Andrew J. P. Carroll, MD

Advocacy seems to come naturally for Andrew J.P. Carroll, MD ’96, founder, owner, and medical director of Atembis LLC, an integrated medical-behavioral family medicine practice in Chandler, AZ. As a St. George’s University student in the early ‘90s, he had his first foray into advocacy by representing the University to ask the American Medical Student Association (AMSA) to allow the school to host the organization’s first offshore chapter and ultimately secured a charter.

Nearly 30 years later, having been elected to sit on the board of directors of the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) for 2019-2020, Dr. Carroll will be able to channel his talents as part of a group tasked with advocating on behalf of more than 134,000 family physicians and medical students across the United States. The appointment is a culmination of his experience in practicing family medicine for more than 20 years as well as his passion and dedication to primary care.

“The grassroots family physician hasn’t been heard loud enough,” Dr. Carroll said in a phone interview. “I want to be that loud voice.”

Dr. Carroll started campaigning for the AAFP board position in 2018. He was elected during the AAFP annual Congress of Delegates which took place on September 25 in Philadelphia, PA. Among topics that are close to his heart: the nation’s shortage of primary care physicians. Dr. Carroll attributes the issue to a financial dichotomy between high debt acquired by students during medical school and the low compensation typically received when practicing primary care, which deters students from entering the field and instead choosing higher-paying medical specialties.

“A lot of physicians have ideas for solutions, but we don’t have a voice,” Dr. Carroll said. “The AAFP affords us that position. It’s important to have someone at the table who is actively speaking on everyone’s behalf. That’s the reason I did it.”

Dr. Carroll has been actively involved in supporting family practitioners in his state. In 2010, he was elected to represent the Arizona Academy of Family Physicians (AzAFP) at the AAFP’s annual Congress of Delegates—the organization’s governing body. He has also served the chapter in various executive positions including its past president (2014-2015) and remains today as a Board Member.

“When I first met Andrew almost 14 years ago, I knew immediately that he would be a leader,” said Laura Dearing, executive vice president of Arizona Academy of Family Physicians. “Dr. Carroll has always been giving of his time with our Board, to testify at the state legislature, and to promote leadership within the young physician community. His quick wit and empathetic nature have made him a superstar in the family medicine community in Arizona and in the US. Any state chapter executive would be honored to work with him because he is respectful, smart, funny, and most of all, nice.”

Dr. Bill Thrift, a professional colleague of Carroll’s through the AzAFP and a family physician in Prescott, AZ, said Dr. Carroll’s progressive way of treating patients while running a successful private practice will be a big asset to the AAFP.

“He is right in the thick of it and so his perspective comes from the front lines—that’s a good thing,” Dr. Thrift said. “We are more than proud of Andrew and we know that he is going to not only represent Arizona physicians well but represent America’s physicians well.”

On a local level, Dr. Carroll has owned and grown into an integrated care practice since 2003, offering services ranging from chronic disease management, behavioral treatment, and wellness consultations to interventional procedures and pediatric care among others, all in one place. In addition to traditional payer patients, he also cares for uninsured patients, those without a private or employer health plan, and those who are not eligible for federal or state insurance benefits by providing cost-conscientious care and arranging for diagnostic studies to be done at or near cost.

“If someone is having low-risk chest pain, I want to be his first call, not a cardiologist,” Dr. Carroll said. “It could be gas, it could be indigestion, it could be rib pain, etc., instead of a heart attack. We need to get back to the point in primary care where we have proven our worth to patients and they make us their first stop when something is wrong. We can only do that if we’re easily accessible. The current payment system does not allow for this.”

“The skill set we have as family doctors is suited for rural communities, but I am in the middle of a city,” he added. “People who choose us like to say, ‘hey, that’s my doctor.’ It’s about giving them a small-town feel and touch as the community’s physician—which is really what we are.”

Benjamin Kahn, MD

Benjamin Kahn’s story could be turned into a documentary, one that, in his past life, he may have assembled himself.

