- Last Updated on Monday, 22 April 2013 15:41
“My experiences at St. Matthew's University have been extraordinary and I am beyond grateful to have had the opportunity to attend school in the Cayman Islands.”
I have been working in the veterinary field for the past 10 years and have enjoyed every day just as much as I did the first day I started. Prior to attending St. Matthew's I went to the State University of New York at Delhi where I completed a degree in Veterinary Science Technology in May 2008. After graduating I successfully passed my veterinary technician national board exam and was granted licensure to practice as a veterinary technician in New York State. After graduating I worked at two veterinary hospitals in New York, providing care for a wide range of companion animals. I started at St. Matthew's University in January 2009 and from that point forward I have had an outstanding experience. St. Matthew's, unlike the other veterinary programs I looked into, had the smallest class sizes and was easily accessible from the New York area, making it a much more appealing program to me.
While attending school in Grand Cayman I became very active in student organizations, as well as held multiple teaching assistant positions. I was one of the founding members of the university's Student Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care Society (SVECCS) chapter. The university was overwhelmingly supportive in allowing the organization conduct additional laboratory sessions for members to learn advanced procedures as well as participate in an active emergency on-call program with local practitioners. A program such as the one the organization established would not have been as successful at many other schools -- thus, giving SMU students a huge educational advantage. In 2010 I was elected the National President of the SVECCS organization, which is responsible for governing 35 different sub-chapters all over the world. Being the president of the organization allowed me to represent St. Matthew's on a greater scale as well as develop relationships with industry and veterinary leaders. For two years I organized various activities, improved membership programs, and assisted with the International Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care Symposium (IVECCS), an international conference.
Academic excellence and success is very important at St. Matthew's and because of this the university provides free tutoring to all students that seek assistance. Many other schools provide tutoring services however students have to pay for these services out of pocket, a less than ideal situation for many students. I have a very strong interest in teaching and therefore held the position of Anatomy Teaching Assistant (TA) for a year and a half as well as Clinical Teaching Assistant for our Surgical/Laboratory Center. During my time as a TA I was able to help underclassmen learn various topics as well as enhance their classes with clinical applications from what I was presently learning in upper level classes. I know relationships and mentoring between students can be invaluable.
I attended North Carolina State University (NCSU) for my final year of clinical rotations. The education that I received while in Grand Cayman in addition to the extra activities I was involved in, have proved invaluable during my time at NCSU. The preparation for clinical duty that I received was of the highest standards and I was able to excel during my final year of veterinary school. The degree of comfort I had allowed me to dive deeper into my clinical experiences, and thus allowed me to take even more away from the cases I was caring for at NCSU. The training I received while in Grand Cayman gave me the tools to be a great veterinarian!
I have returned to Orange County, New York to take a position as an associate veterinarian as well as an emergency clinician. Due to the wide array of animals I was exposed to while at St. Matthew's I am comfortable seeing anything from a hamster to a Clydesdale. This is something that has allowed me to become highly flexible and has made finding a job much easier than other veterinary graduates I know. In addition to my practice duties I have also taken a position as an adjunct professor at a veterinary technology program in the Hudson Valley.
My experiences at St. Matthew's University have been extraordinary and I am beyond grateful to have had the opportunity to attend school in the Cayman Islands. I have always wanted to be a veterinarian and now I have met that goal thanks to St. Matthew's.
“I am very proud to be an SMU graduate and hope to inspire others to work hard and never give up.”
My name is Colette Sauveur and I am from Springhill, Nova Scotia, a small town on the east coast of Canada. The day I got my acceptance letter from St. Matthew's University was one to be cherished. Life as I knew it was about to change.
There were many challenges I had to face in basic sciences, but with them came a great reward - advancing to the next level on my pursuit to become an M.D. My education on Grand Cayman greatly prepared me for the USMLE Step 1 and clinical rotations in the USA. Throughout my clinical years I had the opportunity to apply many concepts that I had learned. It was exciting to see how the textbooks come alive into real people with real medical conditions, and it makes you feel good to know that you have a solid foundation of knowledge and skills to help.
