Ross University Blog

FACULTY: Dr. Ann Gillett-Elrington Shares her Research Internationally

October 14, 2016

Ross faculty member Dr. Ann Gillett-Elrington

Ross faculty member Dr. Ann Gillett-Elrington

Ross University School of Medicine faculty member Dr. Ann Gillett-Elrington has been very active recently in sharing her exciting research. She is an associate professor in the Department of Clinical Medicine on the Dominica Campus. Dr. Gillett-Elrington was a presenter at Research Day on the Dominica campus on September 16, and she presented a poster at the Ross Leadership Conference in Cancun September 22-24.

The theme of the Research Day symposium was “Human factors in healthcare: A systems approach to understand medical errors.” The other Research Day presenters were Dr. Jawahar (Jay) Kalra, Professor of Pathology in the College of Medicine at the University of Saskatchewan and Dr. Kathryn M. Kellog, an attending physician in Emergency Medicine, MedStar Washington Hospital Center, and a clinical safety scientist, National Center for Human Factors in Healthcare. In her lecture, Dr. Gillett-Elrington used her experiences as an OB/GYN to illustrate how medical errors can happen and talked about the responsibility of the health system for patient safety.  She said that system-wide data helps with root-cause analysis, but physicians must also exercise “reflection in action and continuous learning.”

Her poster at the Leadership Conference was titled, “A Comprehensive Proposal to Reduce Preterm Birth Disparities in Detroit, Michigan.” Michigan is a state where African American babies are born prematurely at a disproportionately higher rate as compared to the overall rate. Preterm birth is the leading cause of neonatal morbidity and mortality worldwide. She discussed non-maleficence, or ‘do no harm.’ “That we appreciate the magnitude of the impact of medical errors is imperative,” she said.

Dr. Gillett-Elrington said she saw Leadership Conference as a good opportunity for engagement with colleagues working across different stages of medical education. After one year of teaching at RUSM, she believes students are getting “a world class education at Ross.” She said an awareness of health disparities, like the subject of her poster, and of patient safety are an integral part of Ross's curriculum. It’s critical “for the students to realize that this is not an elective way of behaving. It’s a part of the competencies we want to hone.”
As a Fulbright scholar, Dr. Gillett-Elrington earned a Ph.D. in Organic Chemistry from Emory University. She holds an MD from Wayne State University and a Master’s in Public Health, Policy and Management from Harvard University.  She is a native of Belize. 

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COMMUNITY: Service-Learning Program Helps 'Preserve the Human Part of Medicine'

September 23, 2016

The titular star of TV’s House, MD is a brilliant disease diagnostician—but not a particularly strong people person. That’s probably why Dr. House makes a special guest appearance in the lecture presentation that introduces our Reflective Practice curriculum component—he’s the type of doctor we’re trying not to train at Ross University School of Medicine.

Faculty member Ricardo Hood, MD, one of the program’s coordinators, puts it well: “It’s a person with a disease. Not a disease that happened to have found that person.”

Dr. Hood and fellow faculty Robert Gee, Ed.D. and Nancy Selfridge, MD run the Reflective Practice activity—a mandatory curriculum component that sees Foundations of Medicine students completing a service-learning project in Dominica and journaling their thoughts and emotions. They then submit that journal to a panel of junior faculty members, who select the most impactful for presentation at a special open forum before semester’s end.

The goal? To create physicians who understand that the human side of practicing medicine is just as important as the clinical side.

“It’s an attempt to preserve the human part of medicine as the students develop into physicians,” Dr. Hood said. “We want them to develop into humanistic doctors.”

Treating the Human, Not the Disease

Student projects can be anything from participating in a community health fair to working directly with a patient.

“Projects are centered on the physician-patient relationship and community health,” Dr. Gee said. “One group of students refurbished a playground at an elementary school in the village of Paix Bouche, giving children in the area an opportunity for play and healthy growth.”

The important part, coordinators say, is how the student felt after they completed the project.

An example from Dr. Hood: One student documented her time in a Dominican infirmary. What she did seems simple on its face—she saw a patient there who needed a bath, so she recruited two fellow students and cleaned the patient. It snowballed, and the students bathed other patients in need. Over the course of the project, the student documented everything—how she felt when she arrived at the infirmary, what she was expecting, and what she ultimately did to serve a need.

