Itala Manosha Wickremasinghe, MD

In her first rotation in her first year of residency at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center (UTSMC), Itala Manosha Wickremasinghe, MD SGU ’98, saw the course of her career unfold as soon as it had begun. Stationed at the Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) Center, an affiliate of the US Department of Veterans Affairs in Dallas, Dr. Wickremasinghe felt an instant connection not only with the facility but the patient population: its veterans.

“I just fell in love with the patients, the environment, and the complexity of care,” Dr. Wickremasinghe said. “The veterans are such a special population that is so worthy of the best and highest levels of care. I knew this place was for me.”

She joined the SCI Center, one of only 24 VA spinal cord injury centers in the country, following her residency and has been there ever since, ascending to her current position of Chief in 2010.

Dr. Wickremasinghe and her staff provide acute care, rehabilitative care, subspecialty care, as well as primary care for patients who range from young adulthood to elderly. For her efforts, Dr. Wickremasinghe has been named one of America’s Top Physicians in spinal cord injury medicine each of the last seven years. As an “unexpected highlight of [her] career,” she also earned the 2015 Advocacy/Excellence Award from the National Paralyzed Veterans of America, which is given to one physician nationwide per year for demonstrating outstanding leadership, professional achievement, and patient care and advocacy.

In addition, she recently spearheaded grant writing, design, development and implementation plans to build the third spinal cord injury long-term care center in the nation at UTMSC. The project, which is scheduled to be completed in 2020, will include a 30-bed long-term acute care center, an outpatient center, apartments, recreational areas, as well as a 1,000 car parking garage.

“My patients are my motivators and my inspiration,” Dr. Wickremasinghe said. “I have an amazing team that is so well aligned with our mission here. We need to provide the best quality health care that we can do our veterans, pushing the envelope and pushing boundaries while staying within policy and doing our job well. It’s a mission that I stand by, spread, and remind my staff of every day.”

She has spent more than a decade in Dallas, this after an upbringing for which she was always on the move. Although Dr. Wickremasinghe was born in Sri Lanka, she spent her formative years living in England, France, Spain, Belgium and Algeria – her father an engineer, her mother a ballet dancer. Dr. Wickremasinghe then completed high school in the United States and went on to earn bachelor’s degrees in biology and French at Houston Baptist University in 1994. She had been waitlisted at three US medical schools but was eager to embark on her journey to become a physician, so she enrolled at SGU in the fall. Having been exposed to numerous cultures in her upbringing, she welcomed the international nature of the SGU campus.

“There were so many different people from so many different places at SGU, and that was really enjoyable to me,” Dr. Wickremasinghe said. “Diversity is a beautiful thing. It teaches you to accept people for their life experiences and their differences. It makes you stronger.”

She spent two years in Grenada studying the basic sciences, mixing her studies with leisure time on the island. Dr. Wickremasinghe went on to complete her clinical rotations at New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. In 2001, Dr. Wickremasinghe began a physical medicine and rehabilitation residency at UTSMC and Veterans Affairs North Texas Health Care System.

Upon completing residency, she underwent a fellowship in spinal cord injury at Baylor College of Medicine’s Memorial Hermann-The Institute for Rehabilitation and Research (TIRR) in Houston. Fortunately, a position on staff at the SCI Center opened up. After immersing herself in patient care as well as the business aspect of the operation, Dr. Wickremasinghe went on to become Clinical Operations Manager and Medical Director of its Home Care Program in 2007 before going on to become Chief in 2010. In addition, she is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Physical Medical and Rehabilitation at UTMSC, and a reviewer for the Journal of Spinal Cord Injury Medicine.

Throughout her career, Dr. Wickremasinghe has crossed paths with dozens of St. George’s University students and graduates, for whom she has always been willing to vouch.

“SGU graduates shine wherever we are,” she said. “I have hired or helped in the hiring process for several SGU graduates because I know they are darn good physicians. They’re willing to work hard, to do what it takes, and never take anything for granted because nothing was handed to them.”

