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.”

Peminda Cabandugama, MD

Type 2 diabetes runs in Peminda Cabandugama’s family. The disease claimed his father, who passed away due to complications from an infection in his leg in 2007. As the affliction is genetic and could ultimately affect both he and his children, Dr. Cabandugama, a 2011 graduate of St. George’s University School of Medicine, is tackling the problem head on.

Dr. Cabandugama currently serves as an endocrinology fellow at University of Missouri Health Care, a regional top hospital in diabetes and endocrinology according to US News and World Report that is home to the Cosmopolitan International Diabetes and Endocrinology Center.

Dr. Cabandugama recalls being “overjoyed” upon learning that he had matched with his top-choice fellowship.

“It was amazing,” he said. “I felt so accomplished when I found out that I had matched at such a prestigious institution—my first choice—that I actually just had to sit back and let things sink in for a few moments.”

With his background in genetic research from his stint at the renowned Mayo Clinic, where he conducted research during his undergraduate years at Winona State University, it has been a natural fit. Dr. Cabandugama earned his Bachelor of Science in cell and molecular biology and allied health with a minor in biochemistry from Winona State in 2006, graduating with summa cum laude honors. When it came time to choosing a medical school, he sought the advice of his cousin, Dr. Mahesh Bandara, who graduated from SGU in 2001 and is currently practicing pulmonology in Maine. Thanks to his counsel as well as a prestigious International Peace Scholarship from SGU, Dr. Cabandugama enrolled in the January 2007 class.

Having grown up on a tropical island, the adjustment to the Caribbean climate and culture was easy.  Outside the classroom, he enjoyed a lively atmosphere surrounding another passion of his—cricket—serving as vice captain for an area team consisting of locals and SGU students. He also felt right at home on a campus that has welcomed students from more than 140 countries.

“Strangers aren’t strangers for long at SGU,” said Dr. Cabandugama. “Everybody becomes family. You meet people from all over the world, and they have a difference in opinions not only about medicine but about life. It really means a lot to have that cross-cultural, global discourse.”

That exposure has served him well in the melting pot that is New York City. He spent six years at Woodhull Medical and Mental Health Center in Brooklyn, a borough known for its tremendously diverse population. Dr. Cabandugama completed the majority of his clinical rotations at Woodhull, and was pleased to match with an internal medicine residency there in 2011. He was named Chief Resident for the 2014-2015 academic year.

“The amount of support is fantastic, especially by the PD, Dr. Susan Grossman, and I learned so much from all the residents, both past and present,” Dr. Cabandugama said. “It also helped that I had a lot of exposure to the hospital early on in my medical career and am knowledgeable about the hospital as a whole. Compounded with all my experiences here, it has become a second home for me which is why I think the residents embraced me a lot more as Chief.”

He welcomed the opportunity to continue his career in the world of endocrinology at Missouri, where he uses the knowledge and leadership skills he has developed since early on in his medical career.

“My medical journey through SGU and Woodhull has brought me to where I am now and made me a capable physician,” Dr. Cabandugama said. “With this endocrinology fellowship, I’m able to further genetic research in type 2 diabetes and provide better service for those affected by it.”

Paul Vallone, MD

For nearly 25 years, Paul Vallone, SGUSOM ’81, owned and operated a cosmetic surgery practice that had three locations throughout the State of New Jersey. He retired in 2009 but has immersed himself in a new career – mayor of the Borough of Far Hills in New Jersey – that has him utilizing the same skills he learned as a medical student and professional.

“When you go to medical school, you’re taught to be thorough, to analyze, interpret a problem, gather facts, and then make a decision,” Mayor Vallone said. “You act in the best interest of the patient. The qualities you acquire in medical school and through your residency work hand in hand with politics. You’re really doing a diagnosis of a problem affecting a community, and as a politician, it’s incumbent upon you to gather the facts, weigh the pros and cons, and decide on what is the best option.”

“It’s also very clear to me that medicine is not an island unto itself,” he added. “It is affected by the politics around us greatly.

