Tendani Gaolathe, MD

A 1996 graduate from St. George’s University School of Medicine, Ms. Gaolathe is the director of the master training program at Botswana Harvard AIDS Institute Partnership (BHP), spearheading the organization’s HIV research, treatment, and education efforts. She travels the country to train health care workers and upgrade health facilities.

In addition to her role at BHP, Ms. Gaolathe sits on the Botswana Ministry of Health’s National HIV/AIDS Treatment Committee and advises a number of technical working groups.
Past positions in her native country include two stints at Princess Marina Hospital in Gaborone, first as a hospital specialist in internal medicine and then as interim director of the facility’s anti-retroviral drugs (ARV) clinic, the first of its kind in Botswana.

Her professional success not only stems from her time in Grenada, also a developing country, but also her residencies at St. Michael’s Medical Center in Newark, NJ, one of the most HIV-wrought cities in the United States. The experiences have allowed her to effectively raise awareness about HIV and care for those afflicted with the disease.

As a young girl, Dr. Gaolathe had a child’s normal curiosity about Princess Marina, but the idea of medicine as her life’s work did not take hold until she spent one year of national service in a bush settlement in the Kalahari Desert.

“A nurse would visit once a month, and I would do whatever I could to help the sick between her visits, but if there was an emergency, the patient would have to be sent to the clinic 42 kilometers away,” she said. “I left the settlement feeling that I had to do something for them and others in the same situation.”

After two years at the University of Botswana, where she studied biology, she transferred to George Washington University in the United States, earning a Bachelor of Science in zoology in 1992.

Dr. Gaolathe knew the road to a medical degree would be difficult. “There were no medical school in Botswana, and I did not find opportunities in the United States,” she said. A premedical advisor gave her information about the School of Medicine at St. George’s University. She applied and was accepted into the August 1992 entering class.

“St. George’s University gave me a lifetime opportunity to become a medical doctor,” said Dr. Gaolathe. “I am very grateful for my education and for the chance to give to my country.”

Teimour Nasirov, MD

As a thoracic surgeon, he has had a profound impact on the lives of his patients, but Teimour Nasirov, MD SGU ’00, the Medical Director for the pediatric and adult congenital cardiothoracic surgery program for Sutter Health in California, is the first to admit that his patients have had a profound impact on him.

“It truly is an inspiration,” Dr. Nasirov said. “You’re able to affect patients’ lives for years and even decades. You can change their lifespan, and that’s an incredible feeling.”

Through Sutter Health, a family of doctors and hospitals covering cities and communities in northern California, Dr. Nasirov and his team performs open- and closed-heart surgeries on patients of all ages, from newborns to the elderly. In addition, he is a Clinical Assistant Professor in the Stanford University School of Medicine’s Department of Pediatric Cardiothoracic Surgery, working with students and residents at Stanford University Medical Center and Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford.

Dr. Nasirov was born and raised in Azerbaijan, growing up in a family of pediatricians and surgeons. He earned a scholarship to attend North Carolina State University, from where he garnered his bachelor’s degree. When it came time to choosing a medical school, SGU stood out as a terrific opportunity.

“I had read about quality of education, and I knew several physicians who had graduated from SGU, so I was convinced that I would come out on the other end as a well-rounded, well-educated physician,” Dr. Nasirov said.

Upon attaining his Doctor of Medicine, he completed his residency in general surgery at the University of North Dakota. He had always wanted to be a surgeon, but his residency steered him toward cardiac surgery in particular.

“Cardiothoracic surgery is an ever changing and growing field, and given its wide spectrum, it’s very interesting and challenging,” Dr. Nasirov said. “It’s rewarding to see immediate results, with a very sick patient getting better and being able to go home to his or her family within four or five days.”

He has worked with some of the pioneers in the industry. In 2005, he went on to a cardiac surgery fellowship at the Loma Linda University, working under Dr. Leonard Bailey, a pioneer in infant heart transplantation surgery.  In 2008, Dr. Nasirov began his journey at Stanford with a congenital heart surgery fellowship and appointment as a Clinical Instructor in pediatric cardiac surgery. He has worked alongside top pediatric cardiothoracic surgeons in the field, including Drs. V. Mohan Reddy and Frank Hanley.

