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.”

Seth Iskowitz, MD

For four years of medical school and well before that, Seth Iskowitz had his sights on returning to his native South Florida. Specifically, he hoped to practice at the prestigious Nicklaus Children’s Hospital (formerly Miami Children’s).

On Match Day, his vision became a reality.

“When I received the email, I was filled with emotion because everything I had ever dreamed of was in that one email,” Dr. Iskowitz said. “I’ve wanted to go to this hospital for as long as I can remember.”

SGU came onto his radar while he was pursuing his Bachelor of Science in psychology at the University of Central Florida. His father, a pediatric cardiologist, had hired an SGU graduate who he called “one of the best doctors he had ever met.” Dr. Iskowitz joined SGU’s Keith B. Taylor Global Scholars Program, for which students spend their first year of basic sciences at Northumbria University in Newcastle, United Kingdom.

“I loved the small classes in Newcastle, and we really got to know our classmates, our professors, and the administration,” Dr. Iskowitz said. “Also, the town has so much culture and so much to do.”

In Grenada and through his clinical rotations, Dr. Iskowitz participated in the Student Government Association, including as Executive Vice President of New York Hospitals for 2016-17. His all-around experience, which included health care training in three different countries, helped him obtain 20 residency interviews. Dr. Iskowitz looks forward to continuing his career in a familiar community, just like he always hoped he could.

“I’ve been pushing all this time to have an opportunity to return home, and that I now am has made all the hard work worth it,” he said.

Callana Fox, MD

When Callana Fox, MD SGU ’17, visited Richmond for her interview with the Department of Anesthesiology at Virginia Commonwealth University, everything about the experience just felt right – right down to the smiles on the residents’ faces.

“It’s an amazing program and I think the culture is a good fit for me,” she said. “Also, everybody I interacted with was so genuine and enthusiastic. I could sense they were happy where they were.”

Born and raised in Wisconsin, Dr. Fox earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Wisconsin. Her interest in global health spurred her to apply to and enroll in SGU’s Keith B. Taylor Global Scholars Program, for which students spend the first year of basic sciences at Northumbria University in Newcastle, United Kingdom. She enjoyed the program’s smaller class sizes as well as the international experience in and outside the classroom. When time permitted, she and friends traveled throughout Europe, including to Ireland, Scotland, France, Holland, and Switzerland.

With high marks, Dr. Fox was welcomed to SGU’s chapter of the Iota Epsilon Alpha Honor Medical Society. She also volunteered at several health fairs and diabetic clinics in Grenada, and as a mentor to aspiring medical students during clinical rotations in New York City. With a robust resume, Dr. Fox went on 17 residency interviews, and was pleased to learn on Match Day that her career will continue at VCU.

“I think the whole experience has helped me come out of my shell and really helped me to become a much stronger, more resilient applicant,” Dr. Fox said. “Going to SGU taught me to work hard for what I want and to do what needs to get done.”

Namrita Prasad, MD

Namrita Prasad, MD SGU ’16, never imagined that she would leave her home or her family, never mind come this far. She grew up in the Fiji Islands, her family had limited resources, and no family member on either side had graduated college. Yet in March, after raising the bar with each year gone by, she celebrated yet another remarkable achievement in her journey, having secured an internal medicine residency at The Brooklyn Hospital Center in New York.

“It’s unreal to me that I’m even here,” she said, joining fellow St. George’s University graduates as the annual Match Day luncheon. “It was all a dream that seemed unattainable when I was at a community college while working full time. The one thing that led me here was perseverance. I wasn’t the smartest student but I knew how to work hard and ask for help whenever I needed it. I was blessed with wonderful mentors that guided me to where I am today and I am just so extremely humbled.”

She comes from modest beginnings. At age 16, a military coup forced her family to relocate from Fiji to San Bruno, CA, in South San Francisco. Money was tight and her career options, she thought, minimal. However, Dr. Prasad volunteered at several hospitals in the area and joined a summer youth program through Kaiser Permanente, through which she discovered a deep passion for medicine. Dr. Prasad kept pressing forward, enrolling at American River Community College before moving on to the University of California, Davis, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in biological science, with an emphasis on neurology, physiology, and behavioral science. She did this all while working long hours to put herself through school.

Although her family thought it might, Dr. Prasad’s journey didn’t stop there. A UC Davis friend turned her on to SGU, citing its prowess not only in the region but globally. After researching SGU and learning of its wide network of physicians practicing in the United States, Dr. Prasad scored well on the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT), applied, and soon found herself on her way to Grenada, first as part of SGU’s Master of Public Health program. She also served as public relations officer in the Public Health Students Association.

“It was the most amazing experience that I could have ever asked for,” Dr. Prasad said. “The MPH program taught us to think about community health – not just individual health – and to promote healthy living to prevent diseases and empower individuals through education to become active participants in their own health. The health promotions and disease prevention theories and models that I learned in MPH program are still very applicable in everyday interaction that I have with patients to limit the number of readmissions.”

That included during Dr. Prasad’s research, which she conducted while obtaining a Master of Medical Research through SGU. She has created and submitted several manuscripts to peer-reviewed publications, bolstering her residency resume in the process.

Dr. Armand Asarian, Vice Chairman for the Department of Surgery at Brooklyn Hospital and Assistant Dean of Students at SGU, served as a mentor for Dr. Prasad while and after she trained as a clinical student in New York City, a new frontier for her. His protégé’s unique skills were evident to him early.

“She didn’t have an easy trip to this point, but she came early every day, worked hard, she asked for help, she listened to that advice, and did everything she could to better her future,” Dr. Asarian said. “I’m really excited to see her succeed.”

