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.”

– Louise Akers

Seunghwan Kim

Growing up in South Korea, Seunghwan Kim, MD ’15, never dreamed he could become a doctor, but today he is a second-year resident specializing in pediatrics at Driscoll Children’s Hospital in Corpus Christi, Texas. And he loves what he does.

“I feel I found an unlimited source of joy from practicing medicine,” Dr. Kim said. “I can always find something to do for others. Also, being a doctor means a ceaseless dedication to self-learning in addition to always learning from your patients.”

Dr. Kim’s journey to becoming a doctor wasn’t linear, nor was it easy. Living in South Korea, it was “extremely difficult” to get into medical school, Dr. Kim said, yet he always had a desire to help people in need. In addition to traveling a great distance, he had to learn English and acclimate to life abroad.

“Ten years ago, not many people knew about St. George’s University and even fewer people, at least in South Korea, were willing to go to a Caribbean medical school,” Kim said. “I heard SGU was the best one in the Caribbean and I took a chance.”

The move paid off. He quickly fell in love with Grenada and life at SGU and hasn’t looked back.

Going to SGU was “very, very, very wonderful,” Dr. Kim said. “Studying medicine at SGU was exotic and fascinating. There are so many opportunities to explore and take as yours.”

After completing his pre-med requirement at SGU, Dr. Kim entered the School of Medicine in January 2011. During that time, he made sure to immerse himself in campus events and clubs, as well as learning the Grenadian culture. “SGU gave me lifelong friends and unforgettable memories,” he said. “I met so many wonderful staff and friends at SGU and got exposed to various cultures.”

Dr. Kim said his SGU experience helped him become more sensitive to his patients’ needs but also to embrace different personalities and cultures. He credits his involvement in club activities and group learning sessions to making him a better team player.

Following the birth of his eldest daughter, Dr. Kim decided to use his skills in the field of pediatrics. “I originally wanted to do emergency medicine, but when my daughter was born, I began to feel I wanted to work with children and protect them so that they can grow to their fullest potential,” he said. “In addition, pediatric residents almost always appeared to be so happy when I met them during the interview season.”

In addition to earning a Doctor of Medicine degree, Dr. Kim strengthened his residency resume by working as a research and teaching fellow, and by earning a Master of Business Administration.

Dr. Kim is still deciding his exact career path; he is considering starting as a general pediatrician and eventually hopes to do a fellowship in pediatric emergency medicine or pediatric urgent care.

“I am the first one in my family who studied abroad and now lives outside Korea,” Dr. Kim said. “My parents are proud of me not because of my MD title but because I am doing what I love.”

-Laurie Chartorynsky

Lowell Su, MD

From the specialty he’s in to the training that he’s receiving, Lowell Su, MD ’10, cherishes the position that he’s in. As a cardiothoracic surgery fellow at Tufts Medical Center and Lahey Clinic and Medical Center in Boston, MA, he’s learning from some of the world’s foremost leaders in the field, in one of the most competitive fields to gain admittance.

His two-year fellowship in and around Boston is only the latest stop on a journey that has taken the St. George’s University graduate to some of the country’s most renowned institutions—the acclaimed Mayo Clinic and Brigham & Women’s Hospital among them.

“I went to medical school wanting to do CT surgery, so you could say that I’m living my childhood dream,” he said. “I’ve been lucky enough to be learning from leaders in cardiothoracic surgery, from the people who write the textbooks.”

Dr. Su recently entered his second year at Tufts, where he sees a breadth of cardiac and thoracic cases. In the morning, he rounds in the cardiac intensive care unit (ICU), reviewing patient plans with attendings and working with the department’s residents. From there, he scrubs into the operating room at Tufts’ Heart Failure and Cardiac Transplant Center, which ranks number one in New England in heart transplant volume, and has produced some of the country’s most favorable transplant outcomes. Dr. Su also practices at the nearby Lahey Clinic, which is at the forefront nationally in robotic-assisted thoracic surgery and tops in New England in regards to robotic case volume.

