SGU’s Department of Public Health and Preventive Medicine Designated as First WHO Collaborating Center on Environmental and Occupational Health in Region

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Through education, service, and research, the St. George’s University Department of Public Health and Preventive Medicine (DPHPM), chaired by Dr. Omur Cinar Elci, has aimed to promote public health both regionally and internationally. Its efficacy and impact were acknowledged on August 10, 2012, when it was designated as a World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborating Center on Environmental and Occupational Health, the first of its kind in the Caribbean.

This prestigious designation is for a period of four years, and will be headed by Dr. Muge Akpinar-Elci, associate professor and track director for environmental and occupational health in the DPHPM. The Department was informed of the distinction by Dr. Merta Roses Periago, director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).

“This historical achievement is the outcome of exceptional hard work and collective vision of the DPHPM team,” Dr. Omur Cinar Elci said. “My team and I would like to present this success as our contribution to the people of Grenada and the Caribbean. With this designation, SGU and Grenada has become a regional hub on environmental and occupational health, which emerged at the beginning of the 21st century as one of the most critical public health issues around the world.”

Dr. Elci initiated the idea to establish a collaborating center in 2009. The formal application, filed in 2010, was supported by the Grenada Ministry of Health and PAHO’s Caribbean Program Coordinator’s office in Barbados.

“SGU is very proud of the designation of the DPHPM as a WHO collaborating center which aligns so well with the University’s mission to become an international center of excellence,” said Dr. Cal Macpherson, vice provost for international program development at SGU. “We recognize the hard work done by the DPHPM team and its collaborators in achieving this recognition and wish Dr. Muge Akpinar-Elci and her team all the best in meeting the centers’ objectives and commitments.”

WHO collaborating centers are designated by the WHO Director-General to implement activities in support of WHO’s programs. The centers are beneficial to both WHO and the regional countries; WHO gains access to top centers worldwide and receives the institution’s support to the global health initiatives. In return, the centers receive visibility and recognition by national and international authorities. WHO affiliation helps collaborating centers to develop partnerships with other institutions, which can help generate resources from funding partners.

The SGU WHO collaborating center is committed to contribute to WHO’s strategic program in a number of ways, including: to assess and manage occupational safety and health hazards; to collaborate with WHO in developing evidence-based research from occupational health perspective on emerging issues, including environmental health problems and climate change; to provide expertise and potential for developing and disseminating curricula, training materials and training for occupational health capacity building in the Caribbean region; and to contribute towards the implementation of the Global Plan of Action on Workers’ Health and collaborate with other collaborating centers to achieve defined outcomes.

The DPHPM through its faculty, students and community partners have included a significant environmental and occupational health component to its teaching, research, service and scholarly activities. Over the last few years the DPHPM led several environmental related research programs including occupational health among nutmeg workers and health care workers, renewable energy, land degradation, food and water borne diseases and zoonotic diseases.

The DPHPM will continue to advance its work to address the environmental and occupational health needs of the Caribbean region. The DPHPM would like to thank its collaborators, who have supported its work including the Windward Islands Research and Education Foundation (WINDREF) through which all of its research and service as well as funding activities are administered. The DPHPM looks forward to continuing the work with all of its partners as well as invite all interested stakeholders to join its WHO collaborating center for the benefit of the Caribbean region.

Through education, service, and research, the St. George’s University Department of Public Health and Preventive Medicine (DPHPM), chaired by Dr. Omur Cinar Elci, has aimed to promote public health both regionally and internationally. Its efficacy and impact were acknowledged on August 10, 2012, when it was designated as a World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborating Center on Environmental and Occupational Health, the first of its kind in the Caribbean.

This prestigious designation is for a period of four years, and will be headed by Dr. Muge Akpinar-Elci, associate professor and track director for environmental and occupational health in the DPHPM. The Department was informed of the distinction by Dr. Merta Roses Periago, director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).

“This historical achievement is the outcome of exceptional hard work and collective vision of the DPHPM team,” Dr. Omur Cinar Elci said. “My team and I would like to present this success as our contribution to the people of Grenada and the Caribbean. With this designation, SGU and Grenada has become a regional hub on environmental and occupational health, which emerged at the beginning of the 21st century as one of the most critical public health issues around the world.”

Dr. Elci initiated the idea to establish a collaborating center in 2009. The formal application, filed in 2010, was supported by the Grenada Ministry of Health and PAHO’s Caribbean Program Coordinator’s office in Barbados.

