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THE AUA TIMES | SPRING 2016


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AUA Approved to Participate in U.S. Federal Direct Loan Program FAFSA CODE:

04240100

American University of Antigua (AUA) College of Medicine participates in the William D. Ford Federal Unsubsidized Stafford Loan and Federal Direct Graduate PLUS loan programs, which provide our students with more options to finance their medical education. AUA is one of the select Caribbean medical schools to be approved by the U.S. Department of Education to participate in these programs.

U.S. citizens and permanent residents may be eligible to receive financial aid up to the cost of attendance (the combined total of tuition, books, housing, and travel).AUA hopes these programs provide students with a greater opportunity to attend medical school.

First-Time USMLE Step 1 Pass Rate Rises in 2015

APA Awards Presidential Citation to AUA Professor

Last year, AUA had a 96% first-time United States Medical Licensing Exam (USMLE) Step 1 pass rate, which matched the first-time pass rate of U.S. medical schools.*

Professor and Chair of the Behavior and Neuroscience Department Danny Wedding, PhD, MPH, earned the Presidential Citation from the American Psychological Association (APA), one of the highest honors an APA member can receive. Only four of these distinctions are awarded each year.

As of October 2015, AUA’s first-time USMLE Step 1 pass rate is 97%, one of the highest pass rates among Caribbean medical schools. Medical students must pass the USMLE Step 1 before they can begin their clinical rotations. High first-time USMLE Step 1 pass rates indicate that an institution’s students are receiving a quality medical education and will be able to compete with U.S. medical school graduates when applying for residencies.

Dr. Wedding is the only psychologist to have been both a Robert Wood Johnson Health Policy Fellow and an APA Congressional Science Fellow, working successively and successfully in the Senate and the House of Representatives. He is the editor of PsycCRITIQUES, APA’s journal of book and film reviews, and the APA Society of Clinical Psychology (Division 12) book series Advances in Psychotherapy: Evidence Based Medicine, which has shaped the global practice of clinical psychology.

*Source: usmle.org/performance-data/default.aspx#2014_step-1

He is arguably the world’s leading authority on the representation of mental illness in film, as Movies and Mental Illness, Handbook of International Psychology, Behavior and Medicine, and numerous other books written and co-written by Dr. Wedding have trained generations of psychologists and health professionals. Over a million students have learned the rudiments of psychotherapy from Current Psychotherapies, a book co-edited by Dr. Wedding.


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AUA President Neal Simon Appointed Ambassador-at-Large for Antigua and Barbuda AUA President and Founder Neal Simon was appointed Ambassador-at-Large for Antigua and Barbuda by Governor-General Rodney Williams. This honor, which reflects the collaborative relationship between AUA and the Antiguan community, was presented to President Simon at Antigua and Barbuda’s Government House in May.

more than $81 million annually, bolstering all sectors of the Antiguan economy.

AUA has enjoyed tremendous success over the last decade and the people of Antigua and Barbuda have played a large part in that success. Both the school and the region have prospered economically and educationally. AUA students and faculty spend

Three of AUA’s past valedictorians are Antiguan citizens now working to improve health awareness, education, and well-being at home and abroad. “The relationship between AUA and its home is farreaching and has changed many lives,” said President Simon.

The university has awarded more than 40 scholarships to Antiguan students, totaling more than $17.5 million. “We are committed to fostering Antigua’s youth and community to ensure the potential of this beautiful island and its people is reached. My hope is that I will be able to repay Antigua and Barbuda for its significant role in AUA’s accomplishments.”

AUA Hosts First WARFS Conference in the Caribbean disease with a focus on chronic diseases, which have increased in the Caribbean. “The forced dichotomy between communicable disease and chronic disease in the surveillance area makes it advantageous to combine the two systems based on common behaviors,” said Dr. Taylor. AUA students applied knowledge learned from their courses to real world situations presented at the conference. Keynote speaker Dr. Juan Zevallos, Associate Professor at Florida International University (FIU) Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine, demonstrated the application of global surveillance. The 2015 World Alliance for Risk Factor Surveillance (WARFS) conference, the first to take place in the Caribbean, was hosted by AUA in partnership with the WARFS Local Organizing Committee of Antigua (LOC) at Sandals Grande Resort & Spa Antigua. AUA Vice President for Administrative Services and Community Affairs, Vernon Solomon, served as WARFS LOC

Chair and coordinated the event, which brought international scholars, local health care professionals, and AUA faculty together to promote risk factor surveillance in health care and prevention. Keynote speaker Professor Ann Taylor, University of Adelaide, South Australia, discussed the interplay between noncommunicable and communicable

Dr. Zevallos assisted AUA students in a research proposal that resulted in publication. “In our program, AUA students are the principal investigators and take the lead in preparing the research question, developing the protocol, and analyzing and interpreting the data for dissemination via oral presentation, poster display at the WARFS conference, and online publication of the instructor’s abstract,” explained Dr. Zevallos.