“For her, the impact was realizing that sometimes, what patients need isn’t necessarily a prescription or a pill,” Dr. Hood said.

These kinds of experiences are ones that the students will take with them, and become more thoughtful, caring doctors.

“This is a very unique opportunity for Ross students, and an incredibly powerful one,” Dr. Gee said.

Reflective learning, Dr. Gee says, allows students to take a step back and expand their worldview. Those who may not have worked with the Dominican community before gain better insight into their lives and the struggles of the patient population. Professionally and emotionally, it helps the students examine their own perspective, recognize their preconceptions, and ultimately create more meaningful connections.

Once the activity has concluded and the focus turns to presentation, a student’s medium for conveying the experience is often as unique as the experience itself.

“Students have submitted everything from PowerPoints to original songs and poems they’ve written,” said Dr. Gee.

Many students put a tremendous amount of effort and thought into the project, Dr. Gee said, which speaks to the impact it’s had on them. And the hope is that the impact will stay with them—that emotional, reflective thought becomes second nature to them as they continue in their medical education and strive to connect with patients of myriad backgrounds and cultures.

“Ultimately, it’s about not just reflection of practice after the fact, but also reflection of practice in the moment,” says Dr. Gee. “The goal is to recognize those moments a little earlier on and make differences in the present to be the best physician you can be.”

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Meet White Coat Speaker Dr. Mark Kimpton: RUSM Alum and Faculty Member

May 12, 2016

Dr. Mark Kimpton (RUSM ’94)

Dr. Mark Kimpton (RUSM ’94)

On May 13, 2016, the Ross University School of Medicine (RUSM) White Coat speaker will be
an alumnus who is now a faculty member. The ceremony for new students will be held on the Dominica campus at 2 p.m. and will be livestreamed on the RUSM website.

Dr. Mark Kimpton graduated from RUSM in 1994. In January of this year he joined the Department of Clinical Medicine as an assistant professor, with a focus on the Enhanced Standardized Patient Program, Small Group Learning-Interview Skills Training, Physical Exam Skills training, and Clinical Simulation training. Dr. Kimpton earned his undergraduate degree at Radford University, Radford VA. He also served in the U.S. ARMY as a combat medical specialist from 1983 to 1989, and was honorably discharged. He is sure to have an inspirational message for the new students, who will be donning their white coats for the first time.

Be sure to tune in to the livestream on May 13 to watch new RUSM students become doctors-in-training and hear Dr. Kimpton's words of encouragement for them. Click here to view the webcast. Please note that the stream will not be available until 1:30 p.m. ET.


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VIEWPOINT: Who Should Get to Be a Doctor?

April 19, 2016

Every year, United States medical schools are forced to turn away qualified applicants because they simply don’t have seats for them. But with the U.S. facing a shortage of as many as 90,000 doctors, it’s critical that we provide opportunities for those deserving aspiring doctors who are ready to be part of the solution.

But who should get to be a doctor? Joseph Flaherty, MD, dean and chancellor at Ross University School of Medicine (RUSM), believes we have to look closely at how we evaluate and select medical school candidates if we’re going to not only increase the number of doctors we have, but also find the ones suited to solving our most pressing healthcare challenges.

Read more in his piece on Medium.

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What RUSM Students Learned at the U of Miami/Florida Bioethics Network Annual Meeting

April 18, 2016

Avery Carter, back row, left, Dr. Mucciola, Prathayini Muthiah, Nicholas Alexander, Kenneth Goodman, PhD, director of the Florida Bioethics Network and director of the UM Institute for Bioethics and Health Policy, Abigail House. In the front row: Ryan Shibata, left, Christen Kelley, Ellexis Khan, and Shannon Dorton.

Avery Carter, back row, left, Dr. Mucciola, Prathayini Muthiah, Nicholas Alexander, Kenneth Goodman, PhD, director of the Florida Bioethics Network and director of the UM Institute for Bioethics and Health Policy, Abigail House. In the front row: Ryan Shibata, left, Christen Kelley, Ellexis Khan, and Shannon Dorton.