All of his experiences have shaped him into the surgeon he is today. He is pleased that the path he took to his successful career made a stop in Grenada.

“The experience at SGU was everything that I expected and much more,” he said. “There truly is this culture of pride within the University. Everyone wants the students to succeed, and everything possible will be done to help them become a successful physician. That’s why I am where I am today.”

Tanner Brownrigg, MD

When Tanner Brownrigg set off from his home state of Kansas to enroll at St. George’s University School of Medicine in 2003, he had a vision of where the path would lead him. He wanted to study anesthesiology and return to the Midwest to continue his career.

Nine years later, he’s an anesthesiologist at Ad Vivum Anesthesiology, a group of 10 physicians, practicing anesthesia at a community hospital and an ambulatory surgery center in Kansas City. The plan worked. He’s where he always wanted to be, doing what he always wanted to do.

“I have nothing but great things to say about St. George’s,” he said. “I loved my experience there. I went there with a clear idea in my head of what my future held, and it came to fruition.”

Dr. Brownrigg believes one of the main draws to anesthesiology is the ability to work with a variety of different patient populations. On a daily basis he is able provide care to everyone from infants to expectant mothers to geriatric patients.  A typical day’s cases might range from outpatient knee arthroscopies and pediatric ear tube placement to epidurals and cesarean section for child birth, or even heart and brain surgeries. He is an integral part of the process before, during, and after the operation.

“Before the surgery, we take the patients’ history, review their labs and X-rays, and making sure they’re medically stable to proceed with the surgery.  Once we get into the operating room, I monitor the patient throughout the operation and am able to respond to acute changes that may take place during the surgery.  Then in the post-anesthesia care unit (PACU), I help control the pain and make sure the patient is stable for discharge home or to the hospital floor.”
Upon earning his Doctor of Medicine from SGU, Dr. Brownrigg began his anesthesiology residency at St. Luke’s Hospital in Kansas City in 2007. Paving the way to matching with his chosen specialty and location was an outstanding performance on both Step 1 and 2 of the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE).  Dr. Brownrigg finished in the 98th percentile for each exam.

Prior to Match Day, he was confident that he would be paired with his one of his top three residency choices. In fact, he had to turn down a number of residency interviews.

“The fact that I scored so well on the USMLE Step 1 and 2 exams was directly related to the quality of the professors at St. George’s and how the classes are structured,” Dr. Brownrigg said. “I never came across a professor that wasn’t willing to help you any way they could. They are at St. George’s purely to teach and it shows.”

He has paid it forward by performing student interviews for the University and attending information sessions in the Kansas City area.

“I’m very grateful that St. George’s gave me the chance to pursue my dream, and as a result I feel it’s important to give back to the school,” Dr. Brownrigg said.

A native of Ottawa, KS, Dr. Brownrigg earned his Bachelor of Science in Biology from the University of Kansas in 2003, graduating with highest distinction. While in college, he worked as a nurse assistant at a local hospital and performed a variety of volunteer work in the community.

Dr. Brownrigg is certified by the American Board of Anesthesiology and is a member of the American Society of Anesthesiologists, Missouri Society of Anesthesiologists, and Kansas City Society of Anesthesiologists. He and his wife, Kara, a nurse at St. Luke’s Hospital, reside in Kansas City, Missouri.

Susan Dulkerian, MD

Dr. Susan Jean Dulkerian always knew she wanted to study medicine and even worked with a veterinarian throughout her high school years. Susan earned her Bachelor of Science in Microbiology from the University of Maryland, just a short trip away from her hometown of Baltimore, Maryland. It was in college where she realized that instead of becoming a veterinarian, she preferred working with children—especially babies.