“Operating on the heart and lungs, it’s very rewarding to know that you’re changing the course of people’s lives,” Dr. Su said. “Thoracic surgery has made significant technologic advancements in the past decade; consequently, an increasing number of cases are done minimally invasively. Heart surgery is still primarily performed through an open approach, and I relish the opportunity to literally get my hands inside the chest to operate. It’s amazing to operate in the chest, to feel the heart beating and the lungs breathing, and to know that each operative decision helps determine the course of a patient’s life. Ultimately, to be in a position to help out patients through these operations is why I love this field.”

Becoming a physician was Dr. Su’s goal from a young age. Born in Taiwan, he and his family moved to Minnesota when he was young, his father and mother taking positions at the prestigious Mayo Clinic, him a dermatologist and her a radiologist. It was then that Dr. Su’s interest in medicine began to bloom.

“I remember when I was in elementary school, my dad showed me videos of heart surgery performed at the Mayo Clinic, and I would just watch them all afternoon,” Dr. Su said. “I told myself that one day I would be wearing those surgeon’s gloves.”

Dr. Su earned his Bachelor of Arts in biology from Northwestern University in 2000 before going on to obtain a master’s degree in intercultural studies from Trinity International University in Chicago. He firmly believed that his grade point average and test scores were strong enough for admission into any American school but instead he was waitlisted.

At an impasse, he evaluated his options, speaking to several of his father’s Mayo Clinic colleagues who had gone the Caribbean route and become successful physicians. Instead of waiting a year to re-apply to American schools, Dr. Su enrolled at SGU because of its high residency match rates and campus accommodations.

“It was unclear to me at the time why the door to matriculating into an American school was closed,” Dr. Su said. “In retrospect, however, there is a time for everything, and a season for every activity. That time was meant for me to pursue a master’s degree that would build a foundation of integrating medical care into different cultural settings and delivering this care to different people groups. In the end, SGU effectively gave me the same opportunity while saving me a year of re-taking entrance exams.”

As a student at SGU, he was part of the Iota Epsilon Alpha medical honor society, and tutored for two years through the University’s Department of Educational Services. He also took advantage of the array of intramural sports on campus and recreational opportunities around the island.

“I found it to be a valuable experience because I met people from different countries and backgrounds, many of whom I’m in touch with to this day,” Dr. Su said. “I also enjoyed living in a different culture.”

After graduating from SGU, he did his surgical internship year at the Mayo Clinic, before completing a five-year general surgery residency at Marshfield Clinic with rotations at the University of Wisconsin Medical School and Medical College of Wisconsin. From there, Dr. Su joined a two-year minimally invasive thoracic surgery fellowship at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and the Veteran’s Affairs Hospital in West Roxbury, MA, programs run by Harvard Medical School.

“Brigham is the birthplace of thoracic surgery in the United States and is the largest thoracic program in the United States. Approximately 25 percent of all thoracic surgeons in this country were trained at this hospital,” he said. “There are 18 attending surgeons who are experts in everything thoracic. It was the chance of a lifetime to learn everything I did from them.”

Looking ahead, Dr. Su eagerly anticipates finishing his fellowship and then seeking a position that combines both his clinical and academic background. Looking back, he’s proud of the path he’s taken and thankful for the foundation he built at St. George’s University.

“St. George’s University gave me everything I needed to get where I am,” Dr. Su said. “Without a doubt, I had to put in the work and prove to people that I could handle the workload, and SGU provided me with the medical knowledge and clinical rotations to succeed. At the end of the day, I’m right where I want to be.”

– Brett Mauser

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.”

Annie Le, MD ’18Family Medicine Resident, Borrego Health

“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, one of more than 70 clinical sites in the SGU network. 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.”

– Brett Mauser

Akwe Nyabera, MD

You left Kenya for Grenada when you were just 19. Who or what influenced your decision to study at St. George’s University?

I’ve always had an interest in traveling, so from a young age I knew I wanted to study abroad. It was actually my school counselor who told me about SGU and the beautiful island of Grenada.

When I was 16, I worked under an engineer at a hospital in Nairobi. I was inspired by the work of the doctors and nurses and the role of the hospital in the community it served. After this, I volunteered at a number of hospitals and made the decision to study medicine.

Where has your SGU degree taken you?