Mayor Vallone enrolled at St. George’s University School of Medicine as part of its charter class. He completed his general practice residency at Brooklyn Hospital before accepting a two-year plastic surgery fellowship at Saint Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston, NJ.

“The St. George’s experience was one of the greatest in my life; I wouldn’t trade it for anything,” Mayor Vallone said. “The four years at St. George’s certainly helped me grow as a person because it teaches you to be collaborative and it gives you a bigger, broader picture of what the world is.”

In 1986, he opened his own practice, Paul J. Vallone, MD, Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, where he performed cosmetic and reconstructive surgery for 23 years. During that time he also served as chairman of the Department of Plastic Surgery at St. Clare’s Hospital in Denville, NJ, and chief of surgery at Newton Hospital in Newton, NJ.

Mayor Vallone’s first foray into politics came when he was elected to the Far Hills (NJ) Borough Council in 2010. Later that year, he ran for mayor of Far Hills, a community of 919 residents according to the 2010 United States Census, and received 94 percent of the vote.

“I’m proud that people voted for me and believe I’m the best person for the job,” said Mayor Vallone, who also serves on the Legislative Committee for the State of New Jersey. “It’s a job that brings many new and different challenges, and as a result of that, it makes you grow as a person. As you go through life, from one career to another, the ultimate thing is to continue to grow as a person, to continue to interact with the people in the community, and to do something for the benefit of the community.

He also said that should an opportunity to run for a higher office, whether for New Jersey General Assembly or the State Senate, arise in the future, he would entertain it.

“There are a lot of moving parts with that kind of decision and a lot of additional commitments, but if the opportunity presents itself to move to the next level, I would consider it without question,” Mayor Vallone said.

He will always take with him the international education and experience he received at St. George’s University.

“St. George’s enhanced my ability to see the bigger picture, to listen to people better and to process different points of view,” Mayor Vallone said. “In medicine, that is invaluable because it gets you to think outside the box. There are the common diagnoses, but maybe you have to think in a different way for a particular patient. The same can be said about situations you’ll face in politics.  The experience at St. George’s is a tremendous growth opportunity in which students receive an excellent medical education that enhances your personal view of the world.”

Paul Brisson, MD, MS, FACS, FAAP

Dr. Paul Brisson is the Chairman of Surgery at the new Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine in Auburn, AL. It’s a position he holds after having spent 20 years in private practice in Schenectady, NY, as well as a nine-year stint with the United States Army.

Dr. Brisson came to St. George’s University from East Tennessee University, where he obtained a Bachelor of Science in environmental health. He then accepted a position as an Environmental Health Officer with the Indian Health Service, where he served for nearly two years prior to entering SGU. Upon graduating, Dr. Brisson was accepted into a rotating internship at St. Michael’s Medical Center in Newark, NJ, and then into a general surgery residency at Lincoln Medical Center in the Bronx, NY.

Upon completion of his residency, Dr. Brisson joined a private practice in Schenectady, serving as Chief of Trauma and Chief of Surgery. During those 20 years, Dr. Brisson took leave on two occasions, completing a two-year pediatric surgery fellowship in 1999 at the Floating Hospital for Children in Boston, and also to obtain a Master of Science from the Harvard School of Public Health in 2006.

That same year, Dr. Brisson joined the US Army Reserves, and in 2008, he left his private practice to go on active duty with the US Army, assigned to Fort Belvoir Army Hospital in Virginia. Over a nine-year Army career, Dr. Brisson was deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq four times.

In addition to his clinical practice, Dr. Brisson’s research interests include general surgery, trauma surgery, global surgery, pediatric surgery, wound care, patient safety, and medical education.

 

Parin Makadia, MD

In 2002, Parin Makadia, MD SGU ’07, had lived at home all his life – through his upbringing in India and then during his undergraduate and graduate years in New Jersey. Thus, when it came time to pack up and move to Grenada for his first term at St. George’s University School of Medicine, he was apprehensive about what lay ahead.