Exactly 4 years after I began medical school, I graduated in Orlando, FL. What a glorious day, I was blessed to have my entire family there for graduation. It was then that I approached my basic science mentor about academic medicine and teaching as an assistant professor to first and second year medical students. A few short months later I was back on Cayman teaching preclinical sciences.
The next step was to face the intimidating task of applying to "the match". You can imagine the feelings of anxiety, but you have to keep moving forward, with confidence. When match day finally arrived, I found out that I was offered a position at my #1 choice, Dalhousie Family Medicine Residency Program. They had 700 international medical graduates to choose from, for only 7 seats, and they chose one from St. Matthew's University.
I am very proud to be an SMU graduate and hope to inspire others to work hard and never give up. Be determined and keep focused because it is worth every challenge & every step. Including the USMLE Steps!
Words of wisdom my grandfather once told me are, "all you can do is your very best".
Wishing you a successful journey,
Dr. Colette M. Sauveur
This speech was given on April 30, 2011 by Dr. Tiffany Massey, the 2011 Commencement Ceremony Alumni Speaker:
Thank you for the opportunity to be here today and share a few words of encouragement with you. I was sitting exactly where you are right now, only one year ago, so I know the excitement and nervousness that comes when finally graduating from medical school. My road to medical school began as I worked as an occupational therapist at a large rehab hospital. I knew after many years that I enjoyed the difference that I was making in my patients’ lives, but I still wanted something bigger. I prioritized my two goals. Number one was to become a mother. Number two was to become a doctor. My first goal did not come as easily as planned. My husband and I tried for over eight years to get pregnant with no success. We exhausted specialists and multiple procedures with no luck. I came to the realization that this goal was not meant to be. My distraction from this emotional rollercoaster became my pursuit towards medicine. I realized, at age 30, that if I ever wanted to become a doctor, now was the time. I continued to work full-time as a therapist, take prerequisite courses and study for the MCAT like so many of you probably had to do as well. I mailed out my applications and anxiously awaited to hear a response… one by one they came… all rejections. It was shocking for me to see yet another dream of mine slipping away. My husband and I took a cruise shortly after this to clear our heads and relax to the Cayman Islands. We were on a tour bus when we passed St. Matthew’s University. I started tossing the idea around of going to a Caribbean medical school. Could I move that far away from my family? Would I get in? Would I be able to get a residency in the U.S.? I got back home and filled out my application, deciding not to give up on my dreams. Shortly after that, I got, what we all have anxiously awaited before – my first acceptance letter. I must stop right now and thank those at St. Matthew’s that believed in me and gave me an opportunity to fulfill my dreams. I knew from this point on, my life was about to begin. Fast forward a few semesters to life in Grand Cayman… the beautiful beaches, the laid back atmosphere, will never be forgotten. Medical school was intense but at the same time so amazing to truly learn about the human body. I was about to finish my fourth semester and head to Miami for a fifth semester Kaplan course when I got some unexpected news. My white shirt and khaki pants were fitting snuggly. I assumed it was from too many trips to Coconut Joes and Calico Jacks, but to my amazement, I was pregnant! After everything that we had gone through before that never worked, I had managed to get pregnant on my own. My husband and I were thrilled, shocked and of course terrified all at the same time.
Fast forward again through USMLE steps one and two, and clinicals all over the United States – I felt that I lived out of a suitcase during that time. Trying to figure out what was blue or green drove me crazy as I am sure it did you all too! I was working long hours and studying and hurrying home to my baby girl, when I found out that I had another baby on the way. More shock, more excitement, more boards, and more clinicals – and the search for residency began. We go through so much to accomplish this goal to become a physician. Before I knew it, I was sitting where you are today. My parents were the crazy ones taking 10,000 pictures. My two children were the screaming babies that had to be taken out. My husband was the man that stood smiling at me as I walked across the stage because he was so proud. Enjoy this time. You have all accomplished so much, and your family is so proud of you for this.
I started residency last year in Family Medicine at Tallahassee Memorial Hospital. It has been a fast-paced, scary, yet exciting time where I have learned so much more than I ever thought imaginable. I felt so prepared having received the education that I did from St. Matthew’s. I wanted to share some advice with you today as new graduates that will help you succeed as you start your careers. I call this my Top 10 List to Success as a New Physician:
- Learn To Develop Rapport With Your Patients: Make them part of your treatment plan. Encourage them to open up to you. You will need strong communication skills to make it as a physician, but your warmth and personality will make patients appreciate you.