“SGU is very proud of the designation of the DPHPM as a WHO collaborating center which aligns so well with the University’s mission to become an international center of excellence,” said Dr. Cal Macpherson, vice provost for international program development at SGU. “We recognize the hard work done by the DPHPM team and its collaborators in achieving this recognition and wish Dr. Muge Akpinar-Elci and her team all the best in meeting the centers’ objectives and commitments.”

WHO collaborating centers are designated by the WHO Director-General to implement activities in support of WHO’s programs. The centers are beneficial to both WHO and the regional countries; WHO gains access to top centers worldwide and receives the institution’s support to the global health initiatives. In return, the centers receive visibility and recognition by national and international authorities. WHO affiliation helps collaborating centers to develop partnerships with other institutions, which can help generate resources from funding partners.

The SGU WHO collaborating center is committed to contribute to WHO’s strategic program in a number of ways, including: to assess and manage occupational safety and health hazards; to collaborate with WHO in developing evidence-based research from occupational health perspective on emerging issues, including environmental health problems and climate change; to provide expertise and potential for developing and disseminating curricula, training materials and training for occupational health capacity building in the Caribbean region; and to contribute towards the implementation of the Global Plan of Action on Workers’ Health and collaborate with other collaborating centers to achieve defined outcomes.

The DPHPM through its faculty, students and community partners have included a significant environmental and occupational health component to its teaching, research, service and scholarly activities. Over the last few years the DPHPM led several environmental related research programs including occupational health among nutmeg workers and health care workers, renewable energy, land degradation, food and water borne diseases and zoonotic diseases.

The DPHPM will continue to advance its work to address the environmental and occupational health needs of the Caribbean region. The DPHPM would like to thank its collaborators, who have supported its work including the Windward Islands Research and Education Foundation (WINDREF) through which all of its research and service as well as funding activities are administered. The DPHPM looks forward to continuing the work with all of its partners as well as invite all interested stakeholders to join its WHO collaborating center for the benefit of the Caribbean region.

St. George’s University Med/Vet Summer Leadership Academy Celebrates 10 Years of Success

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Each summer the St. George’s University Med/Vet Summer Leadership Academy welcomes new classes of high school and college students from all over the globe to Grenada.  The mission? To provide aspiring veterinarians and physicians with an insider’s view of medical or veterinary school, a taste of Caribbean life, and enough insight on their future career path to help them make a well-informed decision on the rigors of their potential career.

The 2012 sessions, which took place in June, marked the 10th anniversary of the academy and once again provided a glimpse into the experience that is medical or veterinary school.

“By coming here, students can decide for themselves whether this is a path they want to choose,” said Heather Brathwaite, director of the summer academy. “If someone’s thinking about a career in medicine or veterinary medicine, the summer academy is a great opportunity to get a real insider’s view on what medical and veterinary school prior to jumping in with a full commitment.”

Led by Dr. Craig Goodmurphy, the academy was launched in 2003, teaching college and high school students through a series of lectures, small-group problem solving sessions, hands-on training and practical labwork. This year’s lectures ranged from cardiology and neurology to musculoskeletal and gastroenterology and each is followed by sessions in the anatomy lab during which students work with human and animal cadavers. With the help of standardized patients, medical students’ clinical training included learning how to take a patient’s history and blood pressure, how to suture and more. Vet students trained at the Elisabeth McClellan Small Animal Hospital.

High school students attend the academy for 10 days.  College students attend for 12 days and their experience includes a medical leadership component featuring lectures on public health, business, and a “One Health One Medicine” session that explained how each ties into medicine and veterinary medicine. The academics are balanced out by water sports such as sailing, waterskiing and snorkeling, as well as activities such as hikes through Grenada’s rainforests, staff/student game night and a dinner cruise.

No matter the schedule, the 15-hour days are by design.

“Even though the program isn’t all work, we build fatigue into the programs because going to med school or vet school is rigorous and tiring, and they need to determine whether they can manage it and whether they like it,” Brathwaite said. “In most cases, it cements in students’ minds their commitment to medical or veterinary school.  In rare cases students have decided that medical or veterinary school is not for them, we’ve still achieved our goal.”

Several of the academy’s alumni have gone on to earn their MDs or DVMs from St. George’s University, including John Tabacco, MPH, MD, a third-year internal medicine resident at Union Memorial Hospital in Baltimore. Others like Stan Veytsman, a fifth-term veterinary medical student, and Ayanna Rocke, a second-term medical student, not only attended the summer academy and continued their education at St. George’s University, but worked with students at the 2012 academy.