Now a nephrologist with Dallas Renal Group (DRG) in Texas, Dr. Makadia is thankful for the education he received, the people he met, and the new culture he experience during his time on the Spice Isle.

“When you get to Grenada, right from the get-go you meet people and a very strong bond is formed,” he said. “It becomes a very solid support structure and comes to a point where you don’t even feel like you’re away from home. It’s one of the reasons I am in the position I am in today. The strong friendship that my friends and I created on the island is invaluable.”

He is part of a practice that has grown that 10 years ago comprised of just two physicians but has grown into a 19-physician group. Together they treat a wide range of renal disorders, from kidney disease and kidney stones to hypertension and electrolyte disturbances.

DRG is looking to expand even more in the coming years. Dr. Makadia hopes to draw from both his areas of expertise – medicine and business – to help the practice accomplish that goal. He earned his Master of Business Administration from Seton Hall University in 2002. Dr. Makadia encourages current and future physicians to bolster their business backgrounds for that reason.

“It’s important for doctors to understand the language of business, and to know ways to market and network and make things more efficient,” Dr. Makadia said. “The processes that I learned in business school have definitely helped me position myself within my group itself. I feel more comfortable making certain business decisions that are key to our success.”

He credits St. George’s University for his own development as a doctor. His impression of the University was only confirmed by the many of his Seton Hall colleagues, who had enrolled at SGU while he attended business school.

“The reason I chose St. George’s University and why it was my first choice is the solid track record of producing successful physicians, students’ success in the USMLE, with residency positioning and with fellowships,” Dr. Makadia said.

After his two basic science years in Grenada, he completed his clinical rotations at St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center in New Jersey before his residency and nephrology and hypertension fellowship at the University of Medicine & Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ).  The collective experience set him up to join Dallas Renal Group in August 2012.

With a growing number of renal disease cases nationwide, particularly those related to hypertension, Dr. Makadia looks forward to addressing those issues in a clinical setting. He also tackles medicine over the airwaves, joining another SGU grad, Samir Nangia, MD SGU ’06, in hosting a weekly radio show titled “Doc Talk Live” on an area radio station and DocTalkLive.com. The SGU duo welcomes area specialists to talk about a variety of pertinent medical topics while also taking listeners’ phone calls.

Even if medicine wasn’t the original plan, Dr. Makadia says that there’s nothing he would rather be doing than helping those in his community. He’s proud to say that his career took flight at St. George’s University, his home away from home.

“My experience at SGU was nothing but positive.”

Olivia Wood, MD

Dr. Olivia Wood was born in South Africa and raised in Botswana. She has traveled regularly her whole life so it seemed like a natural choice for her to study at an international academic institution such as St. George’s University. In addition to the beauty of the island, Olivia loved that she could learn in different countries during her clinical years and through international selectives.

Olivia opted to complete all of her clinical rotations in England. However, she does regret not taking at least one elective in the United States. She had been sure that she wanted to work and live in England, and therefore did not pursue St. George’s more than 60 clinical affiliations in the United States. When asked to reflect on her education, she responded, “During clinical rotations you immediately start comparing yourself to your colleagues…I found that I was completely on par, if not above average, compared to everyone else.”

Upon graduating St. George’s University School of Medicine in 2004, she completed a two-year internship in London followed by three years in Botswana. She explains, “I got placed in a government HIV clinic and it was an amazing experience…For me it was important to work in a developing country where there is limited resources and management. It’s a great way to continue to learn and develop as a physician.”

Through her work experience in the West Indies, Africa, and most recently East Asia, Olivia recognizes the importance of public health in the medical field. She expects to earn her Master of Public Health degree from the London School of Tropical Diseases in July 2011. SGU’s Master of Public Health degree program (recently accredited by the US Council on Education for Public Health) was not available when she was studying in Grenada. If she only had the option to obtain a dual degree (MD/MPH) during her time in Grenada, Olivia would have liked to take advantage of the opportunity.