- Take Opportunities That Are Presented To You: Get as much clinical experience and procedures as possible. Stay late to deliver the baby of the mother you have labored with all day. Ask if you can perform the lumbar puncture before the ER physician does it for you. You never know when these experiences will be useful again in your life. I was obsessed with running codes on patients as a medical student but had the unfortunate opportunity of running a full code on my own mother after she had had a bilateral mastectomy following breast cancer. It was the worst day of my life. I knew though, that I was the most prepared person in the room that day. I know my clinical experience helped save her life.
- Be An Active Leader: This advice came from my program director to share with you all today. He recommended reading 5-10 minutes each night specifically on a topic that you saw in a patient that day. Medicine is always evolving, and we as physicians must stay informed of the new treatments, studies and procedures to provide the best care for our patients.
- Find A Hobby That You Can Enjoy Outside Of Medicine: I personally took up tennis about a year ago. This gives me an outlet after a busy day and helps me relieve stress. Try not to let this path consume you. Find something that makes you happy when you have down time.
- Be Kind And Appreciate Those Around You: Realize that medicine involves a team approach. We need the help of nurses, RT, scrub techs, etc. all to help us take care of our patient. Put aside your arrogant attitudes because more of these people will know more than us in the beginning. I cannot tell you how many times a nurse has helped me with a dose of medication or went behind me to help me determine a cervical exam in a pregnant patient. Treat everyone with respect and it will carry you far in your career.
- Try To Find One Area Of Your Career That You Can Excel At: Medicine is huge. We can never learn every drug, every procedure, every vaccine, every diagnosis, every surgery… it is just too much. Pick one area that you can excel at and become a resource to others; I have this goal now for myself and am trying to determine what my area of expertise should be.
- Acknowledge That People Look Up To You: This one was difficult for me. The minute that I officially graduated suddenly I got phone calls from people that I barely knew asking for medical advice. I was the patent at kids at birthday parties that was asked to come look at some disgusting rash or check and see if Little Bill had broken his arm after falling out of the jump house. The worst was my own family. My grandmother wanted me to start treating her foot fungus! This all started to drive me over the top until I realized that this comes with the territory. People respect your opinion more now. They value what you have to say. Try to acknowledge this and be there for them.
- Stay Away From Drama: This may seem straight forward, but I see it happen every day. Don’t get caught up in petty things like work schedules, office gossip and back-stabbing coworkers. Realize that you are building a professional career on day one. Fulfill your residency contractual agreement. Be professional. Dress professional. Act professional. We have been taught this from day one in medical school, but I wanted to pound it into your heads one more time.
- Realize That You Are Going To Make Mistakes: Just last week, I almost ruptured membranes on a breeched baby all because I hadn’t confirmed placement of the head. Realize that programs are here to train you, they expect you to fail at time. Try not to repeat these mistakes and most importantly, learn from them.
- Always Put Your Family First: I have learned that friends may come and go, but you will always have the support of your family. You are going to be extremely busy over the next three to five years. Take the time to send your loved ones a simple text, a quick email or phone call to let them know how you are doing. I found out on my first week of residency that my mother’s cancer had metastasized to her brain. I immediately knew that I had to go be with her. She has been one of my biggest supporters throughout this entire process. I was so thankful that at that point I chose her over my career. Family will be there for each other when no one else will. You could not have made it here today without your family’s support. This is as much their graduation, as it is yours. Remember to always make them a priority in your life.
I hope that these tips help many of you as you begin this next phase in your career. I challenge many of you to think backwards. Jump to the end of your medical career in your imagination. What type of physician do you want to be remembered as by your family, coworkers and patients? How would these people describe you? Were you dedicated, balanced, compassionate and a team player? Start from the very beginning to define your life as a physician. I hope these tips help you succeed in your endeavors. Again, I appreciate the opportunity to speak to you today. Congratulations on your graduation! Go make us all proud!