I’m now living in Brooklyn, New York, and I’m working as a surgical intern at a large hospital. I love my job. It’s extremely practical and I enjoy working on surgical procedures. In the future, I hope to specialize in gastroenterology or interventional cardiology. I didn’t plan to move to the United States, but I’m glad I have because the knowledge and experience I’m gaining here can be practiced anywhere in the world. New York City is a terrific place to live and work. It’s extremely diverse and I love the mix of people and cultures.

Apart from academic qualifications, what did you gain from studying at SGU?

A huge amount. My professors taught me how to learn and to improvise during difficult circumstances. The teaching staff were all excellent and they were always there to help if you needed it. Grenada is also the most beautiful place I’ve ever been. It’s a really wonderful setting to live and learn. The people are so friendly and welcoming, the food is delicious, and living there gave me the opportunity to meet people from all over the world.

Alongside my studies, I got involved with a number of voluntary roles during my spare time. I regularly made volunteer visits to the Bel Air Children’s Home on the island and worked with orphaned children with complex disabilities. I was also an executive board member of the University’s Physicians for Human Rights chapter, community outreach coordinator and president of the Neuroscience Society, and I participated in a four-month American Sign Language selective as well as volunteering at the Dorothy Hopkins Home for the Disabled.

Your education and experience shows you’re keen to live and work in a variety of countries. Is that something you hope will continue throughout your career?

Definitely. I want to work for international organizations and in countries that don’t have a lot of resources. Working for an international non-profit organization would give me so many opportunities to help people who don’t always have access to medical services. One day, I would like to return to Kenya and work there. The world is so big and I have so many opportunities ahead of me. Medicine is unpredictable by nature, but I’m really grateful to SGU for giving me such a good start. I’m incredibly excited about my future.

What has been your career highlight so far?

While studying at SGU, I took a two-week selective in India where I worked at a hospital in Karad. It was really eye-opening and sparked my interest in global health systems. I also recently helped to organize a medical camp in Eldoret, Kenya, with a group of neurosurgeons. I had the opportunity to scrub in on surgeries for people who couldn’t afford medical care. This was extremely rewarding.

But my absolute highlight was my graduation day. My family is very important to me, and it was so special that they were all able to attend. They have always supported me, and my graduation ceremony was the culmination of all my work since I was 16.

Ish Saxena, MD

Ish Saxena, MD ’13, is a general practitioner (GP) trainee based at the Royal Preston Hospital in the northwest of England. After studying at St. George’s University, he completed a master’s degree in healthcare management at the University of Manchester. He is now involved in innovations in primary healthcare and is currently undertaking a health infrastructure innovation project in his home town.

Dr. Saxena is the founder and CEO of “F3’ing It!”, a startup company focused on supporting doctors and providing the best opportunities for those seeking job opportunities or training breaks. The organization, which launched in March 2017, is collaborating with doctors, NHS trusts, and non-NHS organizations throughout the country.

His other interests include medical teaching, for which he has received multiple awards from the University of Manchester. Dr. Saxena is also the lead rep for Associates in Training (AiT) at the Royal College of General Practitioners in his region, clinical entrepreneur fellow at NHS England, and a BME Doctors Council member at the General Medical Council in the UK. Outside of medicines, Dr. Saxena also enjoys travelling and keeping his travel blog up to date.

You chose to study at St. George’s University rather than staying nearer home in the north of England. It must have been a big decision.

Looking back, it was a huge move. I was at school in Liverpool in the UK when I heard about SGU. My main motivation for applying was that I was keen to practice medicine in the United States at some point and saw that SGU would give me that opportunity. It was only when I arrived in Grenada and started my course that I realized all the other benefits of studying there. The SGU curriculum was challenging, which gave me a vigorous educational experience, and SGU students also get to enjoy stunning beaches after their lectures.

Alongside this, the University was extremely supportive with terrific learning resources and we had the benefit of learning from esteemed professors from all over the world.

But the best thing about it all was the sense of community. I made lifelong friendships and professional connections, and it’s been great to stay in touch and see how successful my fellow graduates have been.

You’ve won a number of awards in your career already. How did SGU give you the platform for success?

I’ve noticed that all SGU alumni have a drive to succeed which sets us apart from most students and graduates. I’m certainly very ambitious and excited about the contribution I can make to healthcare and the lives of individuals.