“Attending the summer academy isn’t just an investment that can help students make a more informed decision on where to pursue his or her medical career, but it’s also a great way for an undergrad student to spend two weeks in the summer,” said Tabacco. “I attended the first-ever summer academy and had an excellent experience, establishing some friendships I have to this day, and professionally, I owe a lot to the SGU summer academy and the fine individuals who work there.”

SGU to Host 29th Annual American Association of Clinical Anatomists Conference

Over 200 clinical anatomists from over 13 countries will converge at St. George’s University from July 8 to 13 for the 29th annual conference of the American Association of Clinical Anatomists (AACA). Grenada will be the fourth country outside of the United States to host this conference, following Canada, England, and Austria. Participants will include anatomists, medical educators, and surgeons along with several students.

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“It is our pleasure to host the 29th annual meeting of the AACA on campus and to provide a meeting of high scientific quality with oral presentations, posters, video presentations, and a postgraduate course dedicated to ultrasound and medical education,” said Dr. Marios Loukas, Professor and Chair of SGU’s Department of Anatomical Sciences. “The combination of a Caribbean environment and the excellent academic center of St. George’s University will provide participants with unique opportunities for collaboration, exchange of ideas in anatomy, education and innovation, and an update of the latest developments in all the topics of clinical and surgical anatomy.”

Twelve St. George’s University medical students alongside 10 faculty members from the Department of Anatomical Sciences will make eight oral and eight poster presentations at the conference. On the final day of the conference, the Department of Anatomical Sciences will present its postgraduate course.

“SGU is among the pioneers of introducing ultrasound into the anatomy curriculum and have been doing it for the last two years, which is why we are able to teach other schools how to do this technique and how to introduce it in their curriculum,” Dr. Loukas said. “This is a very big innovation right now.”

The AACA is an organization focused on advancing the ‘science and art of clinical anatomy.’ It encourages research and publication in the field and maintaining high standards in the teaching of anatomy. The organization caters to individuals of various backgrounds involved in research, clinical practice, clinical research, teaching in accredited colleges and universities, administrative or other experience in the field of anatomy. St. George’s University has been part of the AACA for approximately 15 years.

St. George’s University’s First-Time Takers Outscore US and Canadian Students on 2011 USMLE 1

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Medical students from St. George’s University have once more excelled on the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) Step 1.

St. George’s University students who took the USMLE 1 for the first time in 2011 achieved a 95% pass rate. These students have come to SGU from 34 countries and over 20 models of education. The first-time taker pass rate posted on the USMLE website for students at US and Canadian schools for this same period is 94%. It is interesting to note that SGU’s US and Canadian students who took this examination for the first time in 2011 achieved a 96% pass rate.

“The USMLE Step 1 success reflects not only the quality of education that the University and its faculty provide, but also the caliber of individuals who make up our student body,” said Chancellor Charles Modica of St. George’s University. “They have demonstrated tremendous drive to becoming highly successful doctors and St. George’s is committed to providing all the resources they need to reach that goal.”

SGU’s 2011 USMLE Step 1 performance was an improvement on the already impressive results from 2010, a year in which SGU’s US and Canadian first-time test takers on the USMLE Step 1 also outperformed US and Canadian schools with a 94%, and SGU’s all first-time takers from 49 countries matched the first time taker pass rate for students at US and Canadian schools of 92%.

“The students’ achievement on the USMLE Step 1 results from exemplary dedication to their medical studies, the excellence of our Academic Enhancement Model of curriculum delivery, and the dedication of the faculty,” said Margaret Lambert, Dean of Enrolment Planning.

Designed to measure basic science knowledge, the USMLE Step 1 is comprised of more than 300 multiple-choice questions on topics ranging from the biology of cells and human development to the central nervous, musculoskeletal and endocrine systems, among others. A passing score on all three parts of the USMLE is required to practice medicine in the US.

WINDREF Research Selective Opens World of Possibilities for St. George’s DVM Graduate

2012 news monkeyFor as long as she can remember, Emily Talkington, SGUDVM ’05, MSc, had one goal in mind – to become a veterinarian. However, it was not until her third term at St. George’s University, when she participated in a research selective in Uganda through the Windward Islands Research & Education Foundation (WINDREF), an independent research institute located on St. George’s True Blue Campus in Grenada, that she recognized her passion for working with exotic animals. Since graduating, Dr. Talkington has worked with exotic species in West Africa, rescuing African Grey Parrots in Limbe and treating orphaned chimpanzees in the Cameroonian bush, helping to usher them back to their natural habitat.