For the ninth year in a row, Ross University School of Medicine (RUSM) co-sponsored the University of Miami/Florida Bioethics Network annual meeting. This year’s event, “Florida Bioethics: Debates, Decisions, Solutions” was held in Miami on April 8.

“This is a chance to meet with, and engage in a dialogue with experts in the field, practicing MDs and medical students from other universities,” said RUSM’s Robert N. Mucciola, MD, MA (Bioethics), FACOG Professor and Chairman, Obstetrics and Gynecology. “The general objectives center on the appreciation and assessment of the role and importance of bioethics in clinical and institutional decision making.”

Dr. Mucciola has spearheaded RUSM's involvement with this important conference from the beginning, and has organized the attendance of a number of our students, with registration fees waived. Students traveled from as far away as California, Chicago, New York and Maryland to attend.

“No matter what field of medicine you go into, the topics discussed apply to you, ” said student Nicholas Alexander.

Instilling a Culture of Caring

Student participants came away from the conference with a renewed appreciation for the physician's role in ensuring patients' needs and desires are met. “This meeting gave insight on how to follow medical ethics within the guidelines of legislation," said California native Ryan Shibata. "Although the laws may be slightly ambiguous, it’s our job as physicians to make sure that our patients’ wishes are not.”

"The most important thing I learned at this meeting was to have compassion toward patients and make their wishes your priority," said Ellexis Khan, a third-year student, "especially when it comes to end-of-life care."

Third-year student Avery Carter echoed their sentiments. “We must be wary not to become so consumed in 'medicine' that we lose sight of the reason for our work, and that, simply, is to care for the patient," said Carter. "In all areas, we must care.”  

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ALUMNI: Dr. Eric Neilson (RUSM ’09) Returns as Visiting Professor

February 01, 2016

A graduate of RUSM’s class of 2009, Eric Neilson, MD, a family medicine doctor, has returned to Dominica as a visiting professor in the department of clinical medicine.

“I’m teaching small groups clinically relevant topics,” he explained, “like physical exam skills, and practice on standardized patients.” 

This is the first time that Dr. Neilson, 36, has come back to the island since he left when he was a student, to do his clinical clerkships in the US. “But I’ve been back in my dreams and in my imagination,” he said. “I love it here. Dominica gave me a lot. I wanted to come back, to give back, not only to RUSM, but to the community.”

In the intervening years he has traveled widely and worked as a physician, a teacher, and a volunteer in India, Honduras, Cameroon, Zambia and New Zealand, and he served in a Peace Corps program in Tanzania.

A native of California, Dr. Neilson earned his undergraduate degree in microbiology at the University of California, Santa Barbara. “I always wanted to be a doctor,” he related, “but after college I felt I needed a break from studying. So I was a teacher and taught high school science for three years at an underserved school. That was very difficult, very tough.”

When he was ready to apply to medical school, it was the fact that RUSM has three start dates a year that was one factor leading him to choose the school. “I had everything lined up,” he said. “My grades were good, my board scores were pretty good, but I would have had to wait a year and a half to start at a US medical school.”

A self-described “big outdoors person” he enjoys hiking, biking, sailing, surfing and diving. The “lush, untouched” nature island offers opportunities to engage in all of these activities now, just as he did when he was a student.

Dr. Neilson said that he was very impressed with the new Student Center, the expanded simulation lab, and campus and community enhancements, like the many food options that were not available in his time on the island.

“I really enjoy teaching the future doctors of America and the world,” he said. “Getting them at the beginning of their careers I have an opportunity to help shape their goals and improve their skills.”

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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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ACADEMICS: Dr. Iriana Hammel Named RUSM's Assistant Dean for Clinical Sciences

October 26, 2015

Iriana Hammell named assistant dean for clinical sciences
Iriana Hammel, MD, FACP, AGSF, has been named assistant dean for clinical sciences at Ross University School of Medicine.

Iriana Hammel, MD, FACP, AGSF, has been named assistant dean for clinical sciences at Ross University School of Medicine (RUSM). Dr. Hammel, who has been with RUSM since 2011, is based in Miramar, Florida, where she has served as senior program director of the Internal Medicine Foundations program (IMF). She also teaches an elective in geriatrics to clinical students.

