Adria Rodriguez, DVM, MSc

Dr. Adria Rodriguez, DVM ’08, MSc ’10 in Marine Medicine, MS TCVM, ACC, is an associate professor of small animal medicine and surgery, and professional development in St. George’s University School of Veterinary Medicine. She received her dual DVM and MSc from SGU. She also has a Master of Science in Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (MS TCVM) from Chi University in 2020 and is Certified Holistic Life, Career, and Executive Coach, Associate Certified Coach within the International Coaching Federation, and a practitioner in team coaching.

SGU: How are you using your degrees today?

Dr. Rodriguez: I supervise Term 5 SVM students in the Junior Surgery and Anesthesia Laboratory, who are learning small animal surgery, specifically on dogs. The MSc expanded my knowledge in research methods, statistics, and other fields, which has helped me in my role as an educator, clinician, and researcher.

In addition to teaching, I am involved in curriculum mapping, outcomes assessments, student and faculty affairs, and wellbeing. Other professional and research interests include professional development with a focus on wellness, leadership, individual and team coaching, integrative veterinary medicine, small animal surgery, and marine mammal medicine.

My dual degree was the start to the path that my professional career has taken, and I could not be happier.



SGU: You chose to specialize in marine medicine. Why does that field appeal to you?

Dr. Rodriguez: Marine mammals have been my favorite animals since I was very young. My favorite animal is the manatee. My dream was to be a veterinarian in an aquarium or anywhere marine mammals were kept. Ocean Spirits, Grenada-based organization, monitors and does research on leatherback, green, and hawkbill turtle populations. Other marine medicine opportunities include microbiology and shellfish, which was the focus of my research.

Life led me in another direction, yet I still believe that I will be able to work with marine mammals in the future.

SGU: How do you feel your dual degrees give you a unique advantage over other veterinarians?

Dr. Rodriguez: The skills and knowledge gained in performing evidence-based research by doing a dual degree are unique. These tools widen the lens and perspectives of practicing veterinary medicine. Not only have my dual degrees helped me to expand my knowledge of research but allowed me to mentor students and faculty who are pursuing their graduate degrees and gaining experience in research—as well as the bonus of having attained a requirement for promotion in academia.

SGU: Which faculty members were instrumental in helping you get to where you are today?

Dr. Rodriguez: Dr. Ravindra Sharma (former chair of SVM’s Department of Pathobiology) made it possible for me to be able to find a suitable project on the island and supported me throughout the process. Dr. Sharma opened the door for me to become a faculty member at SGU back in 2008, and I am still here today. I will be forever grateful to him.

SGU: What advice would you give to students considering this route?

Dr. Rodriguez: When considering a dual degree, be clear on your why, and make sure that it aligns with where you see yourself professionally. Do it because you want to do it and be realistic with your time management skills and finances. Will you be able to allot the time necessary to pursue both degrees and take care of your well-being while pursuing them? The dual degree curriculum is rigorous, and self-care is of utmost importance on your path to success.

Sydney Friedman, DVM, MPH

Sydney Friedman, DVM ’21/MPH ’21, an associate veterinarian at Hoboken Vets Animal Clinic in Hoboken, NJ, had always known she wanted to work with animals as a child. She initially pursued her DVM degree so that she could educate others and herself about disease transmission from zoonosis and preventative methods. She then learned about the opportunity to obtain an MPH degree…. And the rest as they say is history.

SGU: Why did you pursue your dual degrees? How did that fit in with your career interests?

Dr. Friedman: In addition to the DVM degree, an MPH degree gives a different perspective on disease prevention and control.  I also learned about the One Health initiative throughout my time at SGU. This initiative not only connects humans and animals, but the environment as well through disease, medicine, and conservation. By obtaining my MPH, I have gained additional knowledge of these diseases affecting humans, animals, and the environment, which has allowed me to expand my veterinary career in ways I didn’t think were possible.



SGU: How are you using your DVM and MPH degrees now?

Dr. Friedman: As a small animal general practitioner, I am in the position to educate my clientele about the importance of preventative medicine. I am continuously educating my clients on vaccines, disease processes, disease control, as well as disease spread. I am also accredited by the [U.S. Department of Agriculture] to write health certificates for international travel, allowing for additional conversations surrounding regional diseases. Having both a DVM and an MPH gives me the knowledge needed for these conversations.

SGU: How do your dual degrees give you a unique advantage over other veterinarians?

