Ross University Blog

VIEWPOINT: Faculty Member Sees An 'Unbelievable' Transformation at RUSM

November 17, 2015

 

Davendra Sharma

Davendra Sharma, MBBS, DM, professor and interim chair of behavioral sciences, has been at Ross University School of Medicine for over 20 years. Here, he explains not only the great transformations taking place on campus, but also his unique path from skeptic outsider to passionate advocate of the university.

What first brought you to Ross University School of Medicine (RUSM)?

When I first came to RUSM in 1993, I was working as the psychiatrist for the country of Dominica and was very much involved in developing a good mental health program locally and for the region. I was recruited by the dean of RUSM to lecture on a part-time basis, and I did that from 1993 to 2000. I accepted a full-time position at RUSM in 2000.

What are some of your memories of campus in the 1990s?

The main campus was in Roseau on the bay front. It was a leased property, and a far cry from the modern, high-tech auditoriums we currently have on the Portsmouth campus. It was very underdeveloped. To be honest, the ambience was not good—it was like working in tin cans.

I recently met with pre-med advisors, and one asked a very perceptive question: We know you talk about your strengths, but what are some of your weaknesses? I responded that, though we have a much more beautiful campus than we did when I first arrived, we still have some of those tin cans around, like my department building, which is the oldest on the current campus. A colleague of mine has even crawled through the roof to drop into a locked office! So, I explained that this is the weakness.

We may not be the prettiest campus among the offshore schools, but within the tin cans we have hearts of steel. Of strength. Students come here in large numbers because they know we work to make them successful. That premed advisor responded that my answer truly touched her, and now she wants to send her students to RUSM.

I gained enormous respect for the sacrifice, motivation, and courage that the students were showing to become doctors.

What were some of your first impressions about the university?

The truth? When I was asked to join RUSM on a part-time basis in 1993, I was not very keen. There was a huge stigma against RUSM from the University of the West Indies (UWI), where I did my postgraduate training. It was as if RUSM, a private enterprise, was intruding on our realm of aristocracy. For the crème de la crème—the persons who became doctors in this part of the world—it was as not to be accepted that persons who could not enter the UWI should be allowed to become doctors.

I was good friends with the RUSM dean at that time; we played squash together. He asked me to do lectures at the campus in Roseau and I agreed because I cannot say no, especially to friends. But I came to enjoy the appreciation of the students, and became more and more enchanted with RUSM and the fact that the students were intelligent and highly motivated. I was no better than they were. I gained enormous respect for the sacrifice, motivation, and courage that the students were showing to become doctors.

We have grown to a force that is beyond comparison. We have the commitment. We have the love for our students. That is what this school is about.

How is RUSM different today from when you first started?

Physically, the transformation has been unbelievable and is still ongoing. There’s a new Center for Teaching and Learning, which is nearly finished and awesome, and an amazing anatomy lab and simulation lab. But what remains is the care and quality of our training that made it possible for our pioneers to succeed.

And that training has not been static. Our dean made a promise that our school will be one campus integrating the basic sciences and clinical programs. That is happening. We are not static. We are a dynamic campus. We have made changes in our curriculum, in clinical skills training, and in our support services to further enhance the student experience. We have something that goes beyond materialism. We have the commitment. We have the love for our students. That is what this school is all about, or I would not have been here so long. I grew up in RUSM, and I am now the interim chair of my department. I am proud of my progress, and the support I have received from RUSM. And I am proud that I have supported so many who are now successes in the medical field.    

What are some of your favorite places on campus today?

I really like to sit outdoors at the tables and have my lunch. The Picard Food Pavillion, a row of about 20 food vendors, is nice—we call it The Shacks. I like the atmosphere and the chance to tease students about their meal choices!

What is your favorite thing about RUSM today?

Gosh! My favorite thing would be my department team. I have some unbelievable people working for me and my students. I can count on them to go above and beyond—all are exceptional. If I had to make a full list, it is impossible.

