Kontoh (pharmacist)—were present at the lecture and were able to have further discussions with the SGU MD students afterwards, including the possibility of raising funds for the vital work being carried out in Ghana.

Learn more about this initiative by visiting justgiving.com/crowdfunding/heartsurgerymissiontoghana.

SGU Physician Humanitarian Network Gives Back to Host Nation

Many SGU graduates feel a strong desire to give back to a nation that they credit as playing a major part in successfully achieving their dreams. Now in its 12th year, the St. George’s University Physician Humanitarian Network (SGU-PHuN) continues to allow them to do just that.

Over the years, the program’s visiting specialists have donated their time and expertise to providing much-needed healthcare services, pharmaceuticals, supplies, and other medical equipment to the Ministry of Health and Government of Grenada in efforts to facilitate substantial improvements to the island’s healthcare infrastructure. This year was no different.

“2019 has been another productive and impactful year for the SGU-PHuN in physician participation by our graduates and associates,” said Brendon La Grenade, vice provost for institutional advancement. “SGU-PHuN captures the community spirit of SGU in a very direct way. Our graduates continue to return to the island to deliver a vast array of voluntary specialty medical care including ophthalmology, cardiology, endocrinology, and neurology to name a few. The value in these programs is not measured in the millions of dollars in donations and services delivered but more so in the lives of the individuals we impact in a positive way.”

“For 2020, St. George’s University will continue to collaborate with the Government of Grenada and the Ministry of Health in tackling the most critical issues on our priority list,” added Dr. G. Richard Olds, president of SGU. “Working with our alumni and growing network of support, SGU-PHuN will continue assisting with the improvement of healthcare with the goal of ensuring that Grenada and our St. George’s family are given the level of healthcare that everyone expects, and everyone needs.”

With more than 25 visiting physicians, this year cardiology and ophthalmology continued to flourish as the flagship programs, benefitting more than 1,000 patients with 113 surgeries performed. Other specialty visits included OB/GYN, neurology, endocrinology, podiatry, and a first-time otolaryngology visit during which 81 patients were screened. These are all procedures that were once unavailable to the people of Grenada due to lack of access to specialists and the funds to attain these required surgeries.

Particularly noteworthy this year was the new collaboration with Surgical Eye Expeditions (SEE) International, a non-profit organization that treats a variety of sight-impairing conditions around the world. The partnership spearheaded by the father-daughter duo of Orazio Giliberti, MD ’82, and Francesca Giliberti, MD ’10, performed a two-week clinic with six visiting surgeons who evaluated approximately 250 patients and performed 49 surgical procedures, including cataract surgery. Considerably the largest eye care event in Grenada’s history, the overall donation provided free of charge to the clinic, including airfare, shipping costs, patient visits, and ophthalmic surgeries, totaled over $750,000 USD.

“In an amazing outpouring of philanthropy, our team and SGU’s Division of Ophthalmology secured an additional operating scope, slit lamp, phaco machinery, and microinstruments, as well as, pharmaceutical donations to the SGU-PHuN clinic,” said Orazio Giliberti, MD ’82, FACS. “These machines and materials mimic a US-style operating room, which will allow future graduates, physicians, and SGU friends and guests to provide essential ophthalmic services.”

Interventional cardiologist, Mark Lanzieri, MD ’85, was also recognized this year for his 20 years of service, receiving an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters for his selfless contributions of cardiology services free of charge to Grenadian citizens. As the founder of SGU-PHuN’s interventional cardiology program, Dr. Lanzieri and his team, which includes his wife, Annie; an X-ray technologist; and cardiovascular specialist, have seen a wide variety of patients since the program’s inception. The value of their time and the equipment donated has exceeded $1 million and resulted in countless lives saved.

“For many people, this is life changing, whether it is a single-chamber pacemaker, a stent, or simply something that allows them to go back to work or keeps them out of the hospital,” said Dr. Lanzieri, staff cardiologist, Steward Health Care in Massachusetts. “This work is important because there are immediate benefits conferred to patients who do not need to leave their family and social support networks. It is pure humanitarian medicine at its best and I love what I do.”

Highlights from this year also included, visits from two top-tier Grenadian-born physicians, endocrinologist Dwight Matthias, MD ‘92 and Diego Humphrey, MD ’84. The program also hosted a number of legacy visits, as several graduates returned with their children to participate in giving back to Grenada, such as interventional cardiologist Thomas Vazzana, MD ’85 and his daughter Virginia Vazzana, MD ’17, OB/GYN Philip Lahrmann, MD ’81 and his son Jeffrey Lahrmann, MD ’15, and ophthalmologist Dr. Fred Lambrou, whose stepson is currently a student in SGU’s School of Medicine.