Her favorite thing about her MD degree is that it is transferrable, allowing her to travel. In 2010 Olivia and her husband moved to Vietnam. They had no trouble settling into the friendly and vibrant Vietnamese culture. She is happily working at a private practice. “I think it’s nice to be back in family medicine after three intense years in infectious disease and public health in Botswana. Here I get the best of both worlds—family medicine as well as a hand in managing different diseases affecting the area. There are many travelers so you get some interesting cases as well.” Olivia looks forward to experiencing various cultures while working and living in different countries. Dr. Olivia Wood’s only regret is that she did not spend more time taking in the beauty and exploring the island of Grenada. “It was a really good experience and I made friends for life.”

Nandini Nair, PhD, MD, FSVM, FACC, FACP

Transplant cardiologist Nandini Nair, MD SGU ’00, routinely sees the impact of her work—not only on her team’s patients but their families. With a new heart, patients get a new lease on life.

“The best part about transplant cardiology is that we give many people a second chance,” said Dr. Nair, the Director of Advanced Heart Failure, Transplant, and ECMO Services at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center. “Some of them have kids who go on to college, and our patients have been able to see all those good things happen. As a physician, it feels good to provide this service and the opportunity to deliver advanced cardiac care for members of our community.”

Dr. Nair was born in India but lived throughout Africa growing up, residing in Ghana, Cameroon, Nigeria, and finally Tanzania, where she graduated high school. She went on to earn her Bachelor of Science and Master of Science in zoology from the University of Madras in India, and then her Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in biochemistry from the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore, one of the premier institutes in Asia for training scientific and engineering professionals. Subsequently, she moved to the United States for her postdoctorate fellowship in molecular virology at UMass Medical Center, pursuing a full-time career in basic science research.  In the interim, her mother’s untimely death secondary to an iatrogenic error redirected her career focus to medicine. Armed with a strong medical background and competitive Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) score, Dr. Nair enrolled at SGU. In Grenada, Dr. Nair dived into her studies, spending countless hours in the library with her colleagues as they reviewed the coursework and prepared for the all-important United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE). In her spare time, she and friends enjoyed the island’s restaurants and beaches.

“I really owe everything to SGU,” Dr. Nair said. “Without SGU, I would not have reached where I am today, and I’ve seen several of my classmates do extremely well also.  I am very proud of all of their achievements too.”

Following two basic science years and clinical rotations, Dr. Nair matched at Drexel University’s internal medicine residency program, where she later completed a three-year cardiology fellowship. She then did two other fellowships—a Ruth Kirschstein National Award in Vascular Medicine under Dr. John P. Cooke, a renowned physician scientist in vascular biology and medicine at Stanford University, and a heart failure/cardiac transplant fellowship, also at Stanford, under transplant cardiology pioneer Dr. Sharon Hunt.

From 2008 to 2013, Dr. Nair served as an Assistant/Associate Professor in the Department of Medicine at Texas A&M Health Sciences Center College of Medicine. During that time, she served as Medical Director at Scott & White Memorial Hospital and Clinics in Temple, Texas, before a two-year stint as the Medical Director of the Advanced Heart Failure/Mechanical Circulatory Support and Cardiac Transplantation at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane, Washington.

“I have always been interested in research and teaching in addition to patient care,” she said. “It’s great to see our residents and fellows go on to become highly esteemed physicians, conduct research, publish their own work, and distinguish themselves.  I enjoy being able to contribute to this training process.”

Michel P. Nawfal, MD

Dr. Michel P. Nawfal is a prescribing clinical psychologist in Lebanon, treating patients that suffer from psychiatric and psychological disorders and providing a much-needed service in a country that has endured 30 years of war and political unrest. He has extensive research and teaching experience. He currently lectures at Notre Dame University and the Lebanese American University, and is also a guest lecturer at the American University of Beirut.

Dr. Nawfal has lived, and continues to live, a very worldly life. He was born in Beirut, Lebanon, but spent much of his time in Paris, France and New York, United States. Studying at a school such as St. George’s University, with its international focus, was a wonderful opportunity for someone who wished both to study medicine and to travel. He believes that SGU provided him with a strong foundation in medicine, friendships with people from all over the world, and a confidence that stemmed from experiencing life abroad. “Given the chance to do it all over again, I wouldn’t do it any other way,” he said.