After all, it isn’t often that an Emmy Award-winning producer leaves behind the glitz and glamour to pursue a career in medicine. The 2020 St. George’s University graduate—a quintissential career changer—is now less than two months away from starting his internship year at NYC Health + Hospitals/Coney Island , at a time and in a place where care is most crucial.

“We are the first class of graduates to embark on our medical careers during these unsettling times in the middle of this pandemic,” Dr. Kahn said. “This is one of those life-changing events for our generation. And in facing this challenge, we not only join our brothers and sisters on the forefront in the battle to save lives from this novel virus, but we also get to set the precedent for the future and for those who will be following us.

“I look at this not only as a personal duty to grow into that role, but a privilege to serve my community the very best way I can and to take care of my patients with the greatest level of care.”

  • Dr. Kahn (left) worked for such outlets as NBC, ESPN, SNY, and The Glenn Beck Show prior to enrolling in medical school.

  • His work on the series “George to the Rescue” earned him a New York Emmy.

  • After becoming a medical student in his early 30s, Dr. Kahn is set to join residency at NYC Health + Hospitals/Coney Island this summer

SHOW BIZ

Dr. Kahn’s career in television began at Syracuse University’s prestigious SI Newhouse School of Public Communications, which has produced such on-screen personalities as Ted Koppel, Steve Kroft, and Bob Costas. He earned his degree in TV and film production and set off to tell stories through his camera lens. His work included a documentary titled “A Walk in the Dark,” which chronicled how a man whose eyesight was taken from him following an automobile accident and then worked to overcome his disability to succeed in school.

“He hadn’t been back to New York City since his car accident and was afraid to go back there independently,” Dr. Kahn said. “My goal was to empower him and help him go back to face his fear. We went on a road trip to Manhattan and he was able to experience the sights and sounds of New York City again through a different perspective.”

The film won Best Short Documentary at the New York International Film and Video Festival and opened up doors for him in the world of television. He went on to work as a producer for such outlets as The Glenn Beck Program, ESPN, SNY, as well as NBC, for which his work on “George to the Rescue,” a home renovation series that helped local families impacted by tragedy, earned a New York Emmy Award.

With wear and tear from the job, however, he discovered that he had torn his labrum, an injury that required surgery. His hospital stay reinforced a feeling that he had been having of late—that he wanted something more.

“I felt vulnerable. I had never really hurt myself before, and it was a very difficult recovery,” he said. “My doctor was very integral in making a real difference in my life. He explained everything to me and become involved in my life. So I asked if could shadow him one day to see what it was like.”

When he did, it changed the course of Dr. Kahn’s life. He was struck by the doctor’s professionalism, interaction with patients, and impact on their lives.

“It lit a fire in my belly,” he added. “In TV, there’s an authenticity to everything, but there’s also an element of fabrication done behind the camera. But when I was shadowing him, I remember thinking ‘this is real.’ I just felt like I wanted to make more of a difference in people’s lives.”

 

“I look at this not only as a personal duty to grow into that role, but a privilege to serve my community the very best way I can and to take care of my patients with the greatest level of care.”

Benjamin Kahn, MD

 

A NEW FRONTIER

With no science background, Dr. Kahn “took the leap of faith and never looked back.” He put up high marks on his prerequisite courses at Hunter College and Stony Brook University. It was then that he learned about the Emmy win—and opportunities that came with it—but by that point had committed to his second career.

“I made the decision that I was all in,” he said. “I felt like I had closure at that point, and that all the experiences that I had in television had led me to medicine. I learned how to perform in high pressure environments, to work well with a team, and that everybody is just as important as the next.”

At age 30, he applied to and enrolled at SGU. It took time for him to find a rhythm, but with the help of the University’s student support services, he developed strong study skills and test-taking habits.

While he described himself as being “all business” during his two basic science years in Grenada, he took in all that the island had to offer. The knowledge and skills he acquired set him up well to excel in clinical training, which he completed in Brooklyn.

