Andrew Kowalski, MD/MPH

Andrew Kowalski, MD/MPH ’12, knows Chicago. He grew up in the Second City suburbs, went to college at Loyola University Chicago, and now works as an interventional nephrologist and assistant professor at MacNeal Hospital—the Illinois-based hospital where he was born and where he volunteered prior to becoming a medical student at St. George’s University.

Like in many American cities, kidney disease is a widespread issue in Chicago, which is where Dr. Kowalski comes in.

St. George’s University: How big of a problem is kidney disease in America?

Dr. Andrew Kowalski: More than one in seven people in the US have kidney disease—that’s about 15 percent of the population. Of those people, nine out of 10 have no idea they have any sort of disease, and two in five aren’t aware that they have severe disease and are very close to initiating dialysis. I see it a lot. I will tell some patients about significant issues that they face and they’re shocked.

I practice both general and interventional nephrology. As a general nephrologist, I see these patients and discuss ways to change their lifestyle, augment risk factors, and create treatment plans to move forward. Oftentimes we can put in 110 percent into a patient and, for whatever reason—likely their genetics—they still progress to requiring dialysis.

SGU: How closely is kidney disease associated with socioeconomics?

Dr. Kowalski: The majority of kidney disease patients have some issue with diabetes and/or high blood pressure. And it’s usually uncontrolled. Much of this closely relates to socioeconomics; those in the poorest communities tend to not have adequate access to healthcare, or whoever they see might not be the best. A lot of them have advanced conditions and complications that come with them.

Also in the mix, albeit less frequently, are patients from affluent neighborhoods. You see the same diabetes and high blood pressure, but the disease is more related to medications, drug use, and genetics. These patients feel like they know more and tend to try to treat themselves.

 

“SGU blew my mind in terms of the resources that were available, the culture there, the people there. It was fantastic.”

 

How did you get into nephrology?

Dr. Kowalski: What drove me into nephrology was meeting my mentor, Dr. Edgar Lerma. The way that he practiced, the way he carried himself and interacted with patients, it was really something I wanted to emulate. He wasn’t a very tall man, but he had a presence about him. He never spoke at the patients but always spoke with them. By the end, you would think you were speaking to a friend and bouncing ideas off of him. They truly trusted him and knew that they were in the right hands.

Nephrology has many avenues too. As an interventional nephrologist, I get to use both my hands and my head. As an interventional nephrologist, I see these patients and plan and manage their dialysis access. I would place their hemodialysis catheters, peritoneal catheters, and manage their fistulas and grafts so that they are receiving adequate dialysis treatment.

SGU: What’s your favorite part about your job?

Dr. Kowalski: I love teaching residents. I love explaining something that has a reputation of being difficult and seeing light bulb go off in their heads.

SGU: In addition to your MD, you obtained your Master of Public Health from SGU. How has that factored into your practice?

Dr. Kowalski: When I went to medical school, I wanted to have as many career options available as possible, and it helped not only with that, but it made me more well-rounded. I use the principles and practices that I learned in the MPH program more than I thought I ever would have. The coursework for that degree dove into many aspects of medicine that I was unaware of. We had in-depth discussions about population’s access to care, the influence of insurances, and the thought process that patients go through about their diagnosis and overall patterns of disease. An MPH degree gives you more options, and taking into account what you’re taught and the fact that it’s just one additional year, I think it’s extremely valuable to have.

SGU: How would you describe your SGU experience?

Dr. Kowalski: Going to SGU was much, much better than I thought it was going to be. It blew my mind in terms of the resources that were available, the culture there, the people there. It was fantastic. And time really flew by. During the week, you got a top-notch education—it really was phenomenal what we learned. And then every weekend it was like you were vacationing at a beautiful resort.

SGU really set me up for success. A lot of it had to do with riding on the shoulders of the giants who came before me who built a culture where everyone works together and helps each other out. We’re all on the same team, and our goal is to be better and do better as a whole.