After graduating from SGU I completed a master’s degree in healthcare management at the University of Manchester, which has led to a number opportunities for me to get involved in both the management and delivery of healthcare.

I’ve been honored to receive the Foundation Doctor Portfolio of the Year award as resident at the Royal Preston Hospital and awards for teaching and education from the University of Manchester. I have the privilege of being the Royal College of General Practitioners lead representative for trainees in my region. I am also Clinical Fellow at the NHS England entrepreneur scheme and a BME doctors council member at the General Medical Council in the UK.

SGU gave me a great base in terms of scientific knowledge and I draw on that in my day to day work. It was also the starting point for my clinical skills and I learned a breadth and range of topics I wouldn’t have benefited from elsewhere. For example, I had the opportunity to study parasitology which has meant I’ve been able to help patients with tropical diseases back in the UK.

My strong education and international experience at SGU and my time working at Brooklyn Hospital in New York has helped me achieve what I have today.

Alongside your day job, you volunteer your time to help new medical students. You must be extremely busy.

I am busy but I think it’s important to contribute back and help give opportunities to future generations of medical students. I came back to the UK after working in New York because I felt I could contribute more here. I wanted to draw on the practices I’d learnt in the United States to make improvements in healthcare in my home country.

I help students from the University of Manchester and teach them about the practicalities of working in a large hospital. The NHS is struggling at the moment so it’s vital that new doctors are helped to settle in and that the best possible care for patients is promoted.

What are your future career ambitions?

I’m interested in becoming a general practitioner (GP) because it’s a good mix of direct care and healthcare management. I plan to be an NHS GP in the next few months and will continue to work towards improving the delivery of primary care. It’s very likely that this field of medicine is going to change in the next few years because of our aging population, and it’s important that both doctors and patients are educated and ready for these changes.

I’m currently working on the creation of a screening system for frail patients so they can be treated at home. In the not-too-distant future, I also hope to see personalized care delivered close to home by bringing specialists into local practices.

Every day is bringing different highlights and new challenges. Living my dream of being a doctor is phenomenal, and I’m very lucky to be able to say I love my job.

– Louise Akers

Georges Karam, MD

Dr. Georges Karam spent his childhood in Lebanon and studied as an undergraduate at the American University of Beirut. He became a student at St. George’s University in 1999 and received his Doctor of Medicine in 2003.

After graduating from SGU, Dr. Karam pursued a general psychiatry residency at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, then a geriatric psychiatry fellowship at the University of Pittsburgh. He went on to qualify with the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology in 2008 and the American Board of Geriatric Psychiatry in 2010. He returned to Lebanon following his stint in the United States in order to establish a psychiatric practice in Beirut.

Dr. Karam is now the acting chairman and assistant professor at the Department of Psychiatry and Clinical Psychology of St. George Hospital University Medical Center, Balamand University, Faculty of Medicine in Lebanon. He is also a senior member of the Institute for Development, Research, Advocacy and Applied Care (IDRAAC) and the President of the Alzheimer’s Association of Lebanon. He sits on a number of committees, including the HelpAge Global Network, Lebanon’s National Committee for Palliative Care, and the Lebanese Psychiatric Society. In 2018, he was awarded the Arab Social Creativity Award by the Arab Thought Foundation.

Dr. Karam is a published researcher specializing in the mental health of older populations. In 2011, he contributed to a collaborative World Alzheimer’s Report for the World Health Organization (WHO) and Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI).

Many SGU students go on to residencies in the United States after graduating. Was this something that appealed to you when choosing universities?

Absolutely. I knew that working in the US would open up terrific career opportunities and that SGU could provide the platform I needed to get there. I was also interested in psychiatry, having been influenced by my father (who was a psychiatrist) and I knew that SGU would be a good starting point for a career in this field. After SGU, I had the privilege of taking up a general psychiatry residency at Washington University in St. Louis and then a geriatric psychiatry fellowship at the University of Pittsburgh. St. Louis in particular was an exceptional place to practice psychiatry, and I flourished there and eventually became chief resident.

What were the other benefits of studying at SGU?

Firstly, I learned so much at St. George’s University. The teaching was excellent and it gave me the springboard for everything I have achieved since. The facilities and resources were outstanding, which made for a very pleasant teaching environment and campus. It was also a very collaborative environment. I made great connections and friendships there. I also took advantage of living on a Caribbean island and discovered a love of scuba diving.