Medical school is a big decision and it is understandably frightening for many to go overseas to an unfamiliar region. Initially Susan did admit that such a move may have not been her first choice, but she also came to realize—and continues to appreciate today— the financial and international benefits of her decision to attend St. George’s. When she decided to attend St. George’s she “gained an opportunity to meet people from all different parts of the world.” Susan has always maintained a positive attitude, and upon her acceptance considered herself “privileged to be in an incredible place to study medicine.” Susan adjusted quickly to life in Grenada, and began to pursue her dream of becoming a physician.

During her fourth year of medical school, Susan spent six weeks in St. Vincent’s General Hospital for an international general medicine elective, getting first-hand medical experience and working one-on-one with doctors. She credits this opportunity for international exposure in helping create better physicians. Susan explains, “Seeing how the practice of medicine is so different in developing nations helps you as a doctor. People can get good care regardless of a lack of sophisticated technology.” To date Susan considers this one of her most valuable learning experiences and believes a student’s greatest advantage in attending St. George’s is how the “opportunity to experience international health gives a more well-rounded perspective of health care.” Like everything in life, she cautions future medical students, “If you don’t have the self motivation to learn, you could fall through the cracks and not achieve your dream to become a physician. If you work hard, you will be noticed.” Her continued success, during and after her time at St. George’s University, is indicative of her personal philosophy of dedication and determination to suceed.

Upon graduating St. George’s University in 1987, she completed her residency at the St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Paterson, NJ, and was selected to serve as a Pediatric Chief Resident during her third year. But according to Susan, her greatest professional achievement was when she was selected to join the prestigious Neonatal-Perinatal Fellowship at the Hospital of Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania, during which she had a dual role as Clinical Instructor in the Department of Pediatrics.

Susan is currently an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics in the Division of Neonatology at University of Maryland School of Medicine and Medical Director of Nurseries at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore. She is also Co-Director of the Maryland Regional Neonatal Transport Program at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, a joint team with Johns Hopkins Medical Center that transports sick newborns from throughout the region to receive critical care services. She loves each of her roles, but especially the opportunity to look after babies in the intensive care. What does she love about medicine the most? “The fact that you don’t know what the next patient is going to have or need—to me that’s exciting, it’s never boring.”

In addition to the academic aspect of St. George’s, Susan fondly recalls weekend motorcycle trips after exams, “where a group of friends would pack food and take in the scenery of the incredible place we were living in.” The people she met during her years at St. George’s University are “the closest friends that I have, people I can call on at any time.” She remains close with the lifelong network of friends she made at St. George’s, but regretfully has not been to visit her second-home in a few years.

In 2010 Susan had a unique opportunity as the physician spokesperson for the publicity of Discovery Health Channel’s new series “NICU,” which aired weekly throughout the summer of 2010. Mercy Medical Center was one of the hospitals featured in the show that followed families and babies who required care in a neonatal intensive care. Promoting the show, Susan was interviewed live on TODAY by Natalie Morales about the show and her experiences as a neonatologist.

Among her various roles at the hospital and teaching positions, she has also been focused on raising her eight year old son. Because of her determination and strong work ethic, Susan has achieved great success in both her career and personal life. Her continued success leaves her more than just content with her decision; and after meeting her husband of 13 years in Grenada, Dr. Susan Jean Dulkerian wouldn’t change a thing!

Selvam Joseph Mascarenhas, MD

Dr. Selvam Mascarenhas entered the Premedical Sciences at St. George’s University School of Medicine at age 18, after completing secondary school in his home country of India, and graduated with his Doctor of Medicine degree in 2002.  He is now a staff hospitalist medical doctor at Christiana Care Health System, one of the largest health care providers in the mid-Atlantic region, serving all of Delaware and portions of seven counties bordering the state in Pennsylvania, Maryland and New Jersey.

Dr. Mascarenhas joined Christiana Care Health System in 2006, immediately upon completion of his Residency in Internal Medicine at Norwalk Hospital in Connecticut, an affiliate of Yale University School of Medicine. His specialty in Internal Medicine is integral to his role as a hospitalist, as he helps manage patients throughout the continuum of hospital care, often seeing patients in the ER, admitting them to in-patient wards, following them as necessary into the critical care unit, and organizing post-acute care.