A native of Romania, Dr. Hammel earned her medical degree at Carol Davila University of Medicine and Pharmacy in Bucharest, and came to the US for an internship and residency in internal medicine at Westlake Hospital in Melrose Park, IL, followed by a fellowship in geriatric medicine at Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood, IL.

“My lifelong dream was to be a doctor,” Dr. Hammel said. “I planned to practice medicine in Romania, but I wanted to train abroad, in the US,” she said. Then, while working in Michigan, she met her future husband and the plan changed. They are now the parents of two daughters.

“This promotion reflects Dr. Hammel’s sustained contribution to our educational programs,” said Dean and Chancellor Joseph A. Flaherty, MD.

Dr. Hammel has authored and presented many academic papers, and is the recipient of numerous awards and honors. She is board certified in geriatric medicine and in internal medicine.

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RUSM Faculty Save a Passenger’s Life on a Plane

October 05, 2015

“Is there a doctor in the house?” is something most of us have heard only in a scene in a movie, but for two Ross University School of Medicine (RUSM) physician colleagues, the urgent announcement, “Is there a doctor on the plane?” was very real. They were flying home from the RUSM Leadership Conference, held Sept. 17-19 in Cancun, Mexico. Sean Gnecco, MD, RUSM Associate Professor in the Internal Medicine Foundations program, and Assistant Dean for Clinical Sciences, Iriana Hammel, MD, FACP, AGSF, heeded the call for a doctor immediately.

“The patient was panicked, shaking, having difficulty breathing, felt swelling in the throat, and had a rash on both arms and legs,” Dr. Gnecco explained. Flight attendants gave him the emergency kit that was onboard the plane and he quickly examined the patient, and administered oxygen.

The combination of symptoms and the patient’s history of allergies led him to a diagnosis of anaphylaxis, a disease that can be fatal within five to 10 minutes, he said. He quickly injected the person with an Epi-Pen® and within 90 seconds the individual began to feel better.

Fortunately, the plane was only a few minutes from its destination, and when it landed, paramedics were waiting at the airport to take the patient to the hospital for observation.

The airline formally thanked the RUSM heroes and, as a token of appreciation, added several thousand miles to their frequent-flier accounts.

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VIEWPOINT: 10 Ways to Provide an Engaging Medical School Learning Environment

July 13, 2015

This blog entry was written by Vijay Rajput, MD, FACP, SFHM, Professor and Chair of Medicine at Ross University School of Medicine. Dr. Rajput is also the Medical Director for the Office of Student and Professional Development at RUSM.

What do learners want from their teachers? I think that the answer to that question is the same for all students, from pre-school to medical school. My experience as a professor is with medical students, so I will discuss this topic from their perspectives.

RUSM students learning

After all these years as a faculty member and chair, I can say that it is the students who have trained me in what they really need. If we want our students to succeed, we have to turn our attention to what they want, and we need to ensure that we provide a learning environment that includes the following 10 basic requirements.


Engage me.

Excite me.

Explain your role and style.

Don’t make me invisible.

Give me autonomy.

Praise me appropriately.

Don’t scare me.

Help me when I’m struggling.

Provide timely feedback.

Celebrate new learning.


Diving In: Creating an Effective Medical School Environment

Engage me: Medical students work with residents and attendings in a clinical setting to manage patient care. Faculty must make them feel that they are part of the team, and not just bystanders. One way to accomplish this is to make meaningful use of their time. They have time to talk to patients, and then come back to give me, the physician, the information that will help me make a brilliant diagnosis.

RUSM students discussing

Excite me. We have to create the environment for a student to get excited, by being given a role, and simple rules to follow.  For example, there was a case in which a patient, who did not speak English, was admitted with a fever of unknown origin. The resident did many tests. The medical student, who had time to talk to the patient, did a good history, and then also took off the patient’s socks as part of the physical examination. That’s when he discovered that the patient had a dry, gangrenous toe, which was the source of the fever! Since then, I always take off a patient’s socks.

