St. George’s University Med/Vet Summer Leadership Academy Celebrates 10 Years of Success

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Each summer the St. George’s University Med/Vet Summer Leadership Academy welcomes new classes of high school and college students from all over the globe to Grenada.  The mission? To provide aspiring veterinarians and physicians with an insider’s view of medical or veterinary school, a taste of Caribbean life, and enough insight on their future career path to help them make a well-informed decision on the rigors of their potential career.

The 2012 sessions, which took place in June, marked the 10th anniversary of the academy and once again provided a glimpse into the experience that is medical or veterinary school.

“By coming here, students can decide for themselves whether this is a path they want to choose,” said Heather Brathwaite, director of the summer academy. “If someone’s thinking about a career in medicine or veterinary medicine, the summer academy is a great opportunity to get a real insider’s view on what medical and veterinary school prior to jumping in with a full commitment.”

Led by Dr. Craig Goodmurphy, the academy was launched in 2003, teaching college and high school students through a series of lectures, small-group problem solving sessions, hands-on training and practical labwork. This year’s lectures ranged from cardiology and neurology to musculoskeletal and gastroenterology and each is followed by sessions in the anatomy lab during which students work with human and animal cadavers. With the help of standardized patients, medical students’ clinical training included learning how to take a patient’s history and blood pressure, how to suture and more. Vet students trained at the Elisabeth McClellan Small Animal Hospital.

High school students attend the academy for 10 days.  College students attend for 12 days and their experience includes a medical leadership component featuring lectures on public health, business, and a “One Health One Medicine” session that explained how each ties into medicine and veterinary medicine. The academics are balanced out by water sports such as sailing, waterskiing and snorkeling, as well as activities such as hikes through Grenada’s rainforests, staff/student game night and a dinner cruise.

No matter the schedule, the 15-hour days are by design.

“Even though the program isn’t all work, we build fatigue into the programs because going to med school or vet school is rigorous and tiring, and they need to determine whether they can manage it and whether they like it,” Brathwaite said. “In most cases, it cements in students’ minds their commitment to medical or veterinary school.  In rare cases students have decided that medical or veterinary school is not for them, we’ve still achieved our goal.”

Several of the academy’s alumni have gone on to earn their MDs or DVMs from St. George’s University, including John Tabacco, MPH, MD, a third-year internal medicine resident at Union Memorial Hospital in Baltimore. Others like Stan Veytsman, a fifth-term veterinary medical student, and Ayanna Rocke, a second-term medical student, not only attended the summer academy and continued their education at St. George’s University, but worked with students at the 2012 academy.

“Attending the summer academy isn’t just an investment that can help students make a more informed decision on where to pursue his or her medical career, but it’s also a great way for an undergrad student to spend two weeks in the summer,” said Tabacco. “I attended the first-ever summer academy and had an excellent experience, establishing some friendships I have to this day, and professionally, I owe a lot to the SGU summer academy and the fine individuals who work there.”