Roxanne Graham, MD

Amid a storm in an impoverished area outside Cape Town, South Africa, Roxanne Graham, then just a high school student, witnessed the impact that a physician could have.

“It was raining and raining, and a family had come to our clinic to tell us that a woman had given birth,” she recalled. “An ambulance couldn’t get close enough, so a doctor, a nurse, and I ran there in the rain to help. At that point, I said ‘wow, this is awesome.’ ”

Dr. Graham spent five months at the clinic, and it was a life-changing experience that she looks back on fondly as she completes her first year of a pediatrics residency at Western Michigan University School of Medicine.

“I was volunteering so I wasn’t earning any money, but I loved going back there every day to see the kids,” she said. “I always knew that I wanted to help kids because they’re the future of the population.”

WMU has been the ideal training location for her, as she’s taken on a wealth of responsibilities as an intern, yet has had plentiful supervision from attending physicians and chief residents. She also appreciates having open communication lines with them, allowing for feedback and for answers to any questions she may have.

“It’s challenging, but I’m really enjoying it,” she said. “I’m glad I matched here because the people are just phenomenal—they’re so kind and helpful.”

Of course, she had to adapt to a cooler climate in Michigan. Dr. Graham earned her Bachelor of Science in human life sciences from University of Stellenbosch in South Africa in 2011, and then a Bachelor of Science with Honours from its Tyberberg Campus a year later. She completed a year of stem cell research, and upon learning about SGU’s campus and credentials at an area information session, she applied and enrolled.

“I just thought that SGU was such an awesome opportunity,” she said. “I’m very adventurous and wanted to see another part of the world, plus I loved that it’s on an island and that I could meet new people.”

Dr. Graham made friends quickly, and through frequent study groups, she navigated her way through the rigorous courseload. On the side, she was a member of the University’s Pediatrics Club, and also carved out time to participate in the popular Thailand selective, during which she and several other SGU students had the opportunity to learn about traditional eastern style medicine and modern medical practices in both Bangkok and Krabi.

The trip had an added benefit. While in Thailand, she met her future husband, who had been visiting on holiday.

Dr. Graham’s upbringing in South Africa and international experience at SGU—between Grenada, Thailand, and the United States for clinical training and residency—has piqued her interest in global medicine. Dr. Graham plans on entering the global medicine track at WMU, which has brought residents to places like Madagascar, Peru, and Cuba in the past.

Her journey has taken her to places all over the world, just as she’d hoped.

“I’m really glad that I took the opportunity to go to SGU,” Dr. Graham said. “I met amazing people along the way, I met my husband, and I feel that if I’d stayed at home, I would not have been able to do what I’ve done and to experience the world like I have. I feel like I’m exactly where I need to be.”

– Brett Mauser

Carmen Avendaño, MD

As a fourth-year emergency medicine/pediatrics resident at University of Maryland Medical Center, Carmen Avendaño, MD SGU ’14, is just where she wants to be. And considering her family’s roots in medicine, perhaps it’s where she was destined to be as well.

Dr. Avendaño hails from a family of “many doctors and engineers”—her great-grandfather, grandfather, father, two uncles, and cousin were all physicians. Now a doctor herself, she is thriving in UMD’s unique combined program, for which she alternates three-month periods in the two fields, allowing her to see a wide array of patients, both young and old.

“Every day is different,” she said. “It’s like a puzzle that you have to figure out. There are some quiet days, but in the ED, there are also shifts when you have four codes come in at once. Sometimes you don’t have a break, but you don’t want a break. You just want to keep it going.”

Born and raised in Chile, Dr. Avendaño went on to graduate from the University of Minnesota with bachelor’s degrees in mathematics and neuroscience. She spent a year in the everyday workplace, but didn’t feel fulfilled. That prompted her to jump into medicine with both feet.

“I knew it would take a lot of hours and a lot of work, but I didn’t want to sit at a desk; I had to do something to help people,” Dr. Avendaño said.

