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.”

Chauncey Thuss Jr., MD

For Dr. Chauncey Thuss, occupational medicine has been in his family for nearly a century – first his grandfather, then his father and uncle, and now he carries the torch as medical director at St. Vincent’s Occupational Health Clinic, the largest provider of occupational medicine in downtown Birmingham, Alabama.

“What I like that you really get a good feeling of what’s going on in the city because I’m talking to and treating all these different people,” Dr. Thuss said.

Thuss’s grandfather, William G. Thuss, started Thuss Clinic in 1924, one of only three industrial medicine clinics in the southeastern United States, and the family ran the business through 2008. Dr. Thuss served as the physician, medical director and partner for Thuss Clinic and Thuss Medical Group for more than two decades before joining Gadsden Regional Medical Center’s Occupational Health Center beginning in September 2008. In July 2012, he was appointed to the medical director position at St. Vincent’s.

Dr. Thuss classifies occupational medicine, which relates to workplace injuries, a cross between internal and emergency medicine. He treats injuries that occur in the workplace, anything from strains and lacerations to broken bones.

“You never know what’s going to come at you,” Dr. Thuss said. “It isn’t quite as hectic as an emergency room but it’s right up there with it.”

In addition, he has owned and operated Absolute Drug Detection Services, a third-party drug test administrator with multiple terminals around the US, for more than two decades. He had long performed such tests at Thuss Clinic, and business boomed when the Drug Free Workplace Act made them a requirement for certain federal organizations in 1988 in an effort to create a drug-free environment.

Dr. Thuss was also one of the first 75 certified medical review officers (MROs) in the country and has co-chaired the Drug and Alcohol Testing Industry Association (DATIA) and is a Board Member of the Substance Abuse Program Administrators Association (SAPAA) and certified by, and a member of, the American Association of Medical Review Officers (AAMRO). He was also one of the first Certified Medical Examiners under the newly created National Registry for Certified Medical Examiners (NRCME), a registry of medical providers that administers mandated Department of Transportation physical examinations.

Although he grew up in Birmingham, Dr. Thuss obtained his Bachelor of Arts in biology from Boston University in 1978, and he went on to complete postgraduate training in natural sciences and mathematics from the University of Alabama at Birmingham before enrolling at SGU. After two years in Grenada and two more at Kent and Canterbury Hospital in the UK, Dr. Thuss earned his MD before completing his internal medicine residency at St. Luke’s Hospital in Cleveland, OH. He treasures the opportunity to have studied in a variety of locations in the US and UK.

“Some people join the Navy to see the world,” Thuss said. “I say go to medical school see the world.”

The basic science years tested his mettle, with many long nights put in, but in between study time, Dr. Thuss still managed to enjoy all that the island had to offer.

“One time I wanted to go out on the beach so badly but I couldn’t because I was getting ready for a test that was coming up, and I remember a guy told me ‘don’t worry about it, it’s going to be beautiful tomorrow too,’ ” said Dr. Thuss. “And that was true. Every day was another day in paradise.”

Brian Butler, DVM, MPH

Brian Butler’s early career is a true testament to the opportunities and impact made available with a dual DVM/MPH degree from St. George’s University.  Brian has recently returned from a second visit to Africa, a world away from Missouri where he was born, raised and attended undergraduate school.

He was first introduced to the people of Western Uganda through a grant funded by the Windward Islands Research and Education Foundation (WINDREF), an independent research and education institution based at St. George’s University’s True Blue campus.  As part of a project set up by WINDREF Director Dr. Calum Macpherson, Brian spent ten weeks among the Bsongoro people researching the effects of Cystic Echinococcosis (CE), a global zoonotic parasitic disease with human and livestock incidence.

CE is common in many East African pastoral peoples, but has never been investigated in the specific Bsongoro community.  It is transmitted most commonly from dogs, but is thought that wild carnivores play a significant role in the transmission of the disease as well.  Brian worked with a local wildlife veterinarian, tagging and tracking lions and hyenas, and documenting the relationship between wildlife and the local people.

As a result of his work, which satisfied the practicum for the MPH Degree, Brian received funding from the National Institutes of Health to continue his study of the physiological and pathological similarities and differences between diseases in humans and animals as he pursues his PhD in Comparative Pathology at the University of California, Davis.

