Ross University Blog

CAMPUS NEWS: Class of 2019 White Coat Ceremony

January 28, 2015

RUSM White Coat Ceremony New students from the Ross University School of Medicine (RUSM) Class of 2019 officially became physicians-in-training Jan. 16, 2015, at an exciting White Coat Ceremony held on RUSM's Dominica campus. This rite of passage is held for every incoming class at RUSM, and it's an important first step on a medical school student's path to earning a medical degree. 

"All of you have the aptitude to make it in medicine," said Joseph A. Flaherty, MD, RUSM Dean and Chancellor, as he addressed the incoming class. "We want all of you to make it. Medicine is going to be very different than it used to be, but there is tremendous joy left in medicine."

In addition to students and faculty, the event drew prominent government representatives from Dominica—including the country's president, Charles Savarin, and his wife.

A snapshot of the incoming class was presented in remarks by Dr. Paula Wales, RUSM’s Senior Associate Dean for Student Affairs. It is a multi-cultural group, its members hailing from many countries, with the majority from the US and Canada. There were cheers when she noted that the largest number had earned their undergraduate degrees at the University of California at Irvine, and more cheering for their alma maters by those who graduated from the two schools tied for second place, Florida International University and Rutgers University. A large number came from various health professions, as pharmacists, dental assistants, and more.

The event’s keynote speaker, RUSM alumna Vedvati Patel, MD (RUSM ‘06), is in private practice in Chicago and teaches internal medicine at St. Anthony Hospital, where RUSM students, among others, are completing their rotations. A native of Indiana, Dr. Patel earned her undergraduate degree at Purdue University in Indianapolis. Dr. Patel completed her residency in Internal Medicine at the University of Connecticut and pursued a fellowship in nephrology at the University of Massachusetts.

An introduction to the medical profession was presented by RUSM’s Dr. Nancy Selfridge, Chair of the Department of Clinical Medicine. “Today is the last day you’ll wear your white coat for celebration,” she told the physicians in training. “After today, white coats are work clothes.”

Tags: Campus , Alumni

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STUDENT SPOTLIGHT: Scholarships Help Student Begin New Career Path in Medicine

January 27, 2015

Seeking a new career, Brandee Pemberton, RN, joined Ross University School of Medicine (RUSM) in January 2015 receiving the Dean’s Academic Merit, Career Advancement and Alumni Legacy scholarship awards. Brandee was nominated for the alumni award by RUSM graduate Kolby Voight, MD, Class of 2011.

Working eight years in intensive care units (ICU) throughout Texas, Brandee gained invaluable experiences. On one of her nursing assignments, Brandee was recognized for noticing signs of “imminent respiratory failure and was instrumental in facilitating an emergent intubation.” It’s Brandee’s meaningful exposure to the medical field that has positioned her for a rich experience at RUSM.

Brandee’s pursuit of a medical career can be traced back to when four friends were in a tragic automobile accident caused by a drunk driver. A teenager, Brandee remained at the bedside of two of her friends who survived the crash. Extremely appreciative and impressed with the medical team who provided care, she was left with an indelible impact on her perspective of medicine.

“I had learned my first lesson in medicine,” says Brandee. “After watching many grueling days of the medical personnel placing my best friends’ lives in front of their own, medicine does not always prevail. That was a pivotal experience that confirmed my decision to pursue medicine as a career.”

Brandee obtained a Bachelor’s of Science degree in nursing from the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio in 2006. She also received a number of accolades throughout her undergraduate career, including the Dean’s List at the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA). Also, she was voted by UTSA’s Physics and Biochemistry department to participate in the Supplemental Student Instructor Program. 

Tags: Admissions , Texas

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CAMPUS EXPANSION: Officials Tour New Student Center Site

January 21, 2015

RUSM Student Center Site
From left: RUSM Vice Dean Peter Goetz; Dean and Chancellor Joseph A. Flaherty; Prime Minister of Dominica, the Hon. Roosevelt Skerrit; and Stanley White, PhD, Interim Senior Associate Dean, Dominica Campus.

The Hon. Roosevelt Skerrit–the Prime Minister of Dominica–and other government representatives donned hard hats and safety vests to tour the construction site of Ross University School of Medicine’s (RUSM) new $18 million ($48.6 million EC) Student Center on January 15, 2015.

“You’re on your way to bringing a U.S. campus feel here,” commented the prime minister. 

And according to Joseph A. Flaherty, MD, Dean and Chancellor or RUSM, that's the idea. "The objective is to have it all–the benefit of being in a beautiful host country, and the convenience of what students want in a university," said the dean.

The 47,500 square-foot, three-story building is built to withstand category 5 hurricanes and the seismic pressures of the region, said Director of Site Development Eddie McDuffie, who led the tour.