I have too many favorites including our support staff, security team, administrators, and student clubs.

We may not be the prettiest  campus among the offshore schools, but within the tin cans we have hearts of  steel. Of strength. Students come here in large numbers because they know we  work to make them successful.

What are you looking forward to in the university's future?

What I have looked forward to, I am already seeing happen. I believe that our future is dependent on achieving our mission of making our students successful, and I see the necessary changes happening for that to be possible.

In the end, our tin cans made to withstand hurricane force winds are filled with the force of love for our students. I look forward to the day when our university will be recognized in the US as a center of excellence equal to or greater than the best the US has to offer.

I am proud to be part of this progress. I am proud of my students; they keep me going. Their words of thanks mean much to me. They cannot begin to understand my sense of pride, humbleness, and gratefulness, for entrusting themselves to my teaching and for allowing me to be part of their lives and success.

 

 

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SERVICE: RUSM Student Helps Bring Medical Aid to South Sudan

November 11, 2015

 

A Teacher Decides to Become a Doctor

Daniel Crothers and his path to RUSM
Fifth-semester RUSM student Daniel Crothers (above, right), pictured here with his wife, Kate

Daniel Crothers, 31, a Portland, Maine resident originally from Canada, was a teacher a few years ago when he decided that he really wanted to become a doctor. Today he is a fifth-semester medical student at Ross University School of Medicine (RUSM). Not only has he successfully made this tremendous transition in his career, but he has also achieved some amazing accomplishments along the way.

Medical Mission and Journal Article

In 2013 Crothers was instrumental in organizing and participating in a medical mission to South Sudan through the non-profit organization Maine-African Partnership for Social Justice. He co-founded MAPSJ with his father-in-law Charles Radis, D.O. in partnership with the local South Sudanese community in Maine. He is also a co-author of an article based on a research study about that experience. The article, Wilderness First Aid Training as a Tool for Improving Basic Medical Knowledge in South Sudan, was published in the current issue of the journal Prehospital and Disaster Medicine dated December 2015.

“We worked with African-based educators with Stonehearth Open Learning Opportunities (SOLO) Schools to train 50 men and women in South Sudan in first aid, so that laypersons could be first responders in an ar, ea that is drastically underserved. The training focused on needs identified by the community, and it relied on incorporating everyday items into first aid tools,” he explained. “Several medical students from the University of New England (UNE) were invited to participate and we collaborated on a research project to evaluate the effectiveness of the training.” They also identified who, of the 50, could be master trainers and receive more training.

Crothers said his job was “to coordinate and facilitate the execution of all aspects of the trip.” In addition, he said the group “ended up running two clinics a day, during lunch and after the training,” because word of their presence spread and people started coming. The patients came in suffering from “motor bike crashes, gangrene, chronic arthritis,” and other conditions, Crothers said.

The research study concluded that the training course, “significantly improved participants’ first aid knowledge and revealed an improvement for both males and females…Wilderness first aid training is particularly promising for rural communities with limited medical resources because it is designed to teach people how to use objects in nature to treat injuries.”

Working in a Conflict Zone

Politically, this region has long been an area of violent conflict. That is why Crothers was assigned the additional role of “managing extraction from the country” should that become necessary for members of the team during the trip. In fact, on one of the final days of the 10-day project, Crothers said, “we had a report of an outbreak of violence. We got word at midnight that we had to leave immediately.” While Crothers made the complex arrangements with the military police to get to a military base in the capital city and secure a flight, he said that, “the UNE research team heroically finished their research while in the process of being evacuated.”

Luckily for the group, the violence was not rampant, and turned out to be an isolated civilian matter. Unfortunately, several months later, in December, widespread violence did break out in South Sudan.

Why Choose RUSM for Medical School?