Brian returned to Uganda this past summer to attend a one-month course where he studied and worked along side African colleagues in an effort to uncover solutions to Africa’s most challenging infectious diseases, most specifically pediatric malaria.  After he completes his PhD, he hopes his career pursuit in tropical medicine and tropical diseases will continue to offer opportunities to visit many more wonderful and exciting places.

Brian credits St. George’s University for offering the unique opportunity to attain both his DVM and MPH simultaneously, an opportunity which broadened his exposure to the field of research and its global application in public health and guided his current path, of which he is most proud.   He looks forward to one day returning to Grenada and making a contribution to the research and veterinary public health programs at St. George’s University.

Asif Ghauri, MD

Growing up in Essex, England, Dr. Asif Ghauri always had the ambition to study medicine.  Competition to gain acceptance into medical schools in the United Kingdom is very intense, regardless of the strength of one’s grades, and so Dr. Ghauri decided to become a pharmacist.  This was “the closest thing to medicine” that he had the opportunity to study in the UK, he said.

Though an accomplished pharmacist, Dr. Ghauri headed to the United States for a new challenge and started taking classes toward an MSc in Biology at the University of Texas, Arlington. While he was enrolled in classes, he had a chance meeting with a premedical advisor who suggested he apply to St. George’s University School of Medicine (SGUSOM) if he was still interested in pursuing his dream of becoming a physician.  He was accepted to SGUSOM in 1998 and so began his journey.

Dr. Ghauri received excellent grades in medical school and was a top scorer on many of the medical exams, including the USMLE and the PLAB. One would think that getting a job after graduation would not be too difficult for this former pharmacist; however, in the early 2000’s in the UK, for every spare internship job not filled by a UK medical graduate, there were hundreds of applicants.  This situation made it rather difficult to obtain an interview.

“I got myself an interview at the Eastern Deanery and started to promote myself, talking about my excellent medical education and how well I had done academically and professionally,” Dr. Ghauri recalled. “Somehow the conversation turned to old cars and their restoration, which happens to be a hobby of mine, and we must have talked about cars for more than two hours!” After this interview Dr. Ghauri had a medical internship job specially created for him and funded by the Eastern Deanery so that he could become a registered UK physician in one of the toughest markets in existence – something that had never been done before for an international medical graduate.  With his foot finally in the door, Dr. Ghauri worked very hard, using his medical knowledge to care for patients at Basildon University Teaching Hospital and working long hours to prove that he was motivated and determined. He is currently Chief Resident in family practice at Laindon Health Center in the UK and he credits St. George’s University for giving him the tools he needed in order achieve.

Dr. Ghauri’s experience at SGU was a great one: “The training I received during the Basic Science years was very good,” he said. “In hindsight, looking at the education I received it was excellent.  The SGU administration and faculty set high standards for medical students.  SGU prepared students for clinical training just as well as any UK medical school.  They made us go that extra mile and achieve that much more.”

“One of the things I especially liked about SGU was the combination of training opportunities in the US and the UK,” he continued. “It is very unique for someone with my background to be able to learn about the two different systems of medicine at one school.”

Dr. Ghauri did his clinical rotations in Jersey City and some electives in UK teaching hospitals. After graduation he considered furthering his training in the US but, in the aftermath of September 11th, he decided he should return to the UK to be with his family. He commenced his postgraduate training program in 2003, and was the highest scoring applicant in family practice at the Eastern Deanery for that year.  Now that he is settled and enjoying his work, Dr. Ghauri tells his story about the way he secured his position in the UK. His experience has led him to start a consulting company where he helps foreign medical graduates figure out the best way to negotiate the UK system and become successful, practicing physicians.  Dr. Ghauri is and will always be very thankful for his years at SGUSOM: “St. George’s University provides opportunities for those who really, really want to study medicine,” he said. “If you are totally determined to become a doctor, come hell or high water, then this is the place to be.”

The future looks bright, and he is quick to once again express his gratitude for SGUSOM as he concludes: “As of August 2008 I will be joining my father’s practice as a full GP principal and partner. I am still extensively involved in the training of doctors and nurse practitioners. Hopefully our practice will be taking on final year residents in family practice in the not-too-distant future. Also quite soon, I will be undertaking a senior position for the local drug and therapeutics committee that ties in with my pharmaceutical background. Once again I cannot thank SGUSOM enough for making all of these dreams possible.”