– Brett Mauser

Related Reading

Karin Schiøler, PhD

The daughter of a Grenadian, Karin Schiøler, PhD ’06, frequented the Spice Isle as a child, visiting her grandfather and family in La Digue, St. Andrew’s. Yet there was a period of 18 years where her life and studies brought her elsewhere. She didn’t return until the early 2000s when, while living in Martinique, she first realized that a curious mosquito-borne disease was posing a serious public health threat to the Caribbean and other tropical regions.

Dr. Schiøler seized the opportunity to undertake a research project on dengue in Grenada and simultaneously earned her PhD from St. George’s University, the second such degree to be awarded by SGU’s School of Graduate Studies. She has gone on to study mosquito-borne diseases primarily in Sub-Saharan Africa, and is currently an associate professor in the Global Health section at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark.

SGU News reached out to Dr. Schiøler to learn more about the research she has done, specifically on dengue, and how it applies to the current healthcare situation surrounding coronavirus (COVID-19).

St. George’s University: According to the CDC, up to 400 million people worldwide get infected with dengue each year. Why is the disease such a challenge to control?

Dr. Schiøler: The disease is difficult to control because it is transmitted by a mosquito that is extremely well adapted to the domestic environment of most tropical areas. In other words, it lives in and around our houses. We provide the water containers for its larvae and the blood for its egg production—a rather smart setup, at least for the mosquito. Eliminating the mosquito in an environmentally safe way has proven very difficult. At the same time, vaccine development has taken decades, and although a dengue vaccine was recently marketed in some countries, its wider use is limited as it is deemed safe only for those who have already had dengue at least once.

SGU: What parallels can you draw between dengue and what’s taking place with COVID-19?

Dr. Schiøler: Dengue epidemics are acute in the sense that they erupt more or less unexpectedly, rage through the population and then disappear again after weeks or months. The real problem is not as much the experience of the disease, but when all of a sudden a large proportion of the society has it and are home sick or hospitalized, then you have to worry not just for the individual but for society at large in terms of social and economic consequences. What we are currently experiencing with COVID-19 at a global level, many countries have experienced previously due to dengue. That is a healthcare system under siege and the disease taking hold of the entire society, often triggering a health emergency or even a state of emergency declaration.

About a third of those who are infected by dengue virus experience symptoms, and a fraction of those people die from dengue. In between, dengue may cause a range of different symptoms and severities, just like COVID-19. So another parallel that can be drawn is that of human behavior—risk understanding and risk perceptions. How do people perceive COVID-19 and the risk of infection, and how does that affect their behavior? How much can you control this behavior if people don’t feel at risk? In a way, I think COVID was due to happen one way or the other. It’s a large-scale version of what we see with national or regional epidemics, like dengue, where efforts to control the disease by targeting the mosquito often falls short as risk perception is relatively low among homeowners compared to the efforts required to keep the mosquito out of our houses and lives.

“What We Are Currently Experiencing With COVID-19 At A Global Level, Many Countries Have Experienced Previously Due To Dengue.”

 

SGU: How have you addressed the persistence and spread of dengue?

Dr. Schiøler: My colleagues and I focus on understanding the dengue mosquito and its habitat, from the household to a wider community level including institutions and specific commercial settings. I believe that this understanding remains the key to dengue control. One of the projects that I’m directly involved with in Zanzibar, Tanzania, is an effort to integrate dengue control into primary school curriculum so that children can learn and execute mosquito control adapted to the realities of their household and wider community. It’s a mixed-methods study where we aim to determine how the children perceive dengue and other mosquito-borne diseases, what they can and can’t do as children in terms of control activities, and what’s actually accepted in that particular society. In another study, also on Zanzibar, we are working in collaboration with the tourism sector to replace the heavy reliance on chemical insecticides with environmentally sustainable mosquito control measures at hotels.

SGU: How would you describe your experience studying dengue in the Caribbean?