“It wasn’t easy; I really had to work for it,” Dr. Kahn said. “In the end, I just feel so blessed to have been given the opportunity to become a doctor, and the confidence and the tools that I need to succeed.”

He’ll return to Brooklyn for residency at Coney Island Hospital, joining a 371-bed facility in one of the NYC Health + Hospital system’s 11 acute care facilities across the five boroughs. He will enter a transitional year and then turn his sights to continuing with a position in dermatology or internal medicine.

Coming from a family of dentists, from an award-winning stint in television, and making a late start to his second career, Dr. Kahn’s path to becoming a physician has not been a straight line, but he firmly believes that his experiences will only help his future patients.

“I have a different perspective on everything,” he said. “My background and my experience at SGU molded me into the person and the physician that I am today, and I look forward to getting started.” 

Shayda Pedram, MD

For Shayda Pedram, MD ’20, there is no greater joy than helping to bring a new life into the world. Passionate about women’s health, she was ecstatic to match this spring at her top-choice program, New York Medical College at St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center program in Paterson, NJ, where she is eager to begin her medical career as an OB/GYN resident this July.

“I was so excited and happy that it was real,” enthused Dr. Pedram. “I actually did it and all of my hard work and perseverance really paid off. During my clinical experience, there was nothing better than being present for a delivery and getting to tell new parents that their baby is healthy. OB/GYN can be a very positive and hopeful field of medicine and I love the way this specialty is able to combine medicine and surgery with continuity of care.”

Growing up in Overland Park, KS, Dr. Pedram attended the University of Kansas in Lawrence, and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in human biology. She then chose to apply to St. George’s University for two main reasons. The first was that she didn’t want to wait a minute longer than she had to in order to become a physician. Having done the research, she knew that SGU would give her the best opportunity to pursue her medical education right away. The second was that coming from the landlocked Midwest, she knew she would enjoy the sunshine and proximity to pristine beaches that Grenada had to offer.

“I decided to apply to SGU because I didn’t want to wait to get into a US medical school,” said Dr. Pedram. “I knew that SGU would be the best choice to begin my medical journey, as well as provide me an opportunity for adventure. SGU allowed me to live in places I would have never lived and form lifelong friendships with individuals I may not have ever met otherwise.”

In addition to her academic studies, while at SGU Dr. Pedram became the secretary of the Persian Student Association and a member of the International Federation of Medical Students Association’s Sexual and Reproductive Health subcommittee. She also took advantage of the many student support resources provided by the University’s Department of Educational Success (DES).

“I really enjoyed going to the weekly student-led DES sessions,” commented Dr. Pedram. “These sessions were fun and helped me grasp what was considered high yield during my first year of medical school.”

When asked if the beautiful weather and beaches were distracting to her studies, she replied, “it was quite the opposite. You never felt as though you had to take advantage of every nice day, because the days were always nice on the island and the beaches even more satisfying after an exam.”

Today, Dr. Pedram prepares to go to work uniting with those in the fight against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic and joining 450 of her fellow soon-to-be St. George’s University graduates who will enter residency this July at nearly 90 hospitals throughout New York and New Jersey.

Eager to contribute, she credits SGU with preparing her well for her residency, having provided many opportunities to do electives in her field of interest in order to know what to expect as a resident. This includes her chance to experience a sub-internship at her first choice, St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center, where she saw firsthand that their residents were well trained and very supportive of one another.

“The path to becoming a physician was never intended to be easy,” stated Dr. Pedram. “However, with persistence and hard work, you can absolutely make it happen. Attending SGU has been the adventure of a lifetime. It was incredibly challenging, but so worth it in the end. I am extremely grateful to now be in a position and have the skill set to help others in such a crucial time of need.”