Dr. Mascarenhas appreciates the challenges of in-patient care, as he is continually faced with many different complications, each of which need to be addressed with speed and precision.  His goal is to continue in the direction of acute patient care.

Dr. Mascarenhas first learned of St. George’s University through a friend of his father.  After researching the University, he decided to apply and is very happy with that decision.  He has much respect for the University’s staff and faculty that he had so much contact with through the Premedical and Medical Sciences. Although he easily adapted to the international student body, he credits the Department of Educational Services and many of his Professors for assisting in a ”pretty seamless transition.”  Dr. Mascarenhas explained: “Since the classroom size was smaller for premed students versus medical students, the Professors were able to be more personally vested in our academic and social experience.”  He is grateful that the faculty also encouraged the students to take in the Island’s pristine surroundings and rich culture, as it made for a truly complete and unique education.

Born in Germany, Dr. Mascarenhas was educated primarily in India, where he returns each year to visit his family, which includes his father Dr. Jesurag Mascarenhas and mother Pamela.  The senior Dr. Mascarenhas is currently the Director of a local hospital, Pasam Trust, in southern India where he cares for many of the nations neediest.  He has served as both a professional and personal inspiration to his son.  Dr. Mascarenhas has one brother who is also pursuing a career in medicine and is now in post-graduate/specialty training in Ireland.

Rohit Seth, MD

Rohit Seth was born in the United Kingdom and planned to pursue a career in medicine, but desired to see other areas of the world. Dr. Seth discovered St. George’s University (SGU) through the strong recommendation of an SGU student. His passion for medicine and his desire to travel flourished when he was accepted into the premedical program at St. George’s University School of Medicine (SGUSOM) in 1994. Furthermore, Dr. Seth found the international aspect of SGU appealing because it would give him the flexibility to work in both the United Kingdom and the United States.

After completing his Basic Sciences program in Grenada, Dr. Seth carried out his core clinical rotations in the United Kingdom. Clinical electives in New York offered him an opportunity to experience yet another health care system while fulfilling his interest in world travel. “What I think impressed people most when I was interviewing for positions was the collaborative experience I gained from three different health care systems – the Caribbean, the United States, and the United Kingdom.”

More than merely satisfied with his education, Dr. Seth remembers his years at SGU as a “truly amazing experience.” “While studying hard, I was able to have fun. I loved being there and I received a great education,” he said. Of the many superb professors, he credits Dr. Theodore Hollis, Professor of Physiology, as being very helpful and always available to provide guidance beyond the limitations of the classroom.

Dr. Seth found SGU to have a receptive atmosphere for learning, and a “great support system that was both comprehensive and challenging.” Reflecting on his clinical years, Dr. Seth said, “My knowledge of basic sciences was far more advanced than students whom I met during the clinical years in the United Kingdom and the United States.”

Dr. Seth graduated with his Doctor of Medicine (MD) from SGUSOM in 2000. Following his pre-registration house officer year, he began a basic surgical training program. As a first step in the program, he obtained membership to the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh in June 2005. Afterwards, he spent one year training in plastic reconstructive surgery and burns at Stoke Mandeville Hospital. One additional year of training in plastic and reconstructive surgery was completed at Guys and St. Thomas’s Hospital in London.

The exceptional foundation in basic sciences provided by SGU helped Dr. Seth rise above his peers in pursuit of a Doctoral degree. Dr. Seth has worked at the Institute of Cancer Research, and earned a Microsurgery Research fellowship from both the Royal Colleges of Surgeons of Edinburgh and of Ireland to fund the first year of the PhD project and further his research on microsurgical reconstruction using gene therapy. Dr. Seth is currently in the final stages of his work on microsurgical reconstruction and cancer treatment in the PhD program at the Royal Marsden Hospital. The Royal Marsden Hospital is the first hospital dedicated primarily to cancer treatment and research. Today the hospital, along with its academic partner, The Institute of Cancer Research, forms the largest and most comprehensive cancer center in Europe. After earning his PhD in October 2010, Dr. Seth plans to continue his plastic surgery training. Next year brings about another exciting development; Dr. Seth and his wife, Divya, will welcome their first child.