Ilan Danan, MD

Treating and preventing head injuries has been at the forefront of sports medicine in recent years, and Ilan Danan, MD SGU ’11, Co-Chief Resident of neurology at Westchester Medical Center in New York, will be on the cutting edge of the field in 2015 when he begins a unique fellowship in sports neurology at the Kerlan-Jobe Orthopaedic Clinic in Los Angeles.

“The field is just beginning to develop, and I look forward to being a part of its continued growth over the coming years,” Dr. Danan said. “I feel very fortunate to have been given this opportunity. I can’t even begin to explain how excited I am.”

Focus on reducing brain trauma prevalence has taken off with the recent attention to injuries in sports, particularly in the National Football League. Doctors are addressing not only the treatment of head injuries but more importantly their prevention, from the professional levels all the way down to youth sports.

“It’s important that athletes and parents alike are comfortable knowing that they are under the care of physicians with expertise in the field,” Dr. Danan said. “In the past, these injuries were not appropriately managed mainly because physicians didn’t necessarily know how to manage it.”

Born and raised in New Jersey, Dr. Danan obtained his Bachelor of Arts in psychology from Rutgers University, and went on to earn a master’s degree in biomedical science from the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ). He diligently researched his options for medical school and, noticing its track record for success, decided to enroll at St. George’s University. In addition to the rigorous curriculum, Dr. Danan found time to take part in the Student Government Association, Jewish Student Association, and intramural sports. He took full advantage of the University’s Department of Educational Services.

“The camaraderie among students was great, and it didn’t necessarily have that medical school mentality that you hear about where everyone is trying to one-up each other,” Dr. Danan said. “Your classmates are looking out for you and want you to do as well as possible.”
After two years of basic sciences, he completed the majority of his clinical rotations in his home state of New Jersey, including Saint Barnabas Medical Center and Newark Beth Israel Medical Center. “I had been waitlisted at a few of the New Jersey medical schools, and was able to come back two years later and rotate at the same hospitals as New Jersey medical students,” Danan said.

Dr. Danan gives back to SGU by speaking with prospective students about his experience in Grenada, interviewing prospective students and talking one-on-one with them at information sessions. He also meets with incoming students at New York area welcome sessions.

“I remember being in their shoes, having so many questions and being uncertain,” Dr. Danan said. “Having one-on-one interaction with a current student or an alum to put some of their uncertainties to rest is really beneficial. I’m able to give them my story and let them know that, if you put in the effort, success is commonplace at SGU.”
He is one of those success stories.

“I would do it all over again the exact same way,” Dr. Danan said. “I’m very appreciative that SGU gave me the opportunity to fulfill my dream of becoming a sports neurologist. I couldn’t think of a better career for me.”

Huseng Vefali, MD

The son of a cardiologist, Huseng Vefali, MD SGU ’10, has long been familiar with the heart’s importance. Like the heart sits at core of a human’s health, treating patients’ cardiac issues has been at the core of Dr. Vefali’s motivation in medicine. He is currently an interventional cardiologist at New York-Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital, teaching its fellows, residents, and medical students, including those from St. George’s University. “I started med school knowing that I was going into cardiology, and the more I learned about it, the more I fell in love with it,” he said.

As a child, Dr. Vefali visited his father at medical school and through his residency and fellowship. His father went on to become a partner with Cankaya Hospital in Ankara, as well as its director of cardiology, and Dr. Vefali saw an accurate depiction of the profession, good and bad, in and out of the hospital. “My dad would tell me stories about how a patient was gravely ill, and then he did this, this, and this, and now the patient was doing fine,” Dr. Vefali recalled. “I didn’t understand what he did, but in my eyes as a little kid, my dad was as amazing as any superhero I knew. But I also got to see the bad parts of being a cardiologist—the emergent calls in the middle of the night, or if a patient passed, I saw how both he and the family were affected on those unfortunate and rare occasions.”

Dr. Vefali earned his bachelor’s degree in biology from George Mason University in 2005 and then his Master of Health Services Administration from Strayer University. He attended SGU on an International Peace Scholarship and thrived in his new surroundings, both socially and academically. Dr. Vefali was a member of the Student Government Association and Clinical Research Society, and president of the Persian Student Association.