Julia Brockway, MD

Working as a breast medical oncologist at world-renowned Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Julia Brockway-Marchello, MD ’12, has returned to where her journey toward a career in medicine began. As a child she was diagnosed with cancer in one of her salivary glands. Successful surgery at MSKCC to remove the tumor, and her positive experience there and during follow-up radiation treatments in Boston inspired her to become a doctor.

“I decided early on that I wanted to take care of patients like me,” said Dr. Brockway. After completing pre-med studies and earning her undergraduate degree in community health at Brown University, Dr. Brockway’s first job out of college was as a research study assistant within the Breast Surgery Service at MSKCC, her first encounter with breast cancer which solidified her specialty of choice.

As an assistant attending physician with MSKCC’s breast medicine service, including at its newest Long Island location, the St. George’s University graduate visits with patients at all different stages of diagnosis. Some are coming in for a second opinion, some have been referred by their surgeons for chemotherapy and other treatments, while others are seeking eligibility for clinical trials.

“From the moment a person is told they have cancer, their life will never be the same,” said Dr. Brockway, 35, who adds that her own experience with cancer gives her a unique perspective when treating patients. “A critical part of my job is to ensure that my patients and their caregivers feel supported and confident, from the time of diagnosis through treatment and beyond.”

“Sometimes the answer is no treatment, and when we can no longer treat the cancer, we focus on managing symptoms,” acknowledged Dr. Brockway, who is still adjusting to the weight of responsibility felt with terminal patients. “Those are the hardest conversations, but thankfully I had strong training in palliative care during my hematology/oncology fellowship. Patients really appreciate seeing empathy, compassion, and that you’re in it with them as a doctor and as a person.”

As a breast oncologist, having strong support from colleagues and staff, remaining grounded, and having outlets to channel various emotions following difficult days is paramount.

“I feel grateful for the opportunity to do this work and to care for patients, but also to be able to go home to my family, to be able to do the things I love with the people I love,” including her husband and 2-year-old son, she said.

 

“A critical part of my job is to ensure that my patients and their caregivers feel supported and confident, from the time of diagnosis through treatment and beyond.”

Julia Brockway-Marchello, MD

 

Learning skills to effectively and compassionately communicate with patients is a core part of fellowship training, according to Adriana K. Malone, MD, director of the Mount Sinai Hematology/Medical Oncology Fellowship Program.

“It’s a crucial aspect for oncologists in training because we use these skills each day with our patients and also throughout our careers,” Dr. Malone said.

“What I think distinguishes Julia from other trainees is how exceptionally caring and empathetic she is,” she said. “Also, it is very important for an oncologist to have strong communication skills and Julia is a skilled communicator who is really gifted at being able to build a rapport with both patients and families. Additionally, Julia is extremely hard working and always considers how to improve the patient care experience.”

But the job isn’t always so gloomy. Advances in cancer detection and treatment, including new approaches to chemotherapy and managing side effects, means that most days Dr. Brockway can tell a patient that, while he or she has cancer, it is curable. Advancements such as genomic testing for early-stage estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer to determine whether a patient would benefit from chemotherapy in addition to anti-estrogen therapy, identifying tumor mutations and tailoring a patient’s treatment, and immunotherapy for metastatic breast cancer treatment, can all help improve patient survivorship rate.

“That’s really when the job is the most rewarding—to be able to say that cancer is treatable and we’re going to get through this,” she said.

One of the most common questions she and her colleagues hear—“Am I going to lose my hair?”—can even be addressed through cold cap therapy, a process that freezes the hair follicles to prevent hair loss during chemotherapy.

Julia Brockway-Marchello, MD, Breast Oncologist

In between seeing patients, studying for her board exams, and spending time with family, Dr. Brockway finds the time to give back. This spring, she ran the Brooklyn Half Marathon as part of MSKCC’s running program, Fred’s Team, where members don the iconic orange tops and participate in athletic events worldwide to raise money for cancer research. In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness this month, she completed a second half marathon in her hometown of Staten Island, NY.