“Participating in the research selective was an amazing experience that I was able to use as a springboard toward achieving my goals,” Dr. Talkington said. “I feel as though I have a world of opportunities open to me with my DVM degree. I’m grateful to St. George’s for giving me the chance to do what I always wanted to do and to be able to fulfill my dream and live out my passion.”

The WINDREF research selective allowed Dr. Talkington and other medical and veterinary students to study wildlife conservation and perform field research at Queen Elizabeth National Park in Uganda. For eight weeks she worked with animals such as lions, hyenas, and leopards.

In January 2011 she returned to Africa as a DVM to work as a volunteer for Limbe Wildlife Centre in Cameroon. She treated more than 400 mammals—including gorillas, chimpanzees, drills, and mandrills, as well as over 1,000 birds, all of which had been either orphaned from the bushmeat industry or confiscated from the illegal exotic animal trade.

Dr. Talkington then volunteered at the Sanaga-Yong Chimpanzee Rescue Centre, where she was involved in running the sanctuary while rehabilitating 74 orphaned chimpanzees. She handled everything from administering preventative medicine to disease diagnosis and treatment and credits her success to the confidence gained from her education at St. George’s.

“I loved every day at SGU and enjoyed all aspects of the program,” Dr. Talkington said. “I loved the small class size, how accessible the professors were, and that we were able to get a lot of hands-on experience.”

Currently, Dr. Talkington performs emergency work as a small animal veterinarian at the East Lake Veterinary Clinic in Watsonville, CA, just outside of Santa Cruz. She is working toward returning to Africa to continue working with great apes.

“I look forward to going back and educating Africans about the importance of trying to save their great apes, and empowering them,” Dr. Talkington said. “My soul belongs there. It’s my home.”

SGU’s DPHPM Continues its Global Recognition with AAPHP Membership

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Still fresh from receiving approval for a chapter from the Delta Omega Honors Society in Public Health, the Department of Public Health and Preventive Medicine (DPHPM) received membership from the Association of Accredited Public Health Programs (AAPHP). This association which was built from the Council of Accredited MPH Programs (CAMP) is an exclusive group of accredited programs from the Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH). The DPHPM received a full five-year accreditation from the CEPH in July 2010 and was therefore eligible for membership, which was approved in February 2012.

“The department’s membership to the AAPHP is another success in meeting its stated vision and mission, which is being a regional international center of excellence for public health education, research, and service,” said Dr. Satesh Bidaisee, Assistant Professor and Deputy Chair of the Department of Public Health and Preventive Medicine.

The AAPHP was established in 1999 with the mission to enhance the public’s health by fostering and promoting CEPH accreditation for MPH programs for the development of the public health workforce. AAPHP originally provided representation for health education and the behavioral and social science programs, but expanded its mission so that today AAPHP represents all interested accredited MPH programs with a strong focus on the preparation of public health practitioners. AAPHP’s overall mission is to support, represent, and advance current and emerging accredited public health programs in preparing a competent public health workforce and advancing the science and practice of population-based health. In promoting the standards associated with public health accreditation, AAPHP also has a major commitment of encouraging and supporting higher education institutions to seek and maintain CEPH accreditation.

The DPHPM’s Membership with the AAPHP will serve to continue its position to engage in the issues and initiatives regarding graduate public health education that will influence our ability to support community practice and training needs of our graduates. Some of the benefits of AAPHP membership include:

  • Update sessions at conferences regarding current issues related to CEPH accreditation
  • Representation and advocacy for programs on accreditation and certification boards
  • Regular meetings to address priorities and concerns of CEPH accredited programs
  • Opportunities for networking through support for sessions at national and international scholarly conferences
  • Sharing of strategies to maximize the potential for a successful self-study
  • Advocacy for greater involvement with national public health entities for program support and networking (e.g., representation at the CDC Leaders to Leaders Conference; serving as a member of the Council on Linkages between Academia and Public Health Practice)
  • Opportunities to engage in research that identifies the program and student characteristics of CEPH-accredited MPH programs.