Dr. Seth is actively involved in interviewing candidates for St. George’s University School of Medicine. Seeing it as a way of giving back to the St. George’s University community, Dr. Seth enjoys meeting with potential students, sharing his academic experiences, and telling them what to expect in Grenada.

Richard Goulah, MD

More than 30 years into his career, Richard Goulah, MD SGU ’82, an attending cardiologist at St. Patrick Hospital’s highly decorated International Heart Institute (IHI) in Missoula, MT, has grown to enjoy and appreciate his profession more and more with each year that passes.

“I’ve really fallen in love with what I do,” Dr. Goulah said. “I really enjoy sitting down and talking to patients, not only about their illness but just communicating with them. The last five or six years have been just spectacular. It’s been the pinnacle of my career.”

Since 2009, he’s been part of an institution that has been recognized nationally. Truven Health Analytics named the IHI one of the top 50 heart hospitals in the country in 2013, a list reserved for facilities with superior survival rates, the shortest hospitals stays, and the fewest complications and readmissions. Dr. Goulah specializes in diagnostic and nuclear cardiology, echocardiology, cardiac CT, pacemaker implants, and treating critical care patients.

In addition, he is an attending cardiologist at St. James Hospital in Butte, MT, and clinical instructor in the University of Washington Department of Medicine’s cardiology division as well as a full-time staff member in the Department of Biomedical and Pharmaceutical Sciences in the University of Montana’s Skaggs School of Pharmacy. Pharmaceutical students rotate with Dr. Goulah on a weekly basis, and he is exploring the possibility of establishing a two-year pharmacy cardiovascular fellowship at St. Patrick.

Born and raised in Niagara Falls, NY, Dr. Goulah obtained his Bachelor of Science in biology from Niagara University in 1976 before enrolling at St. George’s University. He was a member of the 1982 graduating class at SGU, when foreign medical school graduates were still a foreign idea to US hospitals.

“SGU gave me everything I needed to go out and practice and compete with everybody,” Dr. Goulah said. “We were all hard-nosed and really wanted to be doctors, and SGU gave us that opportunity.”

After graduating, he completed his internal medicine residency at St. Michael’s Medical Center in Newark, NJ, before spending the majority of his medical career in South Boston, VA. From 1987 to 2007, he served as an attending cardiologist at Halifax Regional Hospital, a 192-bed facility with more than 100 physicians representing 28 specialties on staff. Dr. Goulah also spent a decade as chairman of the hospital’s Department of Medicine and headed the facility’s board of directors from 1992 to 2007.

In addition, Dr. Goulah founded and presided over the Halifax Heart Center, which addresses everything from congenital heart defects and heart failure to echocardiography and stress testing, and he was the longtime president and board member for Medical and Surgical Associates of South Boston. He is also dedicated to clinical research, having maintained a longtime relationship with Duke University – at which he has been on the faculty since 1994 – the Duke Clinical Research Institute, the Duke University Cooperative Cardiovascular Society, and International Heart Institute Foundation. He is board-certified in cardiovascular diseases, internal medicine and nuclear cardiology.

Richard Feldstein, MD, MSc

As a native of Montreal, Dr. Richard Feldstein spent much of his academic life at prestigious Canadian universities, applying his natural affinity for the sciences toward a degree in research. After earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Biochemistry from Concordia University he then received a Master of Science degree from McGill University in Experimental Medicine, a division of the Department of Medicine.  In between his studies, he volunteered at various research labs and local hospitals in the area.

As he immersed himself in the field of research, Dr. Feldstein realized his talents would be best suited in another area of expertise.  Wanting to experience the more personal side of medicine that is interacting directly with patients, Dr. Feldstein altered his course and began the process of applying to medical schools.  The application deadlines for Canadian and US schools had passed, and he did not want to postpone his aspirations any longer.  Eager to embark on his new career path, Dr. Feldstein began to research foreign medical schools.