“The experience reinforced my feeling that medicine is what I’m passionate about and my confidence in my ability to be there for patients despite disparities in care or barriers to language and culture,” Crothers said. “I chose RUSM because I liked the rolling admissions process, and the chance to do the first and second years in an accelerated way, and not having summer breaks, because I’m just a little bit older than most. I have friends who’d been through RUSM and I knew it was going to be a better option because the curriculum and staff are exceedingly impressive.”

Crothers added that “without my wife Kate, none of this would have been possible.” They are expecting their first child.

 

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RUSM Grad Who Completed MERP Is Now Chief Resident in Surgery

November 10, 2015

 

Sola Fasusi, MD, readily admits that when he found out that he’d been recommended to the Medical Education Readiness Program (MERP), his pride took a hit. He had already had been waitlisted at two United States medical schools, had taken the MCAT twice, and had applied to Ross University School of Medicine (RUSM) only after a friend mentioned the school in passing. He was granted conditional acceptance to RUSM, on the condition that he successfully complete MERP before starting as a first-semester med student.

“It was a shot to my ego,” remembers Dr. Fasusi. “But it fueled a fire in me, and I realized I had two decisions: either wait to see if I could possibly get into one of those two US medical schools, or take the RUSM opportunity now.”

He chose the latter. And he’s glad he did. After graduating from RUSM in 2010, he matched into the surgery program at Medical College of Georgia in Augusta. Today he’s in his final year of residency training, and serves as chief resident.

On Lectures: “They Were Some of the Best I’ve Ever Had”

After entering MERP, Dr. Fasusi quickly realized the program had real value. At MERP, instructors help students build strong foundational knowledge in the basic sciences, and teach students helpful advice and techniques for studying and retaining information.

“It was such a blessing to attend MERP, because it literally gave you a framework to optimize your studies when you start medical school,” he says. “It gives you an organized group of people that you feel comfortable studying with. And the professors, the lectures—they were some of the best I’ve ever had. I can remember them in my head right now. That’s how good they were.”

Why MERP? Learn more about how this rigorous, three-month-long program can help prepare you for medical school success.

A “Seamless” Transition from MERP to Medical School

After completing MERP, Dr. Fasusi went on to learn the basic sciences through RUSM’s Foundations of Medicine curriculum, based in Dominica. And, it turns out, MERP did more than give him the foundational knowledge he needed to thrive as a medical student. It also meant that he’d already know some of his fellow students when he started his first semester at RUSM. After all, they had all been through MERP together.

“I have an uncle in Dominica—a dentist on the island—so going in, I knew I wouldn’t be totally without a support system,” he says. “But even if I didn’t have my family there, the people I went to MERP with made up such a cohesive group that it was a seamless transition from MERP to medical school.”

“I Wouldn’t Change Anything”

After completing Foundations of Medicine, then his clinical clerkships in the United States, Dr. Fasusi decided to complete a year of research at the Medical College of Georgia, where two of his friends were undergoing residency training. Doing this would allow him to strengthen his residency applications even more, he reasoned.

“What I was doing was a sort of pro bono research,” he says. “But it was great experience, and they loved me so much that after a couple of weeks, they told me that they’d find a way to start paying me. And they had me involved in multiple areas—not just surgery. I was helping with neurology, ENT, and other disciplines. At MCG, generally, you’re paired with one principal investigator during research, and you only work on that one project. I was doing six or seven.” (MCG did deliver on that promise to pay him, he adds.)

In his time at MCG, Dr. Fasusi made enough of an impression that many program directors and residents there wanted him to stay for his surgery residency, which he did. Now in his fifth and final year as a surgical resident (and chief resident), Dr. Fasusi is looking forward to his next step—a three-year plastic surgery fellowship, also at MCG. He didn’t even have to match for this position: “The plastic surgeons work with me very closely, they know me very well, and they offered me a spot outside of the Match,” he says. He got one of two open fellowship spots, and is the first RUSM graduate to earn a plastic surgery fellowship at MCG.

His time at MERP and RUSM, Dr. Fasusi says, really paid off in the long run.

