HomeSt. Matthew's University

Alumni Spotlights

Dr. Rishi Pathak, School of Medicine Alumnus
Dr. Rishi Pathak
Hammond, Louisiana
School of Medicine

“Honestly, I had a delightful experience at SMU. Having the opportunity to essentially live in paradise made the days of not studying fantastic – sun, beach, diving, etc. The subsequent years of clinicals gave me an opportunity to experience different cities such as New York, Chicago, and Orlando. This helped me round out my medical education as medicine is practiced differently in each part of the country, and I was exposed to a wide variety of patient populations.”

Dr. Rishi Pathak earned his medical degree from St. Matthew's University School of Medicine in 2012. He then completed an internship in general surgery through Exempla St. Joseph Hospital in Denver and a residency through Wayne State University. Pathak then earned a fellowship in spinal cord injury medicine from Johns Hopkins Hospital at the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore. He now serves as a Physiatrist (Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation Doctor) at North Oaks Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation Clinic in Hammond, Louisiana.

Dr. Russell Zwiener, SMU Medical School alumnus
Dr. Russell Zwiener
San Antonio, Texas
School of Medicine

“My time on Grand Cayman was a wonderful experience. However, it did not come without hard work and dedication. Make the most of your time on the island. The beach is nice and you will have thoughts of wanting to be there again one day, but those who work the hardest during Basic Sciences will reap the most benefits. St. Matthews will give you all the resources to be a successful physician. If you get down, such as failing a test, get back up.”

Dr. Russell Zwiener was born and raised in Houston, Texas. He completed his undergraduate degree at The University of Texas at Austin with a Bachelor of Arts in Biology in 2005 before completing his medical degree at St. Matthew’s University in December, 2009. Prior to starting residency he was a research assistant at the Texas Heart Institute in the Division of Cardiovascular Pathology.

Dr. Zwiener completed a general surgery internship at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, but found his true love in pediatrics and completed his pediatric residency at Oklahoma University Health Science Center at Tulsa. He completed a fellowship in Pediatric Gastroenterology at Louisiana State University Health Science Center in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Dr. Zwiener is presently a fellow of Advanced and Therapeutic Endoscopy with a pediatric focus learning ERCP and Endoscopic Ultrasound at Baylor College of Medicine Children’s Hospital in San Antonio. He plans to narrow his career focus to treating a wide variety of pancreatic and hepatobiliary disorders in children. Dr. Zwiener is board certified in General Pediatrics and board eligible in Pediatric Gastroenterology. 

Dr. Zwiener is an active member of the American Academy of Pediatrics, North American Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition, American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy and the American Gastroenterological Association.

Dr. James Bolland, SMU Medical School alumnus
Dr. James Bolland
East Yorkshire, England, U.K.
School of Medicine

“If medicine is your dream, let go of your fears because St. Matthew’s will prepare you well. Your dreams will be fulfilled.”

My name is James Bolland and I am an aspiring family physician and graduate of the St. Matthews University School of Medicine (SMU). Prior to my acceptance at SMU, I was a practicing pharmacist in the UK. Currently I am a family medicine resident physician at University of Pittsburgh Medical Centre (UPMC).

My time at SMU was a worldwide journey; studying two years of basic sciences on the island of Grand Cayman, then completing my clinical rotations in the USA as well as the UK. When I told my family and friends that I was going to study in the Caribbean, the most common response I received was to tell me how jealous they were that I would spend the next few years relaxing in a tropical paradise. While I maintain that medical school was not at all relaxing, I cannot deny thatCayman was a beautiful place to study; safe and warm all year round.

My time in Cayman allowed me to learn a lot about myself and others. Experiencing what its like to be a guest in another's country and adjusting to life in a different culture, I feel, made me into a more well-rounded individual, and a more open-minded doctor, with a fascinating story to tell.

When you get to Cayman, you form bonds with your peers, whom ultimately become the foundation of a solid support network. The strong friendship that my friends and I created on the island is one of the reasons I persevered to be in the position I am today. Students are encouraged to help each other academically, as evidenced by the tutoring program taught by students for students, student-run workshops, and the anatomy/histology/pathology TA program. Additionally, every incoming student in the school is assigned a faculty advisor, a professor who they can each keep in contact with and go to for advice.

There were many educational advantages to going to SMU. Small class sizes made for a more intimate learning environment, with most faculty knowing their students on a first name basis. This also allowed faculty to more effectively assess individual students' strengths and weaknesses both in clinical knowledge and skill.

Students are given the opportunity to practice their clinical examination skills from an early start. There is one large examination room within the campus, fully equipped with examination tables, sinks, otoscopes, ophthalmoscopes, blood pressure cuffs, and other medical instruments. The skills imparted to me during my time in Cayman served to prepare me well for my clinical years.

SMU students all sit comprehensive exams at the end of the semester, created by the National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME), the same organization that sponsors the USMLE. These exams are taken by students at US medical schools and scored nationally, and are excellent waysto gauge your academic progresson a national level. I highly recommend to all students to take full advantage of the NBME exams, because they are a great indicator of how you will perform in the USMLE examinations.

I'm very grateful that St. Matthew’s gave me the chance to pursue my dream in becoming a physician. If medicine is your dream, let go of your fears because St. Matthew’s will prepare you well. Your dreams will be fulfilled.

Dr. Joseph A. D'Abbraccio
Monticello, New York
School of Veterinary Medicine

“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.

Dr. Colette M. Sauveur
Spring Hill, Nova Scotia, Canada
School of Medicine

“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

Dr. Tiffany Massey
Tallahassee, FL
School of Medicine

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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!

Dr. John Bas

School of Medicine

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 Billips

School of Medicine

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. (

His awards and honors include the Southwest Virginia Graduate Medical Education Consortium Report to the Virginia General Assembly, January, 2006. p2

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

Disparity between guidelines and endoscopists recommendation. Am J Prev Med. Dec 2007, 33 (6); pp471-478

Dr. W. Christopher Croley

School of Medicine

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.

Dr. Valerie M. Gironda

School of Medicine

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

School of Medicine

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.