Ross University Blog

CAMPUS: Watch the Livestream of the White Coat Ceremony in Dominica on May 12

May 07, 2017

The tradition at Ross University School of Medicine is to invite one of our alumni to be the featured speaker at each White Coat ceremony. The donning of the white coat marks the transition of this cohort of men and women from students to student doctors. For the May 12 event, Dr. Giuliano De Portu (Ross ‘09) will share his inspiring story. Watch the livestream from the Dominica campus at The ceremony is scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. EST, and the livestream will be available from 1:30 p.m. EST.

Dr. De Portu is board certified in Emergency Medicine and is currently an Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine and Emergency Ultrasound, and Assistant Program Director of the Emergency Medicine Residency Program in the Department of Emergency Medicine, and Program Director of the Medical Student Ultrasound Curriculum at the University of Florida College of Medicine in Gainesville. Before following his passion for medicine, he had a career as a photojournalist.

Co-author of a textbook, Emergency Medicine Procedures, several book chapters and eight peer-reviewed articles, Dr. De Portu has also delivered numerous presentations. He is the recipient of University of Florida College of Medicine - Exemplary Teachers Award for 2015-2016 Academic Year, and many other awards and honors. He and his wife are the proud parents of a young son, Giuliano.

Tags: Campus , White Coat , Students

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SCHOLARSHIPS: Student Inspired to Help Children in Underserved Communities

March 10, 2017

Rutuja Bhalerao, Ross student and recipient of the Community Health Leadership Award

Rutuja Bhalerao, Ross student and recipient of the Community Health Leadership Award

At the time, Rutuja Bhalerao didn’t know that the frequent relocations she had throughout her childhood along with her family would lead to the pursuit of a career in medicine. But looking back, it’s made all the difference.

A 2015 graduate of the University of California-Irvine, Rutuja is a recipient of the Community Health Leadership Award, a Ross scholarship that recognizes students who have made significant contributions to their communities through volunteer work or research. Here, Rutuja talks about why she chose Ross, first impressions and her passion for pediatrics.

What inspired you to pursue your MD?

While growing up, I had the opportunity to live in many different places that helped expose me to different cultures, such as India, Philadelphia, Oklahoma, as well as California. Living in some of the rural communities had provided me with an eye-opening experience as to the need for primary healthcare. While gaining exposure to the medical field during my undergraduate career, my interest in pursuing medicine grew, specifically in pediatrics. In addition, I have always wanted to travel and eventually become involved with Doctors Without Borders. Upon graduation, I hope to pursue that dream so that I am able to do my part in helping many of the underserved communities that I have come across while constantly moving.

Any memorable experiences with pediatrics before medical school?

I served as a board member of an organization called Team Kid Power (KiPOW), which provides early nutritional education in low-income area elementary schools, as a preventative measure against childhood obesity. Each week, I’d go into classrooms and give an interactive lesson on healthy eating and living habits, as well as exercise and eat lunch with them, which helped them learn by example.

My work truly came to fruition when the mother of a student, Mia, thanked me for helping her daughter understand the importance of healthy eating. That was when I realized that I really could make a difference in these children’s lifestyles, and those of their families.

Why did you choose Ross?

My brother is a fourth-year Ross student, and I’d also heard from multiple people about how Ross provides an excellent education and prepares you well for the USMLE®. And the beautiful location of Dominica was a plus!

First impressions of Ross?

My experience has been exceptional so far. Both the faculty and students are eager to make sure that you understand the material. Ross provides you resources that you may need to make sure you’re succeeding and that you’re comfortable while you’re here in Dominica. For example, they have a mentorship program where you are paired with a professor to make sure you’re on track. I’ve also been able to explore the island, from visiting the landmarks and beaches to enjoying local food and tea. I’ve truly received a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

What makes you proud to be a Ross student?

I’m inspired by the fact that students and faculty take the time to go to local clinics to offer health care and look out for their community. As we’re pursuing medical education abroad, we’re provided with new experiences every day, which allow us to grow, learn and adapt in a community that we now call home.

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Tags: California , Pediatrics , Students , Scholarships

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SCHOLARSHIPS: Becoming Someone Who Has the Power to Help

February 22, 2017

Roma Nagin, Ross student and recipient of the Opportunity Scholarship

Roma Nagin, Ross student and recipient of the Opportunity Scholarship

Roma Nagin knew she was ready to start her journey towards becoming a physician. All she needed was a chance.

And now, as a first-semester student at Ross and the recipient of an Opportunity Scholarship, this Surrey, British Columbia native is on her way to making it happen.

Roma’s journey into medicine has been more than a decade in the making. When she was 12 years old, a close family member had to be rushed to the hospital—an experience that left her feeling completely powerless. “I had no idea how to help her, and I never wanted to be in that position again,” said Roma.

But in the midst of her fear, a thought struck her: Maybe, one day, she could be someone who did have the power to help.

“That’s when I first thought about pursuing a career in medicine,” Roma said.

For the next several years, Roma did her due diligence—and then some—in an effort to confirm whether medicine truly was the best fit for her. In her science classes, she found herself especially fascinated by the human body and the myriad ways it adapts to survive. That was a good sign. But Roma knew this decision “wasn’t one to be taken lightly,” and figured some real-world experience would be the true test.

So she spent the next several years volunteering at three local hospitals. There, she did everything from helping families find loved ones in the emergency department, to leading exercise groups for patients in the transitional care unit. Meanwhile, Roma studied biology at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver and worked as a laboratory research assistant at UBC’s Biomedical Research Centre.

The verdict? There was no denying it—she was ready to take the next step and pursue her MD.

Roma was attracted to Ross for a number of reasons, including residency placement rates, organizations like the Canadian Student Society, and the positive firsthand accounts from friends already studying at Ross. And now that she’s been in Dominica for nearly two months, she’s found even more to love about it.

“So far, one of my favorite areas is the anatomy lab,” Roma said. “We get hands-on experience with dissecting cadavers and learning the material up close. Plus, Ross provides us early training in clinical skills that we’ll use in our rotations—not to mention, the rest of our lives.”

She added, “The community here is so kind that you can ask anyone for help and they’d be willing to go out of their way to help you, whether they’re a student or a professor. And I’ve already made so many good friends that I know will last a lifetime.”

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Tags: Canada , Students , Scholarships

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STUDENTS: White Coat Transforms Students into Doctors-in-Training

February 06, 2017

An outstanding White Coat ceremony on January 13 transformed the new cohort of RUSM students into doctors-in-training. The event was attended by Dominica dignitaries including His Excellency the President, Charles Savarin and Mrs. Savarin as well as the Prime Minister the Honorable Roosevelt Skerrit.  As the Hon. Ian Douglas, Minister of Trade, Energy & Employment, and Parliamentary Representative for the Portsmouth Constituency said to the class of 2021, “You have chosen perhaps the best place on earth to begin your medical education.”                             