“I work with wonderful people, I get fantastic training, and I have wonderful opportunities,” he says. “I wouldn’t change anything.”

 

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ALUMNI: 2009 Graduate Treats NFL Players as Orthopedic Sports Medicine Specialist

November 09, 2015

Sommerhalder and Veatch, RUSM alumni
RUSM graduate Filippo Chillemi, MD (Class of 2009), sports medicine physician

It’s a Sunday, and Filippo Chillemi, MD (RUSM Class of 2009) is waiting in a private hangar at Pensacola International Airport. He’ll board a private jet bound for Washington, DC where, upon arrival, he and his colleagues will be whisked from the airport to a special entrance at FedExField, home of the Washington Redskins.

It might sound like the route taken by a professional football player or halftime show star. In reality, Dr. Chillemi is part of a team of independent medical advisors hired by the Redskins to consult as well as evaluate and treat players. “Before each game, we head to the locker room to evaluate any active injuries, and give clearance on whether players are going to play or not,” he says. “Then, when the game stats, we head to the sidelines.”

After the game, you’ll find him consulting on tests and screenings, or evaluating any bumps and bruises that may not have been disclosed to the medical staff during the game. When all is said and done, he and his team return to the plane, fly back to Florida, and spend the week following up with these and other athletes who seek out their advice on surgeries, treatments, and ongoing care.

Plan A Was Soccer—Plan B Was Medical School

Dr. Chillemi has always been interested in sports. In fact, in high school, he was a star soccer player, traveling the world to compete in youth world cups and other international events. Upon graduation, he accepted a full scholarship to play for Notre Dame’s top flight soccer team. “I had a plan A and a plan B,” he says. “Plan A was to play soccer: go to Europe, and play until I couldn’t play anymore. If I couldn’t play soccer, plan B was to go to medical school.”

So when he injured his ankle, plan B quickly became the only plan worth pursuing.

My brother went to RUSM, and to be honest, I didn’t apply anywhere else,” he says. “Going into medical school I knew I wanted to be an orthopedist, and I knew it would be competitive. So I worked hard, became valedictorian, and scored very high on my exams so I would be a competitive applicant. It worked out.”

How He Launched His Career as a Sports Medicine Physician

Indeed, it did. Dr. Chillemi scored a residency at the University of South Alabama, which had just started its NCAA Division I football program. Working alongside just two other residents, Chillemi followed the team to every home and away game, training, and practice, gaining the one-on-one experience he needed to launch his career in sports medicine.

Today, Dr. Chillemi is an orthopedic sports medicine fellow at the Andrews Institute for Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine in Gulf Breeze, FL, treating baseball and football players ranging from high school students right up through the pros. The Andrews Institute was founded by orthopedic surgeon James Andrews, MD, who is widely known nationally and abroad for his contributions to knee, shoulder, and elbow injuries.

"The Pensacola Blue Wahoos minor league baseball team comes to us, and on Fridays, we cover a bunch of local high school football teams,” he says. “Saturdays, we cover Auburn University—we fly up on the private jet for home and away games. And on Sundays, we’re with the Redskins.”

Leading the Charge on Important Medical Research

Between this busy schedule, Dr. Chillemi and his team are spearheading advances in stem cell research, particularly as it pertains to cartilage growth. “There’s no way to regrow particular cartilage once it’s been damaged, but we’re hoping stem cells are the answer,” he says. “It’s not proven yet—we’re still working on it—but we go in and expose the bone, we drill a hole, and inject stems cells into it. The hope is that the cells realize they’re in an area where they’re supposed to be cartilage, and grow into cartilage.” He hopes that this technology will eventually help the myriad players coming in with common sports injuries, like ACL and SLAP tears.

“As advisors, we’re not on the teams’ medical staffs,” he says. “And that’s important, so the players know we are unbiased. We want them to feel free to come to us and talk to us, and know that what we do may not be the best thing for the team, but it will be what is best for the athlete.”