She applied at once to St. George’s University, and was accepted to the January 2010 entering class. From the beginning, Dr. Avendaño was drawn to critical care, and joined SGU’s Emergency Medicine Club shortly upon arrival. In addition, she used her experience in neuroscience to tutor students through the Department of Educational Services. Dr. Avendaño also made the most of her leisure time, enjoying Grenada’s many beaches, and playing hockey soccer, and flag football, among other activities.

“My experience at SGU was wonderful,” she said. “The classes and the teachers were great, and it’s such a beautiful island. I met people from all over the world who have the same exact priorities that I did.”

The unique January start time proved beneficial as she continued her studies, giving her extra time to study for the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) Step exams, as well as time to travel before entering residency.

Dr. Avendaño enjoyed SGU and the island so much that she has returned to Grenada four times since graduating to reconnect with former faculty and staff, including Assistant Dean of Students Duncan Kirkby, with whom she plays hockey, and SGU staffer and friend Molly Campbell. Additionally, Dr. Avendaño encouraged her brother, Javier, to enroll in SGU’s School of Veterinary Medicine. He is scheduled to graduate later this month and walk with his veterinarian cohort in New York City in June.

“SGU gave me all the qualities and resources I needed to get where I needed to be,” Dr. Avendaño said. “I would definitely recommend it.”

Seleipiri Akobo, MD, MBA

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

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

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

Dr. Akobo’s desire to enter the world of medicine took root at age 6 when a sickness left her brother bedridden in the hospital. His condition meant many hours waiting for a resolution, waiting for improvement.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sepehr Lalezari, MD

As a bariatric and minimally invasive surgeon, Sepehr Lalezari, MD SGU ’11, believes the procedures he performs is as much about the lives that are positively affected as it is about the weight loss.

“To take someone who has struggled with something for their entire life, who are taking a multitude of medications, and then to see them be able to play with their kids, and go out and live a life that they couldn’t before is very rewarding,” he said.

Dr. Lalezari recently completed a bariatric and minimally invasive surgery fellowship at Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore, MD, and is now opening an advanced bariatric and minimally invasive general surgery practice in Los Angeles—where he grew up.

“What I enjoy about bariatric surgery is how technically demanding the cases are,” Dr. Lalezari said. “You’re always trying to better yourself and find different ways to do the operation more efficiently and with fewer incisions. It’s very interesting. Every day is new and exciting.”

At Johns Hopkins, he learned the most cutting-edge procedures such as single-site surgery and endoscopic surgery—“truly incisionless surgery,” he called it. Training at JHU was an “honor” and has put him in a unique position when starting private practice.

Born in Iran, Dr. Lalezari moved to California with his family at age 4. With the help of a highly influential primary school teacher, he overcame early difficulty with learning the English language to become a high achiever, eventually graduating magna cum laude—and two years early—from UCLA with a Bachelor of Science in neuroscience.

Always dedicated to education, he spent some time as a high school biology teacher, after which he set off on his journey to become a physician, enrolling at St. George’s University.

“SGU was the only Caribbean school I even considered,” he said. “It had a good reputation, and I knew a lot of people who went there, worked hard, and ended up in the places they wanted to be.”

He embraced the culture in Grenada, where among other activities he provided instruction in basic life support through the American Heart Association and helped facilitate neuroscience review sessions.

“The faculty, staff, and people in Grenada were great,” Dr. Lalezari said. “It’s a great place to learn, and the education I received set me up to be successful. I also appreciated all the support from the staff there. If I had any questions or needed anything from them, they were always available.”

For his clinical training, Dr. Lalezari trained throughout the United States, including Florida, New York, California, and at Minnesota’s prestigious Mayo Clinic. Although he studied neuroscience as an undergrad, he steered his career toward bariatrics and minimally invasive surgery after seeing the long-term effects that his care could provide, as well as the long-term relationships he could develop with patients—similar to that of his primary care doctor growing up who first inspired him to pursue a career in medicine.