Also on the program was Her Excellency Ambassador Linda Taglialatela US Ambassador to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, who said, “I send warmest regards from the President and the Department of State and wish you well as you begin your medical careers. I know that all of us at the ceremony, and surely everyone around the world watching it on livestream, were impressed with the high-level attention and encouragement given to the students who are embarking on the quest to become physicians.”

In his keynote address Ray King, MD, PhD, (RUSM ’10) hit a home run, as an engaging speaker, a successful practicing physician, and a role model for work/life balance. Dr. King is a board certified surgeon and is currently in private practice with the Colon & Rectal Surgery Associates in Georgia. He was accompanied by his wife, RUSM alumna Jessica Van Beek-King, MD (RUSM ’10) and their two daughters.

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Tags: White Coat , Students

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SCHOLARSHIPS: It's Only Been a Month, but Ross Is Already Her Community

January 30, 2017

Martina Tripcovici, recipient of the Community Health Leadership Award, at the White Coat Ceremony

Martina Tripcovici, recipient of the Community Health Leadership Award, at the White Coat Ceremony

When Martina Tripcovici was young, she imagined herself in all the usual far-flung careers, such as an astronaut, doctor or lawyer. Meanwhile, her parents, a business owner and company director, planted the seed of going into business. But as it turned out, only one of those professions would stick with Martina—and deepen into her life’s calling.

Growing up, Martina had a natural curiosity about the world and people around her. Captivated by her science classes in school, she would read up on concepts that piqued her interest. In particular, she found herself fascinated by the human body and disease. When friends came to her with their health and medical questions, from “I don’t know why my foot hurts…” to “My mom has a headache that won’t go away…” Martina was happy to look it up.

It didn’t take long for her to realize that maybe being a doctor wasn’t just a childhood dream.

Fast-forward a few years, and this Quebec native is on her way to making that dream a reality. Martina is the recipient of a Community Health Leadership Award, a scholarship that recognizes students who have made significant contributions to their communities through volunteer work or research.

“Pursuing my MD at Ross complements my drive to always be the best at what I do,” said Martina. “I want to push myself out of my comfort zone and be in an environment where I know I will thrive in becoming a physician.”

The Road to Medical School

Martina’s ambition flourished during college at New Jersey Institute of Technology in Newark, where she earned a full athletic scholarship as an NCAA Division I tennis player. Amid a demanding tennis schedule, she pursed a bachelor’s degree in chemistry with a minor in environmental science—and earned Dean’s List honors throughout her college career. In addition, she shadowed a local orthopedic surgeon in Livingston, N.J., and spent a summer volunteering at Pierre-Le Gardeur Hospital in her hometown of Terrebonne, Quebec.

After graduating from NJIT, she decided to further strengthen her clinical experience by taking on a research assistant position at Sainte-Justine Hospital in Montreal. Here, she had the opportunity to work closely with physicians on inflammable colon diseases, such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, in pediatric patients.

“I was able to interact with everyone there—patients, doctors, parents,” Martina said of her experience at Sainte-Justine. “I completely fell in love with it.”

Her passion for medicine confirmed, Martina began the application process for medical school. But her options were limited.

Most of the medical schools in Martina’s native Quebec conduct their curricula in French. While Martina spoke French very well, she had just spent her undergraduate years in New Jersey, learning the sciences in English. Attending a French-speaking medical school would mean having to translate her foundational knowledge—four years of complex, scientific education—just to get on a level playing field.  

In addition, medical schools in other Canadian provinces (that teach in in English) were extremely competitive. As Martina had completed her bachelor’s degree in the U.S., she would be considered an international applicant—making it even more difficult for her to gain admission.  

That’s when Martina began looking into Caribbean medical schools, where some of her friends had enrolled. One thing that drew her to Ross was the organ systems-based curriculum that organizes the teaching of medicine by systems within the body, like the digestive or respiratory systems. This approach, which mirrors how medicine is actually practiced, gives you a big-picture look at the physiological, anatomical, and biochemical processes of an organ system all at once.

“Ross was one of the only schools that had a systems-based curriculum, and the class size was smaller than some other schools,” said Martina.

Finding a Home

Having arrived at Dominica several weeks ago, Martina is taking advantage of all that Ross has to offer. “The simulation center and anatomy lab are amazing,” Martina said. “You can do dissections; you can see everything. Many of my friends that are in medical school do not have the opportunity to dissect or even go into a simulation center this early, which restricts hands-on learning.”

And beyond the academics, Martina has found a home in the Ross community.

“There’s a great little community here,” she said. “We’re not a huge class, and everyone is super friendly. You’re all in the same boat. I got here on the 29th of December at 11 p.m., and by the 30th, I had met people who I think are going to be my best friends.”

Her advice for pre-med students? “Think about how you are as a person, and look for a school that you can relate to,” she said. “I’m a people person—I like to get to know my classmates and be part of a community. Ross has been an amazing experience for me.”

Have questions for Martina about her Ross experience? She encourages students considering Ross to reach out to her with any questions you may have. You can email her at

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Tags: Canada , Students , Scholarships

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CAMPUS: Watch the Transformation at White Coat

January 12, 2017

Ross alumnus Ray King, MD, PhD, with his family.

Ross alumnus Ray King, MD, PhD, with his family.

On January 13, 2017 the traditional White Coat ceremony will transform the new cohort of RUSM students into doctors-in-training. Watch the livestream of the White Coat ceremony on the Dominica campus at  The event is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. EST, and the livestream will be available from 12:30 p.m. EST.

The keynote speaker will be alumnus Ray King, MD, PhD, who earned his MD from RUSM in 2010 and his PhD in Anatomy and Neurobiology from Boston University School of Medicine in 2002. He is a colorectal surgeon at University Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia.

He completed a post-doctoral fellowship with a focus on neural stem cell transplant and molecular imaging at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School. Prior to obtaining his MD, Dr. King taught anatomy at several medical schools in the Boston area and abroad. He also served as Assistant Professor of Anatomy at RUSM from 2004 -2008. During the last two years as a faculty member, he concurrently attended RUSM as a medical student. Dr. King obtained a categorical residency position in the Department of Surgery at the Medical College of Georgia (MCG). He served as the chief surgery resident in 2014-2015, during which time he was voted as Resident of the Year at MCG. During his residency he served on several committees with the American College of Surgeons and the American Board of Surgery. He then went on to complete his fellowship training in Colon & Rectal Surgery at University of Minnesota.

Dr. King is a board certified surgeon and is currently in private practice with the Colon & Rectal Surgery Associates in Georgia. His wife, Jessica Van Beek-King, is also a Ross alumnus (2010). She completed her training in Otolaryngology/Head & Neck Surgery at the Medical College of Georgia, and then went on to complete a Pediatric Otolaryngology fellowship at Lurie Children’s Hospital/Northwestern University in Chicago. She is a board certified Head & Neck surgeon and an assistant professor of surgery at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. Drs. King and Van Beek-King have two young daughters.