Dr. Schiøler: My thesis focused around understanding who the main risk groups are when an arbovirus like dengue is transmitted in the population. I studied how it spread and how a local active surveillance system worked to address it. In collaboration with both public and private health care providers, I actively went out and pursued cases and set up a system with rapid diagnostic turnover and response to the health authorities.  The aim was to predict outbreaks by picking up on the early cases, and then activate vector control and public dissemination before epidemic onset. My study showed that, after diagnosing the index case, there was a seven to eight week lull before a full-blown epidemic. We learned how to react to the risk of a new virus and how it is likely to spread through a small-island population. This experience was groundbreaking for me in that it gave me the first experience of working across disciplines and with different institutions and actors from the nurses and doctors forming the frontline of Grenada’s health care system and officials at the Grenada Ministry of Health to researchers at the CDC in Puerto Rico, who helped me set up advanced diagnostic techniques in Grenada.

SGU: What led you down the path to becoming an infectious disease researcher?

Dr. Schiøler: For me, research has always been about curiosity. Why is dengue even a public health problem? Why has nobody solved this problem already? Of course, the reason is that dengue is a complex disease—it’s not that easy to solve. You may get a few answers to the problem, but that will create new questions, and you keep seeking new answers for these questions. It’s perhaps frustrating at times, yet very rewarding. I started out fairly narrowly in terms of an immunological interest in dengue symptoms, but that interest lead me in into new directions, where today my primary focus is more on the entomological aspects of disease transmission and the inclusion of the community and other stakeholders in finding sustainable solutions to mosquito control. It’s the prospect of change that makes it exciting, and the realization that there isn’t necessarily a simple biomedical answer to diseases such as dengue. One can argue the same in the case of COVID-19.

 

Published November 2020

 

SGU graduate Karin Schiøler, PhD, with Dean of Graduate Studies Dr. Calum Macpherson.

Nathan Kwablah, MD, MBA

Nathan Kwablah, MD ’11, MBA ’12, is the very embodiment of individual hard work and dedication, and St. George’s University’s commitment to global medicine.

Born and raised in Ghana, Dr. Kwablah attended SGU on a merit-based scholarship offered to qualified students from Commonwealth countries. He dreamt of becoming a doctor since he was a teenager, inspired by his father, who was a biomedical scientist, as well as the American TV show, ER. When it came time to choosing a medical school, St. George’s University was a highly desirable choice.

“SGU appealed to me because of the learning structure and the opportunities I knew it would give me,” he said. “A family friend had also studied there and highly recommended it. The scholarship offer was the deciding point and I’m delighted at the path I chose.”

The SGU Commonwealth Scholarships are offered to students who demonstrate academic excellence and a commitment to their chosen discipline. They are primarily granted to students from countries where the need for trained professionals is high.

“I knew I’d want to return to Ghana and practice medicine after I graduated,” Dr. Kwablah said.

After earning his Doctor of Medicine at SGU, he stayed in Grenada to complete a Master of Business Administration in Multi-Sector Health Management. His education prepared him well for his return to Ghana, where he currently serves as medical director at Action Clinic in Accra, with designs on becoming a specialist in family medicine.

“There is so much work to be done in Ghana,” Dr. Kwablah said. “We have very capable doctors but limited resources and the country’s medical services are behind in terms of technological advancements. Most doctors are based in urban areas which means medical support for people living in rural areas is hard for them to access.

To resolve this issue, Dr. Kwablah aims to develop health technology in Ghana. He currently is part of a telemedicine initiative that provides a low-cost medical advice service by phone for people who are unable to visit with a doctor. It has proven to be especially beneficial for low-income individuals and families, particularly those residing in remote areas.

“I’d like to do more research in this field and I feel well equipped to take on its challenges after having the advantage of a global education at SGU. The exposure I had during my clinical placements in New York City and California really helped shape my mindset, and I apply the principles from my learning in my day-to-day work.

“As well as a fantastically well-rounded medical education, SGU taught me skills in clinical research, medical education, data analysis, and public speaking, all of which have helped me get to where I am today.”

 

Published September 2019

Annie Le, MD/MPH

When one considers the path that Annie Le, MD ’18, and her family have taken, it’s a marvel to see just how far she’s come—and the places she’s sure to go.