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STUDENT SUPPORT: RUSM Enhances USMLE Test Prep Services

November 08, 2015

At Ross University School of Medicine (RUSM), we strive to offer support services geared toward maximizing students' potential for success in medical school. On that note, we are pleased to announce that we have several enhancements to the RUSM/Becker USMLE Review program which we are offering to students ranging from basic sciences to clinical sciences. These valuable resources are included as part of a student's educational fee.

Here is a brief description of the new additions:

Basic Science Students: Step 1 Review Components

Semester 01 Students

  • Becker USMLE Step 1 eCoach: Access to more than 220 hours of online lectures for 24 months.
  • Becker USMLE Step 1 Question Bank: Access to more than 2,100 questions for 24 months.

Semester 03 - 05 Students

  • UWorld USMLE Step 1 Question Bank: Access to more than 2,000 questions for 12 months.

Semester 4X - 05 Students

  • Becker Live Online USMLE Step 1 Reviews: Access to 300 hours of interactive lectures across all basic sciences subjects that culminates with an additional 30 hours of integrated cases with Dr. Lionel Raymon.
  • Becker Diagnostic Exam: Access to 3 blocks of 44 questions per block (132 items total) delivered using an exam-like interface and providing feedback by organ system and discipline.
  • Becker Live Online USMLE Step 1 Integrated Final Review: Access to 110 hours of interactive Step 1 live lectures for pathophysiology, pharmacology, and integrated cases with Dr. Lionel Raymon
  • Becker Live Online Integrated Cases with Dr. Lionel Raymon: Access to 30 hours of interactive and engaging basic sciences material that help pull concepts together and maximize students’ understanding and performance.
  • Becker Live USMLE Step 1 Reviews (in USA) Providing RUSM Group Tuition Rates: Access to a live course that has 275 hours of interactive lectures delivered at a Becker facility in New York, Texas or Illinois. 
    • New York & Chicago RUSM Group Rate of $1,599
    • Dallas RUSM Group Rate of $2,150 (Commuter +Meals), $2,950 (Double Accommodations) and $4,250 (Single Accommodations)

Clinical Science Students: Step 2CK and Step 2CS Review Components

Beginning of Clinical Tracks

  • Becker USMLE Step 2 CK eCoach:  Access to 200 hours of online lectures across eight volumes of interactive eBooks for 24 months.
  • UWorld USMLE Step 2CK Question Bank: Access to more than 2,000 questions for the duration of the subscription. Students who began their tracks January 2015 and forward will receive a 12-month subscription to U-World. Students who began tracks from September 2014 through December 2015 will receive a 6-month subscription. Students may activate the subscription at will, though once activated the subscription begins and cannot be temporarily suspended.  For example, if a student with a 12 month subscription activates on 11/01/15, the subscription expires on 10/31/16.  
  • Becker Live Online USMLE Step 2 CK Intensive Reviews: Access to 104 hours of interactive live online lectures that start on dates corresponding to RUSM clinical tracks. 
  • Becker Live USMLE Step 2CS Clinical Skills Assessment: Provides a 4-hour testing session covering 6 standardized patient encounters in a test-like setting. Locations include Chicago, Detroit, New York City and South Florida. Additional locations will be added throughout this academic year for California, Georgia, and Washington DC.

A personalized e-mail from Becker regarding access information to UWorld and Becker resources will be sent directly to current RUSM students. Students currently in clinical tracks will also receive access to UWorld. Please note that students who have already purchased UWorld will not be provided a refund for this subscription.

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LEADERSHIP: Dr. Stanley White Named Sr. Associate Dean, Dominica Campus

November 05, 2015

Stanley White has been named senior associate dean, Dominica campus, for RUSM
Stanley White, PhD, has been appointed senior associate dean, Dominica campus, for Ross University School of Medicine.