Explain your role:  The many residents and faculty with whom a student may work on clinical rotations all have their own work styles, ways of getting work done and ideas about what they expect from students. It is difficult for students to know who we are, what responsibilities we have, and what our roles are in their medical education. We should take a few moments to clarify all this to students on the first day of a new rotation.  

Don’t make me invisible: Faculty members should know a little something about each student, outside of the medical sphere. Does the student have a skill, interest or hobby? I always ask new students to tell me where they were born and raised, where they went to high school and college, what they majored in, and what they did before coming to RUSM. I’ve had so many students and I may not remember their names, but I remember their life stories. This exchange creates a little bond, and makes it easier for the student to come to me with any questions or problems. I try to create a nurturing, friendly environment. Students know that they will have to work hard, but they will learn a lot. I also maintain an open-door policy, and I want students to feel comfortable knocking on my door without having to make an appointment. They are not invisible to me. I see them as individuals with unique needs.

RUSM students show autonomy

Give me autonomy: Don’t tell students how to learn. You can guide them, but don’t force them by telling them how to do everything. Allow them to do some experimenting in their learning.

Praise me appropriately: You don’t have to give out gold medals, but when a student does something right, one word of praise can go a long way. A simple, “That was nice” or “That was good” is very meaningful.

Don’t scare me: I’m a firm believer in having an environment that is conducive to learning. It’s ok to create a little performance anxiety and to put students a little on the spot. But the technique of scaring them doesn’t work. Neither does intimidating them with your knowledge or power. Fear and anxiety do not create a good atmosphere for learning.

Help me when I’m struggling: It’s reasonable that students who are struggling will need more guidance, and more discipline. Help them set up short term goals, like for the next exam, as well as long term goals, about their careers. Sometimes they may have trouble seeing the forest for the trees, so you can help them zoom in and zoom out, so they see both trees and forest.

Provide timely feedback: I used to give my students formative feedback at the end of every week. I called it Feedback Friday. Faculty members need to find out what students have learned and what they still need to learn, so there isn’t a gap between what they’ve been taught and what they know. It’s not enough to say, in general, “You need to improve your communication with the patient.” We should give students specific guidance, like, “Pay attention to body language.”

Celebrate new learning: Many times in long demanding work hours in professional school and clinical environments we forget to have fun while learning. In medicine we are often surrounded by sickness, suffering and pain. The notion of fun may seem inappropriate. What I am referring to, however, is the enjoyment that comes from learning something new, and from doing something well. Students should be able to celebrate these accomplishments. Of course we must respect our patients’ privacy, and maintain the proper professional demeanor around patients. What I have often done is take my students to the cafeteria for ice cream to celebrate their successes, to give them a high-five and tell them they did a good job.

Final Thoughts: The Med School Student's Perspective and Why It Matters

As an educator, thinking about learning from the student’s perspective has helped me a lot. Over the years I have observed my mentors, many of whom were role models in this respect.

Most of all, I am indebted to my students, from whom I continue to learn how to become a better teacher.

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ALUMNI: One Grad’s Path from Teacher, to Student, to Resident of the Year

June 17, 2015


Ray King, MD, RUSM alum named resident of the year
RUSM alumni Ray King, MD (above) was recently named Resident of the Year at the Medical College of Georgia (MCG) at Georgia Regents University, Augusta.

Ray King, MD, PhD, a RUSM Class of 2010 graduate, was just named Resident of the Year at the Medical College of Georgia (MCG) at Georgia Regents University, Augusta. Dr. King is the chief resident in surgery, and is just about to complete his training.

It goes without saying that we’re immensely proud of Dr. King’s accomplishment, but—given the caliber of our students and graduates—we also aren’t that surprised. What might surprise you, though, is the path he ultimately took to become a physician. Because it’s the opposite of what you’d expect.

A Guest Lecture Turns into a Job Offer

Some RUSM students come back to their alma mater to teach after they earn their medical degrees. For some of our grads, teaching simply becomes their passion. The opposite, though—a RUSM faculty member deciding to reverse course and become a medical school student—is far more rare. Yet that’s exactly what happened with Dr. King.

But how does someone go from a full-time faculty member to a medical school student?