The University prepared Dr. Vefali to stand out as a clinical student at Elmhurst Hospital in Queens, NY, as well as on the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) exams. He finished at or above the 97th percentile on all three USMLE steps the first time he took them. “SGU was really an ideal medical school setting,” he added. “It has all the conveniences of back home, but still it’s still laid back so you can concentrate on your studies. It could not have worked out any better.”

Dr. Vefali obtained an internal medicine residency at Seton Hall University St. Michael’s Medical Center in Newark, NJ, and then completed a cardiovascular disease fellowship at Temple University St. Luke’s Hospital in Bethlehem, PA. He looks forward to returning to Turkey and join his father’s practice. “I believe in the importance of remembering your roots and giving back to the people who helped you forge your path in becoming who you are today,” Dr. Vefali said. “Pursuing knowledge at esteemed educational institutions and learning the most up-to-date medical and clinical knowhow is my duty, and I hope it will prepare me in my quest to give back to my people and my country.”

Louis Guida, MD

Time and again, the patients of Dr. Louis Guida, president and CEO of Bay Shore Allergy and Asthma Specialty Practice on Long Island, thank him for the care he provides—which consistently goes above and beyond. There’s the time a deaf three-year-old received a customized injection of special medication which resulted in him gaining his hearing for the first time. And then there’s Dr. Guida’s cystic fibrosis patient who has managed to live to his 70s when the average lifespan for those stricken with the disease is 37. Dr. Guida doesn’t simply care about the disease; he cares deeply about the person who has the disease.

The 1984 graduate of St. George’s University School of Medicine is thankful as well. He always wanted to be a doctor, and each day such success stories remind him of why he loves his job.

“One of the most important things to me is giving patients a better quality of life, whether they’re young, middle-aged, or elderly and in a nursing home,” Dr. Guida said.

In addition to his role at Bay Shore Allergy, Dr. Guida has served as medical director of the Allergy/Asthma and Cystic Fibrosis Centers at Good Samaritan Hospital Medical Center in West Islip, NY, since 1990, and medical director of pediatric pulmonology and allergy and asthma at St. Charles Hospital in Port Jefferson, NY, since 2008. He also cares for patients at a nursing home in nearby St. James.

Dr. Guida, who was named a “Top Doctor” by US News & World Report in 2012 and “Top Doctor” by Castle Connolly from 2008 to 2012, estimates that he visits with 30 to 50 new patients each week, or between 2,000 and 3,000 new patients per year. No case is the same. He can capably address the concerns from a wide range of patients in part because of the wide range of experiences presented to him at SGU. He was taught by professors in the top of their fields and from all over the world. The faculty wasn’t just decorated but they were accessible, oftentimes offering their expertise one-on-one before or after class.

“You don’t get that kind of opportunity in a lot of other places,” he said. “We were fortunate to get that. It was just phenomenal.”

In addition to appreciating all that the University and the island of Grenada had to offer, he gained clinical experience in St. Vincent’s in the United Kingdom as well. He initially signed on for six weeks in the UK but ended up staying 18 months.

“At St. George’s, you’re taught to think on our own,” Dr. Guida said. “You’re taught to think outside the box. Unfortunately a lot of physicians now are all textbook knowledge. What Grenada, St. Vincent’s, and England did was teach me think on my own. That’s one of the most important things when you’re caring for a patient, whether it’s an infant, child, adult or the elderly.”

His journey began after receiving his Bachelor of Science in biology from Fairleigh Dickinson University in 1980. When considering options for medical school, the New Jersey native was pointed to St. George’s University, then an up-and-coming institution in the Caribbean, by Dr. Abdol Islami, the chair of graduate medical education at Saint Barnabas Medical Center in New Jersey, where Dr. Guida was volunteering. He continues to be grateful for all that Chancellor Charles Modica and the University did for him.

“I would have done anything and gone anywhere to become a doctor,” Dr. Guida said. “Every time I see Chancellor Modica to this day, I thank him for giving me the opportunity to become a physician. I have told many students to go down to Grenada to become physicians. If you want to become a doctor, Chancellor Modica will give you the opportunity, and SGU continues to put out wonderful physicians.