“With bariatric surgery, I love the relationships you develop with the patients,” he said. “They’re looking for a way out of their current situation, they’ve been fighting their entire lives, and you help them meet their goals. In the end, they’re so happy. The relationships that develop with patients over time is why I got into medicine in the first place.”

After graduation, Dr. Lalezari earned a general surgery residency at Jewish Hospital in Cincinnati—his top-choice program—and he ascended to the rank of Chief Resident for the 2015-16 year. Following residency, he went on to complete his fellowship at Johns Hopkins—also his top choice.

Throughout his training, he has felt very much on par with his colleagues from US schools, and it was clear that SGU grads were “hungrier for success.”

In bariatrics, his success is now measured in the magnitude by which his patients’ lives are changed.

“I’m living what’s been my lifelong dream,” he said. “I couldn’t be more pleased with where I ended up, I love what I do and I have so many career choices because of where I’ve been. It’s been an amazing journey.”

Kris Mahadeo, MD

Pediatric cancer patients are met with an inconceivable challenge at an early age, and it will have been a long journey by the time they meet Dr. Kris Mahadeo. The 2003 St. George’s University graduate is the Section Chief and Medical Director of Pediatric Stem Cell Transplantation and Cellular Therapy at MD Anderson Children’s Cancer Center in Houston, Texas.

In many cases, he said, it’s the patients’ “last hope.” It’s also their best hope—MD Anderson is the leading cancer center in the United States.

“A lot of times, patients were admitted and have stayed for a long period of time,” said Dr. Mahadeo, who also serves as an Associate Professor of Pediatrics. “It’s a process, but when children can go home, which they never imagined in their lifetime, their reaction is priceless. It’s very fulfilling.”

Dr. Mahadeo has been on a long journey of his own, but has found a home in Houston. He grew up in Trinidad and Tobago before he and his family moved to New York City when he was 8. He went on to graduate cum laude from Adelphi University in New York with a Bachelor of Science in biology.

With an eye on studying medicine, he applied to 10 medical schools, with St. George’s University as the only international school. Through current students and graduates, he learned that SGU had “all the elements of education” for students to be successful, as well as a track record of placing graduates in highly competitive residency programs.

“There are so many graduates throughout the country who are quite successful,” he said. “Sometimes you don’t even realize your doctor is an SGU graduate.”

From day one, Dr. Mahadeo focused on obtaining a competitive residency, committing himself to his studies during his basic science years in Grenada and then two clinical years in the United States. He entered SGU with primary care as his likely career path, but was drawn to immunology over time, particularly as it relates to cancer care.

Dr. Mahadeo’s road to a career in hematology and oncology continued as he completed his pediatric internship year at Maimonides Children’s Hospital in New York City, and finished his residency at the Children’s Hospital at St. Peter’s in New Jersey. He opted to broaden his knowledge—and strengthen his resume—by earning a Master of Public Health from the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey.

Dr. Mahadeo then advanced to a pediatric hematology oncology fellowship at Children’s Hospital at Montefiore/Albert Einstein College of Medicine, and a pediatric blood and marrow transplantation fellowship at Duke University Medical Center.

His exposure to an international student body, faculty, and patient pool along the way has prepared him for his career in pediatrics.

“To meet people from across the world in Grenada, and then to work alongside classmates from other schools in the US, I think it shapes your perspective on health care,” Dr. Mahadeo said. “The global experience is really helpful for me because in this specialized field, we’re taking care of patients from all over, and we have to understand what’s endemic in those areas and treat patients in alignment with their values.”

Before joining MD Anderson, he spent three years as an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at Albert Einstein Cancer Center and an Attending Physician and Director of Marrow and Blood Cell Transplantation at the Children’s Hospital at Montefiore in New York City. He served a similar role at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles as Director of Quality Management and Attending Physician in Los Angeles. Dr. Mahadeo’s extensive research has focused on allogeneic stem cell transplantation and immunotherapy for solid tumors and genetic diseases, as well as critical care outcomes for children undergoing therapy. He currently serves as co-chair of the HSCT sub-group of the Pediatric Acute Lung Injury and Sepsis Investigators (PALISI).