Prior to beginning his medical studies at St. George’s University, Michel earned a bachelor’s degree in biology at American University of Beirut, and he received a master’s degree in clinical psychology from that same University upon completion of his Doctor of Medicine. In 2006, he received the Sheikh Fawzi Azar Award for a paper about whether or not the MMPI-2, the most widely used personality test in the world, could be used effectively in the Middle East. Since 2005, Michel has been a member of the American Psychological Association and the Lebanese Psychological Association, and is also registered with the Lebanese Order of Physicians.

Michel makes volunteer work a staple of his medical career. He received the UFE medal in 2007 from the Union of the French outside France for his help in evacuating European citizens who were living in Lebanon during the time of the Lebanon-Israel War of 2006. He provided evacuees with medical treatment and psychological support. From 2008 to 2010,  Michel was recruited by Eli Lilly Pharmaceuticals and has been appointed as a regional medical advisor for Neuroscience and Psychiatry covering the Middle East and North Africa (15 countries).

Part of his research interest was brain activity. He previously worked on a brain study measuring activity patterns in running individuals using PET scanning, a study that was published for the American University of Beirut at a proceeding in Singapore in 2007, titled “The Importance of Bio-Imaging Brain Activity During Exercise.” Dr. Nawfal is a known public figure in the field of mental health as he is very frequently on Lebanese and international television shows, including as a psychological consultant for both NBC’s Middle Eastern version of The Biggest Loser as well as Abu Dhabi TV’s famous show Ton of Cash.

Matthew Myatt, MD

Six years ago Dr. Matthew Myatt attended a St. George’s University Information Session in his native Canada.  Although he had researched the University extensively, his interest was piqued as he listened to the inspiring words of Dr. Robert Jordan, Associate Dean of Enrolment Planning for Admission, who spoke about the University’s dedication to quality medical education on a global scale and its impressive plans for the future.

His words, as well as those of fellow Canadian and SGUSOM graduate Dr. Jamie Adair, now Chief Resident in general surgery at St. Joseph Mercy-Oakland Hospital in Michigan, resonated with Matthew Myatt.  So much so that after finishing a Bachelor of Science from University of Toronto, he set off to Grenada to pursue both MPH and MD degrees. Dr. Myatt was accompanied by his wife, a registered nurse who participated in the Physician Extender Program at SGU, serving as a ‘first responder’ to injuries sustained by the student body.

For three years, as Matthew focused on his studies, his interest in public health and preventive medicine strengthened.  During that time, he got to know many of the administrators at SGU, including Chancellor Charles R. Modica, Dr. C.V. Rao, Dean of Students and Dawne Buckmire, Business Administrator, all of whom he said “strive to do what is best for the students.” At the time, Dr. Myatt did not realize he would play such a critical role in the future expansion of SGU’s clinical program in his Canadian homeland.

During a recent celebratory banquet in May, where Matthew was inducted into the exemplary Gold Humanism Honor Society (GHHS), he discussed with the Chancellor his interest in promoting SGU in Canada, with hope of securing clinical centers and hospital affiliations in the country.  With the Chancellor’s approval, and the collaborative efforts of Dr. Stephen Weitzman, Dean of the School of Medicine, and Robert Ryan, Associate Dean of Enrolment Planning, Dr. Myatt was appointed Director, Canadian Clinical Program Development and hopes to secure the first Canadian hospital in the near future.

The necessity for such expansion was realized by Dr. Myatt as he himself faced the challenge of securing a clinical rotation in Canada.  With the shortage of physicians in Canada on the rise, and approximately 15% of Canadians (4.1 million people) without a primary care physician, the need for qualified medical doctors is grave.  To combat the shortage, that is largely due to an increase in population and the rise of retiring Canadian physicians, the government of Canada has increased enrollment in its 16 medical schools, further limiting opportunities for foreign medical school graduates.

