January 08, 2015
It was an exciting year on the Ross University School of Medicine (RUSM) Dominica campus -- three productive semesters, packed with academics and activities to enhance the learning environment and the student experience. Here are just a few of the highlights of 2014.
The White Coat Ceremony: A Rite of Passage for RUSM Students
Each semester’s new cohort of students attends the White Coat Ceremony, a rite of passing marking the beginning of their medical education. Traditionally, RUSM alumni return to Dominica to address the new students, share their experiences, and provide sage advice.
In January, RUSM alumna Sherri D. Onyiego, MD, PhD, (RUSM 2005) delivered the keynote address. Dr. Onyiego is Assistant Professor at Baylor College of Medicine, Department of Family and Community Medicine, and Medical Director of the San Jose Clinic in Houston, Texas. She is also a provider for Harris Health System's Thomas Street Health Center, a comprehensive HIV/AIDS clinic.
In May, the keynote speaker was Cheau Williams, MD, MS (RUSM 2006) who was accompanied by his wife, RUSM alumna Dr. Betty Koukis, whom he met while both were medical students in Dominica.
Dr. Williams is the director of urogynecology and female pelvic reconstructive surgery at Colquitt Regional Medical Center in Moultrie, GA.
September’s guest speaker was Jenny Han, MD (RUSM 2005). She is a pulmonary and critical care specialist who is currently the director at Grady Memorial Outpatient Pulmonary Clinic in Atlanta, GA. She is also an assistant professor at Emory University School of Medicine. Dr. Han is married to Nazario Villasenor, MD, an anesthesiologist who is also an RUSM graduate.
Research Day Events Showcase Advances in Medical Knowledge
Three Research Day events are held annually on RUSM’s Dominica campus to showcase advances in medical knowledge and provide students with exposure to research methods and projects. The 50th Research Day symposium was held in January and was dedicated to the event’s founder, Dr. Gerald Grell, RUSM’s dean for clinical and community affairs. Chaired by Dr. Paul Ricketts, it was titled “The Heart of Medicine” and featured three internationally recognized speakers: Dr. Dale Abel (University of Iowa), Dr. Laurence Sperling (Emory University), and Dr. Rainford Wilks (University of West Indies).
The timely topic of “Developing Medications to Treat Addiction: Challenges for Science and Practice” was the focus of the 51st Research Day at RUSM in May. It was directed by research committee vice-chair Dr. S.J. White, and organized by Dr. Vicki Coffin. The presenters were Dr. Peter Kalivas, Distinguished Professor and Founding Chair, Department of Neuroscience, Medical University of South Carolina; Dr. Kathryn Cunningham, Distinguished Professor of Pharmacology, University of Texas Medical Branch and Director of Center for Addiction Research; and Dr. Lorenzo Leggio, Associate Professor of Behavioral and Social Sciences, Chief of National Institutes of Health Section on Clinical Neuropsychopharmacology.
"Specialized Healthcare: A focus on the LGBT community" was the theme of RUSM’s 52nd Research Day program, held in September. Fourth-semester student G. Travis Wagner organized the event, which focused on best practices in individualized care for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender population. The presenters were Erika Austin, PhD, Health Service Researcher, Birmingham, VA Medical Center, and consultant, Division of Infectious Diseases, University of Alabama, Birmingham School of Medicine; Rixt Luikenaar, MD, FACOG, Founder, Rebirth Clinic; Dayne Law, MS, Transgender Program Coordinator, Utah Pride Center; and Steven Jenison, MD, private consultant.
More Safety and Security Enhancements on Campus
Four emergency call boxes were installed on campus in a continuing effort to improve safety and security. The tall, blue call boxes have a blue light on the top which is clearly visible during day and night, and the word “EMERGENCY” in capital letters written vertically along the structure. Plans call for more emergency call boxes to be placed in strategic locations throughout the Picard community.
New Departmental Chairs
Alan Bateson, PhD was appointed chair of the RUSM Pharmacology department and Sheila Nunn, PhD was appointed chair of the Anatomy department, as of Oct. 1. They had served as interim chairs of their departments from January to September of this year.