“Coming to the US, we pretty much started from scratch,” said Dr. Le, who started her family medicine residency at Borrego Health in California this summer.

In the 1970s, with Vietnam on the precipice of war, her family immigrated to California, settling in a refugee community in San Diego. She lived with her entire extended family in a single home and in poverty. However, she said the experience “built up a lot of character and grit” that helped shape her work ethic and goals.

That includes in medicine, a field she has eyed from a young age. Now as a physician, she is committed to treating underserved communities.

“Being from a refugee community, I witnessed inequality in healthcare firsthand,” she said. “The cultural barriers took a negative toll on my family.”

Dr. Le’s journey toward becoming a doctor began when she obtained her Bachelor of Science in psychology from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), becoming a first-generation college graduate. In addition to her studies, Dr. Le developed a strong research background, first as an undergraduate within UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine’s Department of Hematology and Oncology, and then at University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), where her responsibilities included coordinating all pediatric brain tumor and central nervous system disease-related clinical trials. As a result, she has been published and mentioned in several research articles.

Still, she felt limited in what she could provide for her patients.

“I knew that a step above, to be able to implement the research and be on the front lines, was to be a practitioner,” she said.

After completing postbaccalaureate courses at UCSF, Dr. Le applied to US medical schools but was waitlisted. Instead of waiting a year to start her journey toward becoming a physician, she applied to St. George’s University at the behest of a UCLA colleague who had taken a similar path.


“Looking back on my clinical years, I really appreciate the fact that I was exposed to so many different communities, different hospitals, and the different ways that they do things. You adapt to each location, and gain knowledge and skills from each experience.”


“I saw how successful she was going through it, and it was an opportunity to start sooner,” Dr. Le said. “Also, during undergrad I had wanted to study abroad but never did, so this was my opportunity to live in a different culture. Even though I went to UCLA and live in California where it’s diverse, SGU gave me a different level of diversity that allowed me to learn from people from different backgrounds from all over the world. It’s something that I really appreciated.”

While at SGU, she was a member of the Student Government Association (SGA), mentored students through the Academic Education Program (AEP), and volunteered at several student organization health fairs. She was also appointed by her peers as project coordinator of the Gold Humanism Honor Society (GHHS), an organization that recognizes students who demonstrate compassionate and patient-centered care.

Dr. Le’s clinical training took her to locations throughout the United States as well as the United Kingdom.

“Looking back on my clinical years, I really appreciate the fact that I was exposed to so many different communities, different hospitals, and the different ways that they do things,” she said. “You adapt to each location, and gain knowledge and skills from each experience.”

Among her stops was Borrego Health, which is part of SGU’s vast network of clinical training sites. Through that experience, she built a rapport with attending physicians and staff, making it an easy decision to rank the facility as a top choice for residency. She joined its inaugural residency class on July 1, 2019 and as the first SGU graduate selected for the program.

“In my fourth year, it felt like I was an intern already,” she said. “The relationships that were developed prior to the match allowed me to foresee what the experience would be like working there. I had such a positive experience, so it really felt like home.”

After earning her Doctor of Medicine from SGU and receiving all four honor cords in leadership/academics/humanism/research, Dr. Le added a Master of Public Health, with a focus on preventive medicine, to her resume, further preparing her for a career in family medicine. She will begin her residency at Hemet Valley Medical Center, one of two residency locations underneath the Borrego Health umbrella. Like she grew comfortable at Borrego, Dr. Le hopes that her patients—from wherever they come—feel welcome coming into her office.

“When I was young, I wanted to change some parts of medicine but didn’t have the capacity to do so. But now I do,” she said. “Seeing how hard my family worked has motivated me to push for equal healthcare access for every individual and community.”

Published July 2019

Michael Sanwald, MBA

As a veterinarian, Michael Sanwald was trained to treat a wide array of animals, and to create happier and healthier families as a result. But to run a practice of his own, it required more than that. He needed some business sense.