Tags: White Coat , Campus , Students

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THE TOP 16: Handpicked Ross Stories from 2016

December 29, 2016

A 40-year-old mother and wife who suffered a tragic loss and went on to earn her medical degree. A Canadian judo expert (and former Olympian) who traded athletic gear for a white coat. A third-year resident who almost didn’t apply to medical school at all—because he didn’t fit his own preset notions of what a doctor was.

These stories (and more) make up the broader Ross story, and we hope you’ve enjoyed reading it as much as we’ve enjoyed telling it. So as a follow-up to 2015’s Ross best-of list, we’ve combed through dozens of stories published this year and collected some of the posts that engaged our visitors the most. Check them out below—and thanks for reading and sharing our story!

Without further ado and in no particular order, the top 16 from 2016:

This Alum, Now a Neurologist, Wouldn’t Take No for an Answer. Good Thing She Didn’t. Perseverance, personality and a little help from her dad. That’s how 2003 Ross graduate Amy Jarvis, MD, got to where she is now. A vascular neurologist for the Miami-Dade Neuroscience Institute, her medical career spans more than a decade—Jarvis has evaluated NFL athletes for concussion and possible neurological trauma, served as director of stroke for two separate healthcare facilities, and more. And she isn’t accustomed to backing down from a challenge—so years ago, when someone told her she had no shot of getting into medical school, she didn’t take no for an answer. Read her story here.

The Top 7 Survival Skills Medical Students Need to Succeed. As a medical school student, what skills do you need to perform well in the basic sciences part of the program? Ross Dean Joseph A. Flaherty, MD, sat down with Vijay Rajput, MD—Professor and Chairman of Medicine and Medical Director, Office for Student Professional Development—to help answer that question. During their discussion, the duo identified the top seven survival skills needed to thrive during the early, formative years of medical study. Check out the tips.

One Grad’s Musings on Dominica, Residency, and His 'Amazing' Ross Experience. There’s this quote that 2008 graduate Andrew Medvedovsky really likes: If you don’t demand perfection from yourself, nobody else will. The person giving the quote was Medvedovsky’s mentor—Dr. Maged Hamza, who directed Medvedovsky’s interventional pain management fellowship at Virginia Commonwealth University. And the sentiment has served him well in both his education and practice. In a far-reaching interview, Medvedovsky muses on life in Dominica, clinical rotations in the US, old preconceptions he had about Ross, and what it really means to be a doctor. Read his interview here. 

Ross Presents 2016 Residency Results and Highlights. More than 785 Ross graduates attained residencies in 2016. You can view the list here, but we decided to take things a step further with this post and really dive into some of the individual placements and specialties. If you’re looking for more detail on some of the great residencies attained by our graduates in 2016, this post is for you. Read it here.

Grad Goes from Olympics to Sports Medicine Fellowship in Canada. Sure, people make all sorts of career changes to follow their dreams of practicing medicine—but it’s pretty rare that one of our graduates can list “former Olympic athlete” as their prior occupation. But that’s exactly the case with 2013 Ross graduate Keith Morgan, MD. But post-2008, he was “happy where I was in my sports life.” It was time to move on to a different career, but preferably something that kept him in sports. That’s where Ross came in. Read Keith’s story.

How Ross Grad Lilian Sarfati Impressed on Day 1 of Residency (and Beyond). There’s this story that 2012 graduate Lilian Sarfati, MD, likes to share about her first day of residency. Sarfati and seven of her resident colleagues get pulled into a room. It’s just them, one nurse, and a patient on a gurney having a heart attack. It’s a patient safety simulation, to be clear—structured to help residents learn to work together as an organized healthcare team—and not a real patient. What happened next ended up really impressing that exercise’s coordinator—and made her proud to be a Ross student. Read Lilian’s story here.

Debunking the “Doctor Type.” Sometimes, your greatest obstacles can be in your own head. A prime example: Ross grad Dr. Kyle Evers. Throughout high school, he had a strong interest in the sciences and a natural desire to help people. Yet when thinking about his future career, medicine barely crossed his mind as a possibility. Why? He didn’t fit his own notion of the doctor type. “In my mind, doctors were people who never had to study—those kids who got straight A’s without even trying,” Dr. Evers explains. “That wasn’t me. So I didn’t really consider myself a future doctor.” But now, it’s safe to say his views on who can be a doctor have expanded. Wondering what he’s been up to? Read his story and find out.

An Unconventional Path to Practicing Psychiatry. On her daily walk to the emergency room where she works in Manhattan, Kendra Campbell, MD '10 takes pictures of things that inspire her along the way—a rusty pay phone, an abandoned Barbie doll, the rose-patterned skeleton of an old sofa. She likes finding beauty in things you wouldn’t necessarily think are beautiful, she says—an outlook she brings to her job as Assistant Director of the Comprehensive Psychiatric Emergency Program at New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center. “What I like about being a psychiatrist in the emergency room is that you see people at their breaking points,” says Dr. Campbell. “I have this unique opportunity to make a profound impact on their lives. And that is a very precious, fulfilling thing.” Read her story.

MERP Student Inspires Through Blogging (and Makes Dean’s List, Too). “I average about 14 emails a week from prospective students,” says Emma Cronk, a native of a small rural town called Parham in Ontario. “And that’s not counting my Instagram messages!” Is Emma Cronk an admissions counselor? No—she’s a fourth-semester student at Ross. But since the blog where she chronicles her medical school journey took off among prospective students, she’s found herself a go-to resource for hopefuls asking about her experience, seeking advice and simply wanting to know more about her. She started her blog in fall 2014 as a way to keep in touch with family after she entered the Medical Education Readiness Program (MERP) prior to beginning medical school. Read her story.

Alumna Shares the Path She Designed to Obtain Her Preferred Residency. Ross grad Fusun Dikengil, MD has been working as an internal medicine resident at the University of Massachusetts Medical School (UMMS) for several months now. Dikengil landed her first choice residency, keeping her within the vicinity of where she resides. However, Dikengil obtaining her residency top pick was no happy coincidence. She was very strategic about her clinical training experiences to increase her chances of obtaining her preferred residency appointment. How’d she do it? Find out here.

The Patient Experience That Drove This Student to Attend Med School. It was the patient Mike Farrell couldn’t help—even though he knew what type of treatment was needed—that ultimately convinced him to enroll in medical school. Until then, Farrell was loving his career as a chiropractor. But then he got a phone call from a man whose wife needed immediate care. Farrell took the appointment, examined his patient when she arrived, and knew exactly what she needed. But chiropractic’s scope of practice is limited. Farrell couldn’t prescribe necessary treatments. Only a medical doctor could. Now a fourth-year student at Ross, Farrell is well on his way to solving that problem.  Read his story.