Amie Dmytryshyn, MD

Dr. Amie Dmytryshyn grew up in a close-knit family in Vancouver where she always knew she wanted to study medicine. She recalled, “My father is a physician, so dinner time conversations about surgery was the impetus to my desire for medicine, then surrounding myself volunteering and working in health care solidified it.” In 2002, Amie earned her Bachelors of Human Kinetics with honors from the University of British Columbia.

She heard about St. George’s through a fellow Canadian and good family friend who had a great experience as a former student at the University. Like many students who might be fearful of medical school in the Caribbean, Amie explained, “I thought I was going to a third world country, but the facilities were first-rate, top-of-the-line with superior equipment.” Of island life, she explained, “My first impression was that it was breathtaking. I loved the beaches and the tropical rainforests.”

Still, Amie was nervous about leaving her family and long-time boyfriend, but their frequent visits to Grenada helped ease the transition. Additionally, her boyfriend moved to be with her, completing his degree online. The couple was very active during their time in Grenada, participating in annual dodge ball tournaments, weekly beach volleyball, running clubs, and more.

Initially Amie believed it might be a challenging process to return to Canada; she was pleasantly surprised it turned out not to be the case at all! “It’s a difficult process no matter what because it’s a competitive field, but I think I was well equipped to come back. St. George’s University prepared me extremely well for my board exams—Canadian and American. I did fantastic and it’s not because of memorizing—because I can’t! The school shows you how to study and how to learn for your own needs. I feel indebted to the school for what they did for me.”

Amie admitted that for most people medical school in the Caribbean might not be their intended route. She believes St. George’s University compares favorably to other medical universities because “there is passion that comes with having to travel around the world to get your medical education.” In regard to the faculty she says, “We had the best of the best!” The greatest advantage of studying in Grenada was her early hands-on experience with the local population. “Clinical experience blends into your first two years—at least one session a week of practice really prepares you for your third and fourth clinical years.”

Amie graduated St. George’s University in 2008. She was married to her long-term boyfriend in Summer 2010 and is currently practicing pediatric medicine in Vancouver. Although she would love to return to Grenada, Amie is busy finishing her last two years of residency. In December 2010, she was promoted to Chief Resident of Pediatrics at Children’s Hospital in British Columbia. What does Amie love the most about her job now? “Sounds cheesy, but working with children and learning how to put a smile on their face is a skill I have started to learn and it is a lifelong purpose. Watching children heal is a joy.”

Dr. Dmytryshyn hopes to continue this lifelong learning process practicing pediatric medicine in Canada. She and her husband hope to travel the world and continue their global education. “I have friends to visit throughout the States, UK, Australia, and New Zealand!”

She is most proud that she had the courage to leave her home, adapt to different cultures, and learn about medicine in different environments. She advises prospective students, “Do not be afraid. It is common to be apprehensive about not knowing what will happen after medical school. If medicine is your dream, let go of your fears because St. George’s University will prepare you well. Your dreams will be fulfilled.”

Alicia Chilito, MD

When it came time to choose the path down which she would travel, Dr. Alicia Chilito, MD SGU ’94, weighed her options, and chose the field that offered the most variety – family medicine. More than a decade into owning and operating a successful practice in Miami, she is more than pleased with her choice.

“I thought about going into surgery, but I like that I can visit with patients of all ages and backgrounds, and also treat different diseases and conditions,” she said. “In family medicine, you have to know a little bit about a lot of different areas of medicine.”

Born and raised in Colombia, Dr. Chilito immigrated to the United States at 17, residing with her grandmother in Texas. She earned a Bachelor of Science in biology from the University of Texas at Dallas in 1987. Dr. Chilito was admitted to a US medical school, but when that ceased operation during her first semester, she met with a past professor, Dr. John Cush, MD SGU ’81, the director of clinical rheumatology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School, who spoke highly of his alma mater.

She welcomed the opportunity to experience a new country and culture, and professes that the diverse student body and faculty at SGU has helped her in her current practice, which sits in one of the US’s most diverse cities.

“At SGU, you meet people from all over the world, and I really liked that,” Dr. Chilito said. “You learn to respect people’s different religions and different beliefs. It was very rewarding to learn about these different points of view.”

When it came time to apply for residency, Dr. Chilito focused solely on family medicine. “I didn’t want to specialize in one thing because I didn’t want to get bored,” she said. “Family medicine is very broad, so you always have to study and you’re always learning.”