Preparing competent public health practitioners is critical to the development and sustainability of a public health infrastructure ready to address existing and emerging threats to the public’s health. AAPHP membership affords the opportunity to amplify your program’s assets and impact through working with faculty colleagues around the country to tackle the needs for accountability and quality assurance, accreditation and re-accreditation support, resource acquisition, curriculum improvement and development, and undergraduate public health degree needs.

St. George’s University Joins Forces with Franklin Pierce University for Combined-Degree Program

St. George’s University is pleased to announce that it has entered into an affiliation agreement with Franklin Pierce University.  This agreement was designed to offer qualified students the opportunity to pursue a career in medicine or veterinary medicine at St. George’s University after completing four years of undergraduate pre-medicine or pre-veterinary medicine studies at Franklin Pierce University.

In the works for a number of years, this new affiliation is the result of the joint desire of both St. George’s University and Franklin Pierce University to see that capable and driven students are granted convenient access to quality medical education.  After numerous visits by SGU administrators to the Franklin Pierce University campus over the last few years to work out details and program structure, the official agreement was passed in September 2011. According to Dr. Paul Kotila, Dean of the College at Rindge, “Franklin Pierce University welcomes an affiliation with St. George’s University that expands student opportunities in the health professions and complements the implementation of a new Health Sciences major and the construction of a new facility to serve this program.”

Under the terms of the agreement, students can begin planning for their future in medicine right after high school.  Applicants admitted to this combined degree program are granted a pathway from their undergraduate degree in biology or health sciences to a Doctor of Medicine or Doctor of Veterinary Medicine program.  St. George’s University’s Dean of Enrolment Planning Margaret Lambert has high hopes for this new partnership, “This exciting new venture is yet another example of how St. George’s University is dedicated to expanding the opportunities of all prospective medical physicians and veterinarians.”

SGU Team Captures First at NJ Student Challenge Bowl

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On March 2, a group of SGU students performing their clinical rotations at Saint Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston, NJ, participated in the 2012 New Jersey American College of Physicians (NJ ACP) Student Challenge Bowl, taking first place by outdueling three teams from the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ).

The SGU team consisted of Paul Hulsberg, Eddie Martins, Marci Handler and Siddharth Joshi, with Craig Brown and Preeti Narayana serving as alternates. SGU defeated three teams from UMDNJ’s New Jersey Medical School, School of Osteopathic Medicine, and Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.

“They have proven what we have always known, that SGU students are as good as students from any other school,” said Dr. Ashish Parikh, Program Director of the Internal Residency Program at Saint Barnabas.

In the challenge that Dr. Parikh likened to Jeopardy, each group was asked to answer 25 questions and was given 30 seconds to enter its response. Topics ranged from gastroenterology and endocrinology to physical exam signs and current events in medicine, and each question was assigned a point value between 10 and 30 points.

The competition, held at the annual regional NJ ACP chapter meeting, concluded with the final Jeopardy round, during which teams were shown a succession of four images of patients and asked to identify the different types of erythemas afflicting them. SGU was the only team to answer all four correctly, firming up its Challenge Bowl victory. The quartet prevailed despite being the only four-person team; the other schools’ teams were comprised of five students.
“It demonstrated first-hand the simple but immutable merits of hard work, teamwork and perseverance,” Joshi said.

Joshi, a fourth-year medical student, will begin his internal medicine residency at New York Methodist Hospital in July 2012, while Narayana matched into Internal Medicine at the State University of New York Health Science Center, also in Brooklyn. The other four participants are third-year students who are amid their surgery clerkships and will apply for residency in 2013.

St. George’s MBA Students Among Elite Business Schools at 2012 Hult Global Case Challenge

news mba hultHailing from more than 140 countries worldwide, St. George’s University’s faculty and student body are accustomed to working together to solve problems that persist on a worldwide level.  That’s why the theme for the 2012 Hult Global Case Challenge – global poverty – was perfect for SGU’s participation.

On February 24 and 25 in Boston, the five-person St. George’s team, all of whom are students in the  MBA in Multi-Sector Health Management Program,  competed against some of the top universities and colleges in the world at the third annual event. SGU was the only Caribbean institution selected to participate in any of the five international cities that hosted regionals: Boston, San Francisco, London, Dubai, and Shanghai. The winning team from each challenge track – Education, Energy, and Housing – in each region was granted an all-expense-paid trip to the global final in New York City on April 26. A $1 million research grant will be given to ultimate winner in each track.