From Haiti to Minnesota: Alum Set to Begin Surgery Residency at Mayo Clinic. “It’s like a boulder came off my back,” said Marc Olivier Duverseau when describing the sense of relief he felt after obtaining a residency position. Duverseau will attend the preliminary surgery program at Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. Duverseau was born and raised in Haiti and arrived to the United States at age 18 to attend the University of Tampa. Read his story.

Ross Grads Earn Chief Resident Spots for 2016-2017 Residency Year. Hundreds of Ross graduates started residency training in July 2016. In the meantime, many of our graduates who are already deep in their training have earned the distinction of being named chief residents for the 2016-2017 year. Chief residents are entrusted with developing clinical rotation schedules, performing administrative duties, and supervising junior residents, among other responsibilities. Check out the list.

40-Year-Old Med Student Overcomes Obstacles, Inspires Others.

You’re almost 40. Who would decide to go to medical school at this age? That's just one example of the crass opposition that Joyce Haynes Busch, MD (‘16) remembers getting when she decided, at age 38, to apply to medical school. “They didn’t know me, and already they labeled me as a failure,” she remembers. Unwilling to let the naysayers stop her and committed to achieving her dream of becoming a physician—despite suffering a tragic personal loss—Haynes Busch decided to press on in a very public way. Read her story.

Alum Earns Radiology Residency in Spite of “So-Called Disability”
“For those of us with so-called disabilities, if you persevere long enough, eventually your weakness will become your strength.”

That’s Ross graduate Johnathon Stephens, speaking about his own personal challenges and how he leveraged them to succeed as a Ross graduate. Stephens is hard of hearing, and coordinated with Ross to get the resources he needed to earn his degree, including making arrangements for sign language interpreters from Hands in Motion during his clerkships for clinical training. Stephens, who has returned to his hometown of Peoria, IL for his radiology residency, advises medical students to “never give up.” It’s a mantra he has applied to his own life. Read about his Ross experience.

Alum Tells His Couples Match Experience with Wife, Ross Alumna
Ross alumnus Brian Kendall, MD, Class of 2013, was chief resident in the Department of Emergency Medicine at The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas from 2015-2016. He had an interesting reason for pursuing his degree at Ross: He and his wife had been married for a year prior to applying for medical school—and they wanted to attend the same school.

Ross went out of its way, he said, to make them feel welcome as a couple. They interviewed on the same day, and met with Ross admissions associates both individually as a couple. “It was a great experience, and we knew that we would fit in well,” he said. Read his story.

Looking for more? Check out the Ross Blog!

Tags: Alumni , Residency , Students

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STUDENTS: This Ross Student Was a Winner at ACP

November 14, 2016

Fourth-year Ross student Melissa Woo

Fourth-year Ross student Melissa Woo

Fourth-year Ross student Melissa Woo was selected as the single, top overall student winner of the medical student poster presentations at the American College of Physicians (ACP) Michigan Chapter Annual Scientific Meeting held on October 1 in Acme, Michigan. The title of her poster is Alcohol Withdrawal or Stimulant Overdose: CIWA to the Rescue.

CIWA, or Clinical Institute Withdrawal Assessment of Alcohol, is a well-validated scale that was created in the 1980s and it is used to quantitatively and reliably assess and re-assess the severity of acute alcohol withdrawal and to help determine and adjust its management.

Melissa, who earned her undergraduate degree from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN, will now be going on to the ACP National Internal Medicine Meeting in San Diego to present the same winning poster. That event will be held from March 30-April 1, 2017. Melissa is currently finishing her rotations at Cleveland Clinic Florida. She applied for MATCH℠ 2017 for Internal Medicine.

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Tags: Research , Students

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ACADEMICS: Second-Year Ross Student Presents at AMSA Conference

November 07, 2016

Second-semester Ross student Doan Nguyen

Second-semester Ross student Doan Nguyen

Congratulations to second-year Ross student Doan Nguyen on delivering a popular presentation at the American Medical Student Association (AMSA) conference held in Puerto Rico on Oct. 15 and 16, 2016. Doan was invited to lead a session titled Arterial Blood Gas Sampling and Identification. More than 200 people attended this presentation.

The highlights of the AMSA conference include bringing together physicians-in-training and expert facilitators. Attendees spend two days exploring current issues in medicine, building clinical skills, and connecting with peers.

Doan earned a BA from University of Economics, Ho Chi Minh city, Vietnam and BS degree in respiratory care from the University of Texas Medical Branch, Texas. He is currently a licensed respiratory therapist, and had practiced in this field for nine years before enrolling in medical school at Ross.

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STUDENTS: Top 3 Winners from the Ross Leadership Conference Poster Contest

October 10, 2016

Three Ross University School of Medicine students won the top awards in the poster competition at Ross’ Leadership Conference, held in Cancun September 22-24.

Here are the top three results!

First Place

Elizabeth Capt
Student Perceptions vs. Utilization of Video Recorded Lectures and Other Resources

First-place winner Elizabeth Capt (from left), Dean Joseph Flaherty, and Dr. Alan Bateson

Elizabeth is currently studying in London as part of the United Kingdom and New Jersey clinical track. She earned a B.S. in Biochemistry and a B.S. in Biology from West Texas A&M University. After completing medical school, she said that she intends to pursue a residency in family medicine. She has a growing interest in medical education research. 

Second Place

Eliza Slama
Use of a Mock Deposition Program to Improve Resident Understanding of the Importance of Documentation

Second-place winner Eliza Slama (from left), Dean Flaherty, and Dr.  Bateson

Eliza is a fourth-year student at Ross. She earned bachelor’s degrees at Florida State University in both biology and Spanish, with a minor in chemistry. She has developed an interest in global health and has participated in mission trips to Peru, India, and the Dominican Republic.

Third Place

Jacob Hayden
Effect of Hospital Intervention on Smoking Cessation 30 Days After Admission for Acute Coronary Syndrome

Third-place winner Jacob Hayden (from left), Dean Flaherty, and Dr.  Bateson

Jacob is a fourth-year student at Ross. He earned an undergraduate degree in biology from Missouri State University, where he was presented with the department’s outstanding thesis/research award and graduated magna cum laude. The research he conducted there has been published in several peer-reviewed journals.

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PROFILE: The Patient Experience That Drove This Student to Attend Med School

September 22, 2016

alt image tag
When Mike Farrell (above) realized that his scope of practice as a chiropractor was limiting how much care he could give to his patients, he took the next step and enrolled in medical school at Ross.

It was the patient Mike Farrell couldn’t help—even though he knew what type of treatment was needed—that ultimately convinced him to enroll in medical school.