Dr. Feldstein began an email correspondence with two students who were attending St. George’s University School of Medicine (SGUSOM) in Grenada, and was impressed by their positive feedback.  Upon further research, Dr. Feldstein discovered that some McGill University faculty members in the Department of Nutrition taught as visiting professors at St. George’s University – and that these professors were working one floor above him at the research laboratory.  Without hesitation, he approached the professors with a plethora of questions about the University, and valued their impression of St. George’s. “These professors had nothing but great things to say about SGU,” Dr. Feldstein recalls. “They said the School and the facilities were outstanding and on par with, if not better than, other medical schools in the US and Canada.”

Dr. Feldstein began his medical studies at SGUSOM in 1998.  “When I got to Grenada, I was so impressed – more so than I expected. I couldn’t believe what they had created.” Dr. Feldstein continued to say that the University provided everything a medical student could possibly need: state-of-the-art facilities, excellent faculty, great educational and support services. He also said that the school provides all the tools necessary to succeed; the key is to use each and every one of them.

Of course, the exquisite surroundings were also enticing.  As a PADI certified open-water diver, Dr. Feldstein also had an appreciation for the natural beauty of the Island.  “Grenada is such a pleasant place.  The people are kind, polite and wonderful.  I was happy to be there, and really enjoyed the experience.”

Dr. Feldstein completed his clinical training at Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn, New York.   “It was a great hospital that had everything I needed.  It was very pro-student and I learned a lot.”

After he graduated from SGUSOM in 2002, Dr. Feldstein went on to do his residency in Internal Medicine at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center; University Hospital of Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York. He began his residency training with three other SGU graduates.  The year prior, only one SGUSOM graduate was accepted into the program.  Since then, an increasing number of SGU graduates have joined the program.  The department of medicine liked the quality, caliber and strong work ethic of the SGUSOM graduates. “They liked what SGU was producing as doctors,” he said.

Dr. Feldstein was then appointed as one of five chief medical residents at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center.  “That year, two of the five chief residents were SGU graduates,” he said.  During that time, one of his responsibilities was to interview prospective applicants to the medicine program.  “I began interviewing both American and foreign students, including SGUSOM applicants.  The students from SGU were equally strong and competitive as compared to the American applicants in regards to grades, board scores and letters of recommendation.  They were just as good, if not better.”

Dr. Feldstein is currently a senior fellow in the Department of Gastroenterology at North Shore University Hospital; a teaching hospital for New York University Medical School.  He is also a clinical instructor for the Sophie Davis School of Biomedical Sciences in New York City.  “Everything I’ve ever wanted in my career I’ve gotten, and I have St. George’s to thank for that.”

Rekha Hanvesakul, MD

Growing up in Thailand, Dr. Rekha Hanvesakul attended an international schoo l in the late 1980s. It was during this time that she saw an advertisement for St. George’s University. After finishing her studies at the international school, she traveled to the United States and received her undergraduate degree from Northern Arizona University. She then applied to St. George’s University School of Medicine.

“Attending St. George’s University was such an interesting experience,” Rekha recalls. “I met people from all parts of the world. It was a very different experience from attending a school in one state (as in her undergraduate career). There were many different cultures and many different foods— not to mention the balmy weather.” She also appreciated the small class. “Having a small student body was great in that everyone was so nice, helpful, and supportive of one another. Overall it was a great learning experience and I received a very good education.”

Rekha completed her clinical rotations in New York and her residency in internal medicine at Booth Memorial Medical Center, now New York Hospital of Queens. After completing additional postgraduate training in the United States, Rekha returned to Thailand. St. George’s University is on the “Recognized Universities List” maintained by the Thai Medical Association and as a result, she was eligible to sit for the Thai licensing examinations. Before sitting for these exams she spent three months doing an observership in a local hospital to get accustomed to the style of medicine practiced in Thailand as well as brush up on her Thai language skills after having been away for so long.