Dr. Bateson joined RUSM in September 2011. He currently teaches cardiovascular and renal pharmacology and neuropharmacology and serves as Chair of the Faculty Appointments and Promotions Committee. He is also a member of the Curriculum Committee and the Clinical Curriculum Subcommittee. He was awarded his PhD in 1987 from the University of London (King’s College), UK, in biochemistry and molecular biology. He has published numerous peer-reviewed papers as well as reviews and book chapters, primarily in the area of GABA-A receptor neuropharmacology, and other channels important in cardiovascular function.
Dr. Nunn received her BSc with honors in Microbiology in 1987 from the University of Newcastle Upon Tyne, UK. She then studied at The Queen’s University of Belfast where in 1992 she was awarded a PhD in Anatomy. She then spent two years at RUSM as an Assistant Professor of Anatomy. She returned to the UK in 1995 to become a Lecturer in Anatomy at the University of Leeds, where she was primarily involved in teaching medical students, in addition to carrying out research in the field of Helicobacter pylori. Dr. Nunn relocated full time to RUSM in September 2013, having maintained the role of Visiting Professor of Anatomy since 1995. She has published numerous papers in peer-reviewed journals in the fields of gastrointestinal anatomy and pathology and medical education.
Student Appreciation Dinner, Sports Events, Holiday Celebrations and More
Activities on campus included Dean’s Honor Roll ceremonies, Independence Day and Creole Day celebrations, the student culture show, Student Government Association events, Student Appreciation dinner, the fourth semester banquet, and sports events.
An Education Summit was held in Dominica on Feb. 21-22. Physicians from RUSM’s affiliated teaching hospitals in the US travelled to the campus for a meeting with our Dominica faculty. The Summit’s aim was to explore ways to increase clinical correlations within the basic science education. A future conference will look at ways to integrate basic science teaching into the clinical years. A Residency Fair followed the Education Summit, with about 200 RUSM students taking the opportunity to meet with residency program directors from hospitals throughout the U.S. Dean, Joseph Flaherty, also participated, and held a session to advise students who are interested in a psychiatry residency, while Senior Associate Dean, Dr. Wm Lynn Weaver, was there to offer guidance to those interested in surgery.
The Salybia Mission Project (SMP) 10th anniversary 5K run on April 4 inaugurated the new recommended jogging route of about 1K that was completed on campus. Three security stations along this route will help to ensure that runners stay safe. SMP is a non-profit, non-religious, student-run organization designed to provide meaningful health care to the indigenous peoples of Dominica through student-run health clinics, and more.
New tennis and basketball courts were constructed and opened for play in May. They are well-lit and widely used during the day and after dark.
The inaugural Professionalism Conference was held on May 23 and 24. The first day was geared to students, and the second to faculty. The two nationally renowned speakers were Avarita L. Hanson, JD, Executive Director, Georgia Chief Justice’s Commission on Professionalism and William Alexander, MD, Chief Medical Officer, Amerigroup Community Care of Georgia, a wholly owned subsidiary of WellPoint, Inc.
The Annual Ceremony of Thanks was held on December 1st to honor those who have donated their bodies so that RUSM’s students might learn to become physicians. They are the students’ first patients. The ceremony included students’ reflections on their experience of using cadavers as part of their anatomical education, student readings and music, and a dance performed by the Karina Cultural Dance Group. The highlight of the ceremony was the lighting of a candle for each of the 84 donors by those students who had used the donor’s body during anatomy labs. Present at the event were students, faculty and staff, and some Dominican residents who have arranged to donate their bodies to RUSM when they pass away.
There was a transition in leadership on the RUSM Dominica Campus at the end of the year. Senior Associate Dean, Dr. Wm. Lynn Weaver, transitioned into a new role in the US, due to his need to focus on the health of a close family member. He will take on the position of Interim Senior Associate Dean, Clinical Sciences, based in Miramar and overseeing clinical sites. Stan White, PhD, Associate Dean, Center for Teaching and Learning and Professor of Physiology, took on the interim role of Senior Associate Dean, Dominica Campus.
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