Until then, Farrell was loving his career as a chiropractor, complete with his own practice in Amherst, near his hometown of Buffalo, NY. But then, one weekend, he got a phone call from a man whose wife needed immediate care. She had recently undergone surgery on her lumbar spine, Farrell was told, and the plane ride to New York—the couple was going to see their son in a swimming competition—had aggravated her back so badly that she needed to be carried off the plane.

Farrell took the appointment, examined his patient when she arrived, and knew exactly what she needed—some muscle relaxants and injections, plus some medical therapy to calm her down enough to undergo both rehabilitation and some of the chiropractic adjustments he could offer.

But chiropractic’s scope of practice is limited. Farrell couldn’t prescribe those treatments, but a medical doctor could.

“It was a culminating moment,” says Farrell. “I’m looking at her, I know what needs to be done for her, and I don’t have the scope of practice to help her.”

Now a fourth-year student at Ross University School of Medicine, Farrell is well on his way to solving that problem. Via video blogs, Farrell has been chronicling his day-to-day journey through clinical rotations on Ability Science, a website dedicated to raising awareness about the importance of neurological and musculoskeletal health as it relates to quality of life. Check out his vlogs here.

But how'd he end up at Ross?

His Path to Ross

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Farrell and some classmates after participating in the Ross White Coat Ceremony at the beginning of first semester.

At first, Farrell applied at stateside schools, both allopathic and osteopathic, but came up empty—he’d submitted his application a bit late in the enrollment season, and was told to reapply next year. But that wasn’t the answer he wanted, especially because he realized that if he waited for last year, his undergraduate biology and chemistry classes would be outdated and he’d have to retake them. (This is especially notable as at the time, Farrell was teaching anatomy and physiology at the college level.)

Farrell wanted to act now. Luckily, he had another option. A colleague of his pointed him in the direction of a Ross graduate currently practicing as an OB-GYN in Buffalo.

“[The Ross grad] told me her experience was great, she enjoyed the island, she had a good experience finding residency spots, and she thought it would be a great fit for me,” he says.

He called his mentor—a program director at George Washington University’s Spine & Pain Center, where Farrell had completed an externship—and said, “Hey, so I’ve been talking to some people about going to a Caribbean medical school.”

What he heard next shocked him.

“Mike,” his mentor replied, “I went to a Caribbean medical school.”

Thoughts on the Ross Curriculum

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A photo taken during Farrell's first night in Dominica.

After weighing his options, he ultimately chose Ross. After the speedy admissions process, he was on island in mere months after applying. He chose to enter the school’s accelerated curriculum after completing his first semester, meaning he’d finish academic study on the island a full semester early—16 months versus 20. That move isn’t for everyone, he stresses; the school also offers the Ross+ curriculum, which has students completing five on-island semesters as opposed to the four-semester path Farrell took.

“I know some students who did the [Ross+] track and it helped them tremendously,” he says.

On the academic side, Farrell was especially taken by the organ systems-based curriculum taught at Ross—a teaching model more relevant to clinical work that gives you a broad look at how the different systems in the body work together. Farrell actually preferred that method to the traditional curriculum offered at chiropractic school and some medical schools.

“In chiropractic school, you sat in microbiology class,” he explains. “Then you would go to your lecture in biochemistry. Then you would go from bio to neuro, and then from neuro to an adjusting class. Everything was very split up and regimented,” he says. “But it makes more sense that instead of having a lecture that’s just focused on physiology, you have a lecture that looks at the body system, looks at the physiology and chemical processes of that system, and mapped those things out.”

This approach especially helped him when he sat for the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE®) Step 1. “I saw the level of integration they want you to have when they’re testing you on these types of things,” he says. “They really want you to be able to synthesize information from the basic sciences all the way up to clinical medicine. I think that’s what Step 1 is really a test of—if you can take those basic sciences facts and apply them to clinical situations, and then use them to care for a real person.”

Close to Home for Clinicals

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Farrell relaxing on a boat during third-semester break.

Now, after less than two years on the island, Farrell’s back in his home state of New York undergoing clinical rotations. He’s already completed all of his core rotations at Jamaica Hospital Medical Center—a feature of the Ross clinical program that he found especially appealing when he applied.

“I had friends who had gone to Caribbean schools who had moved around a lot [during clinicals], and that—and the cost associated with it—wasn’t something I was interested in,” Farrell says.

“But [Ross] explained to me during the interview that they offered track programs, and you can do all of your rotations in one spot.”

Because he was able to do his cores in his home state, Farrell was able to be in his sister’s wedding, serve as the best man in his uncle’s wedding, and meet other family obligations. “The only way I was able to do these things was because of the proximity,” he says.

What’s next? Farrell plans to participate in the 2017 National Resident Matching Program’s Main Residency Match. His goal—perhaps unsurprisingly, given his background—is to match into a physical medicine and rehabilitation residency program.

“With PM&R, it’s not just taking and treating a person’s symptoms,” he says. “It’s looking at those symptoms and exploring how that disease affects a person’s ability to function, how it impacts their life, and how that impact restricts them from doing the things they want to do. That’s what we care about when we talk about health—whether your blood pressure is 130/80 or 135/80 doesn’t really keep me up at night, but what would concern me is if I couldn’t wake up and do all of the things that I wanted to do.”

So at the end of the day, did Farrell make the right call to attend Ross? He thinks so. “My time in the Caribbean—being exposed to island life—has really changed and shaped me as a person, even outside of the actual medical school and the curriculum,” he says. “I have no regrets at all—it was absolutely the right decision.”

Check out Farrell’s vlog on the Ability Science website. You also can follow the website on Twitter or Facebook.

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RECAP: New Students and Special Guests at 2016 White Coat Ceremony

September 16, 2016

Each incoming class at Ross University School of Medicine participates in the traditional White Coat Ceremony, held on the Dominica campus, at which the new medical students are helped by faculty members to don their white coats for the first time.

This semester’s White Coat Ceremony took place on Friday, September 9, 2016 and was attended by several government officials, as well as by the US Ambassador to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, Linda Taglialatela.

Minister of Trade, Energy and Employment and Parliamentary Representative for the Portsmouth Constituency, Ian Douglas, welcomed the new class to Dominica, and to the Portsmouth/Picard area. “Portsmouth is a special place with special magic,” he said. “You have chosen a most excellent place to pursue your medical education.”

Ambassador Taglialatela spoke to the new medical students about public service.  “Take pride in what you do.  Harness what motivates you and make a difference. I serve the public and so will you,” she said.  “I urge you to press ahead. No matter where you serve you will make the world a better place.”

Dean and Chancellor Joseph Flaherty, MD, advised “Stay connected. What’s gotten you here is your individual work. In medicine it’s all team effort that gets you moving forward.” He added, “You’re going to make it. We’re going to make every effort to see that you do.” 