You returned to Lebanon following your residencies. What did you hope to achieve in the field of mental health back in your home country?

I had developed an interest in geriatric psychiatry, including conditions like Alzheimer’s disease. Provision for this and other mental health conditions is limited in Lebanon, and I was keen to improve this and make a difference to vulnerable people. So, despite receiving a number of job offers in the US, I returned to Lebanon to set up my own practice in Beirut.

I’m now an advisor for the Lebanese Ministry of Health and work with NGOs to improve support for people suffering from mental illness. I’m the vice president of the Center of Studies on Aging, president of the Alzheimer’s Association Lebanon, and secretary of the Lebanese Psychiatric Society, as well as a member of a number of other committees including the HelpAge Global Network. This work is all interesting to me on a professional level but, more importantly, the organizations are indicative of the increasing commitments of policy makers and healthcare professionals to tackle mental illness in Lebanon.

How do you apply your research to your day to day work?

I have led a number of research programs looking into dementia, depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, and other mental health conditions and worked on international research with a number of countries. In 2011, I contributed to a collaborative World Alzheimer’s Report for the World Health Organization (WHO) and Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI). The report raised awareness of dementia as a public health priority, and its findings and recommendations have been replicated in 27 countries.

The number of people living with dementia worldwide is estimated to be over 35 million, and this number will increase significantly in the coming years. I’ve seen how it can be devastating not only for the people who have it, but also for their caregivers and families. In 2017, I worked on research that looked into this issue in Lebanon specifically. While the burden on and mental well-being of family carers for the elderly, especially those with dementia, has been well studied in high-income countries, and to a lesser extent in the Arab region, our study of Lebanese carers gave us a local perspective and highlighted the importance of considering the psychological well-being of the family carer, and the role of dementia and depression in increasing the burden of care.

This local-level research prompted me to set up a daycare center for people who have dementia in Beirut. The center provides safety and security, organizes mentally stimulating activities and memory games which help delay the progress of the disease, as well as provides crucial respite for carers.

It’s satisfying to know that my work is important for Lebanon but also for the global population. It’s fascinating to be involved in research that I hope to see treatment and cures for diseases within my career.

Joseph El-Khoury, MD

Dr. Joseph El-Khoury, MD, MRCPsych, is an assistant professor of clinical psychiatry at the American University of Beirut (AUB). He began his medical studies at St. George’s University in 1998 and, after qualifying as a medical doctor in London in 2002, he trained at Oxford University and St. George’s, University of London, in the UK, obtaining Membership of the Royal College of Psychiatrists (MRCPsych) in 2006. He has held a Certificate of Completion of Training (CCT) in adult and substance misuse psychiatry since 2010. In that same year, he was appointed as a consultant psychiatrist in the UK National Health Service. In 2012 and after 14 years abroad, Dr. El-Khoury returned to Lebanon to continue his medical career.

Dr. El-Khoury directs the newly created Psychosis Recovery Outreach Program and is responsible for the residency training program at AUB. He also acts as the Global Mental Health Scholar for the Arab region for a joint program by Columbia University and the World Health Organization.

He is enrolled in the Master of Science in War and Psychiatry track at King’s College London with an emphasis on trauma and political psychology. His current research and academic interests include addiction, severe mental disorders, health services development, the socio-political interface of psychiatry, conflict medicine, and cross-cultural psychiatry.

You grew up in Lebanon, so what attracted you to medical studies at St. George’s University?

I wanted a different experience and I saw an advertisement for SGU in my local newspaper. I liked what it offered, and my family was very encouraging about me traveling as part of my education. SGU also very generously offered me a 50 percent scholarship so it was a terrific opportunity for me.

What made you want to follow a career in psychiatry?

I was always interested in medicine but I enjoyed humanities as well. The mind impacts everything we do and this inspired me to learn more about it. I knew I wanted to be a psychiatrist from the start of my medical studies and I’ve never regretted my choice of specialism.

What would you say to other students who are thinking of enrolling at a medical school in another country?