The success stories are reminders of why he has gone down this career path. There’s the high school student whose transplant gave her a second life, the patient from Angola who messages him every year, the time a child who, after his third transplant, met his unrelated donor at halftime of a celebrity soccer game.

And the times when his pediatric patients can go home.

“We do a discharge parade, the staff and patients come out, and there’s confetti,” he said. “It’s very rewarding.”

Mondel George, MD, BSc

At a young age—just 17—Mondel George set off on his journey to become a physician. Born and raised in Grenada, he didn’t have to travel far to attend his dream school.

“St. George’s University was then, and still is, the most prestigious institution in the Caribbean, so there was nowhere else I would have rather attended,” said Dr. George, a 2015 School of Medicine graduate.

In addition to being a general practitioner on the island, Dr. George pays it forward at his alma mater by working as a learning strategist in the Department of Educational Services, providing medical students with the tools and tips to succeed both in their studies and in their careers.

His contribution is part of a network of support that helps the entire student body, just as it did for him through his undergraduate and medical studies at SGU.

“One thing that really sets SGU apart from other institutions is the amount of support that is offered to its students,” stated Dr. George. “There are numerous avenues for helping students, from the Psychological Services Center to University Health Services, including the Department of Educational Services and faculty open office hours. As a student, if you’re ever in need, there is someone here to help you at SGU.”

While pursuing his Bachelor of Science within the School of Arts and Sciences (SAS), Dr. George was also a member of the Undergraduate Student Government Association and the Caribbean Students Association, while also serving as a teaching assistant and a volunteer at the SGU radio station. After completing his bachelor’s degree in three-and-a-half years, he took the summer off to work in Grenada’s Ministry of Agriculture.

In the past, he had volunteered with the Sickle Cell Association of Grenada, with mental health organizations, and at his local church. With a desire to help those in need, he applied to SGU’s School of Medicine program and received a scholarship to attend.

“When I started medical school, I felt like the foundation I had in SAS was incomparable to those students who did not previously attend SGU,” added Dr. George. “I was not only familiar with the campus but also with the professors, the test-taking formats, and the different resources I could go to for help. I never once felt like I was left alone in the wilderness. I feel like the lecturers here at SGU do an excellent job in terms of guiding you toward having a successful career.”

Dr. George greatly appreciates the foundation that SGU has created, which he is building upon to this day. He is a Charter Class member of SGU’s Master of Education program, with a graduation date of May 2018. Dr. George encourages others to follow a similar path to achieve their own goals.

“As an international university that is well respected, the diversity that SGU offers in unlike any other,” he said. “The connections that I made in undergrad are still present in my life today. The hands-on support that the University offered prepared me well to enter such a noble profession.”

Boonyanuth Maturostrakul, MD

Flanked by her parents on graduation day, Dr. Boonyanuth Maturostrakul was overjoyed not only about what she had accomplished but the direction she was headed. In the summer of 2017, Dr. Boonyanuth began an internal medicine residency at Lincoln Medical and Mental Health Center in New York City—her top-choice program.

A product of Mahidol University International College, Dr. Boonyanuth enrolled in St. George’s University’s Keith B. Taylor Global Scholars Program on a partial scholarship. The program allowed her to complete her first year of studies at Northumbria University in Newcastle, United Kingdom, before continuing on to Grenada and then the United States for her clinical training.

“I liked the adventure,” she said. “I really wanted to travel, and to come to the States, to Grenada, and to have spent my first year in England, it was such a dream.”

Dr. Boonyanuth remained dedicated throughout her tenure as a student at SGU, graduating cum laude in 2016. She said that SGU provided her with a “good basic science background,” which allowed her to pass her board exams and practice in the United States.