For that, he turned to St. George’s University, from which he earned his Master of Business Administration in 2013. Now the Co-Founder and Chief Veterinary Officer (CVO) of Fetch My Vet, Dr. Sanwald has found that the experience has made a significant impact on his veterinary practice.

“My MBA and DVM dovetail into every portion of my role as CVO. I am involved in all aspects of the company, from recruiting veterinarians into our network to being the in-house expert when it comes to the business of veterinary medicine for our team,” stated Dr. Sanwald. “Therefore, my MBA plays an invaluable part in what I do, including developing marketing programs for our clients and even working on the financial aspects with our accounting department to set reimbursement rates on the wellness plans we designed. These are all aspects of everyday life in which my MBA is utilized.”

After completing his bachelor’s degree at the University of Findlay in Ohio, Dr. Sanwald made his dream of becoming a veterinarian a reality in 2003 by obtaining his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from Ohio State University. He later moved to Virginia, where he spent more than a decade at the Banfield Pet Hospital, earning national merit awards for Best Growth to Plan in 2007 and 2010. In setting off on his own, Dr. Sanwald’s focus swung to the business side of veterinary medicine, prompting him to pursue an MBA from SGU.

“I chose SGU for my MBA because of the unique offering in Multi-Sector Health Management and because it caters to the specifics of medicine and veterinary medicine,” said Dr. Sanwald. “The program was 90 percent online, which allowed me to run the practice that I currently owned, while getting my degree. Additionally, I would have the opportunity to fulfill my two residency requirements on the island, and I felt that since SGU was one of the world’s largest medical schools, the exposure to the resources used to teach their medical students would be a great addition to my current knowledge base.”

Even though he specialized in small animal medicine, Dr. Sanwald didn’t want to limit himself and now treats patients ranging from exotics to traditional pets. He also recruits and trains veterinarians to provide care to client’s pets in their homes throughout Florida, the Southeast, and even nationwide.

Currently, Dr. Sanwald’s plans surround launching a nationwide in-home veterinary service throughout the United States, but he often finds himself thinking of ways to retire to Grenada and become part of the SGU community. He visualizes one day working with the veterinary community both on the island and the University to improve the overall health care of the region and support its veterinary medicine and MBA programs.

“While on the island, experiencing the local culture was absolutely incredible. Grenada is beautiful and its people are nothing short of that,” praised Dr. Sanwald. “Over the period of my two residencies, I was on the island for two weeks each time but I wanted to explore more of it and stay longer. My time there also left me trying to understand ways in which we can give back to areas in this world that don’t have the medical access and benefits that we take for granted in the US. Giving back and being part of a community were themes that I left the island wanting to explore more of in whatever avenues life took me.”

– Ray-Donna Peters

Seleipiri Akobo, MD, MBA

Before and during her time at St. George’s University, Seleipiri Akobo, MD SGU ’15, MBA SGU ’16, had traveled all over the world—from her native Nigeria to the United States, United Kingdom, Thailand, and more. Now with a degree from SGU’s School of Medicine, she believes she can go anywhere she wants to continue her career as a physician.

“In family medicine, you have real experiences, use a wide range of skills, and are trained to deal with patients of different ages and backgrounds,” said Dr. Akobo, a second-year family medicine resident at Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. “I really want to be better at every aspect of it, and know that I can. I like that there are so many career options, including fellowships, that I can do.

“I can’t tell you for sure how my life will turn out,” she added, “but I see the big picture and believe that I am equipped to make decisions that will help patients and families.”

Dr. Akobo’s desire to enter the world of medicine took root at age six when a sickness left her brother bedridden in the hospital. His condition meant many hours waiting for a resolution, waiting for improvement.

“I had all these questions, and I saw how effective the doctors and nurses were in helping alleviate the pain and struggle that our family was going through,” she said.

She expressed her ambitions to her parents, who connected her with family friends in the medical field. Dr. Akobo’s upbringing then included even more trips to the hospital, but for a different reason—she wanted to learn and to help.