“Anybody can be a doctor but it takes a very special person to be a physician,” he continued. “Grenada taught us to be well-rounded physicians.”

Dr. Guida and his wife have four children. The family has resided on Long Island since 1990.

Graciela Soto, MD

Graciela Soto, MD SGU ’98, is taking the information she learned at St. George’s University, in her profession, and in life, and passing it on to the next generation of doctors. An assistant professor in the Division of Critical Care Medicine at Montefiore Medical Center and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City (NYC), Dr. Soto values the platform that she has.

“While still in medical school I was told that I was good at teaching and should choose a career in academics,” Dr. Soto said. “I am glad that I am able to give back all that I have learned. It’s a way of paying back SGU for giving me the opportunity to become a doctor.”

From her native Peru to her current post in the Big Apple, Dr. Soto has made many stops along the way. She immigrated to the United States at age 21, and spent three years completing her bachelor’s degrees at the University of South Florida, earning magna cum laude distinction at USF and a 30 MCAT score. Soto applied to St. George’s University and was accepted into the entering MD class of 1998.

Dr. Soto was more than pleased with her choice.

“To me, being in Grenada was a paradise,” she said. “There were people from all different countries, the teaching was very good, and I learned all about what I wanted to do, and I’ve been able to pass that on as a professor myself.”

Following two years of basic sciences in Grenada, she completed her rotations in New Jersey and New York, predominantly at Maimonides Hospital in Brooklyn. Upon graduating, she bolstered her resume during the winter and spring, volunteering as a research assistant in Bellevue Hospital’s Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, while working as assistant professor at Touro College School of Health Sciences on Long Island, New York, in 2000.

“Teaching students at the bedside was a very rewarding experience,” said Dr. Soto. “It made me realize that academics was my true calling.”

It allowed her to match with a top IM residency at New York University Medical Center, where she was also a technical assistant. Later on, she completed a fellowship in critical care medicine at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City and moved to Los Angeles to become assistant professor in the Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine at the University of Southern California, Keck School of Medicine.

Besides her clinical and academic interests, Dr. Soto has also devoted herself to research in critical care.  While in Los Angeles, she was involved in clinical and translational research studies from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and she returned to New York to earn a master’s degree in clinical research from Albert Einstein College of Medicine in 2011.  Her research interests include acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), sepsis, acute renal failure, and health disparities.  Dr. Soto is currently co-investigator in studies sponsored by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) and a member of the US Critical Illness and Injury Trials Group (USCIITG). Dr. Soto is board certified in critical care medicine and internal medicine, and is a longtime member of the American College of Physicians, Society of Critical Care Medicine, and American Thoracic Society.

During her travels and endeavors, she often harkens back to the opportunity provided by her alma mater, St. George’s University.

“If it weren’t for St. George’s, I wouldn’t be where I am,” Dr. Soto said. “Academics is a way that I’m able to be a mentor for medical students.”

Gifty-Maria Ntim, MD, MPH

Dr. Gifty-Maria Ntim is a double-boarded pediatrician and internist at Antelope Valley Community Clinic in Palmdale, California. She was born and raised in Ghana, but moved to Canada to complete her undergraduate degree in biochemistry at McGill University in Montreal. She found it very competitive to apply to Canadian medical schools as an international student. When she heard about St. George’s University through a professor, she decided it was the perfect opportunity to pursue her dreams.

Grenada was a breath of fresh air for Dr. Ntim—“It reminded me of home on many levels. The people were very welcoming and warm.” Additionally, she was very impressed with the diversity in the student body and actively participated with the African Student Association.

After her first year at SGU, Dr. Ntim worked at the University of Ghana during her summer break on a project funded by the World Health Organization (WHO). “The experience I had in Ghana made me realize the importance of serving communities and not just individuals,” she said. “Hence, after my second term at St. George’s University, I switched from the straight MD program to the MD/Master of Public Health (MPH) dual degree program. The fact that I could get practical hands-on training in a developing country was very appealing to me as well.” In year two, she completed a WHO internship in Geneva, Switzerland.