Dr. Brockway credits her strong medical training, including her first year of med school in the United Kingdom as part of St. George’s University of Grenada School of Medicine/Northumbria University Four and Five-Year MD Program (formerly the Keith B. Taylor Global Scholars Program), for getting her to where she is today. Following her internal medicine residency at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Beth Israel, Dr. Brockway continued her studies as a hematology and oncology fellow at Mount Sinai before starting at MSKCC this past August—allowing her to come full circle.

“Coming back to work at Memorial Sloan Kettering was always a hope and a dream for me,” she said. “It’s a wonderful place to work and being here feels like being part of a family committed to a common purpose. It still doesn’t feel real.”

Julia Brockway-Marchello, MD, Breast Oncologist

– Laurie Chartorynsky

Tanathun Kajornsakchai, MD

All physicians have to go to great lengths to clear each hurdle that presents itself in medical school. However, perhaps no one traveled a greater distance to achieve his dream than Tanathun “Bas” Kajornsakchai.

At just 16 years old, the Thai native joined the premedical program at St. George’s University. During his seven-year mission, he aimed to become a practicing physician in New York City. He accepted a psychiatry residency position at Elmhurst Hospital in Queens.

“I love the area and the diversity around Elmhurst,” he said. “When I was offered the position, I didn’t hesitate to accept it. I look forward to serving in the community that I’m a part of.”

Dr. Kajornsakchai graduated from St. Stephen’s International School in Bangkok before setting off for Grenada. He adapted “pretty quickly” to his new surroundings and used his premedical experience as a springboard to success in the four-year MD program. He also took advantage SGU’s Department of Educational Services, which provides services ranging from English as a Second Language classes to psychological services and tutoring.

He made quick friends from around the world, and also became president of the Asian Pacific Islander Student Association, which raised funds for the Grenada Heart Foundation and Grenada Kidney Foundation by selling bubble tea. “It always brought out a crowd,” he said.

Just months away from graduation, Dr. Kajornsakchai has now reached the finish line, and is on the precipice of officially joining the US healthcare system.

“Seven years ago, I don’t think I could even see the finish line,” he said. “I just did the best I could every day, and looking back, it was a very good experience. Everything has worked out in my favor. I’ll always remember where I’m from and how lucky I am to be in this position.”

Michael Galgano, MD

For Upstate Medical University neurosurgical spine specialist Michael Galgano, MD ’10, with each operation he performs comes the opportunity to drastically improve the course of a person’s life.

There was the 40-year-old woman whose adolescent scoliosis had gone untreated. Debilitating back pain prevented her from completing workdays or from playing with her young daughter. A corrective procedure returned her to normal activity level.

Then there was the 17-year-old lacrosse player who suddenly had difficulty walking. It was discovered he had an osteoblastoma that was crushing his spinal cord, slowly paralyzing him. Dr. Galgano and his team removed the tumor and reconstructed his spinal column, allowing him to return to lacrosse a few months later after a remarkable recovery.

It’s that kind of impact that the 2010 St. George’s University graduate set out to make when he entered medical school, and what excites him the most about his role at Upstate.

“I treat a population of patients with a wide array of complex spinal disorders, ranging from tumors of the spinal cord and vertebral column, to scoliosis and other deformities,” Dr. Galgano said. “I am drawn toward these types of surgeries that require a significant amount of pre-surgical planning and strategizing. Each complex case I do has its own unique spin, and requires some degree of creativity to achieve an ideal outcome. Improving the quality of life in my patients is ultimately what drives me. It is difficult to get bored with this job.”

At Upstate, located in Syracuse, NY, his responsibilities are many—assistant professor of neurosurgery, director of spinal oncology and reconstructive spinal deformity surgery, as well as the medical school neurosurgery clerkship program. Although Dr. Galgano sub-specializes in spine surgery, he also treats neuro-trauma, in addition to brain tumors.

Four days a week, Dr. Galgano rounds on his inpatients before logging six- to 10-hour sessions in the operating room on surgical procedures. As a professor, he holds weekly didactic learning sessions for which he lectures to the university’s neurosurgery residents and medical students.