RUSM Alumni In The News | Congratulations to Dr. Ray King ('10) who has been recognized as 2015 Resident of the Year at the Medical College of Georgia.

Posted by Ross University School of Medicine on Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Before coming on board with RUSM to teach, Dr. King held faculty positions at several medical schools in the Boston area and abroad, including Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Massachusetts Medical School (UMass), and even such far-flung locations as Kathmandu University Medical School in Nepal, where he was assistant professor/course director of medical gross anatomy and histology. He’d earned his PhD in anatomy and neurobiology from Boston University School of Medicine, followed by a postdoctoral fellowship in neural stem cell transplantation at Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Medical School.

While he was still on faculty teaching anatomy at UMass, Dr. King was invited to RUSM in Dominica as a guest lecturer. That lecture turned into a job offer – to be the course director of RUSM’s medical gross anatomy courses. He accepted and, in addition to his other responsibilities teaching, spearheaded an initiative to design and install the school’s fully integrated anatomy laboratory, which combined traditional cadaver dissections with high-tech, interactive digital learning stations.

The Medical School Professor Becomes the Student

But he wanted more—it felt like something was missing. “I was thinking about applying to medical school,” he said. “As a young faculty member, I was very fortunate to be given a tremendous amount of support from my department chair, Dr. [Sandy] Martin and [then-Dean Jorge Rios] to try many innovative projects at RUSM, and they apparently were happy with my work. Furthermore, they made an extremely generous offer for me to maintain my faculty position as well as to matriculate as a medical student.”

The offer was one he couldn’t refuse – albeit very confusing for his medical school classmates to be in class with one of their professors, he said. But the university brought him more than the chance to go to medical school. It brought him the opportunity to meet his future wife, fellow student Jessica Van Beek, MD. When they registered for the couples’ match in 2010 – he in general surgery and she in otolaryngology/head & neck surgery – people told them there was no way it would happen. “I wasn’t going to let that discourage us,” he said. “Who were they to tell us it couldn’t be done?”

Turns out it could. The couple matched at MCG, where King has concurrently served as a clinical assistant professor of gross anatomy, teaching MCG students while he was a surgical resident.  After finishing residencies in June 2015, the couple will travel to Minneapolis and Chicago for one-year fellowships, he at the University of Minnesota in colorectal surgery and she at Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago in pediatric otolaryngology.

After wrapping up his training, Dr. King has his eye on joining a practice at University Hospital in Augusta.




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Tags: Faculty , Alumni , 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.

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New Leaders Named for RUSM Pharmacology, Anatomy Departments

November 12, 2014

Ross University School of Medicine (RUSM) has named two faculty members as chairs of their respective departments.

Alan Bateson, PhD, has been appointed Chair of the RUSM Department of Pharmacology.  A professor of pharmacology who joined RUSM in 2011, Dr. Bateson teaches cardiovascular/renal pharmacology and neuropharmacology, is Chair of the Faculty Appointments and Promotions Committee, and is a member of both the Curriculum Committee and the Clinical Curriculum Subcommittee. Previously, he was interim chair of the Pharmacology Department at RUSM.

Dr. Bateson earned his PhD from the University of London (King’s College), UK, in biochemistry and molecular biology. He has held faculty appointments in the University of Alberta’s Department of Pharmacology—with adjunct positions in psychiatry and neuroscience—and, later, in the Faculty of Biological Sciences at the University of Leeds, UK. He has published numerous peer-reviewed papers as well as books and review chapters, primarily in the area of GABA-A receptor neuropharmacology and other channels important to cardiovascular functions. Multiple agencies, such as the Canadian Institute of Health Research, have funded Dr. Bateson’s research.

Sheila Nunn, PhD, has been appointed Chair of the RUSM Department of Anatomy. She previously served as interim chair of RUSM’s anatomy department, having joined RUSM full-time in September 2013. Dr. Nunn is a member of the Anatomical Society of Great Britain and Ireland, the British Association of Clinical Anatomists, and the Association for the Study of Medical Education (ASME).  She has published numerous papers in peer-reviewed journals in the fields of gastrointestinal anatomy and pathology and medical education.