Dr. Ntim went on to become chief resident of the Tulane University School of Medicine combined internal medicine/pediatrics residency program and the principal investigator of the NO-POP (New Orleans Pediatric Obesity Prevention) Project. “I feel my training at SGU is on par with other students and physicians that I have come into contact with. If anything, my training at SGU put me at a slight advantage when it came to infectious disease—which being from Ghana is very handy.”

Dr. Ntim ultimately hopes to develop programs for underserved communities and developing countries. “I am laying the groundwork to be involved in Ghana­­—mainly in the medical education and public health arena. I would love to teach and be involved in program development and sustainable health projects in Ghana.”

Dr. Gifty-Maria Ntim advises future medical students, “I would highly recommend SGU without hesitation. It allowed me to realize my dreams. It’s added to my growth as a person and as a physician, and I would not have it any other way if I could rewrite my life story.”

Evelyn Fang, MD

Dr. Evelyn Fang has practiced family and internal medicine at United Family Hospitals (UFH) Clinics in Beijing since April 2005. The UFH is a revolutionary international standard health care organization with four sites in China, each dedicated to providing comprehensive, fully integrated health care services with compassion and care.

The Beijing United Family Hospital and Clinic (BJU) opened its doors in 1997. A joint venture between Chindex International, Inc., a leader in healthcare technologies, and the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences, BJU is the first foreign-invested hospital to operate in China.

As President of the Medical Staff at BJU, the only bilingual hospital in Beijing, Dr. Fang’s fluency in Mandarin Chinese and English (she also speaks medical Spanish) has been a tremendous benefit in both managing the over 50 staff members and caring for the patients, many of whom are expatriates, diplomats, and wealthy members of the local Chinese community. Dr. Fang explained that the opportunity to apply her medical training and language skills was a key motivation to joining BJU, as many of her foreign trained UFH colleagues do not speak Chinese.

Dr. Fang is certified by both the American Board of Family Medicine and the American Board of Internal Medicine. She has a special interest in public health, primary care education, preventive care and chronic disease management.

While she was born in Taiwan, Dr. Fang grew up in California, receiving her undergraduate degree from the University of California, Berkeley. She graduated with a medical degree from St. George’s University School of Medicine in 1998 and returned to California to complete a combined Family Practice and Internal Medicine residency at the University of California, San Francisco, Fresno campus; she served as Chief Resident for both. Dr. Fang also holds a Master’s degree in Public Health, with emphasis on health administration, from the California State University in Fresno.

Dr. Fang and her family are now embarking on a new adventure, preparing for the birth of their first child and establishing a new home base in Anchorage, Alaska. Dr. Fang looks forward to returning to China in the future, and as a great supporter of St. George’s University, she hopes to communicate the University’s high academic caliber and global approach to medical education to prospective students from that region.

Emily Iker, MD

As the Founder and Director of the Lymphedema Center in Santa Monica, California, Dr. Emily Iker’s dream of becoming an accomplished physician has been recognized many times over, touching and changing the lives of thousands.  Dr. Iker is a woman who has surmounted immense challenges, never losing focus of her goal.  Her resolve and inner strength is matched only by kindness and humility, as she lauds those who have helped her achieve her lifelong dream of practicing medicine.

Her journey has by no means been easy.  Born in Czechoslovakia, Dr. Iker’s potential went unrecognized and unsupported by the very people who should have been keenly aware of her gifts.  It’s hard to imagine, but this dedicated and brilliant woman was told that she was not “university material” by a high school teacher.  Dr. Iker’s relentless determination, on which she has often relied throughout her personal and professional life, enabled her to push forward toward her ultimate goal.

In 1973 she enrolled in the premedical program at the University of California Los Angeles and worked in a private orthopedic office to help pay her tuition.  During that time she discovered that she had lymphoma.  Determined to not let the disease interfere with her studies, she finished her chemotherapy and graduated from UCLA simultaneously.  She had seen an article in the newspaper about an English language medical school in Grenada.  After researching the program, she applied and was accepted in 1977, thus becoming a member of the second class to enter SGUSOM.