Dr. Akobo went on to earn her bachelor’s degree in human physiology from the University of Port Harcourt in Nigeria, and then immigrated to the United States to continue her education at Pittsburg State University in Kansas. She earned a Bachelor of Science in nursing from PSU before going on to serve as a registered nurse in Minnesota and Texas.

Dr. Akobo then turned her sights toward becoming a physician. When considering her options, at some point in the process, she “fell in love with SGU” because of its beautiful setting and track record for graduate success.

“I remember telling my dad that if I was able to go to the Caribbean, it has to be SGU,” she said.

The St. George’s University Of Grenada School Of Medicine/Northumbria University
Four-, Five- and Six-Year MD Program(formerly the Keith B. Taylor Global Scholars Program)
, for which students spend their first year of study at Northumbria University in Newcastle, United Kingdom, presented a unique opportunity that she couldn’t pass up. Upon enrolling, Dr. Akobo enjoyed its small class sizes, one-on-one time with NU faculty, and the ability to explore the region in her free time. In addition, her newfound friends became a tight-knit family that joined its Grenada classmates beginning in Term 3.

Dr. Akobo took advantage of the plentiful educational resources at SGU, including its Department of Educational Services, which provided test-taking strategies and study skills that prepared her for important exams and her clinical training in New York City. She diversified her résumé by completing a two-week medical selective in Thailand, as well as a research and teaching fellowship at SGU. After graduating, Dr. Akobo added a Master of Business Administration (MBA) as well, and she also holds a Master of Public Health (MPH) from Des Moines University.

“It’s nice to put in the work and see it pay off,” Dr. Akobo said. “SGU gives you the resources that allow you to succeed.”

Her success came when matching into the family medicine program at HCMC in 2016, fulfilling a lifelong dream.

“Medical school is not just about intelligence; the process is about staying power and resilience,” she said. “Along the way, you might actually have setbacks, but that you’re passionate about it and that you’re willing to commit to working toward that goal will set you apart. At the end of the day, I wanted this and I did it.”

Published January 2018

Nicole Cambridge, BSc, MBA

The road to academic success for Nicole Cambridge, MBA SGU ’15, BSc SGU ’11, has been a winding one, complete with pit stops, twists, and turns throughout. Nevertheless, she persevered, and went on to a Bachelor of Science in economics and finance and a Master of Business Administration, specializing in international business, at St. George’s University.

She earned them both—and maintained a high GPA—all while juggling jobs and taking care of her family. Ms. Cambridge now serves as the Business Development and Research Officer at Grenada Chamber of Industry and Commerce.

“Although it took me 10 years and I faced many obstacles, I also had many triumphs, including having my three beautiful daughters along the way,” Ms. Cambridge said.

At the GCIC, Ms. Cambridge supports the organization’s work across a range of areas, including research, policy advice, revenue generation, engagement, and capacity building. She is responsible for collecting and analyzing socioeconomic data and trade statistics, and developing the necessary policy papers to meet the changing needs of the members and stakeholders of the Chamber.

“I wear two caps while working at the GCIC. Some days I work on the business development side of things, drafting contracts, and helping to organize training sessions for local businesses,” stated Ms. Cambridge. “Other days I’m doing research. All of my research skills I acquired through my MBA at SGU, including collecting and analyzing data and reporting, in laymen’s terms, to the average reader. I love what I do. These skills in research methodology and accounting are utilized daily and push me to strive even further in developing my career in finance.”

Ms. Cambridge began as a business studies major at SGU, but altered her course to focus on economics and finance. She was so successful academically that she went on to teach a course in microeconomics in the Department of Educational Services (DES).

Ms. Cambridge hopes to bolster her credentials by achieving certification as a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) Level 1, a professional designation given by the CFA Institute that measures the competence and integrity of financial analysts. Additionally, she plans on taking an online Bloomberg Market Concepts Certificate course that introduces market concepts such as economic indicators, currencies (foreign exchange), fixed income (bonds) and equity markets. Her hope is to one day have a career as a portfolio manager, research analyst, or corporate financial analyst.