Dr. Friedman: In the veterinary field, having a dual degree allows for additional opportunities. Although we as veterinarians are all trained on zoonotic disease, I believe my additional knowledge of disease and how it affects not only animals, but also humans and the environment, gives me an advantage over other veterinarians. I can see things from a different perspective and use my knowledge to better my community.

SGU: Which faculty members were instrumental in helping you obtain those degrees?

Dr. Friedman: For my MPH, Dr. Satesh Bidaisee was instrumental in my decision to pursue this dual degree. He helped to keep me motivated when things became difficult. Dr. Victor Amadi was another person who helped me immensely during my MPH degree. He was my research mentor, helping me finish my capstone project on pseudomonal aeruginosa in dogs and cats at the small animal clinic on campus.

For my DVM, I have so many people to thank. Dr. Anne Corrigan, Dr. Tara Paterson, Dr. Talia Guttin, and Dr. Rhonda Pinckney were instrumental in getting me through the challenging curriculum at SGU. Honestly, each one of my professors were amazing. I would not be the veterinarian I am today without their expertise in all things medical and surgical for the plethora of species we need to know to be a successful veterinarian.

SGU: What is one piece of key advice you would give to students who are considering a dual degree DVM path?

Dr. Friedman: Be passionate about what you want in life. People are going to try to dissuade you from this career. Don’t listen to them, and don’t give up. Things are going to get tough, sometimes hectic, but if this is something you are passionate about, continue to work for it. And always remember, work hard play harder.

Hollie Schramm, DVM

Growing up on a dairy farm, Hollie Schramm, DVM ’07, learned early on what it felt like to be a veterinarian and the experience shaped her future career path.

“I was always trying to fix and treat animals on the farm and make them healthy,” Dr. Schramm said.

Since graduating from St. George’s University, Dr. Schramm has served as the herd veterinarian for over 10 years at the Virginia Tech Dairy Teaching and Research Farm. In addition, Dr. Schramm is a clinical assistant professor at Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine, a role for which she is responsible for assuring the welfare and health of production animals, safety of the food supply, and teaching veterinary students—including SGU clinical students—in the field, classroom, and in hands-on laboratories. She does clinical and didactic teaching, research, and outreach.

She shares what it’s like in her role as a both a teacher and a large animal veterinarian, and what students can expect to learn in their clinical experience at VA/MD.

St. George’s University: What kind of experience can students expect at VA/MD?

Dr. Schramm: In my role, I’m in charge of the overall management of the calves and cows. We do a lot of preventative medicine and reproductive work, working with sick cows, helping with general health and vaccination protocols, and different aspects of hygiene. As a clinical professor, I oversee veterinary students on the production management medicine rotation, where we primarily work with food animals, including beef and dairy cattle, sheep, goats, camelids, and pigs.

SGU: What do you hope is the biggest takeaway for clinical students?

Dr. Schramm: We want to provide our students with as much hands-on experience, so that they’re ready on the first day of veterinary practice. My motto is really “see one, do one, teach one.” We have a range of clinical skills laboratories, from foot trimming to surgical techniques. I also teach a class called Food Animal Clinical Techniques where the students learn low stress cattle handling, everything from putting on halters to basic injections and beef quality assurance. If you ask the students, they will tell you that they get the most hands-on experience in the production management rotation.

SGU: How much is research a part of your job?

Dr. Schramm: I do approximately 15 percent research as part of my job responsibilities. Many of the research studies I collaborate on are related to ruminant nutrition, but range from pain management in ruminants to prevention and treatment of mastitis to calf behavior and welfare. We have a few studies related to the pathophysiology of milk production, including how many times we milk the cow per day and whether that has a positive or negative effect on production and what controls this at the cellular level.  These studies are very informative for the dairy industry. We know that it’s important for the future of the world and for sustainable agriculture.

SGU: What drew you to production medicine in the first place?

Dr. Schramm: It’s just in my blood. I grew up on a large farm in Michigan. We had a small dairy herd of about 60 cows, and we also had everything from sheep and goats to hundreds of rabbits. We had all kinds of critters honestly. I was always trying to fix and treat animals on the farm and make them healthy.

I also really enjoyed the management and nutritional sides of animal health, which led me to veterinary school. It has been great doing what I love and making a difference in the field for both the veterinary students as well as the producers. Food animal veterinarians are key in food safety and are important for everybody in America and the world.

SGU: Why did you choose SGU and what was your experience like?

Dr. Schramm: Growing up, I traveled abroad a lot, and honestly, I never applied to any US schools. I just decided I wanted to continue my journey traveling and saw SGU as a great opportunity to learn veterinary medicine on an island.