Dr. Stanley White has been appointed to the position of Ross University School of Medicine (RUSM) Senior Associate Dean, Dominica Campus. He has served as interim dean since the end of last year. Dr. White joined RUSM in 2010 as a professor of physiology, and became associate dean, Center for Teaching and Learning, in 2013.

Dr. White was awarded a PhD by the University of Manchester, UK in 1986. His research focused on renal anion transport. Subsequently he was awarded a prestigious Beit Memorial Fellowship, which he held in the Department of Cellular & Molecular Physiology at Yale University Medical School. From 1992, in the UK he was supported by a Medical Research Council Senior Fellowship. He then became a senior lecturer at the University of Sheffield where he did research into the cellular and molecular mechanisms of renal potassium secretion. He also taught medical and dental students in all areas of human physiology. At Sheffield, he led a number of innovative programs in undergraduate medical and dental blended learning approaches and was a member of several university committees pertaining to biomedical education at the undergraduate and graduate levels. In 2002 he joined the Faculty of Biological Sciences at the University of Leeds, UK, where he continued his research and teaching.

In the external educational arena, Dr. White has been an external examiner at various universities for several biomedical degree programs and numerous PhD and MD theses. He has acted as a consultant for innovative laboratory teaching in biological sciences courses for the Open University, and was joint coordinator of the annual Wellcome Trust “Molecular Physiology” Practical Workshop from 1999 to 2006. During that time he also served as a scientific panel member of Kidney Research UK, the largest charity in the UK, focusing on basic science and clinical research approaches to kidney disease.

Among his notable accomplishments, Dr. White has reviewed numerous grant applications for external funding providers including MRC, Wellcome Trust and the National Institutes of Health, as well as various medical charities. From 2002 to 2008, Dr. White was associate editor for the international journal Nephron Physiology. He has published numerous papers in internationally peer-reviewed journals as well as articles and book chapters. Dr. White has served on the Council, and as a trustee of the Physiological Society as well as being a member of the society’s Education Sub Committee. He is a member of the Physiological Society, the American Physiological Society and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Medicine.

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CLINICALS: RUSM Offers United Kingdom-New Jersey Clinical Track

November 03, 2015

Ross University School of Medicine is excited to announce the new United Kingdom and New Jersey track program, dubbed the UKNJ Track. Students will spend 24 straight weeks each in the United Kingdom and in New Jersey hospitals. Students will complete surgery, pediatrics and OB/GYN clinical rotations at Queen’s Hospital in Romford, just outside of London. Students will also complete family medicine clinical rotations at Hoboken University Medical Center, Internal Medicine at Raritan Bay Medical Center, and Psychiatry at Bergen Regional Medical Center.

  • Queen’s Hospital in Romford is actively involved as a major teaching hospital sponsoring educational programs in surgery, pediatrics, and OB/GYN.
  • Hoboken University Medical Center is actively involved as a major teaching hospital sponsoring Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME)-approved programs in family medicine.
  • Raritan Bay Medical Center is actively involved as a major teaching hospital sponsoring Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME)-approved programs in internal medicine.
  • Bergen Regional Medical Center is actively involved as a major teaching hospital sponsoring Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME)-approved programs in psychiatry.
  • Due to reciprocity of medical school quality, teaching, etc., UK cores are considered equivalent to USA ACGME-accredited rotations (although not technically “Greenbook”). Therefore, students who complete some or all their cores in the UK are eligible for licensure in the USA. 

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ALUMNI ROUNDUP: RUSM Grads Make Career Moves in October

November 02, 2015

Here’s the October 2015 Ross University School of Medicine (RUSM) Alumni Roundup, hot off the digital presses! Take a look below to see where some of our alumni landed jobs in and around October 2015.

Are you an RUSM graduate who made a career move in October and would like to be listed here? Let us know at communications@rossu.edu!

Salah Anwar, MD, Class of 2011, has joined Essentia Health-St. Joseph’s Medical Center (Brainerd, MN) as a hospitalist, a type of physician who focuses on the treatment of hospitalized patients. He completed his family medicine residency at the Centra Lynchburg Family Medicine Residency Program, Lynchburg, VA.

