Margaret Russell, MD

In 2008, Dr. Margaret Russell, MD SGU ’05, took a walk down Main Street – the only street with businesses in Yerington, Nevada – and it felt like home. For a self-proclaimed “small-town girl,” practicing medicine at South Lyon Medical Center, an all-encompassing medical facility at the base of the Sierra Nevadas, was the perfect fit.

“I had not been in Yerington more than two days, and I had fallen in love with the town,” Dr. Russell recalled. “I just knew that I wanted to do rural medicine and that it was a good fit.”

Five years later, she continues to serve as one of four doctors at South Lyon. In such a community, the medical personnel must wear many hats, together operating a 14-bed hospital, physicians clinic, long term care unit, and 24/7 emergency room, visiting with patients old and young, rich and poor. For patients requiring a higher level of care, they work closely with major hospitals in Reno and Carson City, 65 miles away, coordinating emergency helicopter flights or accompanying patients on ambulance trips. Dr. Russell also facilitates low-cost or free health care for low-income individuals.

“You have to be an advocate for your patients, which is very different from a big city,” she said. “We may have to give our patients gas money to be able to see a specialist or have to call a colleague consult like a surgeon who might be willing to do a back surgery for $150. There really are people like that out here. Many specialists treat us as colleagues and arrange telemedicine or video conferencing to help us rural docs out.”

Yerington resembles Dr. Russell’s hometown of Kellogg, ID, a mining/ranching town of about 3,000 people. After high school, she earned her Bachelor of Science in biology and chemistry from Eastern Washington University in Cheney, WA, and embarked on a 21-year journey as a teacher. It included an 11-year stint in Royal City, WA, a farming community without a single doctor or nurse. When a neighbor’s infant child died of pneumonia, in part due to the lack of area health care, Dr. Russell re-directed her focus.

“I thought to myself, ‘I am going to fix this situation. I am going to be a doctor in a rural town that needs me,’ ” she said.

At SGU, Dr. Russell immersed herself in her studies as well as the Grenadian culture. She joined the Emergency Medicine Club and Surgery Club, and also served as a Department of Educational Services (DES) instructor for two years. In her free time, she learned how to SCUBA dive and to sail, and explored Grenada’s many rainforests.

After leaving the Caribbean, Dr. Russell completed her third and fourth years at Kern Medical Center in Bakersfield, CA. Upon graduation she completed Family and Community Medicine residency through the University of Nevada’s Las Vegas-based program.  She credits St. George’s University for preparing her in all aspects of medicine and clinical care. “I’ve been told I don’t miss much in terms of my evaluation of a patient, and that’s because I was taught a different way,” Dr. Russell said. “St. George’s really had us use all of our senses right off the bat. I depend on the skills I was taught at SGU, and those skills have never let me down. Students at St. George’s University receive a phenomenal well-rounded education.”

John Beshai, MD

John Beshai, a 1996 SGUSOM graduate, presented a late-breaking clinical trial to an audience of peers and mentors at the annual meeting of the American Heart Association (AHA) on November 6th in Orlando, FL. Dr. Beshai is an expert in cardiac electrophysiology, an area of medicine focused on the treatment of heart rhythm problems (arrhythmias). A respected scientist and the Director of Pacemaker and Defibrillator Services at the University of Chicago, he served as the National Principal Investigator and Steering Committee Chairman for the RETHINQ clinical trial.

For the RETHINQ trial, 172 heart failure patients were randomly selected to participate from August 2005 through January 2007. One group of 87 patients received treatment with Cardiac Resynchronization Therapy (CRT) devices while the remaining control group was untreated. Cardiac Resynchronization Therapy (CRT) devices are surgically implanted and deliver electrical impulses to both ventricles at the same time, making both chambers contract simultaneously thereby improving pumping efficiency.

While current guidelines support the use of CRT in patients with moderate to severe heart failure and a prolonged QRS duration, this study aimed to see if the device could benefit patients outside these recommended parameters.  Patients with a narrow QRS complex and evidence of mechanical dyssynchrony as demonstrated on echocardiography were included in the trial.  The results showed that those treated with CRT demonstrated no significant improvement in exercise capacity as measured by peak oxygen consumption. Some symptoms did improve, but quality-of-life scores, results of the six-minute hall walk test and echocardiographic parameters of left ventricular reverse remodeling did not improve significantly.