Dr. Chilito completed her residency at Allegheny Family Physicians in Altoona, PA, and after working at Miami-based clinics in the late 1990s, she opened her own practice in 2002. Outside her practice, she is the medical manager for the Miami-Dade Fire Department’s Urban Search and Rescue unit. She also volunteers on numerous medical missions, treating underserved patients at clinics throughout the Caribbean, Central America, South America, Africa and the Middle East. A recent trip took her to Haiti, where she worked to address the country’s outbreak of cholera.

“It’s wonderful to provide medical care for people who need it and are very appreciative,” Dr. Chilito said. “To change someone’s life like that is very rewarding.”

Dr. Chilito has served in the United States Army Reserves since 2000, ascending to her current rank of lieutenant colonel. In October 2013, her active-duty commitment took her to a clinic in Afghanistan, where she helped treat military personnel and contractors.

Zachary Klaassen, MD

Medical research started as a curiosity when Zachary Klaassen was a student at St. George’s University. It soon blossomed into a hobby, and then a passion, and it’s now an integral part of the 2010 graduate’s future in medicine. A Urologic Oncology Fellow at the University of Toronto, Dr. Klaassen is also working toward a Master of Science in clinical epidemiology and health care research at the Institute of Health Policy Management and Evaluation.

“I love taking care of the patient, and I equally love trying to figure out how to make care better,” said Dr. Klaassen, who will join the faculty at the Medical College of Georgia (MCG) following his fellowship. “Ten years ago, I might have said that research would make up less than 10 percent of what I would do. It’s probably greater than 50 percent now, and if you asked me what my dream job was, I would say 50 percent clinical and 50 percent research.”

His fondness for research began when he launched and directed SGU’s Medical Student Research Institute (MSRI) with Dr. Marios Loukas, Dean of Research, and Dr. Ronald Chamberlain, Chairman, St. Barnabas Health in New Jersey. Dr. Klaassen soon discovered that he both enjoyed conducting research and was efficient at it. He earned the Senior Medical Student Research Competition Award and graduated magna cum laude with research distinction. Dr. Klaassen has since co-written four book chapters, been published in more than 65 peer-reviewed journals, and presented his research at over 35 regional and national conferences.

Research complements the clinical training he’s receiving at U of T. The first year of fellowship has been spent predominantly in research, allowing Dr. Klaassen and his colleagues to present cases at renal tumor and multidisciplinary bladder cancer conferences. In year two, however, fellows dedicate their time to patient care and surgery and move into junior faculty positions.

“It’s a great program, and so far it’s been excellent,” Dr. Klaassen said. “In urologic oncology, you have to enjoy the big, six- to 12-hour surgeries, which I do, and I’m also able to talk to the patients and their families, rather than just treat the cancer. I can’t see myself doing anything else.”

Like research, urology wasn’t always the primary goal. Dr. Klaassen had expected to specialize in vascular surgery until he was invited to shadow a family friend who practiced urology in New Jersey, a three-day experience that changed the course of his career.

“The beauty of urology is it’s very specialized, but within the specialty, it’s huge,” Dr. Klaassen said. “I loved the breadth of the procedures and the patient population, and I found that, generally, the urologists’ personality fit with mine.”

Despite being one of the most competitive fields in medicine, Dr. Klaassen matched into a urology residency at the Medical College of Georgia at Georgia Regents University (now Augusta University). He was named Urology Chief Resident, and ultimately Resident of the Year, for 2015-16 at MCG and looks forward to joining its faculty following his two years of fellowship.

Dr. Klaassen has also served as a Visiting Professor for SGU, to which he arrived after obtaining Bachelor of Science degrees in molecular biology and biochemistry in 2005. In Canada, he experienced both rural and city life, having been born in Main Centre, a town of 12 people in the prairie province of Saskatchewan, before moving to Vancouver, British Columbia. Dr. Klaassen had been turned down by highly competitive Canadian medical schools and instead entered a vibrant and diverse community of students in Grenada. In addition to his MSRI tenure, he participated in the Surgery and Anatomy Dissection Clubs.

“It was an amazing, multicultural experience that you never would know you were missing if you haven’t experienced it,” Dr. Klaassen said. “Academically, it was second to none; I went down there and received excellent training. I was able to funnel my energy toward really learning the basic sciences and doing well on my boards.

“Between the academic experience and the life experience, I couldn’t see doing it any other way,” he continued. “I would never have experienced all that SGU had to offer if I had stayed in Vancouver, and I’m so thankful for the opportunity to get out of the box, to experience other places, and gain the perspective that I did.”