I’ve benefited from studying and working in a number of different countries. I began my pre-clinical studies in Grenada and St. Vincent and the Grenadines in the Caribbean as part of the SGU course. I then had the opportunity to take part in an exchange program with Guy’s Hospital in London and ended up achieving a double degree from SGU and the Society of Apothecaries in the UK. After qualifying as a medical doctor, I trained at Oxford University and St. George’s, University of London and ended up working as consultant psychiatrist in the NHS for two years. The experience of working and studying in other countries and health systems was invaluable. I would encourage any student to seek out diverse experiences as part of their education.

How would you describe your experiences at SGU?

SGU was an important and solid stepping stone for me. It was an incredible mix of a studious and serious academic environment alongside Caribbean sunsets, wonderful food, and beautiful scenery. I took great pleasure in learning from the SGU professors who had so much knowledge to share. It was a stimulating educational experience surrounded by peers who became lifelong friends and it’s great to see how successful they’ve all become. I have very fond memories of my time there.

What was it like to come back to Lebanon after 14 years abroad?

I came back to Lebanon in 2012 because the country was, and still is, in need of psychiatrists. I took up a position at the American University of Beirut where I direct the Psychosis Recovery Outreach Program and I’m responsible for the University’s residence training program which is the biggest of its kind in Lebanon. I have a combined clinical and academic role which means I run a daily clinic and take part in advocacy work as well as research.

The principles of psychiatry are the same wherever you practice. Once the cultural layer is removed, you see similarities in human experiences and that what we have in common is more than what separates us. If you’re well trained, then you’re ready for anything.

Much of your research has a focus on the Middle East. How do you hope psychiatric care will change in the region in the coming years?

I’m currently working towards a master’s degree in war and psychiatry at King’s College London with an emphasis on trauma and political psychology. I’m focusing my research on Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq because there hasn’t been a lot written about this in the Middle East. I was born during the civil war in Lebanon and I’ve also found that there isn’t a lot of data from this conflict, so I’m conducting a study to look into the mental health of people who lived and fought in it.

I’m also researching psychosis service development in this region alongside addiction and its impact on mental health.

I hope to see the standards of mental healthcare in Lebanon improve the level of wealthier countries. It’s going to take a lot of collective work and strong leadership. This is what I’ll aim for.

What has been your career highlight?

It has been hugely satisfying to travel the world and then return to my home country and teach at the university where I was previously a student.

Svjetlana Lozo, MD

Undergrad/Graduate: Bachelor of Science in Biology and Psychology, Drexel University; Master of Public Health, T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Harvard University

Residency: Obstetrics and Gynecology, Maimonides Medical Center

Fellowship: Global Health Leadership, Massachusetts General Hospital

Fellowship: Female Pelvic Medicine and Reconstructive Surgery, University of Chicago/North Shore University Health System

How did your upbringing shape your perspective in general and in terms of health care?

“Growing up in the war-torn Bosnia in early 1990s, I learned that death and suffering is a part of life. Twenty years later, working in the small village in western Kenya, I was faced again with the similar challenges that I grew up in.

As a 15-year-old, I received a scholarship to attend high school in Philadelphia and was fortunate to have had family and mentors that supported my dream of becoming a physician. During my high school years, I volunteered in homeless shelters and learned that discrepancies in healthcare are extremely pronounced in American society. My desire to pursue a career in medicine is led by my desire to decrease the healthcare gap around the world and provide the best possible care to patients no matter their background or zip code.”

After finishing your residency, you worked as a global health leadership fellow at Massachusetts General Hospital. How would you describe that experience?

“During my residency, I was fortunate to have great mentors and have had the ability to travel to Jamaica, Eritrea, Tanzania, and Haiti and see healthcare concerns faced by physicians and patients in these countries.

“My desire to pursue a global health fellowship stemmed from the understanding that in order to have a long-term impact on the health system, you need to be physically present for a certain amount of time. During my fellowship, I spent about a year and a half in Kenya at the same site, within the same hospital system. I lived and worked there for three to four months at a time, two times a year. The majority of my time was spent providing hands-on education to physicians, nurses, and medical assistants. We also started a family and emergency medicine residency program and spent a significant amount of time collaborating with the local university to develop programs that would provide adequate training to physicians who are remote from large medical centers.