“There was no significant difference in the change in peak oxygen consumption between the treatment group and the control group during cardiopulmonary testing,” reported Dr. John Beshai.  “Further research is necessary,” he said.   These results were significant, as CRT may not benefit about a quarter of the country’s estimated 500,000 heart failure patients.

The RETHINQ results presented by Dr. Beshai were simultaneously published online by the New England Journal of Medicine. They were published in the December 13 print issue of the publication.

Leanne Baumgartner, MD

Her husband, her mom, her friends, her attendings, her nursing staff – Leanne Baumgartner, MD SGU ’15, contacted just about everyone she knew. Upon learning she had matched in family medicine at the University of Saskatchewan, she had to call to tell – and thank – all those who were part of her journey back home.

“The email came at noon, and I just burst into tears. I just stared at the screen in awe,” Dr. Baumgartner said of matching with her top-choice program. “I was so ecstatic. It was an incredible feeling.”

Her intern year at Saskatchewan will have a unique twist to it. She and her husband will welcome their first child this summer, and the program will allow her to take six months of maternity leave, pushing her start date to January 1. Dr. Baumgartner is excited to launch her career in Canada, not far from where she grew up. Even better, she will practice family medicine, for which she has always had an affinity.

“I wanted to go into a field that included all topics in medicine and allows you to sit down with patients to talk about their life, their health, and their plans,” Dr. Baumgartner said. “Family medicine is by far the best place to do that.”

Dr. Baumgartner graduated from the University of Alberta in 2010 with a Bachelor of Science in molecular genetics. During that time, she worked as a unit clerk at Alberta Health Services, which is where an attending whose son attended St. George’s University encouraged her to apply. Dr. Baumgartner visited with University representatives at an information session in Edmonton and, with strong marks and extensive work experience to her credit, she was offered an International Peace Scholarship.

Enrolling in January 2011, she immediately enjoyed her new surroundings, joining a highly diverse and highly driven class of medical students.

“All the students are taking the same type of journey and we all wanted to help each other out,” she said. “I met the smartest people I’ll ever meet in Grenada, and I believe that the experience with them and on the island taught me more than I ever would have learned in Alberta.”

Dr. Baumgartner was elected President of the Canadian Students Association, one of more than 50 student organizations on campus. CanSA hosted regular events involving SGU’s Canadian alumni as well as decision makers in Canada, including Sandra Banner, Chief Executive Officer of the Canadian Resident Matching Service (CaRMS). In addition, Dr. Baumgartner helped make her fellow Canadians feel right at home, brewing Tim Horton’s coffee at CanSA events, organizing hockey tournaments, and coordinating Terry Fox Runs.

For her clinical rotations, Dr. Baumgartner spent her third year between two institutions in Newark, New Jersey, and her fourth between Newark, Chicago, Vancouver, and Edmonton. She appreciates the foundation that her basic science and clinical experience at SGU has given her as she starts a new chapter in her medical career.

“Being an SGU student, you learn a lot about medicine but also a lot about life,” she said. “You learn about more than just the basic sciences. It’s a life-altering experience.”

Druvindra Atapattu, MD

Dr. Druvindra Atapattu is devoted to his native land of Sri Lanka and cares for the people to whom he is most connected. As an only child, he was influenced by his physician father who served as the Minister of Health in Sri Lanka and played an influential role at UNICEF in New York. It seemed his fate to practice medicine and assist the country he has always called home.

In the late 1980s, in the midst of an ongoing ethnic conflict, the North Colombo Medical College, the first private medical college in the country, was closed due to student unrest. At the time, the senior Dr. Atapattu was traveling extensively with UNICEF and became aware of St. George’s University School of Medicine. St. George’s worked closely with Sri Lankan government representatives and its own Academic Board to craft a unique entry and scholarship program that allowed many of the displaced medical students to continue their studies. As a result, nearly 300 future doctors eagerly accepted St. George’s generous agreement with Sri Lanka and transferred to the University.