According to Mr. La Grenade, 2019 saw tremendous growth both of the program and the University as a whole. With SGU grads now participating alongside their children, this highlights SGU-PHuN as an incredibly worthwhile venture and showcases the reach of SGU and the value it places on the Grenadian community. Continuing to build on the past 12 years of achievements, the program is poised to provide even greater improvements in the future, further strengthening its connection to Grenada’s medical community and reinforcing the bond between the University and its host country.

“SGU, through SGU-PHuN, is all about working with the Grenadian community toward improving access and expanding the range of available healthcare to its citizens,” Mr. La Grenade said.

–Ray-Donna Peters

Equine Veterinarian Shares Path to Horse Country

 

SGUSVM alumnus and equine practitioner Dr. Heath Soignier.

When S. Heath Soignier, DVM ’12, CVMST, isn’t visiting his equine patients, one can usually find him practicing new holistic veterinary medicine techniques on his quarter horse, Margarita.

“To me, horses and dogs are two of the best animals: if you trust them completely, they are most willing to reciprocate that trust. Not a lot of animals are like that,” Dr. Soignier said. “I love that I get to work with horses all day long.”

Growing up on a small farm in Bosco, LA, Dr. Soignier always had an affinity for animals, aspiring to be a mixed animal veterinarian. Yet his career path led him another way—and one nearly 700 miles from his hometown.

“During my third year at St. George’s University, I visited Lexington with some classmates,” he said. “You hear of the Kentucky Derby and how it’s the horse capital of the world, but it’s so different to experience it. My plans [after graduation] were to go back home and work in a mixed animal practice there, but I came here for a week and kind of fell in love with the place.”

Following graduation, Dr. Soignier accepted a one-year internship position at Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital in Lexington, KY and was offered to stay on after his internship was completed. Today he is an ambulatory associate at Rood and Riddle, which is a full-service equine hospital with satellite offices in Saratoga, NY and Wellington, FL. The hospital treats all different breeds of equine, including racehorses, quarter horses, mini-ponies, and donkeys.

“Our surgeons even treated a baby giraffe,” he said. “It’s not just thoroughbreds.”

As an ambulatory associate, much of Dr. Soignier’s time is spent on the road, visiting local farms. “Fall is a much slower time compared to the spring, which is foaling and breeding season for thoroughbreds. I handle a lot of reproductive cases, dentistry, even veterinary spinal manipulative therapy (chiropractic) for my patients,” he said. “It’s a bit more of a demanding schedule and it can be a bit stressful in that regard, but I love it.”

“Horses can’t tell you what hurts—it’s our job to figure that out,” he added. “You have to be patient, but horses can really teach you about life and themselves. It’s very rewarding.”

From equipment to improving procedure techniques, even incorporating holistic methods of healing, Dr. Soignier is always looking at ways to impact a horse’s life in a positive way. For example, “within our practice we have digital radiograph machines that can take X-rays in the field. They’re wireless, which allows easier maneuverability and to be able to do that in the field with high-quality images is especially helpful,” Dr. Soignier said.

When not seeing patients, Dr. Soignier enjoys spending time with his wife and fellow SGU graduate Catherine Hercula-Soignier, DVM ’12, and his two young daughters on their 10-acre farm in Georgetown, KY. He is also an avid sports enthusiast and outdoorsman.

“I think the best thing about St. George’s is your classmates become your family,” and in Dr. Soignier’s case quite literally. “I joke that I left Grenada with a degree, a wife, and three dogs.”

Dr. Soignier’s wife is chief of staff at Banfield Pet Hospital, a small animal cooperate practice. He loves that he can ask for her opinion on particularly challenging cases.

“If you had told me 10 years ago this is where I would be, I would say you were crazy,” he acknowledged. “But I worked hard to get where I am today. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”

–Laurie Chartorynsky

Dermatology Center Becomes Fourth Clinical Elective Site in Canada

St. George’s University has signed an agreement with North Bay Dermatology Centre to expand opportunities for fourth-year students to gain specialized clinical training in Canada. The center is SGU’s fourth clinical site in the country and one of the more than 70 clinical sites across North America.

Students who choose to do a rotation at North Bay Dermatology Centre, located in North Bay, Ontario, will gain general dermatology experience including treating patients with different types and stages of skin cancer as well inflammatory skin conditions. Run by Dr. Les Rosoph, the Centre also sees patients with psoriasis, dermatitis, rosacea, actinic keratosis, infections, connective tissue diseases, hair loss, acne, benign lesions as well as rare conditions.