The keynote speaker was alumnus Dr. Hussain Elhalis (RUSM ’10), an ophthalmologist who practices in Ocala, FL. “The journey will not be easy,” he said. “But if you’re up to the challenge, Ross will give you the tools to help you achieve your dreams. Ross provided me with the knowledge to make my own success.”

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WATCH: Video from the September 2016 White Coat Ceremony

September 09, 2016

Hussain Elhalis, MD (RUSM ’10), the guest speaker for the September 2016 White Coat Ceremony, is an ophthalmologist practicing cataract, cornea and refractive surgery in Ocala, Florida.

Hussain Elhalis, MD (RUSM ’10), the guest speaker for the September 2016 White Coat Ceremony, is an ophthalmologist practicing cataract, cornea and refractive surgery in Ocala, Florida.

The White Coat Ceremony for Ross University School of Medicine's incoming September 2016 class was held Friday, September 9, 2016 at 2 p.m. ET on the Dominica campus.

The guest speaker, alumnus Dr. Hussain Elhalis (RUSM ’10), is an ophthalmologist practicing cataract, cornea and refractive surgery in Ocala, Florida. He is the co-author of several publications and poster presentations. It is always thrilling and inspirational for the new students to hear from a successful member of our RUSM alumni who, not long ago, was sitting in their seats, and is now a practicing physician. 

Watch the video here.

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STUDENTS: Slam Poet Gets Into the Rhythm of Medical School

September 08, 2016

Daniel Rock, second semester Ross student, with his wife Kate

Daniel Rock, second semester Ross student, with his wife Kate

Meet Daniel Rock, a Ross University School of Medicine student who applied his talent for slam poetry to improve his study skills through the Medical Education Readiness Program (MERP).

Ross: So, poetry and medicine—what’s the connection?
Daniel Rock: During undergrad at Stony Brook University, I used to compete in slam poetry [also known as spoken word or performance poetry]. You have to memorize your poems to perform them, but it’s more than that – we call it knowing something beyond memory. If you’re up there and you’re nervous but you know your poem beyond memory, you’ll still be able to perform and not forget it. So in MERP, I was able to use that skill to help me learn new information—making mnemonics, thinking of a rhyme, tying it to a specific experience. I started learning how to apply that skill in the beginning of MERP, and I’m so much better at it now. I’m able to retain massive amounts of information.

First impression of MERP?
At first it was a little bit of a wakeup call. I went in there with a lot of confidence, and then the first quiz I didn’t do so well. I realized I had to tweak my way of studying. But that’s what MERP is for—it was structured in a way to teach you about yourself and how to study. The professors say this all the time: it’s not just about passing, it’s about learning about yourself and becoming a better student.

What did you learn about yourself?
I realized I was a passive studier. In undergrad I wouldn’t read textbooks, I would just take notes from the lecture and that’s how I got by. I realized I couldn’t do that in MERP because of the degree of information you had to learn.

MERP helped me develop a system that worked for me, using skills I already had. Now I feel so much more prepared than I would’ve been if I had just walked into medical school.

Why did you choose Ross?
I didn’t apply to medical school after undergrad right away because I didn’t have enough clinical experience. So I did graduate research to increase my chances of getting into a stateside school, and I applied about three years after undergrad. It didn’t work out on the first cycle though. So I said, let me give myself another shot. I looked into other options and found out about Ross.

When I got the phone call telling me I’d been accepted to MERP, I was excited because I knew all I needed was a shot. As long as someone was willing to give me a chance, the rest was totally up to me and I knew I could make it happen.

How did you get interested in medicine?
Medicine was something I knew I wanted to do my whole life. I spent three years working in the ER, and 4-5 years in the EMS world. Emergency is what I love to do. I’m a very enthusiastic, dynamic person—I need to be on the run, on the move.

Any advice for other MERP students?
My best friend actually started MERP a few weeks ago. I told her, ‘Give it your all,’ because I can’t tell you how many times I’ll be sitting in class and I’m mentally thanking the professors I have in MERP. Even though it’s a ton of information, I have somewhat of a background because of MERP. I’m able to focus on the things I don’t know and not spend a lot of energy on concepts that I just need to review.

I would also say, ‘Get to know yourself.’ I thought I knew how to study, but MERP showed me that I had so much more potential. I had the passion to become a doctor, but MERP helped me develop the mindset. And I don’t think you can do medicine without both.

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STUDENTS: From Gold Mining, to MERP, to Trauma Surgery

July 19, 2016

Dr. Stanley White, senior associate dean, presents Ben Kuhns with Dean's List award.

Dr. Stanley White, senior associate dean, presents Ben Kuhns with Dean's List award.

After graduating with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in forensic science, Ben Kuhns hoped to join a crime lab in his home state of Alaska. But there was only one, and it was in the midst of a hiring freeze.

So he took a slightly different path.

Over the course of several years, Kuhns spent time crab fishing, working in oil fields, and gold mining. A lifelong outdoorsman, Kuhns enjoyed the work and the lifestyle. Still, something was missing.

“It was physically demanding, which I don’t mind, but I wanted to use my brain more than my body,” Kuhns says.

That intellectual itch is part of what led him to Ross University School of Medicine (RUSM). Kuhns had always cultivated an interest in science, and has volunteered with humanitarian groups such as Habitat for Humanity International. His connection to medicine was also extremely personal: His sister passed away from a meningioma that went undiagnosed for too long.

“In a way, I was bringing together everything that’s happened in my life by applying to medical school,” he says.

On MERP: “They Don’t Hold Your Hand, But They Help You Through It”

Kuhns with his classmates during clinicals

Kuhns was granted conditional acceptance to RUSM, on the condition that he successfully complete the Medical Education Readiness Program (MERP) before starting as a first-semester med student.

“At first, it was a little terrifying, because I had been out of school for so long,” admits Kuhns, who was 28 when he applied. “It was tough trying to get back into an academic environment, let alone medical school.”

That’s exactly the benefit that MERP provides, especially for career changers and students who have been out of school for some time, like Kuhns. The 15-week program offers additional academic preparation and helps students adjust to the demands of medical school.

For Kuhns, MERP provided a combination of academic and social support. In addition to instructors who helped him improve his study skills and presented information in memorable ways, he found a good friend in his randomly assigned roommate, Neal Ferrick. Being able to encourage and help one another was a key factor in his success, Kuhns says. He also cites his family as a major source of support throughout both MERP and medical school.

“MERP is something I think everyone should go through. They don’t hold your hand, but they help you through it,” he says. “I got plenty of things wrong, and then I learned by understanding the issue and applying it next time. There’s no better way to learn than by failing.”

His hard work paid off. Kuhns received the MERP Scholar Award—given to students who have excelled academically and provided leadership to peers during MERP—and continued to do well at RUSM.