“I strongly believe St. Matthew’s offers a wonderful platform for a successful future in any field of Medicine because of the personalized education one could receive in its small family-like environment.”
Before graduating with honors from St. Matthew’s this last May, I came to SMU with backgrounds in Biochemistry, Chemistry, and Medical Sciences from The University of Texas-DBH, University of Houston, and Miami Dade Community College. Along with a strong academic background, I also brought the experience of a successful research career at M.D. Anderson’s Cancer Center under the tutelage of Dr. Garth Nicholson (father of The Fluid-Mosaic Model).
At St. Matthew’s I was a Basic Sciences Senior Tutor and created a series of clinical lectures related to Cancer topics which I delivered as part of the Histology curriculum, during the week, along with Pathology and Genetics tutoring lectures every Saturday. I was a member of AMSA and SGA, becoming class representative for fifth semester. For my commitment to helping my fellow students, academic excellence and community involvement, I was awarded the St. Matthew’s University Academic Scholarship in first semester, The Dean’s Award at the White Coat Ceremony, the Jha Family Scholarship, and became an appointed member of the Disciplinary Committee. I also developed a Lyme’s Disease experimental protocol for SMU’s Research Department which was filed as a grant application to the Society of Hyperbaric Medicine.
I strongly believe St. Matthew’s offers a wonderful platform for a successful future in any field of medicine because of the personalized education one could receive in its small family-like environment. In my opinion, The Cayman Islands lead to a unique medical school experience due to the fact that time can be easily managed between studying, community activism and outdoor activities. “I had waited fifteen years to return to my medical school path, and it took me fifteen seconds to realize that I had chosen the right school the day I sat on my first SMU class,” I commented to Cayman Net News when interviewed by the paper for a profile as “Cayman’s Person of the Day”.
With that uplifting spirit I currently plan to continue my graduate medical education intertwining the fields of Genetics, Surgical Dermatology, and Preventive Medicine. I also have committed to taking on an active role in Latin American health issues at the World Health Organization. I was recently elected Alumni Association President by my peers and, I currently live in Texas with my husband and teenage boys.
“We have been given the gift to both help and to heal.”
What follows was presented as the Alumni Association Address at the May 2009 Commencement Exercises.
Eight years ago, I was just starting my journey into medicine. I left New Jersey and landed on Ambergris Caye in Belize. I remember the journey well, mainly, because one of the tires on the small prop plane, that flew me from the mainland to the island, was flat and the wing was slightly crooked. What had I gotten myself into? Did I want to be a doctor that much that I would be able to deal with living so far away and in an environment that was not like anything I had ever experienced before? That question was tested over and over again over these past eight years.
The first week of classes was not too bad; however, the first test came sooner than I thought. I’m a Jersey girl, and luckily I had satellite television that came in from NY. I awoke on Sept. 11, 2001 and turned on The Today Show. I sat down to eat my cereal, and I saw smoke billowing from one of the twin towers. I remember thinking, it’s a crystal clear day, and how could a plane hit the towers? Then I saw the second plane come in. I stood there for a second and then I took off at a run to get to the school. What was going on? Here I was in a country I didn’t know, and literally, my home was under attack. I couldn’t even get through to my family, the phone lines were down. What I hadn’t realized then, was this was the first of many tests.
Four weeks after that, Hurricane Iris started to bear down on Belize. A mandatory evacuation of the outer islands was called for. We all fled to the mainland, and from there we branched off. Some of us headed back to the states, and others headed farther inland. We all wondered if we would have a school to come back to. Luckily, the hurricane veered one degree to the south and missed Ambergris Cayce, but took its wrath out on the capital of Belmopan.
Now, seriously, if this all happened to you in the first 5 weeks of medical school, while you were trying to learn all the muscles and bones and what nerves innervated which structures, wouldn’t you wonder about the path you had chosen?
Things finally settled down for a bit. I made it through the first trimester and started the second…and then, the move to Cayman was announced. Yeah, an island where the water and electricity both work at the same time!
Now I was on cruise control...right up until Step 1. Ok, I could do this. St. Matthew’s had prepared me well. “Yes”, I screamed when my mother called and read me my Step 1 scores. I was so happy I started crying.