She completed postgraduate study at The Queen’s University of Belfast, Ireland, where she earned a PhD in anatomy.  She spent two years at RUSM as an Assistant Professor of Anatomy before returning to the UK in 1995 to become a Lecturer in Anatomy at the University of Leeds, where she was primarily involved in the teaching and mentoring of medical students, in addition to carrying out research responsibilities.

In 2001, Dr. Nunn was recruited to set up the Department of Anatomy at the University of Durham, UK, an institution that was going to admit its first cohort of medical students that year.  She also served as a Senior Anatomy Lecturer, Deputy Chair of the Board of Examiners, and Director of the Clinical Skills Laboratory at Durham.  In 2006, she returned to the University of Leeds as a Senior Lecturer in Anatomy.  She was Program Leader for the Intercalated degree in Anatomy, and was responsible for all of the embryology and the majority of the histology teaching to medical and dental students, lectures in gross anatomy and lower limb, and all labs to medical, dental and science students.  

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Dr. Laville sees a bright future for students at RUSM

July 18, 2014

Dr. Agnes Laville, a native of Dominica has been a professor at Ross University School of Medicine (RUSM) since 1998.  She earned her BSc in Biochemistry as well as her PhD at the University of London before going on to the University of Barcelona where she was a research and development scientist for nine years.

She is also RUSM’s Associate Dean of Education focusing on the review of student academic progress and academic policy and she is an academic advisor, working closely with new students. Dr Laville said, “I love working with students and assisting them as they adjust to a new location, a new island, being away from home and adapting to a new culture.”

Dr. Laville participates in information seminars which are designed “to help prepare students for what they are about to find on campus. The seminars provide honest answers to the students’ questions, so as to paint a real picture of what is expected in Dominica.

“RUSM provides opportunities to students, and offers a lot of activities, clubs and organizations to keep them busy; the Student Government Association does a wonderful job,” Dr. Laville said. She added, “There are so many good things going on at RUSM now, with a new health clinic and the construction of a student center.”

Among the honors and awards that Dr. Laville has received during her professional career are the Hoecsht Iberica award in 1994 for the best scientific publication, a Bristol-Myers Squibb award for a scientific project in 1997, and the DeVry PRIDE award for excellence and service to students in 2006.

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Pharmacology Professor Julienne M. Turnbull, PhD to Retire after 21 Years at RUSM

April 05, 2014

“I felt the time had come to seek new pastures,” said Ross University School of Medicine (RUSM) pharmacology professor Julienne M. Turnbull, PhD about her decision to retire last December. For the time being, however, she remains as a visiting professor, “to help out.”

Dr. Turnbull, who joined the faculty of RUSM in 1993, described a conversation she had with the institution’s founder. “I spoke to Dr. Ross and he said he wants to give an opportunity to people who have a real passion to study medicine,” she related. “I was drawn to that. The depth of motivation of the students impressed me. I’ve enjoyed my time teaching at Ross.”

RUSM’s Senior Associate Dean, Wm. Lynn Weaver, MD, FACS, commented, “I first encountered Dr. Turnbull not long after I had arrived on island. My initial thoughts were I have just met the most joyous, likable, enthusiastic, optimistic whirlwind I have ever seen. She is that rare person who lives as she believes, and strives to help all who come into her orbit. People like her are rare, teachers like her are even rarer. I, like our students, will miss her positive attitude and I wish her the best for she has given her best.”

After 21 years of living on the island, Dr. Turnbull said, “I have a lot to thank Dominica for.” She is an avid birdwatcher, a member of the Anglican Church, and very involved with the Northern District Home for the Aged, on whose board she sits. She noted that the medical school faculty and some student groups give their time to visit and help the elderly residents, three of whom are centenarians. 

Her two sons and new grandson live in London, where Dr. Turnbull has a “tiny, 170 year-old terraced house” that she calls home. “It has the original roof of Welsh slate, with the beautiful tiles that are falling off. The bricks are lovely, dark red. There are fireplaces in every room.” She added that, “The inside has been modernized.”

Dr. Turnbull earned a PhD in biochemistry at the University of London and pursued a career in research and medical education.  She has taught in London, New York, and Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. During vacations she visited other countries, bird-watching around the world.