Grenada was the perfect backdrop for her to strive toward and reach her goal of becoming a physician.

“Grenada is so beautiful,” she said. “I liked exploring the island, going to the waterfalls, and going to the beach. The campus is so pretty. In your free time, you can just watch the ocean and relax your mind.”

For Thai students who are considering their next step, Dr. Boonyanuth said, “If you try hard enough, your dreams will come true.”

Min Jung Kang, MD

More than a decade ago, Min Jung Kang, MD SGU ’13, set off for the United States to continue her studies, with hopes of practicing medicine there one day. Having created a foundation for her future at St. George’s University in Grenada, she is thriving in a group pediatrics practice in Pennsylvania, having completed her residency at Elmhurst Hospital Center in New York City.

Dr. Kang was born in Seoul, South Korea, and raised in Osaka, Japan. She eventually went on to earn her bachelor’s degree at the University of California at Berkeley, and her yearning to help people led her to SGU, citing its clinical training opportunities in the United States and high residency match rate.

She came to Grenada and quickly found colleagues with whom she could live—on campus and off—as well as depend on. Dr. Kang enjoyed the vibrant campus and how it overlooks the beach and Caribbean Sea. With high marks in her coursework and step exams, in 2014 she secured a highly competitive postgraduate position, joining hundreds of her fellow classmates in residency.

Dr. Kang recommends St. George’s University for those who are committed to becoming a physician and practicing in the United States.

Shivantha Amarnath, MD

From a young age, Shivantha Amarnath, MD SGU ’17, dreamt of training to become a physician and treating the citizens of New York City. Now a first-year internal medicine resident at Hofstra Northwell School of Medicine at Staten Island University, he’s doing just that.

“SGU further reinforced my desire to pursue medicine, and the amazing community of lecturers, colleagues, and staff were truly inspirational and supportive in helping me reach that goal,” he said. “SGU also gave me the opportunity to complete my clinical rotations in New York, and now it’s given me the chance to do my residency here.”

Dr. Shivantha was born and raised in Colombo, Sri Lanka, and as the son of an ophthalmologist, he gained early exposure to the medical profession. His drive to become a physician was evident in his efforts. Dr. Shivantha was a member of the Sri Lankan Red Cross Society for Humanitarian Efforts, organizing youth camps, serving as a youth first aid trainer, and assisting with tsunami relief efforts. He graduated from nearby Royal College, also playing basketball for its U-13, U-15, and U-19 teams and the Sri Lankan National Team. Dr. Shivantha earned his Bachelor of Science (Hons.) in biology from Manchester Metropolitan University in the United Kingdom and also obtained an Honorary degree in the Royal Society of Biology, UK, being a trend setter in first class. He is a Trinity College of Music qualified pianist and cellist as well.

With a desire to obtain medical training in the United States, he chose SGU because it offered “the same level of education” while also functioning as a gateway to the US.

While Grenada was halfway around the world from Sri Lanka, the setting was very similar.

“The island felt close to home considering my home country is also a tropical island,” Dr. Shivantha said. “The people, the food, and even the culture made me feel close to home. Adjusting to Grenada was a breeze.”

A high achiever at MMU, Dr. Shivantha came to SGU on an International Student scholarship. He admits that it took time to adjust to the American teaching and examination system, particularly with MCQ questions, but worked closely with University staff to overcome those obstacles. With their help, he began to thrive, gaining admittance to the Iota Epsilon Alpha International Medical Honor Society. He ultimately gave back to his fellow students as a tutor for biochemistry, anatomy, and pathology as part of SGU’s award-winning Department of Educational Services. Upon graduating, Dr. Shivantha was inducted into the Arnold P. Gold Foundation’s Gold Humanism Honor Society, reserved for students, residents and faculty who exemplify compassionate patient care.

“The education system prepared me for the boards since day one, and offering adequate time for preparation for the steps was also a big plus,” he said.