Third and fourth year was a whirlwind. Illinois, Maryland, Florida, New York, and Vermont. I was a nomad, roaming from one rotation to the next. St. Matthew’s gave me the tools and I used them to my full advantage.
I fell in love with obstetrics and gynecology. Well, I survived so far, why not try. I got into Danbury Hospital in Danbury, CT. Yale associated, not bad for an IMG. Still, I had my sights set high from day one. Why not try for chief resident. It was February 2008, half way through my third year. I was called into the program director’s office. He told me that the staff and administration wanted to offer me the position of Administrative Chief resident for the following year.
Now, I really did have everything. I received a wonderful medical education, I was nearing the end of my residency, I was getting married the following year, and a practice in my hometown wanted me to come and work for them? Then in one instance I felt like it was all being taken away.
I woke one morning in early March 2008 to an awful pain in my neck and shoulder on my right side. I thought maybe I fell asleep on my neck wrong or something. So, like any doctor, I ignored it…or at least tried. However, over the next week, it didn’t go away. In fact, it intensified, and then my arm started to tingle, and then it went numb. I rushed from work to my family practitioner. She sent me for and MRI. One hour of banging and clanging, while I lay in a tight space. That night I received a phone call. It was Dr. Whitcombe, a friend, and one of the OB/GYN attendings. She said to me, “Alissa, it’s not a pinched nerve. I talked with the radiologist. The reports read several areas of dymelination in the upper right cervical spine.” Oh, my God…this can’t be, I thought. I broke out in tears.
How could I have multiple sclerosis…why me? After more MRIs and visits to two neurologists, it was confirmed. The questions in my mind were overwhelming. Would I still be able to continue in this field? What was going to happen to me? What would I do if I couldn’t do what I loved?”
Finally, I realized, I had to look backward to look forward. I looked at how I got to where I am today and thought about how trying, and at times, comical, my life had been and still is. I could get through this too.
I’m ending my residency, and graduating as Administrative Chief Resident, on April 25th I married the most wonderful, caring man I have ever met, and I have joined that practice in my hometown of Oak Ridge, NJ. I’m looking forward to being a small town doctor, a wife, and a future mother. I have St. Matthew’s to thank for making the dream possible, and teaching me that whatever God puts in front of you, if you want it bad enough, it will all work out.
Always remember why you chose medicine. Continue to learn; continue to want to be better. Soon you will be on your own, take what you have learned here and build on it.
I can’t promise you that there will not be days that you think about quitting. Believe me, those days will come, but I can also assure you that those days will pass. My mother has always told me “that when God closes a door, he opens a window.” Remember to look for that open window.
The field of medicine entrusts us with the lives of other. We have been given the gift to both help and to heal. It is an honor and a privilege; we must always respect that. As the Hippocratic Oath states, “if I keep this oath faithfully, may I enjoy my life and practice my art, respected by all men and in all times.”
A 2001 graduate from St. Matthew's University, Dr. John Bas first learned about the application of medicine while caring for a family member. He pursued additional clerkships in Family Medicine while completing his MHSA at St. Joseph's College. Soon after his ECFMG certification, he began his residency training at the Brown University Family Medicine Program.
In his intern year, he was commissioned as a Captain in the United States Army Medical Corps. After residency he started his own private practice and soon married his wife Amy. Most recently, Dr. Bas completed his Officer's Leadership Course and was appointed Company Commander of over 200 officers in the Army Healthcare field.
Although Dr. Bas admits the road he chose was one less traveled, he is looking forward to the challenges and remains thankful for where he is today.
Dr. Ronald W. Billips received a BS in Psychology/Sociology at Bluefield College. He went on to obtain his graduate degree at West Virginia University, Morgantown, WV.
After working 13 years in the mental health field, he chose St. Matthew's University to further his medical career. He said he felt the clinical rotation sites offered at SMU were superior to the other schools he had considered. Having worked in the medical field for several years he realized the importance of strong clinical opportunities.
During residency, he served as a member of the Bi-laws Committee and Radiation Safety Committee, Bon Secours St. Francis Medical Center, Richmond, Virginia and was previously a member of the Pandemic Flu Advisory Group Committee, Virginia Department of Health, Richmond, VA.