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AUA Student to be Recognized by SNMA Jessica Thomas will be nationally recognized as a Future Leadership Project (FLP) Fellow at the Student National Medical Association (SNMA) 2016 Annual Medical Education Conference (AMEC). The SNMA is the United States’ oldest and largest student-run medical organization focused on the interests of medical and pre-medical minority students. Once selected through a competitive application process, FLP Fellows

participate in a one-year program to develop their leadership, business, and networking skills. Jessica’s achievement is especially noteworthy, as she is among the first Caribbean medical school students to receive this distinction. “Jessica has impressed the organization with an outstanding demonstration of potential leadership skills and initiated a national leadership project that mirrors the excellent leadership and professional skills she developed during her time at AUA,” said SNMA leaders Priscilla Mpasi and Johnothan Smileye, Jr. Jessica will be honored at the National President’s Luncheon at the 2016 AMEC, which will be held March 23-27 in Austin, TX.

Distinguished Alumnus Treats Patients in Vietnam Last summer, Dr. Bilal Khan (Class of 2011) embarked on a two-week trip to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, his first Global Health mission as an attending physician. During this mission, he supervised medical students from the University of Vermont, conducted an ultrasound training session, treated patients, and brought U.S. standards of care to Vietnam while studying the advances and limitations of the local healthcare system. A decade ago, this trip would have seemed impossible to Dr. Khan. Before becoming a physician, he was a banker, who volunteered as an EMT. It soon became apparent that this was his true passion. Only a few months away from joining JP Morgan, he decided to apply to medical school. “Unlike finance, the EMT world isn’t so self-driven and the trust your patients have for you is genuine,” said Dr. Khan. “Everyone was trying to do what was best for the patient. I realized that I felt better doing that.” Now, Dr. Khan is a Critical Care Fellow at Yale New-Haven Hospital in Norwalk, CT. Before receiving one of only two fellowships Yale offers each year, he was Chief Internal Medicine Resident at the Jersey Shore University Medical Center in Neptune, NJ. Hospital staff and doctors in Vietnam greatly appreciated his humble demeanor and understanding that various socioeconomic statuses in other countries can yield varied healthcare outcomes based on the resources available. Dr. Khan’s strong background in global health began in Antigua, where he first gained experience in an international hospital. “Treating patients in Vietnam brought my career full circle,” said Dr. Khan. “When I was in Holberton Hospital in Antigua, we had limited access to sophisticated medical equipment. Since I was still training, I could only offer words of encouragement to my patients. In Vietnam, faced with a similar lack of resources in a different culture, I could now offer my expertise.”


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AUA Alumni Practicing Throughout the United States DR. EHSAN ESMAELI (CLASS OF 2007) Hand and Microvascular Surgeon, South Florida Hand and Orthopedic Center Boca Raton, FL Dr. Esmaeli is board certified in general surgery by the American College of Surgeons. He was a Hand and Microvascular Surgery Fellow at the University of Connecticut and the Chief General Surgery Resident at Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System in South Carolina. He and his wife Ally, also an AUA graduate, have built successful medical careers in South Florida.

“I have colleagues from Ivy League schools who ask for my opinion and do not particularly care where I went to medical school. You are one of them and that stigma of being a Caribbean medical student no longer holds.” D R . A L LY B A G E N H O L M ( C L A S S O F 2 0 0 7 ) Family Medicine Physician Boynton Beach, FL Dr. Bagenholm is a member of the American Board of Family Medicine and won several awards for her patient care and treatment. Once the Chief Family Medicine Resident at Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System in South Carolina, she now works in an urgent care clinic, where she sees the adverse effects of the physician shortage daily.

“People really need primary care doctors and [at the clinic] it shows every single day. Patients come in for a variety of reasons and most haven’t had regular check-ups. You have to make decisions quickly and trust your instinct.” D R . PA U L A G U I L L O N ( C L A S S O F 2 0 1 0 ) Family Medicine Physician Seaford, DE Dr. Aguillon’s clinic is one of the few primary care clinics open in the area and treats emergency, surgical, and orthopedic cases. An average of 30,000 patients per practicing physician hasn’t stopped him from giving the attention patients deserve.

“Sometimes it’s better to stop writing and just listen to your patient with undivided attention. I treat all patients as if they were a member of my family.”