Dr. Shivantha is now well on his way toward the next goal in his career—a fellowship in either gastroenterology or hematology/oncology.

“For anyone from Sri Lanka who wanted to pursue to become a doctor and get trained either in the States, UK, or Canada, St. George’s University is, without a doubt, the best choice.”

Mel Ona, MD

As a basic science student at St. George’s University, Mel Ona, MD SGU ’09, absorbed all he could from the paradise that surrounded him, all while working toward a degree and his dream of being a physician.

Nearly a decade later, he has landed in paradise once again, this time settling in Hawaii, where he joined a single-specialty private gastroenterology group practice in Oahu this summer.

“It’s been quite a journey,” he said. “I’m looking forward to applying my skills, and I feel that I have the toolset to care for someone who needs help in any part of the GI field.”

Dr. Ona relocated to Hawaii from Los Angeles, where he recently completed a rigorous and highly sought-after one-year advanced endoscopy GI fellowship at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. Previously, he had finished his internal medicine residency at Lutheran Medical Center in New York, including serving as Chief Resident in 2011-12. Dr. Ona then completed a three-year GI fellowship at The Brooklyn Hospital Center before heading to LA.

And now, he’s saying hello to the Aloha State.

“With this new position, it’s a great group and it’s much more intimate than what I’m used to, so I think I’ll be able to greatly utilize my skills and knowledge,” he said. “I’m excited to be working and learning with such a talented group.”

In addition to his clinical role, Dr. Ona looks forward to volunteering and teaching at John A. Burns School of Medicine in Honolulu. The relocation also brings him closer to his parents, who moved to Hawaii 18 years ago.

His father, Fernando, is a gastroenterologist in Honolulu, and Dr. Ona’s exposure to the field at an early age bred his own interest. Gastroenterology marries two of his passions—medicine and nutrition—making it an attractive career path.

“I like having the balance of medicine and procedures,” he said. “It gives you the opportunity to take care of patients in a multitude of ways.”

In addition, he hopes to follow in his father’s footsteps altruistically. In 1997, Dr. Fernando Ona established the Melchor and Martina Ona Memorial Health Center—named for his parents—which serves 10 villages in the town of Santo Tomas, Batangas, Philippines. Mel hopes to join his father on medical missions to provide free health care to a rural community where many residents are malnourished.

“It’s a beautiful clinic,” he said. “We are proud of everything that it offers, and I aspire to continue doing the great work that’s being done.”

At first, Dr. Ona had steered his career in a completely different direction—music. He grew up playing several instruments, leading him to earn a degree in music from the College of the Holy Cross in 1993. It wasn’t until 2005 that he enrolled at St. George’s University, in the meantime building his application with a Master of Arts in medical science and Master of Public Health from Boston University, and a Master of Science in nutritional biochemistry and metabolism from Tufts University.

He immediately began building his network of mentors, beginning with his application interviewer – Stephanie Weiss, MD SGU ’99, now the Chief of the Division of Neurologic Oncology at the Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia. Others included Paul Barbara, MD SGU ’04, an emergency medicine physician and Office of Career Guidance representative; and faculty members Marios Loukas and Feisal Brahim.

“SGU gave me a sense of being part of a community,” Dr. Ona said. “You meet all these brilliant minds who are doing amazing things, and the campus is so diverse. I felt really blessed to be at SGU. I gave it as much as I could, and I got a lot in return.

“I’m deeply grateful,” he added. “The fears and the doubts have made me appreciate the journey more. It wasn’t all me; it was a team effort.”

As his own career has budded, Dr. Ona has made a point to pay it forward. He has penned several books, including 101 Tips for Thriving as a Chief Resident and Tips for Thriving on the Internal Medicine Wards, and he would welcome the opportunity to mentor SGU students who are seeking guidance.

“You have to work hard, but SGU gave all of us that vehicle to prove to ourselves that we can make it,” he said. “It’s prepared me well, and it’s going to be with me forever.”