He graduated from Bon Secours Family Medicine Residency where he worked as a senior resident in the Family Medicine Residency Program St. Francis Hospital, Richmond Health Systems, Richmond, Virginia. (http://www.sffm.net)
His awards and honors include the Southwest Virginia Graduate Medical Education Consortium Report to the Virginia General Assembly, January, 2006. p2 http://www.wise.virginia.edu/gmec/annualreport06.pdf
Dr. Billips is currently employed in a rural, primary health care facility, Prudich Medical Center, in Montcalm, West Virginia and is currently an active member with The AMA and the American Academy of Family Physicians. He is also holds a Clinical Adjunct Faculty position at Lincoln Memorial University-DeBusk College of Osteopathic Medicine.
Having started SMU as a nontraditional student with a dream he now has a very realistic view of what type of physician he wants to become. His future plans are to continue working in an under-served, rural area to provide the medical care so desperately needed. St. Matthew's was, and continues to be, instrumental in his realization of that dream.
The Journal of Urgent Care Medicine - News: Derm Diagnoses - A graphic case report on herpes zoster from Drs. John Philip Sherrod, David Boyd, and Ronald Billips. Abstracts in Urgent Care. 2008-Jan http://jucm.com/2008-jan/insights1.shtml
Disparity between guidelines and endoscopists recommendation. Am J Prev Med. Dec 2007, 33 (6); pp471-478
After graduating from St. Matthew's University in 2000, Dr. W. Christopher Croley completed his residency in Anesthesiology at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, Illinois where he served as Chief Resident. He received the Robert D. Dripps Memorial Award for outstanding academic performance.
Dr. Croley was a Critical Care Fellow at Northwestern University in Chicago where he was very active and involved in many projects, including the development of a critical care clerkship for fourth year medical students. He actively participated on the RUSL Steering Committee, developing new simulation curricula for the anesthesia residency program and helping other programs to do the same. As the medical director of Simulation for the American College of Chest Physicians, Dr. Croley provided representation for Rush on a national level.
Dr. Croley is also an active member in the American Society of Anesthesiologists and has participated in numerous meetings with legislators in Washington, DC to discuss issues important to the specialty of Anesthesiology as well as medical education. While completing his fellowship, Dr. Croley worked in a part-time capacity as an Attending Anesthesiologist and Instructor at Rush University Medical Center. Most recently, Dr. Croley was appointed as the Associate Director of Residency Education for the Rush Department of Anesthesiology. He is also Co-Medical Director of the Rush University Simulation Laboratory (RUSL) where he is accountable for overall simulation management through University Affairs and was appointed to the Department of Anesthesiology as Medical Director of the Surgical Intensive Care Unit (SICU).
Dr. Croley has published multiple manuscripts and abstracts related to critical care and medical education. In February 2006, he received recognition from the American College of Chest Physicians for his role as Co-Director of an International Medical Simulation Workshop in Montreal.
Prior to St. Matthew's University Dr. Valerie M. Gironda spent eight years in the Air Force Reserve Air National Guard while attending the University of Florida. She has successfully completed Aerospace Medicine training and is certified as a Flight Surgeon.
After graduating from St. Matthew's University in 2005 she was offered and accepted a research fellowship in cardiology at the University of South Florida.
Dr. Gironda has specialized training to care for Air Crew including Pilots, Navigators, Loadmasters, Aerospace Medical Technicians and their families.
She is currently participating in cardiology research and completing her military training which includes Airborne School.
Dr Kristen Kupeyan graduated from Lincoln Memorial University in Tennessee. She was very dedicated to her studies and was able to find a balance between school and personal life. She met her husband at St. Matthew's University on the first day of class and they were married three days after graduation.
She began her Family Medicine residency in Spartanburg, South Carolina. In April 2006 she was selected as Chief Resident and was responsible for overseeing 42 other residents of which 85% were U.S. Medical Graduates.
Attending St. Matthew's University and completing her MHSA at St. Joseph's was very beneficial and helped enhance her role as Chief Resident.
After completing residency Kristen began working as a Hospitalist at Hotel-Dieu Hospital in Windsor, Canada.