I had an awesome experience at SGU. I absolutely loved the island. We had wonderful professors, and we all knew them on a personal level, which was very nice. I enjoyed being able to interact with them and ask them questions. They made time for us, which I think is something a little bit different from other universities.

SGU: You’re giving back now as a clinical professor. How can a student be successful during their clinical year?

Dr. Schramm: Believing in yourself is very important. Veterinary students can sometimes be apprehensive about saying or doing the wrong thing, or worried about what someone is going to say to them. But that’s what we as professors are here for—to teach and to answer your questions. I would tell anyone to go into clinics with a great attitude, to communicate well with your clients and colleagues, and to have fun.

Chanda Miles, DVM

As a board-certified dentist and oral surgeon, Dr. Chanda Miles, DVM ’06, has treated all types of animals for their oral health—including tigers, an Asian small-clawed otter, an American River otter, chimpanzees, a Silverback gorilla, gibbons, opossums, skunks, and chinchillas, not to mention cats and dogs.

Dr. Miles credits St. George’s University for helping her become comfortable with surgical procedures. At SGU, “we were able to perform a large amount and variety of general surgeries that helped me shape my love for surgery and later form my decision to pursue dentistry and oral surgery,” Dr. Miles said.

Earlier this year, Dr. Miles and a colleague co-opened Veterinary Dentistry Specialists in Katy, Texas to answer the high demand for pet oral care in the greater Houston area.

Dr. Miles didn’t set out to be a veterinary dentist at first. While working as a new veterinarian, she was tasked with overseeing several dentistry procedures a day but found herself frequently asking for help from colleagues since she had little dentistry training. She wanted to learn more and decided to attend an intense three-day weekend course to learn “everything that I could about dentistry for animals,” Dr. Miles recalled.

“It was then that I realized I had a passion for dentistry and oral surgery. It was calming and came easy to me,” she said. To refine her skills, she pursued a residency in the specialty at the University of Wisconsin in Madison—and the rest, as they say, was history.

Dr. Miles spoke to SGU News about why she is passionate about dentistry, new technology in the field that improves her patient care, and what advice she would give to new veterinary students just starting out.

St. George’s University: What types of patients do you see and what are some examples of the procedures that you perform?  

Dr. Miles: I work with primarily cats and dogs, but we can treat exotic patients if they are in need.  I love working with large cats such as tigers, leopards, etc.

I treat all kinds of conditions: I perform procedures in periodontics, endodontics (root canals), oral surgery (extractions, jaw fracture repair, surgical resections, prosthodontics (crowns), orthodontics, and oral medicine.

SGU: Why are you passionate about the vet dentistry field?  

Dr. Miles: It gives me instant gratification of accomplishing something good for the patient who benefits remarkably from it. When patients have a healthy, comfortable mouth they can have an excellent quality of life. It isn’t a discipline that is taught readily in vet school so I’m also passionate about teaching it appropriately to general practitioners as well.

SGU: Tell us about your new clinic.  

Dr. Miles: VDS is a stand-alone specialty dentistry and oral surgery practice with a full-time board-certified anesthesiologist. We offer advanced imaging (cone beam CT) and are equipped with modern anesthesia monitoring equipment.

My colleague, Dr. Carlos Rice, opened the first VDS in Mt. Laurel, NJ and then a second one with another colleague in Chadds Ford, PA. Dr. Rice and I decided that opening one in the greater Houston area (where I live) would be a great addition to the VDS family. There is a big demand for dentistry in Houston’s pet population.

SGU: What is the most challenging part of the job? 

Dr. Miles: On a day-to-day basis it’s keeping the flow of the day manageable.  One patient can throw a curve ball in the whole day with unexpected pathology that needs treatment. Because we provide outpatient care, it’s important to treat our patients with completeness, but also make sure they have enough recovery time to be discharged adequately.

My other big challenge that I face at times is treating complicated maxillofacial traumas in young dogs.  These can be very difficult to treat when they have both deciduous and permanent dentition at the same time and are still growing.

SGU: What new technology or procedures have developed to help you do your job?

Dr. Miles: Cone beam CT has been a game changer for me. This is an imaging modality that allows me to render 3D images of my patient’s skull for complete evaluation of maxillofacial trauma. It also gives me precise images for small things such as early endodontic lesions. The imaging is crystal clear and helps me understand the extent of pathology in many facets.

What made you pursue veterinary medicine? 

Dr. Miles: It sounds cliché, but I’ve always wanted to be a veterinarian since I was little.  At the minimum I knew I wanted to pursue something in the medical field.