Vincent Armenio, MD, Class of 1986—after a national search—has been named chairman of the Department of Medicine at Roger Williams Medical Center, Providence, RI. Dr. Armenio, a hematologist/oncologist, has held a number of leadership posts at RWMC, including vice chairman of the Department of Medicine. He completed residency training at Englewood Hospital, NJ, through Mount Sinai School of Medicine's internal medicine residency program. Fellowship training was at Brown University School of Medicine in hematology/medical oncology and pediatric hematology/oncology.

Viktor Corpuz, MD, Class of 2010, has joined up with Wilkes-Barre General Hospital, Wilkes-Barre, PA. He completed a residency at Virtua Health, Voorhees, NJ, in family medicine.

Amy L. Jarvis, MD, Class of 2003, has been named medical director of the Primary Stroke Center at North Shore Medical Center, Miami, FL. Dr. Jarvis completed a neurology residency at Georgetown University Medical Center, Washington DC, where she was also named chief resident. Before joining North Shore Medical Center, Dr. Jarvis was interim director of stroke and vascular neurology and interim administrative chief at Baptist Medical Center, Jacksonville, FL.

Jason Marone, MD, Class of 2008, will staff the East Cocalico Township, PA office for Wellspan Bariatric Surgery. He completed a general surgery residency at PinnacleHealth Harrisburg Hospital, Harrisburg, PA, followed by a fellowship in minimally invasive surgery and bariatric surgery at the same hospital.

Gerald Rogado, MD, Class of 2008, a family medicine physician, is treating patients at Adventist Health Community Care, Lemoore, CA. He completed his residency in family medicine at Loma Linda University Medical Center, Loma Linda, CA.

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LEADERSHIP: RUSM Colleagues Lead New Group Focused on Mental Health

November 02, 2015

 
RUSM colleagues instrumental in founding Dominica Psychology Society
Shani Shillingford, PhD (above, left) and McMillan Cuffy, MSc, were instrumental in founding the recently created Dominica Psychological Society.

Two Ross University School of Medicine (RUSM) colleagues have been instrumental in founding the recently created Dominica Psychological Society (DPS), and have been elected to serve as leaders of the new organization. Shani Shillingford, PhD, was elected president and McMillan Cuffy, MSc, was elected vice president. RUSM’s Dean and Chancellor, Joseph A Flaherty, MD, commented that, “As a psychiatrist, and interim chair of psychiatry, I am profoundly impressed by the work of our colleagues in taking on this tremendous challenge. RUSM is proud of their efforts and we wish them well as they move forward.”

Dr. Shillingford, a native of Dominica who joined RUSM in 2013, earned her doctoral degree in educational psychology from the University of Northern Colorado in 2011. She is an assistant professor at RUSM's Center for Teaching and Learning. Mr. Cuffy is a counselor at the Counseling Center, in the Department of Health Services. He earned his MSc in counseling at the University of the West Indies-Mona campus, Jamaica, in 2005, and has been at RUSM for five and a half years.

Two years ago, the Caribbean Alliance of National Psychological Associations was launched. When Shillingford and Cuffy attended a conference presented by the group, as a professional development activity through RUSM, they learned that Dominica was not represented. They formed a steering committee and got to work. “One of our main objectives is promoting mental health in Dominica and dealing with the stigma,” said Cuffy. “We want to get people to be as comfortable talking about mental health as they are about physical pain.”

Shillingford said, “The primary aim of the DPS is to establish ethical ideals consistent with recognized international principles and standards.” She said that the DPS already had about 40 members, “mostly master’s level psychologists and counselors,” and that last month they had organized a series of group activities for at-risk young people in various programs on the island. “We did exercises in self-esteem,” she explained. “We helped them identify something good in themselves,” Cuffy added, “whether it was something physical that they liked, or a personality trait.”

 

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