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Becoming a Global Advocate for Healthcare Dr. Erin Kirkegaard (Class of 2015) doesn’t just talk about fixing healthcare and gaps in coverage on a global scale – she’s actively working towards it. This year alone, she traveled to Rwanda as a volunteer physician and to Washington, DC as an advocate for creating more residency positions in U.S. teaching hospitals. Passion for Primary Care Currently, Dr. Kirkegaard is an Internal Medicine Resident at Providence Sacred Heart in Spokane, WA and teaches Internal Medicine at the University of Washington School Of Medicine. She is also heavily involved in medical research, a practice that developed as an undergraduate and included projects at Stanford University, where she studied the interaction and replication of polio enzymes. Despite her love of research, she finds patient interaction most rewarding. “I’m not a big fan of sitting behind a lab bench all day, I like working with people,” said Dr. Kirkegaard. Working with Congress Earlier this year, Dr. Kirkegaard traveled with the American College of Physicians (ACP) to Washington, DC where she met with lawmakers to advocate for Medicare reimbursement changes, more residency positions, and medical education reforms. She argued that the current Medicare reimbursement system,

which compensates teaching hospitals for training residents and provides a fixed amount for services covered under the program, is unsustainable for doctors entering primary care positions. “Student loan debt is a huge problem and partly why there’s a shortage in primary care physicians,” said Dr. Kirkegaard, “so students elect higher paying specialties to avoid dealing with debt and the lack of funds from Medicare to cover expenses.” Complexities of Practicing in an Unfamiliar Culture Recently, Dr. Kirkegaard returned from a three week trip to Rwanda, where she assisted an intra-thoracic cardiac surgery team with peri-operative management of open-heart surgeries. In total, she participated in 16 procedures that replaced valves and repaired congenital heart defects that, if untreated, would lead to rheumatic heart disease. Her contribution was significant, as there were only four cardiologists available to the twenty million people in Rwanda. Many of the patients she saw had no access to antibiotics and had walked over two hours to get to the clinic. “Many people would have died just from strep throat,” said Dr. Kirkegaard. “The sequelae of strep throat eventually attack the heart valves if left untreated. It was an eye-opening experience.” One patient was hesitant to receive much needed heart surgery because her fertility was at risk. In Rwandan culture, women who cannot bear children become outcasts. “Our treatment options were limited due to the financial, sociocultural, and logistical confines of the Rwandan medical infrastructure,” said Dr. Kirkegaard. “It was clear, however, that this young girl’s failing heart, through no fault of her own, could not withstand a pregnancy and she would die without surgical intervention. Thankfully, she decided to have the surgery.” The Future Dr. Kirkegaard is currently applying for a Global and Rural Health Fellowship, which focuses on improving healthcare in underserved communities around the world. She advises students to study hard, ask questions, and be confident. “There’s a misconception that Caribbean medical school students aren’t qualified to become successful physicians,” said Dr. Kirkegaard. “I am dedicated to making positive change in the world and my outreach this year proves that. When your work speaks for itself, no one cares where you went to medical school.” Photo Credit: Rajah Bose, The Spokesman-Review


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AUA Gives Back to the Antiguan Community In 2015, AUA donated essential medical equipment to the Antigua & Barbuda Airport Authority (ABAA) and trained ABAA employees and workers from the Airline Association to effectively use the devices. AUA also donated medical textbooks to Antiguan institutions, hosted multiple health fairs and workshops to both assist the Antiguan community and give AUA students early experience in patient care.

AT H L E T I C FA I R Members of the Emergency Medicine Interest Group (EMIG) and faculty examined local athletes by providing comprehensive health screenings of blood glucose, BMI, flexibility, and heart rate. They also administered electrocardiograms and cardiovascular and respiratory exams. Participants were educated on diet, exercise, and rest and recovery practices.

OBESITY WORKSHOP The Pediatrics Interest Group and the Psychology Interest Group organized a workshop for children from Cedar Grove Primary School to commemorate Obesity Awareness Day. The event included outdoor activities and lessons on the essentials of nutrition, the effects of different foods on the human body, and how to promote healthy eating with family and friends.

FA N TA S T I C F U N FA I R Organized by AUA student Sabrina Ali with the support of AUA clubs and local businesses, the event was designed to mentor orphaned and disadvantaged children from local homes: Mustard Seed, Sunshine Home for Girls, Good Shepherd, and The Victory Center. The day’s festivities included face painting, jewelry making, karaoke, sports, and dancing.

ASTHMA WORKSHOP The Asthma League, an AUA club whose primary goal is to decrease the number of hospitalizations due to asthma in Antigua, and local healthcare providers hosted a workshop at Mount St. John’s Medical Centre. Antiguan community members were educated on the effects of asthma and methods of asthma attack prevention.


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2016 AUA TIMES  
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