“When I run into the occasional SGU student completing a sub-I at our hospital and they find out I am also an alumni, their eyes light up,” he said. “I tell them all to be proactive, and to outwork everybody they can on their rotations. At the end of the day, it boils down to being nothing short of determined to match into the field you are most passionate about, whether that is family medicine or neurosurgery.”

Dr. Galgano performs his craft and extensive research at the very location where his neurosurgery career began as a resident in 2010, weeks after graduating from SGU. He spent seven years in residency at Upstate, and even earned the Outstanding Neurosurgery Resident of the Year Award. In 2017, he went on to complete a complex and oncological spine surgery fellowship at Brown University in Providence, RI.

Dr. Galgano had always had his mind set on entering neurology, but the surgery element came into focus as a medical student when he rotated with general surgeons at Overlook Hospital in New Jersey—one of more than 70 clinical sites at SGU. So, for his career, he combined his two passions.

“The rotation centers I went to were fabulous,” he said. “Rotating at a number of different hospitals exposes you to a wide variety of pathology. Instead being at a single institution, you see a diverse case load and patient population, and learn from physicians with different backgrounds. You grow comfortable working with a new set of instructors every few weeks. It keeps you on your A-game.”

Dr. Galgano added: “During neurosurgical training, the more surgeons you get to experience operating with, the better surgeon you become. You take a bit of knowledge from each mentor, and incorporate concepts and techniques you learned from them into your style. That’s kind of the way I look at SGU. We are taught medicine from doctors all around the world, increasing the diversity of our experience. SGU really is an all-star medical school. There is no doubt that our students graduate ready to hit the real world. SGU offers not only a medical education, but a unique and profound life experience. The end product of having received a medical education at SGU is something to be proud of.”

Nana Yaa Baffour-Awuah, MD

As she comes to the end of her family medicine residency at Southside Hospital in New York, where she treats area residents as well as people from all over the world, Nana Yaa Baffour-Awuah, MD ’16, looks back fondly on the path she’s taken, and eagerly awaits discovering what the future holds.

Originally from Ghana, Dr. Baffour-Awuah moved to the US for college and, following “four fabulous years” at St. George’s University in Grenada, she is helping a diverse population, of which more than 85 percent of patients are uninsured and many are undocumented immigrants.

“Some patients have been coming to the hospital for years,” she said. “They appreciate the continuity of care and the ability to obtain extra help or reduced fees.”

Dr. Baffour-Awuah also volunteers at local homeless shelters and is working with a telehealth program designed to expedite the admissions process from the emergency room. The program also provides support to patients in areas with limited access to medical care.

Upon completing her residency, she will transition to family medicine to be a primary care doctor, in addition to getting more involved with research.

“I’ve always been keen on family medicine as it covers a bit of everything,” Dr. Baffour-Awuah said. “I like the continuity of knowing a person for years and years.”

Her path to medicine began at Connecticut College, where she studied biochemistry as well as cell and molecular biology, and was also recognized with an Outstanding Student award. During this time, she volunteered in an ER—an experience that helped make up her mind about becoming a doctor.

After studying in the US, she returned to Ghana with the intention to enroll at medical school there, but only one school featured with a four-year medical program mirroring the US system. That’s when she looked abroad.

“St. George’s University appealed to me because it is similar to US schools,” she said. “I had a good feeling about going to SGU, and I wasn’t disappointed.”

In her two years in Grenada, she benefited from small-group settings for teaching and discussion sessions, as well as from the support of SGU’s international faculty. Following two years on the island, Dr. Baffour-Awuah’s clinical rotations—based in New York City—covered hematology, oncology, child and adolescent psychology, surgery, emergency medicine, and family medicine. After earning her Doctor of Medicine, she gave back to her alma mater but serving as a learning strategist, mentoring junior students and helping them with learning and exam strategies.