“To other students thinking about embarking on their own academic journey, although the road may be rough at times, what really matters in the end is getting there successfully,” encouraged Ms. Cambridge. “I would tell them ‘Never give up, and if I can do it, you can do it too.’”

 

Published January 2018 

Afia Joseph, BA, MBA

For Afia Joseph and many other young Grenadians, St. George’s University provided an opportunity for personal and professional growth and development, while also allowing them to study close to home.

Just over a decade since she started her journey, Ms. Joseph is equipped with both a Master of Business Administration and a Bachelor of Arts in accounting from SGU. She is now the Managing Director at Glenelg Spring Water Inc., a position that unites her two passions.

“What attracted me to SGU were the opportunities it offered to us, the young people of Grenada—those of us who could not afford to travel to attend a university abroad or didn’t possess the necessary qualifications to enter our already limited job market,” said Ms. Joseph. “For Grenadians, SGU allows us to follow our dreams by presenting a chance to afford an excellent university education and obtain a college degree or higher, which opens doors that would’ve remained closed had you not had a degree. SGU makes dreams possible.”

As a visionary leader and innovative executive, Ms. Joseph has been with Glenelg for more than 10 years, working her way up from Financial Manager/Accountant to Marketing and Development Manager to finally serving as Managing Director for the past two years.

“While at Glenelg, I have spearheaded strategic change and structural adjustments, which have led to the sustainability and survival of the business within a very competitive industry,” said Ms. Joseph. “With my proven track record in the management of financial resources, especially cash flow management, I have been able to steer our team in the direction of the vision for the company while keeping on task to meet all goals within the next five years.”

Exhibiting leadership skills from an early age, Ms. Joseph credits the Grenada Junior Achievers, a youth leadership program for high school students, with kindling the flame of her leadership instincts, and St. George’s University with fueling the fire. During the seven years she spent at SGU, Ms. Joseph was also the President of the Business Students Association, a role she feels undoubtedly assisted in the development of her leadership skills.

“Through SGU, I started my growth path to leadership. When you have learned organizational skills and how to respect deadlines at school, this carries over into the workplace,” added Ms. Joseph. “Also, while my primary interest is in business development and management, I am a firm believer in entrepreneurship. One of my goals is to help our young entrepreneurs navigate the challenges in achieving successful businesses in Grenada.”

 

Published October 2017

Jennifer Lopez, DVM, MBA

As a veterinarian, Jennifer Lopez, DVM ’11, MBA ’13, is accustomed to making important decisions that affect the welfare of her patients. Now as medical director of VCA Castle Shannon Animal Hospital in Pittsburgh, PA, her decisions affect the entire practice. It’s a position for which she is well prepared, having obtained both her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine and Master of Business Administration from St. George’s University.

“The reason I got this job was because of my MBA,” Dr. Lopez said. “They were looking for someone with management experience, and a lot of the things that I learned in class I use every day.”

Having made a positive impression at Banfield Pet Hospital during four separate stints on her breaks from school, Dr. Lopez began practicing as an Associate Veterinarian at Banfield’s midtown Miami location in 2011. It was during that time that she enrolled in SGU’s MBA program, specializing in multi-sector health management. With the exception of two one-week residency sessions in Grenada, classes were held entirely online, which worked well with her hospital schedule. She completed her MBA in fewer than 18 months, and graduated in 2013 with a deeper understanding of international business, global health, and principled leadership.

Dr. Lopez now oversees 12 doctors and 30 support staff in her role as medical director. She also works as an emergency and general practice veterinarian, visiting with patients for well visits and conducting critical care treatment, including surgeries, on a regular basis. In addition, the hospital gives back to the community, hosting community days, donating their services and educating owners on how to best take care of their pets. For her leadership, Dr. Lopez was recognized in the 2016 edition of Icons of Pittsburgh, a book that annually recognizes prominent figures in the Steel City.