While several SGU graduates have obtained residencies in Canada, it is a very arduous process.  Matthew explained that while not official, it is almost a requirement for residency to participate in Canadian rotations and obtain a reference letter from a practicing Canadian physician.  This, combined with a lengthy application process and associated fees, makes obtaining residency challenging.

Matthew believes the University’s efforts in establishing successful clinical affiliations in Canada will open up a myriad of opportunities for the next generation of practicing physicians in Canada.  Speaking of next generation, Dr. Myatt and his wife Nicole are expecting their first child in January 2009.  Congratulations.

Dr. Myatt is currently putting his SGU education to great use as an Associate Epidemiologist at the Grey-Bruce Health Unit, the public health agency for Grey and Bruce counties in Ontario, Canada.

Mariz Weeresinghe, MD

Mariz Amishka Weeresinghe is a native Sri Lankan who always knew she wanted to be a doctor. She completed her pre-medical program at St. George’s University and, as of August 2010, she is in her third term at the University’s School of Medicine.

In 2005, Mariz received a World Prize in International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) Physics and was placed fourth in the world by Edexcel International. Aside from excelling in mathematics and sciences, the following year Mariz was awarded “Best Interactor” by Interact District 3220 for her community charity efforts. When asked why she wanted to study medicine, Mariz replied, “I felt I always wanted to practice medicine. When it was time to decide, I tried to think of other things, but there was nothing else that interested me. I enjoy sciences and interacting with people.”

After graduating from high school, Mariz began researching medical schools and applied to some in the United Kingdom and Singapore. She first heard about St. George’s University School of Medicine through one of her teachers and found it was recognized by the Sri Lanka Medical Council. One of her friends was accepted a term earlier and recommended she apply to St. George’s as well. Mariz stated another factor in making her decision to apply and attend to St. George’s. “I didn’t have to do a whole undergraduate program. I was glad to do one year and then begin medical school.” Mariz was awarded the Commonwealth-Grenada Scholarship, covering her tuition and fees for the duration of her studies—one year of pre-med and the four subsequent years in medical school.

Upon her acceptance, Mariz quickly embraced Grenada. She was already used to moving—living several years in Sri Lanka, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates. But this time she would be moving alone, without her family. Still, she found the campus to be “really beautiful and very pretty” and “it had the same climate as back home so it wasn’t any trouble adjusting.” Grenada life definitely suited Mariz—she made the Dean’s List in 2009. In her first year living on-campus, Mariz’s roommates hailed from Botswana, Trinidad, and Sweden. She believes her experience at St. George’s is unique to that of other medical schools because of exposure to so many different types of people from different countries around the world. Commenting on the diversity Mariz says, “That’s why I really like it here—it’s not one crowd, one set of people.”

In the School of Medicine, Mariz enrolled in the Complementary Medicine Selective, where St. George’s students have the opportunity to learn non-traditional therapies, including Reiki, Acupuncture, and Ayurvedic medicines. Her purpose in taking this selective was “to keep an open mind and have an understanding of other therapies people might be using.” According to Mariz, “It was interesting because it is not uncommon for the people of Sri Lanka to rely on ayurvedic and homeopathic remedies, which involves using herbs and non-traditional western medicine.” Despite her young age and only now in her third term in medical school, she has recognized the importance of having awareness and an understanding different medical practices used around the world.

Mariz is currently Vice President of the Surgery Club and encourages all interested students to join. The club organizes suture clinics and visits along with opportunities to learn and network. She also notes there are a variety of clubs open to all students. Her advice to all future medical students— “Be focused. If it’s what you want to do, don’t hesitate, don’t back out and go for it.”

Mariz Weeresinghe expects to earn her Doctor of Medicine degree in 2013. She plans to complete her residency in the United States. Ultimately, once she finishes specializing, Mariz plans on returning to Sri Lanka. She explained, “I hope to be part of a health camp or open up a clinic to provide free services to the people in Sri Lanka who cannot afford it, especially in the rural areas.” Mariz is sure to have continued success as a student and as a physician of the future.