“I loved my time in Grenada,” she said. “It was just what I was looking for in terms of the coursework, and the island itself was fantastic. It has great weather, beaches, and people from all over the world living and studying there.”

– Louise Akers

Orapeleng Phuswane-Katse, MD

Dr. Orapeleng Phuswane-Katse, SGU MD’11, who hails from Mochudi, Botswana, one day hopes to be a “game changer” in the field of public health medicine in her country.

“We don’t have a lot of doctors in Botswana so there is a lot of opportunity to impact the health system here,” Dr. Phuswane-Katse said. “I enjoy pediatric community health care and I would like to improve policies and strategy planning in child health.”

She is currently completing a residency in public health medicine at Botswana’s Ministry of Health & Wellness division, where she engages in a range of public health issues including hospital management, occupational health, district hospital management, policy and strategy formulation, and management of both communicable and non-communicable diseases. Dr. Phuswane-Katse also gives lectures to undergraduate medical students at University of Botswana covering public health topics including outbreak investigations, vaccination programs available, and other health indicators.

She recently became the 2019 recipient of Best Youth in Promoting Health and Wellness in Botswana Award, awarded by the Botswana National Youth Council.

Dr. Phuswane-Katse earned her Bachelor of Science in Basic Medical Sciences from St. George’s University in 2007 and went on to garner her Doctor of Medicine from St. George’s University School of Medicine in 2011. In doing so, Dr. Phuswane-Katse completed her rotations at Stafford Hospital in the UK, where she was named a chapter member of the Gold Humanism Honor Society, which recognized senior medical students and residents who have demonstrated excellence, dedication, and leadership. Upon completing her medical degree, she was awarded the Gold Humanism Honor Award, which recognizes outstanding medical students who showed great compassion and dedication to the health of their community.

In 2012, she served as the SGU School of Medicine class speaker at the first-ever SGU commencement ceremony in Botswana, at which government officials, family, and friends were in attendance. She also emceed the 2016 ceremony.

Continuing on her list of accomplishments, in 2015, Dr. Phuswane-Katse was the first medical doctor from Botswana to become part of the prestigious Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders (YALI), a six-week leadership program started by President Barack Obama for excelling young African leaders who have shown exemplary work in the communities they serve.

Currently, Dr. Phuswane-Katse is vice president of Botswana YALI Network, a network of the Mandela Washington Fellowship alumni, and a board member for Botswana United States Alumni Association (BUAA). She also has a Facebook Page, “Getting the Facts Right with Dr Phuswane-Katse,” which aims to educate Batswana about common medical problems and empower them to take control of their health, and mentors students through the “Afrika Ithute” initiative and other platforms.

She credits the plentiful hands-on experience at St. George’s for preparing her for her chosen field. “SGU taught me accountability, responsibility, and to be able to work hard to achieve my goals,” she said.

Su Young Park, MD

On any given day, Su Young Park, MD ’14, may be found embracing an infant or young child while at work. As a pediatric inpatient hospitalist at Geisinger Community Medical Center in Scranton, PA, Dr. Park has helped countless children suffering from bronchiolitis, pneumonia, sickle cell anemia, and other ailments, and attended dozens of deliveries to care for newborns until they are discharged.

Just recently, her training came into practice when a baby was admitted to the hospital with intractable vomiting and dehydration, and she was told that the baby was not gaining weight. While initial tests and exams by an outside pediatrician found nothing wrong, the St. George’s University graduate’s gut kept telling her to probe deeper. She ordered an ultrasound, which determined that the baby had pyloric stenosis, a swelling of a muscle between the stomach and intestines.

“I was so happy that I didn’t miss anything,” Dr. Park said. “I could have just sent the baby home.”

Working with worried parents and patients who, in many cases, cannot speak for themselves, the 37-year-old loves her career, finding the work both challenging and gratifying at the same time. “The best thing about being a pediatrician is I get to work with kids,” she said. “I love the work environment. I love working with babies. I love my job.”