After graduation, she interned at St. Clare’s Hospital and Health Center in New York.  She remained in New York as a surgical resident at Cabrini Medical Center for two years.  During that time, Dr. Iker, having beaten cancer, developed lymphedema — a chronic condition which results in extreme swelling of the limbs.  It is the effect of the accumulation of fluid and other elements, such as proteins in the interstitial tissue arising from congenital malfunction of the lymph system or damage to lymph vessels or lymph nodes. Lymphedema is a condition commonly seen in cancer patients.  Dr. Iker’s resolve gave her the strength to fight through the daily struggles with pain and fatigue.  After much consideration, she decided to change her medical specialty from surgery to rehabilitation and completed her Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation residency at New York Medical College.

From 1987–1992, Dr. Iker returned to California to work with Dr. Robert Watanabe, a prominent Orthopedic Surgeon in West Los Angeles.  As his associate, she specialized in the area of rehabilitation for sports medicine both pre- and post-surgery.  Dr. Watanabe would become “the most influential individual in her professional life,” said Dr. Iker, providing the guidance and motivation that would lead her to her life’s work in the study of lymphedema.  During those years, Dr. Iker struggled to find assistance with her condition.  She was struck by the lack of information and treatment options available for lymphedema.  In 1992, with the encouragement of her mentor, Dr. Watanabe, she opened the Lymphedema Center in Santa Monica.  Sadly, Dr. Watanabe passed away from lymphoma later that year, the same disease Dr. Iker battled 15 years earlier.

As Director of the Lymphedema Center, Dr. Iker focuses on diagnosis, management and treatment of lymphatic disorders. Dr. Iker is now the President of the American Society of Lymphology.  She is board certified by the American Boards of Holistic Medicine and is a staff member of Santa Monica – UCLA Medical Center.  Dr. Iker teaches and lectures nationally and internationally, and is not only the Director of the Lymphedema Center but a patient as well.  A few years ago, Dr. Iker married a business man whose flexible schedule enables them to travel the world together on her extensive lecture tours.

As a youth in Czechoslovakia, Dr. Iker spent many years as a gymnast conquering the balance beam.  She believes her perseverance is rooted in those years where she first learned the importance of falling and getting right back up.  Dr. Iker equates much of her career path to walking on the balance beam, having gracefully stood up to demonstrate a determination which each day benefits the lives of others.

Elly Masitha, DVM, MPH

Elly Masitha—originally from Bobonong, Botswana—pursued his Bachelor of Science degree at the University of Botswana. However, because the University did not offer veterinary programs, and in order to fulfill his dreams of becoming a veterinarian, he decided to leave his homeland to finish his education. Elly always had an interest in veterinary medicine, having spent time taking care of animals on small farms throughout his life. His ambition led him to St. George’s University Preveterinary Program. Upon successful completion of the one-year program, Elly enrolled in St. George’s School of Veterinary Medicine.

Elly had many reasons for selecting St. George’s University as the best option for him, not the least of which is the location of the campus. The True Blue campus is indeed an academic paradise. Secondly, the international aspect of the University was appealing because he would meet students from other countries around the world. Lastly, Elly explained, “The school offered me the dual degree option (DVM/MPH) and for me it was all I needed to know to go there. When I go back home to Botswana, my Master of Public Health and Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degrees will be an advantage to my country and my people. Once I decide to go home I can take back that experience.”

Upon arriving to Grenada, Elly recalled, “The people of the island were so welcoming and friendly that it made me feel like I was home.” It was his first time seeing the beach and he also happened to come during one of the biggest celebrations in Grenada—Carnival! He recalls, “I met people from different parts of the world—the Caribbean, Africa, United States, and Canada. I made friends with students from different parts of Africa who I may have otherwise never met.”

In regard to academics, Elly commented, “The professors did a very good job. They tried their best and offered so much of their time and were always available for extra help.” Now that he’s about to receive his DVM degree, Elly can provide some direction for prospective students who are applying to graduate schools. He advises, “On the island you come to work hard and you should work hard, but also enjoy the island and don’t put yourself under too much pressure. Work hard and have fun!”