“We expect the building to be open at least 20 hours a day,” McDuffie said. “Students study all the time.”

The Student Center will house the following: 

  • A dining area and food vendors
  • Study space
  • A new library and computer lab
  • The Center for Teaching and Learning

"This will be a significant enhancement for students on campus," said Stanley White, PhD, Interim Senior Associate Dean, Dominica Campus. "I can't wait for it to open."

Tags: Campus

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REPORT: Plenty of Job Offers for Newly Graduated Physicians

January 20, 2015

Some good news just came out that might be eye-opening for medical school graduates entering or finishing up residency. According to newly released data, a majority of new physicians—more than 6 out of 10 survey respondents—have been getting dozens of job offers during their final year of residency training.

New Medical School Graduates Getting Lots of Job Offers

Per HealthLeaders Media, physician recruiters Merritt Hawkins surveyed physicians completing their final year of residency. Of the 1,208 respondents, more than 60% of these physicians reported receiving 50 or more job offers during their residency. Nearly half—46%—saw 100 or more offers.

“This is outstanding news for medical school students. These survey results confirm what we already knew—that there’s a great demand for physicians in the United States, and that this demand isn’t expected to go away anytime soon,” says Joseph A. Flaherty, MD, Dean and Chancellor of Ross University School of Medicine (RUSM). “I have no doubt that this is encouraging news for the 800+ RUSM graduates who started residency in 2014.”

Report Also Speaks to Salaries, Work-Life Balance

Other takeaways from the survey results include:

  • 78% of physicians surveyed expected to earn $176,000 or more in their first year of practice.
  • Work/life balance has become increasingly important for physicians. Geographic location, lifestyle, and adequate call coverage/personal time all ranked as the three most important factors when considering practice opportunities.
  • Thirty-six percent of respondents indicated that they’d be most open to working for a hospital, followed by partnerships (20%), multi-specialty groups (14%), and single-specialty groups (11%).

Source: HealthLeaders Media

Tags: Residency

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FACULTY SPOTLIGHT: Why Did Associate Professor Robert Sasso, MD, Choose RUSM Over a US Teaching Job?

January 08, 2015

RUSM Associate Professor Robert Sasso, MD

It's a refrain perhaps common to many physicians: As a medical school student in the early 1980s, Robert Sasso didn't know what kind of doctor he wanted to be. He credits the clinical stage of his medical education—particularly his surgery rotation—as being key to him figuring it out.

"When I started scrubbing in for cases, I was hooked," Dr. Sasso says. "Operating was amazing. I remember thinking 'You can cure these people. You can take away their disease and pain.' At that point, I was in."

Dr. Sasso, now an Associate Professor in the Department of Clinical Medicine at Ross University School of Medicine (RUSM), ultimately decided to specialize in obstetrics and gynecology. There was something fascinating to him about the science surrounding that field—the different methodologies and processes. Plus, it helped him provide continuity of care, maintaining a balance between seeing patients in the office and treating them in the operating room.

The Epitome of His Career

Dr. Sasso graduated college from Seton Hall University, South Orange, NJ, as valedictorian (for the second time—he was also valedictorian of his high school class). He earned his medical degree from Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC, and completed an OB/GYN internship and residency at University of Utah Medical Center, followed by a one-year fellowship in reproductive surgery and infertility at Mount Sinai Medical Center, Miami Beach, FL.

His medical career in the US spanned two decades—including a stint as Adjunct Assistant Professor at Dartmouth Medical Center, Lebanon, NH—capped off by him establishing an infertility/IVF center in South Portland, Maine, in 2010. "I truly felt like that was the epitome of what I could achieve as a non-reproductive endocrinologist," he says.

An Inspiring Mission at RUSM

Dr. Sasso grew interested in teaching, and started searching for positions. Though he could have likely secured a teaching job in the US, Dr. Sasso came across an open position at RUSM in the Department of Clinical Medicine. He found the institution's mission to be an inspiring one, and joined RUSM as an Associate Professor in March 2012.

"RUSM is helping to train a whole new generation of physicians," he says—something he understands is a big responsibility. It's also one that he takes very seriously. "I'm taking what I've learned over my entire career and trying to inculcate that into the students," he says. "It's not just about knowledge—it's also about how to act like a physician, and how to be ethical."

Clearly, his students appreciate his efforts. At the 2014 RUSM Leadership Conference, held in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, Dr. Sasso was presented with the Golden Stethoscope Award, a student's choice award for clinical teaching. "That's the best part of my job, honestly—when I get to hear a 'thank you' from the students," he says. "That's why the Golden Stethoscope is so rewarding: It comes directly from them."

Dr. Sasso currently chairs the school's Faculty Senate and is Director of Medical Simulation in the Department of Clinical Medicine. He is also Vice Chairman of the Admissions Committee, a member of the Institutional Review Board Committee, and is advisor for both the RUSM OB/GYN club and the Public Health Club.