SGU: How has your training at SGU helped you succeed, specifically in your specialized career?

Dr. Miles: Having spent time at two separate universities for my clinical year and residency, I was around many specialists that were teaching students and the SGU professors were far more compassionate in their teaching and encouragement to us.

One of the key takeaways in my training at SGU was surgical preparation. We were able to perform a large amount and variety of general surgeries that helped me shape my love for surgery and later form my decision to pursue dentistry and oral surgery.

SGU: What was your clinical year like at Kansas State University? What takeaway would you pass on to students?

Dr. Miles: I absolutely loved Kansas State! Every clinician and student was so incredibly nice at this school. I learned so much on each and every rotation.

The biggest takeaway from my clinical year that I would pass on to students would be to participate in every rounds session and conversation that you have. The clinicians want you to be engaged.

SGU: What would you say to an aspiring vet student considering going to SGU? 

Dr. Miles: Do it! It’s an experience of a lifetime and you will get an education like nowhere else in the US!  SGU provided me with so much more than my degree and I loved that the school offered flexible matriculation. I didn’t want to wait another year to apply to vet school.

Andrew Kushnir, DVM

St. George’s University School of Veterinary Medicine graduate Dr. Andrew Kushnir may have some star power.

Since graduating in 2019, he has made media appearances on multiple veterinary-themed podcasts, social media, and cable programs, including Vanderpump Dogs on the Peacock Channel. But Kushnir, who describes his life simply as “in scrubs,” is not seeking attention. He loves to talk about his work with wildlife animals both big and small.

With his DVM degree in hand, Dr. Kushnir settled in the San Diego area where he has since completed two internships before joining the staff of Project Wildlife, which is dedicated to treating the area’s diverse population of endangered species. A love for medicine runs in the family, too, as both of Dr. Kushnir’s siblings, Christina and Matthew, graduated from SGU’s School of Medicine.

SGU News spoke to Dr. Kushnir to learn how he fell in love with animals and what drove his desire to work with this population as a profession.

St. George’s University: How did you get involved with Project Wildlife?

Dr. Andrew Kushnir:  I never really saw myself as the kind of veterinarian you’d find at a local small animal practice. I always wanted to be working with the most vulnerable animal populations such as wildlife, animals on the street, or in a shelter setting. Essentially, those who have no one really advocating for their health and well-being.  After graduating from SGU, I went on to complete a Shelter Medicine internship followed by a Wildlife Medicine internship, both at San Diego Humane Society. Currently as a staff veterinarian at Project Wildlife in San Diego, we see 14,000 wildlife patients each year.

SGU: What is a typical day like for you at Project Wildlife?

Dr. Kushnir: A typical day at the wildlife center really depends on the season. During the spring and summer when wildlife is born, there is a non-stop flood of animals arriving for care. Examining over 100 new animals a day is not uncommon and their medical presentation can range from healthy babies to debilitated and injured adults. I could be examining a group of nine healthy young opossums one minute, and then scrubbing into orthopedic surgery to fix a fractured humerus in a great horned owl the next minute. During the ‘busy season,’ the days are incredibly long but incredible fulfilling, knowing we’ve been able to give these critters a second chance at life.

SGU: Is it true that California has a unique wildlife population unlike any in the US, especially in the San Diego area?

Dr. Kushnir:  We do. We care for over 300 different species of animals found throughout Southern California, ranging from hummingbirds and raccoons to mountain lions and black bears. We see essentially any wild animal living its life out beneath the open sky in California.

SGU: What appeals to you most about working with animals in this way?

Dr. Kushnir:  I love work with wildlife and getting to experience first-hand just the incredible amount of diversity in this world. Seeing over 300 different species of birds, reptiles, and mammals each year both keeps me on my toes in the hospital and keeps me excited about what I’ll see next.

SGU: You find time to do quite a lot of volunteer work as well. Can you share some of the organizations that you donate your time to?

Dr. Kushnir: I regularly volunteer with Baja Spay/Neuter Foundation, an organization determined to reduce the stray dog and cat population in Baja California, Mexico. I am currently collaborating with RRRCORA (a center for rescue, rehabilitation, and release of native reptiles and amphibians in Central Florida) regarding disease and toxicosis surveillance. I spent this past November and December volunteering at a wildlife hospital in Costa Rica, where I discovered a fascination and love for sloths! I am also currently the sole veterinarian on the FIGS Healthcare Advisory Board.

SGU: You work in a highly specialized area. How did your education at SGU’s School of Veterinary Medicine prepare you for your career?