“I don’t think I could’ve gotten dean’s list all four semesters without MERP,” Ben says. “It teaches you to be a proactive student.”

Looking Ahead

Now, Kuhns is completing his clinical rotations at Atlanta Medical Center, experiencing the different specialties available. Although he came in thinking that cardiology would be his favorite, he’s fallen in love with trauma surgery. Still, he’s keeping his options open. 

“The future is unknown, but I’d eventually like to make it back to Alaska,” he says. “Alaska is where my heart is.”

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CAMPUS: AMSA is Just One of Nearly 50 RUSM Student Organizations

July 08, 2016

A Slice of Campus Life

Recently, the American Medical Student Association (AMSA) on the Dominica campus participated in a health fair for RUSM colleagues. AMSA, just one of nearly 50 student-run organizations that are registered on campus, collaborated with several students, including those representing the Optic, Endocrinology and Family Medicine clubs.

“The students exhibited great teamwork, and provided screenings and educational materials throughout the day,” said Joseph A. Flaherty, MD, who is the RUSM dean and chancellor. “It is very rewarding to see our students giving back in so many ways through their many clubs and organizations.”


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STUDENTS: Dantwan Smith Elected to the Student National Medical Association’s Board of Directors

June 28, 2016

RUSM student Dantwan Smith was elected National Secretary to the Student National Medical Association’s (SNMA) Board of Directors for his second consecutive term. The announcement was made during the 2016 SNMA Annual Medical Education Conference recently held in Austin. According to SNMA, the conference is the largest gathering of underrepresented minority medical students in the nation.

Smith was groomed for his current position as he was a 2014-2015 fellow for the SNMA Future Leadership Project (FLP). The fellowship is designed to recruit and mentor the next generation of SNMA leaders. Members who participate in the program have the opportunity to develop leadership skills, receive mentorship from SNMA leaders and engage in personal growth. The FLP curriculum includes attending lecture series given by physician leaders in medicine, group projects and mentorship by a national officer.

Smith, a native of Columbus, MS, is a member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc., as well as an American Medical Student Association Health Equity Scholar. He aspires to be an anesthesiologist.

About SNMA

The SNMA works to increase the number of clinically excellent, culturally competent, and socially conscious physicians. Founded in 1964 by medical students from Howard University College of Medicine and Meharry Medical College, the Student National Medical Association (SNMA) is the nation’s oldest and largest, independent, student-run organization focused on the needs and concerns of medical students of color.  Organized with chapters across the nation, the SNMA membership includes over 7,000 medical students, pre-medical students and physicians.  SNMA is dedicated to increasing the number of African-American, Latino, and other students of color entering and completing medical school and to assisting in the eradication of racial and ethnic health disparities.  SNMA community service and mentoring programs provide science appreciation, health care education, mentoring, and academic enrichment to elementary, junior high school, high school and college students interested in pursuing health-related careers.

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MERP: Student Inspires through Blogging, Hits 26,000 Views (and Makes Dean’s List, Too)

June 28, 2016

Emma Cronk at the RUSM library

Emma Cronk at the RUSM library

“I average about 14 emails a week from prospective students,” says Emma Cronk. “And that’s not counting my Instagram messages!”

Is Emma Cronk an admissions counselor? No—she’s a fourth-semester student at Ross University School of Medicine (RUSM). But since the personal blog where she chronicles her medical school journey took off among prospective students, she’s found herself a go-to resource for medical school hopefuls asking about her RUSM experience, seeking advice and simply wanting to know more about her. As of June 2016, her blog had more than 26,000 views.

Cronk grew up in a small rural town called Parham in Ontario. She started her blog in fall 2014 as a way to keep in touch with family after she entered the Medical Education Readiness Program (MERP) prior to beginning medical school—knowing she likely wouldn’t have time to keep up regular emails while immersed in microbiology. She chose the name “bigcronk” (she’s 6’4”) and gave it the pithy title “From D1 to DR” (she played Division I basketball during college).

It wasn’t long before she noticed that the number of views and comments on her posts was far surpassing the number of relatives she had. The sudden popularity came as a surprise, but a good one: She was glad to have an avenue to reach students.

“I write how I feel. I don’t hold back,” says Emma. “I preface that this is a blog that details all my emotions. And I think that’s why a lot of students relate to it and feel comfortable emailing me with questions about my experience.”

Why She’s a “Huge Advocate” for MERP

One of the most frequent questions Cronk receives centers around MERP, the 15-week program Cronk completed as a condition of her acceptance to RUSM, which provides additional academic preparation for medical school. Since completing MERP, Cronk has become a “huge advocate” for the program.

After graduating from the State University of New York at Binghamton in 2011, Cronk spent a few years traveling and working in Australia before applying to medical school. So she was glad to have the opportunity to get back into “school mode” and prepare for her M.D.

“I knew I needed that refresher in the sciences,” Cronk says. “And once I got to Ross, it was clear just how amazing of a foundation it gives you. Microbiology, anatomy, biochemistry—all of these subjects are going to be with you the rest of your career. MERP shouldn’t be the exception, it should be the norm.”

Her number one tip for MERP students?

“Treat MERP like it’s your first semester of medical school,” Cronk says. “That mentality is the best thing I did—it’s what helped me succeed.”

Now, four semesters into her time at Dominica, Cronk has earned a scholarship, made Dean’s List every semester, and started a brand-new club on campus for her passion, sports medicine.

“I’ve always pushed myself to never settle, whether in school, sports or being a physician, because life’s too short to be something I don’t want to be,” says Cronk.

And through it all, she still manages to find time to keep updating her blog with new experiences, insights and plenty of photos.

“I want to thank everyone who reads my blog for cheering me on,” Cronk says. “I feel like I have a cyber-family. The comments I get are amazing, and they help me get through times when I feel stressed. Medical school can be tough, but it is so worth it.”

To keep up with Emma Cronk’s journey, read her blog From D1 to DR and follow her on Instagram.

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SCHOLARSHIP: This Student Found Success Researching and Fighting Malaria. Here’s Why He Wanted More.

June 20, 2016

Bharath Balu has completed a Ph.D. and two post-doctoral fellowships, led an antimalarial drug discovery team as a research scientist, authored 22 research publications and secured a U.S. government patent for an anti-malaria technique. He’s earned degrees from or been employed at six higher education institutions. And yet, despite these outstanding accomplishments, Balu felt something was missing.

That something was an M.D. And that’s what led him to his seventh school affiliation: Ross University School of Medicine, where he enrolled this May with a Chancellor’s Academic Achievement scholarship.

We caught up with Balu to learn more about his unique background and what he hopes to accomplish as a physician.

RUSM: How did you become interested in malaria?

Balu: Growing up in India, I had malaria three times. It’s endemic in India, but it can be hard for people outside of tropical areas to appreciate how serious these diseases can be. It’s estimated that more than 300,000 children died of malaria in 2015. 