In 1990, Druvindra arrived in Grenada to begin his studies. Although he was in the presence of so many students from Sri Lanka, he was excited about the diversity of the student body at SGU. “The opportunity to meet students from other parts of the globe was tremendous,” he said. In fact, most of his friends from SGU, including his roommate, were Americans. Druvindra was also impressed with the caliber of full-time professors at SGU, and the many visiting professors from the United Kingdom and United States with whom he studied.

Knowing he would ultimately return to Sri Lanka, Druvindra selected the United Kingdom for his clinical years, stating “the British medical system is most similar to that in Sri Lanka.” He has been a physician for four years in the Accident and Emergency Unit at the National Hospital of Sri Lanka (NHSL), the premier teaching hospital and tertiary facility in the country. Positions at the NHSL are coveted and highly competitive, as it is the largest government hospital in Sri Lanka and is well-equipped for all medical specialties.

In his limited spare time, Dr. Druvindra Atapattu interviews students in the region who are interested in attending St. George’s University. He is happy to assist these young men and women, offering his insight into the quality education and international environment of the University.

Rosalind E. Ambrose, MD, DMRD

It was during her undergraduate studies at the University of Washington that Dr. Rosalind Ambrose first heard about St. George’s University School of Medicine (SGUSOM).  A counselor told her about a new medical school in Grenada, and because Grenada is near her home of St. Vincent she applied and was accepted.

Dr. Ambrose obtained a scholarship through the University from the government of St. Vincent and began her medical education in August 1979.  She was among the first of many Vincentians to attend St. George’s with a government scholarship.  The School has since entered into successful medical partnerships with other governments who are unable to fulfill their manpower needs through their own internal educational system.

Dr. Ambrose, who attended the school in its early years, feels that St. George’s offered a broader perspective of medicine than other medical schools: “Studying in the United States and England gave me the chance to learn different styles of medicine.”  What she found especially beneficial was the international aspect of the school: “There was a great amount of cultural exchange.  I met people from all different backgrounds.  In today’s global world filled with the crossing of cultures, this experience was very important.”

While growing up, Dr. Ambrose always wanted to be a pediatrician.  This was the case until, in her final year of medical school, she opted for her second choice – radiology.  She found working with sick children to be too sad, and believed that her emotions would get in the way of being an effective healer.

Upon graduation from St. George’s in 1983, Dr. Ambrose did internship work in St. Vincent and Trinidad.  She then went on to do a fellowship in diagnostic radiology at Prince of Wales Hospital at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.  She was appointed a lecturer in radiology for two years at the same hospital.

Dr. Ambrose owns and operates her own medical imaging center in St. Vincent: the Caribbean Medical Imaging Center (CMIC).  She brought the first-ever CT scan service to her home country.  They offer full-service, state-of-the-art imaging such as plain film radiology, mammography, fluoroscopy, ultrasound and CT scans, and they also provide teleradiology services to other Caribbean islands.  In 2008, CMIC will be ten years old and fully digital, conducting filmless radiology in order to keep up with cutting-edge radiology.  In addition to this, she is a consultant radiologist at the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital (previously Kingstown General Hospital).  She is a founding member of the Caribbean Society of Radiologists, President of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Medical Association, served as DME for Kingstown Medical College (KMC) for approximately 8 years, and introduced and lectured ‘Imaging in Clinical Anatomy’ as Associate Professor at KMC.  Dr. Ambrose finds her work very fulfilling and credits St. George’s for enabling her to carry it out.

During her SGU years, Dr. Ambrose was known as Rosalind Baptiste.  She was married in her final year at SGU to her Trinidadian husband, Dennis.  Her older daughter, Michaela, was born in Trinidad and recently completed her law degree in the United Kingdom at age 21.  Her younger daughter, Gabriella, is 17 and was born in Hong Kong.  She is currently enrolled at Green River Community College in Washington State, US.

Sageren Aiyer, MD

For several years prior to attending St. George’s University School of Medicine, Dr. Sageren Aiyer worked in South Africa where he was born and raised. He worked as a medical technologist in hematology and forensic medicine for the Department of Health and as a medical technician in forensic medicine at the University of Natal in Durban.