Dr. Kushnir:  The transition from being a veterinary student to veterinary professional is challenging for everyone, but the experience of attending SGU and living in Grenada really prepared future professionals like myself on how to adapt to change. I think the life experience of living in Grenada was equally as important as the course material learned in veterinary school.

Elizabeth Flatt, DVM

What’s it like to work as a veterinarian serving rural farmland communities in New Zealand? Just ask Elizabeth Flatt, BSc, DVM ’20, who grew up in Georgia and is now an associate veterinarian at VetSouth in Gore, New Zealand.

St. George’s University: Why did you choose to move to New Zealand?

Dr. Flatt: I asked Google! I remember being in my clinical year at Mississippi State University, sitting at a local coffee shop, trying to decide what I was going to do next. Veterinary medicine is so versatile, and as a new grad you are especially malleable. So, I focused on location and extracurricular activities. I wanted to live abroad—specifically somewhere where I could kitesurf and snowboard within a two-hour drive. Google said New Zealand.

It was great timing! I arrived pre-COVID, and this has been the place to be. Thanks, Google!

SGU: What types of animals do you treat there?

Dr. Flatt: VetSouth is a mixed-animal practice that is a part of the VetNZ Ltd., where the philosophy is all about looking after our team, providing premium animal welfare, and making rural communities better by giving back to the regions that support us. This also means that many of our veterinarians are shareholders, ensuring the focus stays local, and our animals, clients, and people are prioritized. I have been with this company for 18 months now and they remain true to their philosophy.

The large animal work is primarily cattle, sheep, horses, and even deer. We also treat pigs and camelids on occasion.

The small animal work is primarily working dogs. Huntaways and heading dogs seem to be Kiwi farmers’ breeds of choice. They are New Zealand-originated breeds. They are especially needed in hill country where not even four-wheelers or horses can easily maneuver. That said, in the last decade, pets such as dogs, cats, exotics, and chickens have increasingly made a presence here—sadly, no snakes as there are none in New Zealand.

SGU: As an associate veterinarian, what are some of the key responsibilities that you have?

Dr. Flatt: In Gore, there are four strictly “smallie” vets, with me as the only full-time small animal veterinarian. The closest specialist referral center is nearly seven hours away in Christchurch. So, oftentimes, you and your team are the only option. Fortunately, we have a wide variety of diagnostic and surgical capabilities. We have CR and DR x-rays, ultrasound, scopes, in-house blood machines, etc.

My main areas of specialty include ultrasound procedures, reproductive assistance, soft tissue surgery, and internal and emergency medicine. I have been receiving referrals from surrounding clinics to perform various ultrasound and ultrasound-guided procedures. Also, I do a significant amount of artificial insemination around the Southland and Otago regions to help with breeding.

SGU: Best day so far at the clinic?

Dr. Flatt: It was around 7:30pm when the emergency text came through: “Cat stuck in grill.” A cat got struck by a vehicle and became lodged in the grill of the car. There was a penetrating chest wound that had to get surgically closed. It was merely a puncture from the outside. From the inside, however, the whole intercostal space was shredded top to bottom. I had to wire the adjacent ribs together and place a chest drain. The best part is that the surgery was a success and the cat lives on. The coolest part is that I felt a beating heart.

SGU: What excites you about practicing veterinary medicine?

Dr. Flatt: The absolute best is being able to fix a patient and get them back home and into action. The second-best part is providing those unfixable patients with a quality of life for their remaining time. This, ultimately, makes you an integral part of their family and business. I love being able to serve people in such ways.

SGU: What is an issue in the field of veterinary medicine that is important to you?

Dr. Flatt: Improving work-life balance. Being an American, I work until I burn out. New Zealanders are huge on work-life balance. We have built-in “tea breaks” twice a day and a one-hour lunch break. Sure, we may not always get those breaks, but this is a priority implemented by VetSouth and our managers. I admire this and wish more of the international veterinary industry prioritized this.

SGU: Three key qualities to be a good veterinarian?

Dr. Flatt: Critical thinking, people skills, and adaptability.

SGU: What are your plans for the future? 

Dr. Flatt: In the immediate future: I am here until at least July 2023. Over the long term, I would love to open my own specialty veterinary clinic and further my seedstock operation.

SGU: How did SGU prepare you for a career as a veterinarian?

Dr. Flatt: SGU provided me with a solid foundation of veterinary medicine. It is impossible to teach a student everything about veterinary medicine. Every case is unique. Veterinarians must rely on their foundation to develop a plan on how to best approach each case.