He recommends the University without hesitation. “St. George’s University is the best school to can prepare you for whatever career you want to choose.” He currently resides in Edinburgh, United Kingdom where he is completing his final year of clinical training. Elly’s dreams include being involved in research, although he is uncertain if he going to pursue further education. While he expects to earn his DVM in June 2011, he recently earned his Master of Public Health degree from St. George’s University in May 2010. While Elly may return to his native Botswana upon receiving his DVM, he would like to return and visit Grenada as well.

Darren Cuthbert, MD, MPH

With each hurdle that he cleared, Darren Cuthbert turned his sights toward another—a higher one in the distance. This March, the 2016 graduate of St. George’s University achieved yet another goal, accepting a highly competitive emergency medicine residency at Rutgers-Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital. He rejoiced not only for the opportunity to continue his training at a state-of-the-art institution but for taking the final step in his long journey toward becoming a physician.

“Emergency medicine broadly encompasses the exciting aspects across all specialties,” Dr. Cuthbert said. “To me, the emergency department is a fun place, free of judgment.  It doesn’t matter who you are or where you’re from—it’s your right to be cared for in the ER; which also shows the humanistic side of medicine.  It just felt like a perfect fit early on.”

Matching with such a competitive field validates the hard work and dedication put in by Dr. Cuthbert, who admits to having faced a difficult upbringing while growing up in New Jersey. After being confronted with academic failure following the loss of his father and two battles with cancer fought by his mother, Dr. Cuthbert took to heart the incredible work ethic displayed by his parents. Seeing his mother work three jobs while overcoming cancer helped steer him in the right direction, eventually causing him to enlist in the United States Army.

While serving in the Army Reserves, he pursued his bachelor’s degree from Rutgers University, and also began working as a Unit Clerk at St. Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston, NJ. The introduction to medicine only increased his appetite to care for members of his community. Over his five years at SBMC, Dr. Cuthbert graduated to other roles, including transporter, emergency department technician, and burn technician. He was also a volunteer EMT at Ironbound EMS and UMDNJ-University Hospital, both in Newark, until his acceptance to St. George’s University.

Dr. Cuthbert’s journey to Grenada began after several emergency medicine residents whom he worked alongside spoke highly of their experiences at SGU. He enrolled in SGU’s Master of Public Health program, with a focus on health policy and administration. With the help of the University’s award-winning student support services, he graduated magna cum laude and became a member of the Delta Omega Honors Society in Public Health. Dr. Cuthbert earned a spot in the Fall 2012 MD class. A foundation in public health helped him then just as it does now.

“SGU’s MPH program opened the door of opportunity for myself and many others,” he said. “One of the things I love about medicine today is the increased stress placed on evidence-based medicine; public health is the backbone to this practice. Not only does having an MPH make you stick out as a leader amongst your peers, but it broadens your horizon of the world and medicine—eventually creating a better doctor and scientist.”

Throughout his clerkship with SGU, Dr. Cuthbert earned multiple publications relevant to both emergency medicine and anesthesiology. His projects won SGU’s Medical Student Research Competition, and he was runner-up at SJRMC research day. Dr. Cuthbert attributes such successes to the knowledge gained from his mentors within the Department of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, led by Dr. Satesh Bidaisee.

At SGU, Dr. Cuthbert believes he gained an international education, with both its curriculum and its student body. “Going to SGU gives you a different mindset. You assimilate to a different culture, and learn from a diverse array of top professors while attaining relationships throughout the world. I can’t imagine getting a better academic experience elsewhere.”

Dr. Cuthbert continues to take on new challenges. He is in the process of becoming a Fellow of the Academy of Wilderness Medicine, and hopes his story resonates with the children he meets as a part of Big Brothers Big Sisters of America in Newark, NJ. He cherishes the responsibilities that have been handed to him as a mentor and a physician.

“When you treat patients, you see something you love in those people—the good traits, the human characteristics,” he said. “It’s not really a patient; it’s someone’s mom, someone’s child; brother or sister. You want to treat them like you would want your loved ones to be treated. It reminds you to be careful, diligent, compassionate, and most importantly appreciative of the great gift we’ve been given.”