Dr. Lopez grew up in Miami, FL, where her parents bred Rottweilers. “We always had puppies around, so I thought that was a normal thing,” she said. “I don’t even know what else I would do if it didn’t involve animals.” She obtained her Bachelor of Science in animal biology from the University of Florida in 2001, and went on to earn a bachelor’s deggree in business administration from the University of Phoenix in 2004. While pursuing those degrees, she worked in UF’s College of Veterinary Medicine as a veterinary technician, specializing in dermatology, which she also researched in depth.

Tara Paterson, DVM ’03, and Janet Caracciolo, DVM ’03, came through Florida during their clinical year and spoke glowingly about their experience at SGU. They encouraged her to apply, and she enrolled in 2006.

Dr. Lopez found veterinary school to be a challenge, but she was up to that challenge. She embraced the Grenadian culture and appreciated the hands-on experience that the School of Veterinary Medicine provided early on, identifying Drs. Timothy Ayliffe and Marta Lanza-Perea as especially influential figures in her education. She and her classmates held numerous community outreach events, including vaccine clinics and sponsoring lunches.

“It was more difficult than I expected,” Dr. Lopez said. “You don’t just sit at the beach with flash cards every day, although you definitely do occasionally. It’s a good balance. Grenada is a beautiful country and its people are amazing.”

In addition, she served as president of the Jewish Student Association and American Animal Hospital Association, mentored incoming students as part of the SGU’s Footsteps program, and held the position of student representative for Pfizer and VCA Hospitals.

“The friends and the connections that I made and the confidence that I gained made me a better veterinarian and person,” Dr. Lopez said. “The faculty spent time with us. They really cared about us doing well, going on to do clinics well, and becoming very good veterinarians.”

She has become one herself, and hopes to pass down the knowledge and skills she has gained to her staff. For a Floridian, relocating to the northeast was an adjustment for Dr. Lopez and her bulldogs, but she admits she has had her time in the sun. “In Florida and Grenada, I wore a lot of flip-flops and shorts, so I’m good with scarves and boots.”

Gifty-Maria Ntim, MD, MPH

Dr. Gifty-Maria Ntim is a double-boarded pediatrician and internist at Antelope Valley Community Clinic in Palmdale, California. She was born and raised in Ghana, but moved to Canada to complete her undergraduate degree in biochemistry at McGill University in Montreal. She found it very competitive to apply to Canadian medical schools as an international student. When she heard about St. George’s University through a professor, she decided it was the perfect opportunity to pursue her dreams.

Grenada was a breath of fresh air for Dr. Ntim—“It reminded me of home on many levels. The people were very welcoming and warm.” Additionally, she was very impressed with the diversity in the student body and actively participated with the African Student Association.

After her first year at SGU, Dr. Ntim worked at the University of Ghana during her summer break on a project funded by the World Health Organization (WHO). “The experience I had in Ghana made me realize the importance of serving communities and not just individuals,” she said. “Hence, after my second term at St. George’s University, I switched from the straight MD program to the MD/Master of Public Health (MPH) dual degree program. The fact that I could get practical hands-on training in a developing country was very appealing to me as well.” In year two, she completed a WHO internship in Geneva, Switzerland.

Dr. Ntim went on to become chief resident of the Tulane University School of Medicine combined internal medicine/pediatrics residency program and the principal investigator of the NO-POP (New Orleans Pediatric Obesity Prevention) Project. “I feel my training at SGU is on par with other students and physicians that I have come into contact with. If anything, my training at SGU put me at a slight advantage when it came to infectious disease—which being from Ghana is very handy.”

Dr. Ntim ultimately hopes to develop programs for underserved communities and developing countries. “I am laying the groundwork to be involved in Ghana­­—mainly in the medical education and public health arena. I would love to teach and be involved in program development and sustainable health projects in Ghana.”

Dr. Gifty-Maria Ntim advises future medical students, “I would highly recommend SGU without hesitation. It allowed me to realize my dreams. It’s added to my growth as a person and as a physician, and I would not have it any other way if I could rewrite my life story.”

Published June 2013