“Giving someone gift of education and empowering them to take better care of their society is one of the most empowering gifts that one can give.”

How did your career come to focus on female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery?

“OB/GYN combines surgery and medicine, as well as my desire to do global health work. Urogynecology as one of the gynecological subspecialties that directly addresses patients’ quality of life and has a great need for further education internationally. Patients are often not comfortable with discussing their intimate problems such as urinary incontinence, fecal incontinence or uterine prolapses.”

In what ways is the St. George’s University experience unique?

“The St. George’s experience provided me with the family of extremely diverse, open-minded and highly driven physicians. Taking in account that most of us were away from our families, we have become each other’s family. Today, I am proud to say that my SGU family consists of amazing, well-trained physicians all around the US, and many of them having leading positions in major universities or healthcare organizations.

How did it prepare you for clinical training and beyond?

“Having an ability to do my third and fourth year of medical school in Brooklyn was instrumental. We as medical students were intimately involved in taking care of a large volume of sick patients, with wide variety of pathologies. I did all of my third-year rotations at Brooklyn Hospital, and most of my fourth year at Brooklyn Hospital and Maimonides Medical Center. Our rotations were done with students from US medical schools, and I felt we were equally well prepared. Because it was such an enriching experience, a significant percentage of us desired to do our residencies in New York City and were able to do so.”

Sara Shahram, MD

Undergrad: Integrated Sciences (Physiology/Evolutionary Ecology) and Arts (Religious Studies/Ancient Art and Architecture), University of British Columbia

Residency: Family Medicine, Dalhousie University

You grew up just a short drive from where you’re practicing. Was that the plan all along?

The goal the entire way through medical school was to come back to Canada. I knew it was going to be difficult, but whether it was finding rotations in Canada, doing research, or working on ways to improve my resume for when it came time to apply to match, I was so determined for it to happen.

I had gone on a number of interviews in the US, including at Ivy League schools, and also at schools in Ontario, Saskatchewan and throughout Canada. Thankfully I was accepted to do family medicine at Dalhousie University, which was my first-choice program here in Canada in part because they spoke French at that site.

It was an uphill battle for sure, and there were so many other obstacles in my life during school, including my dad passing away and some financial struggles, that I wasn’t sure if I could continue. But I was able to work through everything, and now I go to work every day and am so grateful.

How did St. George’s University come into view for you?

When I was applying to medical school, truthfully, I didn’t even know where Grenada was. I had seen a poster on the wall during my undergrad years at UBC. I had applied to schools here in Canada and also to SGU because I didn’t know what the future held. I hadn’t heard back from Canadian schools when I received a scholarship to join the January 2009 class at SGU, so I said yes. Then during my first term, I got called for an interview at UBC, and went back for it, so even if I had gotten accepted there, I really loved SGU by that time so I probably would have declined.

How well prepared did you feel for each hurdle along the path back to Canada?

If you’re determined and have the goal of becoming a physician, you will be able to reach it by going to St. George’s University. It has anything and everything you’d need to do it. At the same time, independently, you have to go and do it. At some places, you may be spoon-fed, and even if you aren’t determined you will probably still get through it. The SGU experience is not like that. I went to class, studied hard, did my rotations, and as a result, I was more than prepared for the USMLEs and for the MCCEE in Canada. In fact, I don’t think I even got one question wrong on the MCCEE. So I felt very prepared.

You also spent time in New York. How different was the experience there as a person from western Canada?

Living and working in New York is an experience like no other. When I was there, I actually thought that I should have grown up there. I really felt at home.

The diversity at SGU and during my rotations made me so much more well-rounded as a person, and that spilled over into my work as a physician. Having that perspective has allowed me to understand some of the situations that they’re going through and to make better decisions as their doctor.

What prompted you to include academic medicine among your focuses?

Currently I’m a clinical instructor with the faculty of medicine at UBC, and I’m hoping to create other affiliations that would allow for SGU students to come to my clinic.

That’s my passion: helping someone who was in the same position as I was and is seeking guidance on how to return to Canada. Even during my time in Grenada and when doing rotations in New York, I enjoyed teaching the other students as well as nursing students at the various hospitals. Even now, when I know that I have a medical student working with me, it motivates me because I remember being in their shoes and it is so rewarding to help them learn.