SGU: Best piece of advice for SVM students?

Dr. Flatt: Take time to enjoy the present. As a student we often get so fixated on what’s to come that we neglect to appreciate what’s around us now.

Amanda LaRose

During a typical day at the office, Amanda LaRose, DVM ’15, a cardiology resident at The Animal Medical Center in New York City, sees an array of different animals. While she mainly treats dogs and cats, technology within the field of vet cardiology has allowed Dr. LaRose to diagnose and care for other small animals, including ferrets, guinea pigs, birds, and even a tegu, that may have heart conditions.

“Growing up as a horseback rider helped me realize how valuable the human animal bond is to a person’s health and mental stability,” Dr. LaRose said. “I wanted to become a vet to enhance that bond through general wellness and client education.”

Dr. LaRose shared what it means to be a vet cardiologist, why she chose the specialty, and her advice to School of Veterinary Medicine students.

SGU: Why did you choose to specialize in cardiology?

Dr. LaRose: It is the one specialty where you can be a jack of all trades. I not only get to diagnose a disease through echocardiograms but I can manage it with medications or potentially fix it with minimally invasive surgery (if it’s a congenital lesion). I also enjoy the long-term follow-up care that’s required with many patients and being able to provide adequate education for their owners. Finally, through our services we’re able to provide quality time for our terminally ill patients. I can’t begin to explain the feeling of being able to give an owner more time with their pet and provide those last days or weeks to come to terms with their pet’s condition.

I also became a specialist to continue to educate owners, referring veterinarians, post-grads, and students. I don’t think there’s anything more important than understanding and setting expectations when it comes to certain diseases and being able to provide support for the referral veterinary community and future veterinarians.

SGU: As a vet cardiology resident, how long is the program and what are you learning?

Dr. LaRose: I started my third year in July and will complete the residency July 2022. As part of the residency program and becoming a specialist, we are required to be well versed in the basic anatomy, physiology, and sciences of the cardiovascular system and how they can be used to diagnose and manage cardiomyopathy in domestic animals.

Some of the procedures and activities we do include:

  • Diagnosis and management of various acquired cardiomyopathies, arrhythmias, and congenital diseases of the heart
  • Diagnosis often occurs through various imaging modalities, the most common of which is echocardiography, but we also become more proficient in reading chest x-rays, CT scans, and angiography studies.
  • A requirement of the program is also to learn minimally invasive management and treatment of congenital diseases such as transvenous closure of patent ductus arteriosus and balloon valvuloplasty for the treatment of pulmonic stenosis.

SGU: What gets you up in the morning when it comes to your job?

Dr. LaRose: The unknown of the day. What congenital case will we see? What animal we save today? What cool cardiomyopathy might we come across? What will today’s teaching point be?

SGU: What new technology or procedures are there that excites you when it comes to the specialty?

Dr. LaRose: As human medicine advances, so does vet med. I’m excited about the prospects of minimally invasive medical devices and investigative new drugs that could potentially help our patients, especially those where treatments are quite limited, as in our feline patients with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.

SGU: Why did you choose SGU?

Dr. LaRose: SGU provided an opportunity for me to gain an education in veterinary medicine and offered a unique life experience. The thought of moving to another country was daunting; however, all of the students and graduates that I had spoken with were happy with their experience and education.

SGU: What was the best part of your SGU experience?

Dr. LaRose: The people and the island by far. As a student, I truly took advantage of what SGU and the island had to offer. This included participating in things like world vets, wet labs, school clubs, and class fundraisers (even if I was just attending). I also really tried to enjoy the island by taking advantage of the tourism and local events. I loved that after a rough test or midterms, we could go to one of the most beautiful beaches in the world to unwind. I was even fortunate enough to spend one Easter weekend sailing the Tobago Cays. It was an incredible experience that I would highly recommend to every student. There was always something new to experience.

SGU: If you had to give SVM students one piece of advice, what would it be?

Dr. LaRose: Take advantage of everything the island and the school have to offer. Get close with your classmates and enjoy your time as a student. The veterinary community is small—make friends, meet people, and keep a positive attitude. These attributes will help you go far!



Kendra Baker, DVM

Dr. Kendra Baker, a 2015 graduate of St. George’s University School of Veterinary Medicine, describes what it’s like treating an array of aquatic animals, of all shapes and sizes, as a veterinary fellow at the National Aquarium in Baltimore, MD.

