Graduates Help Usher in New Class of Medical Students at St. George’s University

 

Walter Bakun, MD SGU ’83, had once traversed the stage as a medical student himself. Three years ago, his eldest son, Zachary, followed in his footsteps, and is now a third-year student doing his clinical rotations. This fall, his second son, Walter II, joined the SGU community by taking part in the Fall 2018 White Coat Ceremony at Patrick F. Adams Hall.

Having enjoyed a long and fruitful career as an internist in New Jersey, Dr. Bakun looks back fondly on his time in Grenada, and is overjoyed to see both his sons take the same path.

“I wouldn’t have traded my SGU experience for anything else,” said Dr. Bakun. “I’m very happy with what SGU gave to me and equally pleased with what it’s continuing to give to the community and the world over with the doctors that it’s producing. Today was a great personal honor for me to coat my son because I feel that he will continue the work that I’ve been doing after I’m gone.”

Dr. Bakun wasn’t the only alumnus coming back to SGU to coat his son. All together, this fall’s incoming SOM and SVM class welcomed backed 11 SGU graduates, including members of the Class of 1983 and 1991 to join in the special privilege of coating their children. The 2022 Grenada SOM class joined their fellow students from the Keith B. Taylor Global Scholars Program, who began their journey two weeks before at Northumbria University in the United Kingdom. The Grenada ceremonies helped make up the University’s bi-annual Beyond Spice Family Weekend.

Another familiar face returning to SGU was the evening’s master of ceremonies, Corey Schwartz, MD SGU ’98, a hematologist and oncologist specializing in sarcoma and breast cancer at Kaiser Permanente in Northern California. Dr. Schwartz is also a member of the inaugural combined MD/MSc class, and knew exactly how this new class of aspiring physicians felt, as he embarked on the same journey almost a quarter of a century ago.

“For me, what SGU meant was opportunity. I jumped at the opportunity to be part of the first Master’s/MD program offered by the University,” stated Dr. Schwartz. “Another amazing thing about SGU is that it allows you to achieve your dreams. Yes, there are challenges along the way, but the school gives you all the support that you need to make this happen and it does a fantastic job of that. The USMLE scores speak for themselves.

“It’s very easy to get caught up in the treadmill of one task after another trying to become a doctor and forgetting why you started in the first place,” added Dr. Schwartz. “So, I would encourage you right now to ask yourself ‘what does medicine mean to me?’ and ‘why am I here?’ Your answers are really unique to you, and it’s important that you carry them in your heart and your mind throughout your career if you want to stay on track and make sure your dreams come true. Abraham Lincoln said, “discipline is choosing between what you want right now and what you want the most.” I urge you all to work for what you want the most.”

Also returning to SGU to deliver his second keynote speech was John J. Cush, MD SGU ’82, a practitioner, educator and leader in the field of rheumatology, and a member of the second graduating class of St. George’s University School of Medicine. Dr. Cush had previously delivered the keynote address at the August 2007 White Coat Ceremony and was excited to share a few excerpts from a letter by Dr. Adam Cifu from the Journal of the American Medical Association on advice for students starting medical school.

Lesson number 1: Often the most important service we provide for a patient is not what we think. For instance, there’s a lot more than knowledge to becoming a doctor. Your time, interest, curiosity, are all fabulous ideals that are very important to your patients.

“Lesson number 2: Much of what you are taught is wrong. For example, getting too close to patients is a dangerous thing and to never except a gift from a patient. Patients want to thank you and accepting their gifts is a lot like accepting their compliments. You have to be careful. Don’t shun them. Don’t minimize them. Be gracious, admit that the gift means a lot to you, and thank them.

Lesson 3: Keep a sunshine folder. In it you can stash your notes from patients, your pictures, great letters of recommendation, and other small accolades of things you’ve done for your patients. On good days, they’ll be very important to you and you’ll be able to add to them. On bad days, you’ll come to look at that sunshine folder and realize that life is not so bad. That sunshine folder is there to lift your spirits when you need it most.”

In closing, Dr. Cush left the students with a final few words of inspiration.

“Today as we put the white coat on you, our hands on your shoulders means that we have confidence in you and great expectations of you and we expect to hear your success story a few years from now.”

– Ray-Donna Peters