He has authored numerous journal articles and book chapters on both basic science research concepts and reproductive surgery. Currently, Dr. Sasso is actively involved in developing high-level educational research at RUSM. His goal is to produce publishable research that will be pertinent and useful to current and future students alike.

Tags: Faculty

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YEAR IN REVIEW: RUSM Campus News Highlights

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.

CheauSeptember’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

Research Day

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.

Safety and Security

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

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.

Research Day

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.

Research DayAn 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.

Leadership Transitions

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.

Tags: Campus , Research

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CLINICAL SPOTLIGHT: St. Joseph Mercy Oakland, Pontiac, MI

January 06, 2015

Ross University School of Medicine (RUSM) provides clinical education and training through a network of renowned U.S. teaching hospitals. RUSM partners with institutions that have a strong track record of quality patient care, community service, and U.S.-standard medical education. RUSM aims to maintain a geographically diverse clinical network aligned with the student population, with primary focus on quality over quantity. RUSM’s clinical program constitutes more than half of a student’s medical education, so RUSM is committed to providing clinical experiences that are consistent across sites, with healthcare institutions that meet RUSM’s standards for excellence.

St. Joseph Mercy Oakland Hospital

At a Glance: A Leading Michigan Teaching Hospital

Established in 1927, St. Joseph Mercy Oakland (SJMO) is a long-time healthcare provider in Oakland County. A 443-bed comprehensive community and teaching hospital, SJMO is ranked in the top five percent of hospitals across the nation for clinical excellence and women’s health, and has earned a position among the top 50 US cardiovascular programs. It has also been recognized as a leader in patient safety and quality, palliative care, pulmonology, and various forms of orthopedic surgery, including knee and hip procedures, joint replacement, and spine surgery. Explore SJMO’s recent quality awards here.

Recently, SJMO was verified as a Level II Trauma Center, a designation reflecting the hospital’s commitment to the highest levels of clinical quality care to seriously injured patients. Staffed by board-certified emergency medicine physicians, the hospital’s Emergency Department sees a yearly average of 52,000 visits. Other hospital features include a Level II Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) to care for prematurely born or otherwise high-risk infants, a nationally recognized and accredited Cancer Center, a Center for Wound Care and Hyperbaric Medicine, and a dedicated Joint Care Center.

Medical Education at SJMO

Medical education is central to the mission of SJMO. It is approved by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) to offer residency training in internal medicine, general surgery, radiology, transitional year, and a fellowship in cardiology. More information on medical education at SJMO can be found here.

Highly Advanced Technology

SJMO relies on high-tech, advanced technology to deliver even better healthcare. This includes:

Robotic surgery via the innovative da Vinci® Surgical System. Surgeons at SJMO are able to use this technology to make smaller, more precise incisions during surgical procedures, simply by manipulating controls on the robot. The surgeon remains in control for the entire time.

Through telemedicine, SJMO—the home of the state’s first certified Primary Stroke Center— changed the Michigan landscape of stroke care by creating the Michigan Stroke Network, a network of hospitals that collaborates via telecommunications and information technology to deliver stroke diagnoses and treatment options, even when the patient is far away from the hospital.

SJMO features a highly advanced Simulation Lab, plus a new South Patient Tower that gives clinical staff access to high-tech, patient-centered technologies.

*Please visit this page for detailed information about SJMO’s quality awards.

Tags: Clinical Program

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RUSM Grad Earns Medical Director Spot at California Nonprofit

January 05, 2015

A Ross University School of Medicine (RUSM) graduate recently earned the top medical spot at a California-based nonprofit hospice agency, according to published reports.

Centi Younan, MD, RUSM Class of 1998, will serve as Medical Director for Community Hospice, a Modesto, California-based nonprofit agency founded in 1978 that provides palliative care and support, including charity care, for terminally ill patients.

“Dr. Younan comes to us with extensive education, training and leadership that fully supports our mission of providing compassionate and quality care to the patients and families we serve,” said C. DeSha McLeod, president and chief executive officer for Community Hospice, in a press release.

Before joining Community Hospice, Dr. Younan was a hospitalist at Sutter Memorial Medical Center, Modesto, and was appointed co-medical director of the palliative care department there in 2010. She completed an internship (internal medicine) at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, Stamford Hospital, and completed her residency training at UCLA School of Medicine, Kern Medical Center. She also has received training in palliative and end-of-life care.

Dr. Younan is board certified in internal medicine, and is a board-certified Diplomate in hospice and palliative care.

Want to read more about our alumni? Recently, we profiled the Chillemi brothers, two siblings who attended RUSM. Now, one's a nephrologist and the other an orthopedic surgeon. Check out their RUSM stories here.

Tags: Alumni

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