“One characteristic [zoo/aquarium veterinarians] all share is the ability to innovate,” Dr. Baker said. “You might have one of the few remaining endangered species in your collection that’s doing something that has never been seen before. And you have to figure it out and treat it. But you have to use tools that weren’t made with this specific animal in mind.”

Published August 2020

Leah Wulforst, DVM

As a companion animal veterinarian in Knoxville, TN, Leah Wulforst, DVM ’05, has seen her fair share of emotional pet owners who have been forced to make tough decisions about their pet’s health. And it’s her responsibility to assist in coming to the right conclusion.

One memorable case involved a young dog named Lexi, who was brought to Dr. Wulforst showing symptoms of a fever, decreased appetite, and discomfort in its left eye. Despite medication, Lexi’s health worsened and within 48 hours she developed glaucoma. A urine test revealed that she had blastomycosis, a type of fungal infection dogs can get from inhaling spores from the ground.

After a heartfelt discussion with the pet’s owners, Lexi’s left eye was removed, and when similar symptoms emerged in her right eye, it had to be removed as well. Lexi continued the fight against blastomycosis with the help of medication for almost a year. The owners were aware that removal of her eyes was only the first step to treatment, and there was no guarantee that she could clear the infection, but they decided to move forward, step by step.

While Lexi had a poor prognosis then and her condition required expensive medication, today she is vibrant, happy, and free of infection.

“At some point, all owners of a pet are going to have to make a difficult decision regarding the pet’s well-being,” Dr. Wulforst said. “As veterinarians, we hope that we can make these decisions easier.”

Today, Dr. Wulforst is the owner of Riverside Veterinary Clinic in Knoxville, making a name for herself in the close-knit community. Dr. Wulforst made Knoxville News Sentinel’s 40 under 40 Class of 2017; she also was featured in People magazine and a local news story when her office took in an orphaned alpaca.

She treats a variety of household pets and the occasional backyard animal including goats, chickens, and pheasants, setting aside a portion of her day for any surgical appointments or emergencies. Dr. Wulforst also works closely with several local cat and dog rescue groups.

“What I love about being a vet is seeing the client’s face when the pet gets better, how relieved they are, and how appreciative they are,” she said. “It’s that look on their face that I really enjoy.”

She added: “I also enjoy the challenge of it. [Veterinary medicine] is always evolving and I am always learning. From research to disease processes, we’re finding out so much more information from genetic testing and cancer testing. As long as you keep reading and researching, you are always going to improve.”

Dr. Wulforst opened her clinic in 2017 after she realized she wanted to set her own protocols for her patients and dictate their quality of care.

“I want to make sure I keep striving to do what’s best for the client and for the patient,” she said. “Clients want definitive answers, but sometimes that takes a lot of money or is just not possible. I want to be able to have all options placed in front of them and help them decide what’s going to work for them and their budget, and what will be the best care for their pet.”


One example is household pets don’t always need annual vaccines. Some can be given every few years, based on individual exposure levels, which should be discussed with the client, she said.

“It’s very important as a puppy, for example, to get baseline vaccines that can protect them against diseases such as parvo,” she said. “But the other thing we know is that some vaccines last a lot longer than we think—in fact anything we inject into our body, like extended release antibiotics, can stimulate the immune system or create injection-site sarcomas. So, it’s important to get baseline protections and from there many times we can check titers, specifically for distemper, parvo, and even rabies, depending on state laws.”

Dr. Wulforst is also optimistic about using certain alternative medicine in vet practice, including supplements that help joint support, turmeric as an anti-inflammatory and for mild pain relief, cold laser therapy to stimulate blood circulation and help arthritis, and even specific probiotics to reduce anxiety and other behavioral disorders in pets. “I do feel there has to be evidence-based research to show proof on how it works and that it’s safe,” she said.


After graduating SGU, Dr. Wulforst moved to the Knoxville area with her husband to start her professional career in nearby Seymour, TN. Yet in 2007, they relocated to Long Island, NY (where Dr. Wulforst grew up) to be closer to family. Seeking a slower-paced lifestyle, the couple returned to Knoxville in 2013 with their son, where she worked briefly for an area veterinarian before striking out on her own.

Dr. Wulforst hasn’t forgotten how her SGU roots helped her become the vet she is today. She was among one of the early graduating classes of SGU’s School of Veterinary Medicine, which opened in 1999.

“I loved the change in scenery and since it was a [relatively] new program I felt like there was a lot more flexibility,” she said, referencing the program’s adaptability to course topics and tracks.

Additionally, she is very thankful for the direct mentorship and individual attention she received from faculty and hands-on learning while in Grenada. “I definitely felt the hands-on experience I got at St. George’s was so much more than I have seen from some of the students coming out of the universities in the US,” she said.