“We are thrilled to add North Bay Dermatology to our growing list of impressive elective sites in Canada for students,” said Sandra Banner, SGU’s director of admissions for Canada, adding that she first met Dr. Rosoph in Grenada during Family Weekend when he was visiting his two daughters who are also med students at SGU.

“Through a two-to-four-week rotation with Dr. Rosoph and his team, aspiring physicians will be mentored in a highly specialized field and be able to do procedures once they are comfortable with the practice,” she said. “This is a wonderful opportunity for our students seeking to learn more about the dermatology discipline and further gain experience in the Canadian healthcare system.”

Dr. Rosoph said by accepting fourth-year students through the elective rotation, students can get a strong hands-on experience in the field of dermatology, which can be beneficial to those who choose primary care or a specialized field.

“I really believe in giving people opportunity and letting them make their own future,” Dr. Rosoph said. “For students that want to dive right in, we have lots for them to do.”

He also hopes to entice aspiring physicians to come north once they graduate.

“There’s really a need to bring doctors to northern Ontario,” Dr. Rosoph said. “Canada is so short of physicians once you leave the larger centers, and there are huge numbers of patients that never have access to primary care here. I’m hoping students will come and see Ontario and they will decide to relocate here.”

Located three hours north of Toronto, North Bay’s hospital and several clinics, including the dermatology clinic, serve as teaching units for the North Ontario School of Medicine’s undergraduate students and postgraduate programs. Dr. Rosoph also teaches at North Ontario School of Medicine.

SGU has been building its clinical network north of the US border. In November, St. George’s University finalized an agreement with Pembroke Regional Hospital in Ontario that offers fourth-year students a range of disciplines to choose from for their clinical electives. SGU also recently announced agreements in Ottawa with Ottawa Cardiovascular Centre and Booth Neurology Clinic—further expanding the opportunities available to students to broaden their skills and knowledge in preparation for residency. The first student to rotate at Booth Neurology Clinic began earlier this month.

Canadians have flourished at SGU and beyond: 18 Canadians who applied through the Canadian Resident Matching Service (CaRMS) secured residencies this year in competitive fields ranging from anesthesiology and emergency medicine to pathology and psychiatry.

Applications for placement at North Bay Dermatology beginning in January are now being accepted. The center has the ability to take two students at a time.

–Laurie Chartorynsky

Doctors Making a Difference: SGU Grads Travel to Colombia for Medical Mission Trip

The days were long yet the need to provide medical care to thousands of Venezuelan refugees living in Colombia was never more critical. Graduates from St. George’s University were among doctors and medical staff who recently travelled to Bogota and Cucuta to provide free medical services to the refugees.

Nathalie Briones, MD ’18, an emergency medicine resident at NewYork Presbyterian-Queens Hospital, was one of three SGU alumni who volunteered for the medical mission trip. “We saw a lot of communicable diseases, people dehydrated from having poor sanitation, parasites in children, and severe malnutrition,” said Dr. Briones. This was her second medical mission trip with trip organizers, Centurion Medical Missions. “We didn’t expect how acutely ill so many patients would be when we got there. Many of them were suffering from diseases that we had only ever seen before in our textbooks.”

Despite the dire conditions of the refugees in Colombia, she added that the team left each day more humbled and grateful than ever before. “The hardest part was hearing their stories about having to leave their homes. Many educated people—including doctors, lawyers, and engineers—were diminished to cleaning toilets or selling candy on the streets just to keep their children alive. These people once had everything, and now they have nothing. Many of us had to hold back tears during patient interviews because we knew that there was nothing we could do to change their circumstances.”

Added Dr. Briones: “Some moments you knew that you saved someone’s life by being there to treat them, and other moments you just wished you could do more.”

 

 

As one of the largest humanitarian crises in recent histories, more than four million Venezuelans—approximately 13 percent of the country’s population—have fled the country due to political instability, poor living conditions, and high crime since the revolution began in 1999. According to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM), more than 1.3 million of those refugees have sought asylum in Colombia, leaving behind loved ones and most of their possessions to search for a better life.

However, once they arrive in Colombia, all is not what it seems. During a site visit this past spring, trip organizers visited one hotel where they encountered at least 100 refugees to a floor, with eight to nine people living in each room.

“All they have with them is what’s in their backpack,” said Gib Gerlach, vice president of humanitarian strategies for Centurion Medical Missions, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. “When they get to Colombia, their money is worthless. One of the greatest things they need is medical care and if they need it, they have no money to pay for it. We saw a great need to help out.”