I was fortunate to have survived, but it takes a toll on you regardless. You lose 10-20 pounds within days, you become very weak, and it takes time to recover and continue a normal life.

Malaria is also very interesting scientifically. It’s a difficult disease to study, and I wanted a challenge. The malaria parasite is complicated because it changes form and completes the life cycle in two hosts—the mosquito and the human.

RUSM: You’ve come to RUSM with four degrees under your belt, not to mention an enormous amount of research experience. Can you describe your path?

Balu: I earned my bachelor’s degree in microbiology. I’ve been fascinated by microbes since high school. They’re devastating as infectious agents, but they’re also priceless tools for innovation, and provide the gateway for genetic engineering.

After completing my postgraduate degree in medical biotechnology, I was fortunate to get accepted to the University of Notre Dame Ph.D. program in infectious disease, which was renowned for malaria drug and vaccine research. That was where I and a few colleagues developed a method to manipulate the malaria parasite genome, which was patented.

RUSM: Tell us about this patent.

Balu: It’s an insertional mutagenesis technique to mutate the human malaria parasite. Essentially, it’s a way of transforming the genome to weaken the parasite and elicit information that can be used for drug or vaccine development. Many scientists had tried before, but had not succeeded.

RUSM: That’s quite an accomplishment.

Balu: It was very fulfilling. The process took about six years, with lots of hard work and persistence, and our work became well known in the malaria research community. But I didn’t feel like I was making a direct impact on human welfare. This invention is really a starting place to develop drugs and ways to inhibit the disease, all the way up to the pharmaceutical company to get it out to market. At that point, it’s very much out of my hands.

RUSM: Did you experience this same kind of frustration with your other research endeavors—feeling like you weren’t doing enough?

Balu: I really enjoyed the intellectual aspect of research as it’s directed towards helping others. But with science, it takes decades to make an impact on people. After my doctorate, I spent several years in research, and there were always roadblocks to the end result of helping people: competition for funding, logistics of long clinical trials, and the lack of public infrastructure in the tropical world to afford novel therapies. So I wanted to try clinical work in the hopes that it would be more satisfying.

RUSM: How did you go about finding clinical work?

Balu: I became a physician assistant, and I loved it. The patient interaction, going to work every day and really impacting people’s lives—it was such a huge difference for me. In science, I barely had any public interaction, but now patients were thanking me for the way I took care of them.

Still, I wanted a much deeper medical knowledge, and to become proficient in infectious disease medicine. And having had years of scientific research experience, I do miss that. I want to become a doctor so I can care for patients and do clinical research—have both the human interaction and the science. I would also love to teach and spread the knowledge.

RUSM: What made you choose RUSM?

Balu: I did well on my MCAT and applied to U.S. medical schools, but I didn’t get in. I was many years out of school and U.S. medical schools asked me to go back to school to finish the prerequisites again. So it seemed I had two choices: wait another year, reapply and hope I got in somewhere, or find a school that would appreciate my background and qualifications, and give me a chance to be an M.D. And I found that in Ross.

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MERP: Student Closer to Dream of Providing Care in Underserved Communities

June 09, 2016

While growing up in Baltimore, Maryland, Ozioma Nwaigwe was close with her extended family. But something odd started happening—or so it seemed. All Nwaigwe understood as a young child was that three of her aunts started moving away, one by one, only returning after years of absence.

It wasn’t until later on that she learned what was really going on. Her aunts had gone to Ross University School of Medicine (RUSM) on the island of Dominica to become doctors—specializing in cardiac electrophysiology, infectious disease and neonatology, respectively.

Now, Nwaigwe is following in their footsteps at RUSM, currently completing clinical rotations at Florida University Hospital in Tamarac.

“From talking with my aunts, I knew RUSM was a great choice,” she says. “They said Ross prepared them and they couldn’t imagine having had a better education.”

Nwaigwe’s aunts weren’t the only influence on her interest in medicine. Her mom was a nurse, and Nwaigwe volunteered in a hospital during middle school. In addition, her family roots played a role in showing her the importance of health care.

“I was born in America, but my parents are from Nigeria,” she says. “I remember going back to Nigeria and seeing the dire need for doctors, nurses, and health care practitioners in general.”

Paving the Way for Success

Nwaigwe was accepted to RUSM on the condition that she successfully complete the Medical Education Readiness Program (MERP) beforehand.

“First I was disappointed that I was recommended for MERP, but looking back, I’m really happy I did it,” Nwaigwe says. “If it wasn’t for this program, I wouldn’t have had the GPA that I had, or been on the dean’s list.”

She explains, “One of the key benefits of MERP is that it helps you figure out your learning style. There’s so much personal attention, which helps you understand what your hang-ups are and how to improve them. MERP taught me that it’s okay to go to an instructor’s office and ask for help if I’m struggling.”

Ozioma Nwaigwe with Dr. Elfa Shabashvili, assistant professor of anatomy and histology at MERP

One example of how Nwaigwe benefited from the individualized attention was getting help with test-taking. She had a habit of frequently changing her answers during exams—but didn’t realize how often they were correct in the first place.

“My professor watched the way I answered questions and helped me figure out that changing my answers was doing more harm than good,” Nwaigwe says. “She taught me to rank each one 1, 2, or 3—1 if I was really sure that it was correct, to 3 if I wasn’t sure at all. So if I went back over the test, I might change the ones I marked 3 but I wouldn’t touch the 1’s and I’d try to avoid changing the 2’s.”

Besides learning not to second-guess herself, Nwaigwe also credits the program with teaching her how to work efficiently in groups, and helping her discover the best study habits for her.

“I’ve learned that I am someone who has to be totally engaged in lecture. I need to sit there, turn off my phone and pay attention,” she says. “Then after class, I go home, reread everything and rewrite my notes using a million different colored pens.”

All in all, MERP helps you find what works for you, Nwaigwe says.

Her advice for MERP students: “When you go, remember you’re there for a purpose,” she says. “You do have to put in a lot of hours. But it’s all so you can eventually become a physician and care for patients well.” 

Building Healthier Communities

Between her visits to Nigeria and having grown up around underserved communities in Baltimore, Nwaigwe is passionate about giving back and ensuring access to quality care for all. While completing her bachelor’s degree in public health, she conducted smoking cessation programs, taught children CPR, and did health screenings at nursing homes. She wants to combine these kinds of experiences with her medical training to help promote community wellness.

“I see myself going to health fairs on my off days and offering free blood pressure screenings, educating people on health and teaching them how to take care of themselves and their families,” Nwaigwe says.

And in the meantime, if she ever needs a reminder of the opportunities that are possible through hard work and persistence, all she has to do is look to her three aunts.

“People may think it matters where you go to school,” Nwaigwe says, “but what matters is the education you receive and the person you are.”

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