Yet being a business owner is not without its challenges. While she plans on adding another full-time veterinarian as well as a part-time vet in the next few months to accommodate her growing caseload, finding employees who are a good fit with her philosophy is the hardest part of a running a business.

“A lot of this was a learning process,” which includes being closed on the weekends, she said. “My goal is to have a good work-life balance for myself and my staff.”



Shannon Cerveny, DVM

As physicians, nurses, and other health professionals have treated human patients in need during the COVID-19 pandemic, the importance of One Health One Medicine—the convergence of human, animal, and ecosystem health—has become more visible now than ever, thrusting veterinarians such as Shannon Cerveny neé Shaw, DVM ’07, onto the front lines of the global health crisis.

“When the outbreak started, our first priority at the zoo was to concentrate on the health and safety of our collection of animals, our staff, and our guests,” said Dr. Cerveny, a veterinarian at Saginaw Children’s Zoo in Michigan. “It was critical that we quickly establish protocols to keep everyone safe.”

Returning to her home state of Michigan only four months before the COVID outbreak, Dr. Cerveny was quickly propelled into action as the first-ever full-time veterinarian at the zoo. Her new job entailed not only caring for the animals within the zoo’s collection, but included providing emergency medical and surgical care, developing preventive medicine protocols, evaluating animals in quarantine, assessing potential research and conservation involvement, and also providing input to the zoo’s occupational health program.

“With the discovery that COVID-19 was present in exotic felids at another zoological institution, I think it heightened the concern level of many zoo veterinarians, as we hoped to ameliorate any potential risks to our own animals and staff,” stated Dr. Cerveny. “Currently, we don’t have any felids at our zoo except for one lovely office cat. However, we do have nonhuman primates and mustelids that are also considered at-risk species. That’s one of the reasons why, although I am working from home when possible, I am still coming in to provide medical care to the animals, with the help of our veterinary technician.”

In addition to COVID being a health crisis, it has also quickly become an economic one. According to Dr. Cerveny, her zoo is currently not open to the public and therefore, it isn’t generating any revenue from ticket sales and concessions. Even though she believes the Saginaw Children’s Zoo to be in a good place financially, she knows that many other zoos are struggling to stay afloat.

“At the beginning of the outbreak, it was essential that as the zoo management staff, we create biosecurity protocols to keep everyone safe while coming to work and caring for the animals,” commented Dr. Cerveny. “Today, we are also continuously developing and refining those protocols to ensure the safety of both our staff and our guests when we can safely re-open.”

Dr. Shannon Cerveny – The Early Years

Before even deciding to become a veterinarian, Dr. Cerveny knew she was destined for a career working at a zoo. Having always had a passion for helping to care for and conserve endangered species, her very first zoo job was an internship as a penguin zookeeper at the Detroit Zoo.

“I love knowing that the work zoos are doing is having such a positive impact on global biodiversity,” shared Dr. Cerveny. “I also love to travel, and my career has taken me to some amazing places, including the Galapagos Islands to work with endangered Galapagos penguins.”

Dr. Cerveny grew up in the lake town of Port Huron, MI, graduating from the Honors College at Michigan State University with a degree in zoology in 2002. She then applied and was accepted into the Doctor of Veterinary Medicine program at SGU. She completed her clinical year at North Carolina State University.

As a student, Dr. Cerveny recalls having several life-changing experiences, including traveling to Uganda in 2005 with several other SGU veterinary classmates to work on a research project with wild lions. After returning to the US with her veterinary medical degree safely in tow, Dr. Cerveny later held positions as a veterinarian at the St. Louis Zoo and San Antonio Zoo. She also did an internship and her residency in zoological medicine at Louisiana State University and the Oklahoma City Zoo respectively.

Today, she serves as the first full-time veterinarian at the Saginaw Children’s Zoo in Michigan. With the discovery of a link between wildlife trafficking and the current health crisis, Dr. Cerveny and her fellow veterinarians are answering the call to join in the fight for the benefit of human and animal kind.

“When I started at the zoo, we were just beginning to ramp up our preventive medicine program,” stated Dr. Cerveny, “but we had to scale that back when the Michigan order for ‘essential only’ veterinary procedures came through. We were also in the process of purchasing some much-needed diagnostic and laboratory equipment and I was just starting to become involved with some local Michigan conservation projects. I can’t wait to get back on track with all of it, and we are anxious to continue developing our veterinary program.”


Published June 2020