Originally from South Korea, Dr. Park said she always wanted to be a doctor but felt the pressure when applying to medical schools. “It’s virtually impossible to get into med school in Korea,” she said, adding that it was as difficult to gain admittance to a US school. While many Koreans opt to obtain their degree in either Poland or the Philippines, Dr. Park decided to go a different route, applying to Caribbean med schools, she said.

“SGU is really well-known among students, especially international students,” she said.

Dr. Park came to the US to learn English and to take pre-med curriculum courses to bolster her application. She graduated from her undergraduate college magna cum laude. Once accepted to medical school, she worked diligently to succeed, relying heavily on SGU’s large support system—including other Korean students, graduates, and faculty—to help her along the way.

“Culturally, we are very soft-spoken people. But once you become committed to become a doctor, if you have a question, don’t be afraid to ask it. You cannot learn everything from a book,” Dr. Park said.

As an SGU student, she most appreciated the University’s clinical rotation network. With 70-plus hospital affiliations, the program allows students to gain valuable experience ranging from family practice to specialized fields. Because of that experience, Dr. Park said she felt very prepared to work in American hospitals—from learning hospital infrastructure to using a variety of software programs. She was so successful during clinical training that she was awarded Medical Student of the Year by Jamaica Hospital Medical Center in 2012. The award is given to those students who consistently show excellence in patient care, academic performances, and interaction with the medical team.

In between graduation and starting her residency, Dr. Park was a visiting research scholar at Zucker Hillside Hospital in New York where she was able to publish several articles to add to her credentials. In June 2019, Dr. Park completed her residency in pediatrics at Metropolitan Hospital, a program affiliated with New York Medical College, and went on to become an attending physician at Geisinger.

It was a culmination not only of her own dream but that of her family as well.

“They’re really happy,” Dr. Park said. “I made it.”

-Laurie Chartorynsky

Sarah Ackah

As an internal medicine/pediatrics resident at the University at Buffalo, Sarah Ackah, MD ’17, sees inpatients and outpatients with a range of complex conditions. Cases run the full gamut and sometimes involve trauma, forcing her and her colleagues to be prepared for any situation that may arise.

Dr. Ackah has thrived during her time in upstate New York, and hopes to take the knowledge and experience she has gained there to Texas, where her fondness was medicine was born.

Like her travels, the fields for which she is enthusiastic are wide ranging.

“My medical interests include primary care, public health, and sociocultural research, and I have a passion for working with both adults and kids,” she said.

In addition to her clinical responsibilities, Dr. Ackah is involved in two major research projects related to palliative care awareness in inpatient settings and pediatric endocrinology in children with thyroid disease.

“Obesity and thyroid disease in children is a serious and growing problem in the US and beyond,” she said. “There is a child obesity clinic at my hospital and it’s a topic I studied and became interested in at SGU. I’d like to research more about the effect of obesity on thyroid function and see if there are ways of helping children and adults in non-surgical ways.”

Dr. Ackah was born in the United Kingdom and grew up in Texas. The eldest of four children, she was inspired to follow a career in medicine during a childhood visit to the emergency room for her younger sister.

“My sister needed stitches following a serious accident and the attending doctors were so kind and caring,” she said. “I was only about 8 years old, but I remember thinking I wanted to be like them one day.”

Dr. Ackah completed her undergraduate degree at the University of Texas at Austin. When it came to choosing a medical school, she weighed her options in the United States, Europe, and the Caribbean before opting to study at St. George’s University. It proved to be the right decision.

“The whole experience at SGU was terrific,” Dr. Ackah said. “It was such an interesting and family-friendly environment. I come from a big family so this is what I wanted, and my classmates were great. SGU has a way of picking the best students.

“The resources and teaching staff at SGU were also first class. I found the schedule quite rigorous but everyone was extremely supportive. It definitely prepared me for the complexities of life as a doctor. It was the perfect, well-rounded experience.”