The trip, which took place December 9 to 13, included Dr. Briones, Chelsea Hoenes, MD ’13, and Yalda Hazrat, MD ’16, as well as a local physician, an emergency medical technician, and support staff. Volunteers flew in on Sunday, December 8 and spent the next four days seeing approximately 1,000 patients. The clinic welcomed all comers, including those with high blood pressure, acute respiratory issues, open wounds, malnutrition, urinary tract infections, and pregnant women, among other cases. The group purchases all of its medicine in country to help the local economy and to help build relationships, Mr. Gerlach said.

Dr. Hoenes also shared her perspective of the trip: “On arriving in the heart of Bogota, it is easy to see how the Venezuelan people are suffering one of the largest humanitarian crises in the world. Starvation and disease are their everyday reality. The medical care we provide is excellent but imperfect: the goal of our mission is to provide acute care, immediate access to imperative health resources, and hope, until permanent health infrastructure can be achieved for the growing refugee population.”

Centurion Medical Missions has previously performed medical clinics in La Vega, Dominican Republic. Of the six trips that Centurion Medical Missions has completed to La Vega since March 2018, 18 SGU doctors have so far travelled with the group, and many of them return for multiple trips. However, the need is so great in Colombia that the organization will be solely focusing on the country in 2020.

“We’re really happy to have to that relationship with SGU,” said Bill Honeycutt, founder of JET ICU, an air ambulance provider offering medical evacuation, medical repatriation, and other air medical transport services for patients worldwide and the parent company of Centurion Medical Missions. “It opens a lot of doors for the students and residents to build something down the road and eventually when they go into practice, they can continue to work to help thousands of people around the world.”

Dr. Briones said she hopes to inspire others to volunteer their services and training on future medical mission trips.

“I have always believed that every person in healthcare should try to do some kind of humanitarian work with underserved communities,” Dr. Briones said. “You really won’t know how much you can help until you go and see how much you actually do help.”

Visit SGU’s Instagram page for more images detailing the medical mission trip. 

– Laurie Chartorynsky

SGU Diagnostics Vet Protects the Health of Food Animals

Katie Woodard, DVM ’14Raised in Houston, Texas, Katie Woodard, DVM ’14, grew up raising show pigs for Future Farmers of America (FFA). Not only was it a big part of her childhood, the experience later fueled her interest in swine medicine, and eventually spurred her on toward a career in veterinary medicine.

Today, Dr. Woodard resides in rural Iowa with her husband and three children, working as a veterinary specialist at the Iowa State University Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory (ISU VDL). At one of the largest food animal diagnostic labs in the country, her job is to support food animal veterinarians in the field and provide quality service to the food animal agriculture industry.

“Growing up as I did, I never developed much interest in the small animal side of veterinary medicine,” said Dr. Woodard. “And I knew, even then, that I wanted to be involved in safeguarding the health of food animals, a role perhaps I was always destined for.”

Working at the VDL for the past five years, Dr. Woodard’s case load consists of about 85 percent swine—a reflection of the large swine industry located in Iowa and across the Midwest. On any given day, the diagnostics lab processes between 400 and 500 cases, making for a dynamic and ever-changing work environment. In her current role, she is responsible for all client outreach and education, where she assists her clients with disseminating information coming out of the lab, IT innovations, and retrieving diagnostic data from the lab.

“Our clients are veterinarians, and my job is all about making the diagnostic lab/client interaction as streamlined and straightforward as possible,” Dr. Woodard said. “My position helps to bridge that communication between lab and real life.”

Additionally, each summer she takes on a veterinary student intern to work on a project related to the lab and/or the swine industry. This could include anything from collecting samples in the field to developing better testing protocols or testing different swab types in the lab to make more informed recommendations to her clients in the field.

Continuing her tradition of educating future veterinarians, Dr. Woodard has also chosen to give back to her alma mater. Now, a visiting professor at SGU, she teaches the swine portion of the three-year veterinary students’ curriculum in the School of Veterinary Medicine. In addition, she has interviewed students applying to the veterinary school for several years.

“St. George’s University was actually the only veterinary school I applied to,” stated Dr. Woodard. “Having worked at the Louisiana State University School Of Veterinary Medicine as a technician for two years, I was already familiar with the traditional US model, and wanted to see what other options were out there for schooling. This, combined with my impatience to get started, led me to choose SGU since it offered rolling admissions, a much-needed change of scenery, and a more hands-on approach to learning.”

According to Dr. Woodard, she looks forward to continuing to play her part in the training of young veterinary students and considers it a privilege to be able to introduce them to the work of swine medicine and all the industry has to offer. With her future interests turning toward biosecurity and transportation and the impact those practices have on the health of food animals, she still maintains her commitment to the education of food-animal-oriented veterinary students.

–Ray-Donna Peters