“I shall miss all sorts of things,” she said about leaving Dominica. One of the things from which she benefited most, she said, is the people’s “celebratory attitude.”

Tags: Faculty , Dominica

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Education Summit explores innovative ways to help medical students “think like doctors”

February 28, 2014

Physicians from hospitals throughout the U.S. that are clinical partners of Ross University School of Medicine (RUSM) travelled to the Dominica campus recently for a meeting of the minds at an Education Summit with faculty members on the island. The Summit’s aim was to explore ways to increase clinical correlations within the basic science education. The journey of RUSM students begins in Dominica, where they study the basic sciences, and then continues at various locations in the U.S. where they do their core clinical rotations and electives. They may also choose to do international interdisciplinary electives in several countries around the globe. The Summit, on Feb. 21-22, was an innovative approach to a process of continuous improvement. The goal is to integrate clinical knowledge and experience into the basic science curriculum. A future conference will look at ways to integrate basic science teaching into the clinical years. 

Plenary speaker shares his institute’s experience

“I really believe in this,” said plenary session speaker Mark Nadeau, MD, residency program director in the department of family and community medicine at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio. His topic was, “Increasing Clinical Correlations in the Basic Science Curriculum: Lessons Learned.” His institute had been put on probation by the LCME for a lack of such correlation, but after developing a new structure and new curriculum, the probation has been lifted.

“Sometimes students know all the anatomy, but not the clinically significant anatomy,” explained Nadeau. “For example, they may know all the ligaments, but may not know which one you might injure when you twist an ankle. Now we do training in team-based learning and in small groups. The collaboration between the basic science faculty and the clinical faculty is ag success story.”

One of Dr. Nadeau’s residents, RUSM graduate Dr. Teny Phillip said, “It’s great that a first-year medical student is encouraged to start thinking like a clinician.”

Collaboration at the event

At the Education Summit basic science faculty hosted visiting clinical faculty and worked together in small groups on various topics. These sessions were followed by a debriefing for all of the event’s participants, with lively discussions ensuing. Leading a workshop on “Pain Management through Pharmacology” was the team of RUSM associate professor Vicki Coffin, PhD and Scott Ippolito, MD, FAAFP, chair of family medicine and clerkship director at South Nassau Hospital in N.Y. and RUSM’s associate dean for clinical sciences. “It’s also important to address pain management through non-pharmacological methods,” stated Dr. Ippolito. “We don’t want students to think that the only treatment is pharmacological.” Dr. Ippolito is also an RUSM alumnus (’86). “We cover a broad range of treatment,” noted Dr. Coffin.

RUSM professor Alan Bateson, PhD asked, “Where in our curriculum are the things you’re talking about; the clinical bit we can integrate with? How can we put our basic science material in a clinical context?” Dr. Bateson suggested that curriculum mapping is required.

Several Summit attendees were visiting Dominica for the first time, including Kelly Rich, MD, medical director of the Atlanta Medical Center Family Medicine Clinic, where she is the student coordinator. “I have a lot of respect for medical students who would leave the country to study. It takes drive.” Dr. Rich was glad to travel to the Summit because, she said, “I’m really excited about the fact that they want to get clinical and basic sciences faculty together to brainstorm. That is a really good thing. The result is that students would be better clinicians.” 

Call to action for medical school faculty

RUSM’s Senior Associate Dean for Education Alison Dobbie, MD, FACS, who organized the event, commented, “This is a living example of what happens when you put smart people in a room and let them get on with things.” Working with her on the event were RUSM’s James Grogan, PhD, assistant dean for curriculum and professor, department of biochemistry and genetics, and Stanley White, PhD, associate dean, Center for Teaching and Learning and professor of physiology, together with a team of faculty and staff members.

Senior Associate Dean, Dominica Campus, Wm Lynn Weaver, MD, said, “At RUSM we are here at the right time and place in history for taking the next step. This conference, this collaboration, is a set up for that.”
A six-point call-to-action was presented by Dean Joseph Flaherty, enumerating ways to achieve the goals discussed at the Summit. “I think it’s a great start. This is an ongoing process,” he said. “We have great momentum.”

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