Now practicing internal medicine at BNH Hospital in Bangkok, Rekha is also an advisor at the hospital’s international travel medicine clinic where she gives travel advice to local people, expatriates, and foreigners. She tells them what to look out for when traveling to certain countries—what vaccines they may need, what preventative medicine they need to take, which diseases are a problem in which countries, and how to stay healthy when traveling.

Dr. Rekha Hanvesakul also commented on how much the University has grown and matured since she was there in the early 1990s. “They didn’t have the new buildings then and the library was small in comparison to what students have today, but I know the education I received there was very good and compares favorably to the experiences of other doctors I have met throughout the world.  I really learned a lot—both educationally and culturally and am proud to be a St. George’s graduate.”

Peter Prieto, MD

By the time Peter Prieto, MD SGU ’06, completes his surgical oncology fellowship at the prestigious University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston in 2017, he will have spent more than 15 years in training between medical school, residency, and fellowships at the National Cancer Institute, and MD Anderson. However, cancer is that complex, that prevalent, and for a man who has lost his father to the disease, that important to him.

While most of his fellow SGU alumni finished their postgraduate training long ago, Dr. Prieto will have navigated “arguably the most difficult route in surgery.” With the skills and knowledge he has gained, he wouldn’t have it any other way.

“The path is difficult and it’s long,” Dr. Prieto said. “I think the fact that you still enjoy something despite it being so difficult is proof that it’s something that you really love. To this day, the best treatment for curing cancer, down to every last cancer cell, is surgery, and there is no better feeling than removing a tumor from a patient’s body and rendering them cancer-free.”

Dr. Prieto’s interest in surgical oncology stems from his father’s battle with sarcoma in 1999, his senior year as an anthropology major at Stony Brook University in New York. It wasn’t long before his father passed. “That motivated me to go to med school,” Dr. Prieto said.

He learned of St. George’s University from a family friend who had graduated from SGU. Although he hadn’t been outside the country for more than 10 days, Dr. Prieto seized the opportunity to start his medical education. “SGU gave me a shot,” he said. “At that point, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be a surgeon; I just knew I wanted to treat cancer.”

Dr. Prieto is now in the second year of a three-year complex general surgical oncology fellowship at MD Anderson, a 654-bed facility that US News & World Report ranked as the number one adult cancer treatment center in the country in 2015, the 12th time in the last 14 years it has earned that distinction. His route there included two years in a general surgery residency program at SUNY Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, and three more years completing immunotherapy and surgical oncology fellowships at the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, MD, where he served as associate investigator for several of the surgery branch’s research endeavors under the mentorship of Dr. Steven A. Rosenberg.

At each stop, Dr. Prieto is reminded of the importance of his work. With one particular patient at NCI, melanoma had metastasized to his spine and liver. However, he and his team were able to procure tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (TIL) from a hepatic lesion, grow them in-vitro, and prepare them for re-infusion by way of adoptive cell therapy.

“The patient’s TIL grew like wildfire, yet before we could even give them back to the patient, his tumors miraculously began to melt away,” Dr. Prieto said. “That showed me the power of the immune system, a spontaneous regression, which got me interested in immunotherapy of solid organ malignancies in particular.”

After his NCI fellowships, Dr. Prieto went on to Yale-New Haven Hospital to complete his residency, serving as Chief Resident in his final year. Upon completing his training at MD Anderson, Dr. Prieto hopes to obtain a position at an academic medical center, treating mainly melanoma, endocrine, and breast cancer. Whether it’s near home in the northeast or elsewhere, practicing at “the best academic center I can” is his top priority.

His journey in medicine began at SGU, and he encourages others to use the same opportunity as a launching pad to their own careers.

“If you’re going abroad for your medical education, SGU without question has the best reputation. It’s the only place you want to go,” Dr. Prieto said.  “The people I met on campus and in class are still some of my best friends. The classes were challenging, but we were prepared to do well on the boards, and during clinicals I felt on par with students from US schools.”