Dr. Prasad shared similar praise for her mentor, Brooklyn Hospital Medical Student Coordinator Karine Camacho, as well as Daniel Ricciardi, MD SGU ’81, Dean of Clinical Studies at SGU and Director of Undergraduate Medical Education at TBHC. All of those she has met along the way have shaped her into the physician – and the individual – that she has become.

“I feel like SGU creates a family for you,” Dr. Prasad said. “I’m grateful that I have encountered such wonderful people because I know I couldn’t have done this without their help and guidance. It wasn’t easy being an immigrant with no idea on how to go about making my dream a reality. The only way I can think of showing my gratitude is to pay it forward and guide students to keep their dream alive and just keep swimming.”

Vimon Seriburi, MD

Vimon Seriburi, MD SGU ’04, is an infectious disease consultant for Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Plano, TX, and also recently opened up her own private practice. She specializes in inpatient hospital care, treating wound infections and post-surgical infections. Dr. Seriburi grew up in Thailand before going on to double major in biology and chemistry at Lamar University in Texas. Her pre-health advisor recommended St. George’s University, which she said is “very well equipped in providing students with the resources to become a doctor and to be successful.” Having earned her MD, Dr. Seriburi completed an internal medicine residency at the Hospital of St. Raphael in Connecticut, as well as an infectious disease fellowship at New York Medical College’s program at Westchester Medical Center. She is currently board certified in infectious disease and wound care.

Harshan Weerackody, MD

Harshan Weerackody, MD SGU ’90, is “shoulder to shoulder” with Ivy League graduates at his private cardiology practice, as well as at several hospitals and medical centers throughout New York. A native of Sri Lanka, Dr. Weerackody accepted a scholarship offer to attend St. George’s University, an opportunity for which he is “eternally grateful.” Upon earning his Doctor of Medicine, he completed an internal medicine residency and cardiovascular disease fellowship at Coney Island Hospital, and stayed on to become an Associate Professor and Director of its cardiac catheterization laboratory. Dr. Weerackody is board certified in internal medicine, cardiovascular disease, nuclear cardiology, and echocardiography, and is a Fellow of the American College of Cardiology. In their free time, Dr. Weerackody and his wife enjoy traveling to remote hospitals and clinics around the world to exchange ideas on patient treatment.

Masaru Nishiaoki

Masaru Nishiaoki was confident that he had matched into his top-choice program, but nevertheless, Match Day still brought some anxiety.

“I think I kind of knew from the vibes I got from the program and the second look that I went on,” Mr. Nishiaoki said. “It wasn’t entirely a surprise, but it was nice to have it in writing.”

He was “elated” to learn he was headed to the Ghent Family Medicine Program at Eastern Virginia Medical School in Norfolk, VA. He returns to the southern region of the US and joins a program that fits his ideals.

“I like the fact that it’s an academic center and that it treats a large underserved population,” Mr. Nishiaoki said. “I’ll be able to practice the full spectrum of family medicine that I want to do later in the future. Also, the residents were so open and kind. They were willing to take an interest in us as clinical students.”

Mr. Nishiaoki became interested in SGU after speaking to his counselors at Bob Jones University in Greenville, SC. One of his professors was an SGU graduate who greatly valued her experience.

“She spoke very highly about the University, the support system, and the work ethic of the students who go there,” Mr. Nishiaoki said. “She thought that I would be able to come back and pursue a residency in any field that I wanted to.”

He was rewarded for his dedication with a position at his top-choice program, and encourages prospective students to strongly consider SGU if given the chance.

“SGU has such a strong track record,” he said. “I feel more than prepared for residency.”

Matthew Dawdy

On the morning of the match, Matthew Dawdy’s breakfast with his girlfriend and family was just an appetizer to a life-changing moment. When noon arrived, Mr. Dawdy learned that he had secured a highly competitive orthopaedic surgery residency at Northern Ontario School of Medicine (NOSM)—his top-choice program—through the Canadian Residency Matching Service (CaRMS).

“We all found out together and were very happy,” he said. “I’m very excited. I’ve been working toward this for four years now.”

As an avid athlete growing up, Mr. Dawdy has been drawn to studying the musculoskeletal system from the early age, choosing to work alongside physicians at area physical therapy clinics. “Everything pointed to orthopaedics for me,” he said. “I like being in the OR, and the field generally attracts people who are interested in active lifestyles.”

Mr. Dawdy obtained his bachelor’s degree in kinesiology from the University of Western Ontario before arriving at SGU. From the outset, he knew of orthopaedic surgery’s highly competitive nature, with only a handful of positions available across Canada. “From day one, my focus was on setting up rotations in Canada and building connections,” he said. “It wasn’t something I could half-heartedly pursue. I was definitely all in.”

Mr. Dawdy flourished during his basic science years and gained insight on the path ahead from David Santone, MD SGU ’08, an orthopaedic surgeon in Markham, Ontario who completed his residency at the University of Toronto. Mr. Dawdy confirmed his interest during orthopaedic rotations in his first clinical year and bolstered his resume with two observerships and three orthopaedic elective rotations in Canada. That he interviewed with all four schools with orthopaedic surgery residency programs—one of only two students to do so by his estimation—gave him confidence leading up to the match. He will go through NOSM’s surgical boot camp in July before beginning residency the following month.

Although he traveled a great distance to earn his education, he’s looking forward to diving in headfirst this summer.

“SGU does a really good job of preparing all of its students to be successful,” Mr. Dawdy said. “All the resources we needed were available to us. I think I was as prepared, if not more prepared, than the US students I rotated with. In the end, I kept working as hard as I could, and I’m glad that everything lined up properly.”