Sageren always aspired to go to medical school and pursue a career in forensic medicine. He obtained his premedical science foundation through a joint premedical/medical program with Barry University in Florida, bringing him closer to his ambition. It was the scholarship he received from the United Nations to attend St. George’s University that enabled him to reach his goals. “I had a great experience at St. George’s,” he reflected. “I met people from all over the world. We had such an international class.”

Sageren offers the following advice to potential medical students, “Medicine is hard work. It’s a profession that requires dedication. What every student must keep in mind is that ultimately they will be working with patients—human beings. In the end, after all the studying, some human being will benefit from you in one way or another.”

After graduating in 1994, Sageren returned to South Africa as an intern with the Department of Health from 1994 to 1995. Also at the Department, he worked as a medical officer in forensic medicine from 1995 to 1996 and a registrar in forensic medicine from 1996 to 1999. He is a fellow of the College of Forensic Pathologists, where he took his specialist exams.

He is now a Principal Specialist in forensic pathology for the Department of Health, where he investigates unnatural or suspicious deaths, much like a medical examiner in the United States. As Deputy Head of Forensic Medicine and lecturer at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, he trains medical students, undergraduate students, law students, police and paramedics in the legal aspects of medicine.

Dr. Aiyer’s job has enabled him to travel all around his country and the world. In 2005 he went to The Maldives as part of a team involved with the INTERPOL Disaster Victim Identification following the Tsunami of 2004. He was contacted by the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal as a consultant pathologist in Croatia in 2001. Dr. Sageren Aiyer was also part of a forensic pathologist team sent by the South African government to assist with the investigation of the deaths of prisoners in Mozambique in 2000 and was part of a team to assist with the post mortem examination of a high-profile case in Zambia in 1999.

Nadir Ahmad, MD, FACS

On one hand, Nadir Ahmad, MD, FACS, SGU ’00, practices what only a select group of physicians do – Otolaryngology or ENT – ears, nose, throat, head, face, and neck. The scope of this specialty – from head and neck surgical oncology, thyroid and parathyroid surgery, and skull base surgery to microvascular reconstructive surgery – is as broad as can be.

“The breadth of what ENTs do is remarkable,” said Dr. Ahmad, chair of the Division of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery at Cooper University Health Care and the Cooper Medical School of Rowan University in Camden, NJ. “There is never a dull moment in our field. Head and neck anatomy is the most intricate anatomy in the entire body. It requires both finesse and skill to operate in this region, as there is very little margin for error. Because the five senses of the body are housed in the head and neck, as well as the important functions of speech, swallowing and breathing, medical and surgical care in this region can be both demanding and challenging.”

US News and World Report named Dr. Ahmad to its list of “Top Doctors” in 2011 and 2012, placing him in the top 10 percent of US otolaryngologists. One of his main interests is in robotic surgery. He performs transoral robotic surgery (TORS), which is an innovative surgical approach to difficult to access tumors in the throat and voice box region.

His main goals are to establish an otolaryngology residency program at Cooper in the near future. He’s also helping develop the clinical portion of the medical curriculum at Cooper, which welcomed its first matriculating class in July 2012.

“Cooper is transitioning into a new era. Previously, it was a large tertiary care, academic-affilitated hospital,” Dr. Ahmad said of Cooper, which has recruited several SGU grads for various departments and divisions at Cooper. “Now it has its own medical school and is a major academic medical center.”

Prior to his tenure at Cooper, Dr. Ahmad spent four-and-a-half years as an Assistant Professor and Attending Surgeon in the Department of Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery at the Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU)/Medical College of Virginia (MCV) Medical Center in Richmond, VA. He was actively involved in residency training during that time. During his time at MCV, he was also a clinical assistant professor in the Department of Dermatology.

He’s been drawn to otolaryngology since he was very young. His father is an otolaryngologist, who has been practicing in Michigan for over 30 years. Dr. Ahmad’s drive to follow in his footsteps only picked up steam at SGU.

“My father was my main inspiration,” Dr. Ahmad said. “Then when I went to medical school at SGU and was exposed to head and neck anatomy and physiology, it solidified my career path more, and once I did my rotations and electives, that sealed the deal for me.”

That ENTs are both a physician and surgeon for their patients made it an especially attractive specialty.

“There are very few fields where you’re both,” he said. “ENTs are all-encompassing doctors for their patients, and we see both genders and all age groups.”