The St. George’s team – Team Nathan – was comprised of Arian Robert, BSc; Nathan Kwablah, MD; Stephanie Nanayakkara, MD; Theodor Gottlieb, MD; and Yon Chong, MPH, MD. St. George’s was not selected as the Education challenge track winner – Carnegie Mellon University took home top honors – but it was nevertheless a tremendous experience for the SGU team.
“Once we got there, we realized what an accomplishment it was to even make it to regionals,” Chong said. “We didn’t get to move on to the finals, but we learned some valuable lessons that we can take back to our MBA program studies.”

Teams in the Education track were presented with the case challenge “One Laptop per Child,” which asked the group to devise a business plan to deliver 10 million laptops to 10 million children in five years.  SGU’s three-pronged approach included bringing mobile schools to rural villages, setting up laptops with webcams to create global classrooms and international friendships between students, as well as crowd sourcing. The team had approximately 10 minutes to present its model.

After submitting an essay explaining why it should be selected to present at the Challenge, St. George’s was one of just 18 institutions worldwide to be selected for the Boston region’s Education Track.  In addition to Carnegie Mellon, SGU’s competition included the Harvard Business School, the Yale School of Management, the Columbia University School of Social Work and the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. While their competitors were part of full-time MBA programs and regularly met face to face, the SGU group is earning their MBAs part-time and coordinated their Hult presentation strictly online. They employed their global education from SGU and depth of experiences to address the One Laptop per Child case.

“The way we analyze things in the health care field, that’s something we brought forward, specifically our international experience,” said Kwablah. “Everyone on the team is from a different place; our experiences are different and we come from different educational systems. Our different backgrounds were the basis for our application and one of the reasons why we got a chance to be able to compete.”

Chong has worked in rural villages in Honduras and Peru as part of her medical studies, and she lived in Tanzania for her public health selective. The global classroom idea was derived from training in southern California, where she helped thousands of residents gain access to health care.

“At SGU, relating with people from other cultures opens you up and puts you at an advantage,” Chong added. “We used that whole concept of learning outside the textbook, which you get at SGU, and came up with the global classroom idea.”

SGU Med Students Take Urban Children Under Their Wing

news med students urban children under wingSince its founding in 2009, Urban Humanitarian Projects (UHP), a New York-based non-profit organization comprised of St. George’s University medical students, has concentrated its activities on serving underprivileged children in New York City.  Its latest venture, the Urban GURUS Project, was formed to combat high dropout rates in the city’s public high schools by introducing students from Park Slope Collegiate High School in Brooklyn to college and career opportunities.

It began with the wildly successful Urban Santa Project which delivered gifts to more than 1,000 underserved children in New York City on Christmas morning.  GURUS, which stand for “Guidance, Unity and Resources for Urban Success,” followed it up by hosting a Build-a-PC workshop on Saturday, January 7.

Twenty-eight computers were donated by InnovatePC.com for the Build-a-PC event, during which mentors and mentees worked to construct a computer from scratch. Upon its completion, mentees were allowed to keep the computers they helped build.

“We wanted to make sure that it was a challenge,” UHP founder Santhosh Cherian said. “Working together to solve a problem or puzzle builds a stronger bond and we’re hoping this bond extends beyond this single event.”

Maria Lagopoulos and Irem Kaplan coordinated the GURUS Project which will run through this academic year and resume in September with another class of students. GURUS works in conjunction with high schools and the New York City Department of Education.

According to reports from BoostUp, a national high school dropout prevention campaign, 32 percent of high school students in New York State either drop out or do not graduate in four years. At the root of the GURUS Project’s mission is the belief that two central facets form the foundation for educational success: guidance and resources.

“Not only is education important, but with access to technology, students have unlimited potential,” Cherian said. “It’s not that we’re trying to promote college necessarily. When they graduate from high school we just want them to have considered that as an option or, if they want to open their own business, to have the resources available to do that.”

Cherian, a third-year medical student who is rotating at Lutheran Medical Center in Brooklyn, New York, started UHP, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, in 2009 while on the University’s True Blue campus in Grenada. The first GURUS meeting took place this past December when mentors and mentees spent three hours wrapping gifts in preparation for Urban Santa.

Of the 19 mentors, all of which are based in New York and New Jersey, 16 are third- and fourth-year SGU students. GURUS plans to host group meetings monthly, and mentors and mentees are committed to getting together at least twice a month for activities of their choice.

St. George’s Chancellor Charles R. Modica, who advocated for the inclusion of high school students as part of the organization’s initiative, donated $6,000 to launch the program.