Yousra Hawli, MD

Dr. Hawli specializes in endocrinology and metabolism, osteoporosis, obesity-related problems, and internal medicine for adult patients.

She completed a degree in biology at the American University of Beirut (AUB) before enrolling at St. George’s University School of Medicine, from which she graduated in 2004, having scored in the 99 percentile on her medical exams. Her exceptional performance led to a coveted residency at the University of Connecticut Health Center, where she specialized in internal medicine. She returned to Lebanon in 2007 for a two-year endocrinology and metabolism fellowship at AUB.

Dr. Hawli currently runs a medical practice specializing in diabetes care, osteoporosis, internal medicine and obesity-related problems in Tripoli, the second largest city in Lebanon. The center focuses on prevention as well as treatment for diseases, including diabetes, which includes delivering education programs for adults and children living in and around the city.

Dr. Hawli is a published researcher and her 2009 joint paper on insulin pump therapy during the Ramadan fast was awarded Best Research Paper from AUB’s medical school.

You started your academic career studying biology at the American University of Beirut. Did you always hope to become doctor?

“I’d always dreamt of becoming a doctor. I did well at school and enjoyed studying the sciences, which was a good base on which to build a medical career. My father had diabetes and I was involved in his care, which led me to following a career in endocrinology.”

Was it a challenge to leave your home country to study at St. George’s University?

“It was a daunting decision to make but SGU had a great reputation, not just for its teaching, but as a medical school that could provide opportunities for training in the UK and USA.

“The first semester at SGU was actually quite difficult for me—not least because it was challenging to focus on studying when I was based in such a beautiful country. I found it hard to be so far from home and my family, but this pushed me to work hard and excel. I wanted to make the most of my opportunities there and prove myself. I also wanted to have my own career and not have to depend on anyone else financially. In the end, being away from home was a good learning experience and I soon began to enjoy it and thrive academically.

“The teachers at SGU were all wonderful. They would arrange for international speakers to visit us and contribute to our curriculum and lectures. The material was challenging, but we loved it. The medical school was small enough for us to receive dedicated teaching as well as forging strong friendships. I still have friends from my time at SGU, and it’s great to see that they’re all extremely successful. It was definitely a group of high achievers.”

After completing a residency at the University of Connecticut, you decided to return to Lebanon. What prompted that decision?

“I always thought I would return to Lebanon to be near my family again. It was wonderful to be welcomed back to the American University of Beirut, my alma mater and where I studied for my biology degree before enrolling at SGU.

“During my residency at the University of Connecticut, I had worked in the University’s St. Francis Diabetes Care Center, which inspired me to bring a similar full-service, outpatient clinic for diabetes to Lebanon.

“I was eager to establish a center that would provide a wide range of specialized care in a more accessible environment to people in Lebanon because I recognized the desperate need for development in this area of healthcare.

“Diabetes is just as big a problem in Lebanon as it is in the UK and US, but education about the condition is not as well resourced and the health sector in Lebanon is poorly financed, which makes it challenging. Medication is not covered by individual health insurance so people with limited incomes don’t always take the medicines they need. Because of this, patients with diabetes often become hospitalized, which ends up costing more financially as well as increasing mortality rates and long-term associated conditions.

“On top of this, I’m seeing children suffering from diabetes-related conditions such as kidney disease or blindness. This is particularly horrific because diabetes is often avoidable with lifestyle changes. It’s a huge problem and makes preventative education all the more crucial.

“The clinical care and education provided by my clinic helps to raise awareness of diabetes as well as promote prevention and treatment options available.”

What are your hopes for the future of the clinic?

“I’m looking forward to the clinic expanding and providing treatment to more people as there are very few medical centers in Lebanon that are specifically designed to meet the needs of people with diabetes and other hormonal or obesity-related problems. The clinic now has a dietician and psychologist, and we work together to encourage people to make healthy lifestyle changes. We have plans to recruit a cardiologist and ophthalmologist in the near future.

“I hope to do more for the public sector in Lebanon in terms of educating people as well as supporting other medical professionals by continuing to research this area and providing mentoring support and talks in public hospitals.”

When you look back on your education and career, are you pleased with the route you’ve taken?

“Definitely. I’ve had such a varied education and I’m so proud that I have brought something important and vital to Lebanon. The clinic is providing outreach support to members of the community who would otherwise not have access to this much-needed health care and education. It has been worth all the hard work to achieve what I have so far.”