Upon earning his MD, Dr. Ahmad did his general surgery internship at Brown University/Rhode Island Hospital in Providence, RI. From there, he went on to otolaryngology residency at the Henry Ford Health System in Detroit, MI, and was chief resident in 2006-2007. He was awarded the resident of the year for the Henry Ford Health System in 2007. He then completed his fellowship in head and neck oncologic surgery, microvascular reconstructive surgery, and cranial base surgery at the one of the premier programs in the country, the Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, TN.

Dr. Ahmad is a diplomate of the American Board of Otolaryngology, a fellow of the American College of Surgeons (FACS) and a fellow of the American Head and Neck Society. He is also a member of the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery and the Society of Robotic Surgeons.

Dr. Ahmad is originally from Pakistan. He recently was invited on three separate occasions as a visiting surgeon at Indus Hospital and Dow University Health Sciences/Civil Hospital, both in Karachi. During that time, he performed approximately 30 surgeries at no cost to the patients. This past December, he was the keynote speaker at the Pakistan Society of Otolaryngology Annual Meeting.

Dr. Ahmad looks back fondly on his experience at SGU.

“St. George’s University positioned me to have a long and successful career in otolaryngology,” he said. “Grenada was an ideal environment to work hard and play hard. I had a great experience and it was great to see the development of the True Blue campus. It’s fantastic to see how much the University has expanded.”

Mary Parry, MD

The news came in, and a wave of emotions overcame Mary Parry – joy, relief, excitement, pride. At Vetsim 2013 held at the University of Nottingham, the very institution at which she began her journey to a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, she learned that she had passed the rigorous Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons statutory examination, completing her lifelong mission of becoming a member of the Royal College.

“It was an incredible feeling,” Dr. Parry said. “I’d wanted to be a veterinarian since I was 3 years old so it truly was amazing.”

Mr. Austin Kirwan, assistant dean for UK clinical affairs at St. George’s University, saw Dr. Parry come full circle. In 2008, he interviewed her, then a prospective student, for the University of Nottingham’s pre-veterinary science program, a gateway to earning her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at SGU. Then at Vetsim, a conference at which prospective vet students can strengthen their application through clinical enhancement courses, Mr. Kirwan stood alongside Dr. Parry as she received the news.

“Mary has a dogged determination to achieve,” he said. “This is what St. George’s does – it takes people who are told they aren’t going to achieve something and turns them into veterinary surgeons. To witness it truly gives you the chills. For her to achieve what she’s achieved opens all these doors for her.”

Dr. Parry grew up in the Lake District in Cumbria, United Kingdom, and attended Sedbergh School, a co-educational boarding school. She entered the pre-veterinary science program at the University of Nottingham in September 2008 before going on to the four-year DVM program at SGU. In addition to her studies, Dr. Parry was president of SGU’s British Equine Veterinary Association (BEVA) student group, and students can take advantage of such opportunities as the dentistry and farriery wet labs, which are run through the University’s Large Animal Society (LAS).

She credits SGU’s Department of Educational Services (DES) for its guidance throughout her three years in Grenada.

“The DES at St. George’s is really helpful,” Dr. Parry said. “Visiting with the students that help there helps you focus and they’re happy to review the material with you to make sure you understand it. The professors also make themselves readily available outside of class.”

She went on to complete her clinical rotations at the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies at the University of Edinburgh. Dr. Parry appreciated the practical aspect of the veterinary medicine program at SGU, which she felt prepared her for her clinical rotations at Edinburgh.

“I would recommend anyone to go to SGU without a shadow of doubt,” Dr. Parry said. “I’m convinced that, had I gone to a UK vet school, I probably wouldn’t have qualified. The education, experience, and support that I obtained at St. George’s was crucial to my success.”

A longtime horse enthusiast, she looks forward to continuing her career in diagnostic imaging at an equine practice. Dr. Parry has seen practice at The Dick Vet Equine Hospital in Easter Bush, as well as Westmorland Equine Vets, Church Walk Veterinary Centre, Alexander Veterinary Centre, and Preston & Bramley, all in Cumbria. In addition to her RCVS qualification, she has gained certification in both equine clinical nutrition and clinical small animal dentistry.