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THE AUA TIMES AUA Celebrates 10th Anniversary on Campus

10th anniversary celebrations include a rooftop cocktail for alumni , faculty, and guests.

November 19, 2014, marked the 10th anniversary of the establishment of the American University of Antigua (AUA) College of Medicine. To commemorate this historic occasion, AUA welcomed dignitaries and guests from the beautiful country of Antigua and Barbuda and from around the globe. The program commenced with a welcome address by Dr. Robert Mallin, the Dean of Medical Education, who was also the Master of Ceremonies for the evening. Afterward, His Excellency Sir Dr. Rodney Williams and the Honorable Michael Sherwin Harris Browne, Governor General and Minister of Education, Science, and Technology of Antigua and Barbuda, commended AUA for its contribution to the country by way of scholarships, health fairs, and health information seminars, and even by reaching out to security forces and contributing immensely toward the economy of the country. His Excellency the Honorable Gaston Browne, the Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, remarked that the growth of the institute and the accreditation it received within four years of being established have put AUA on the global map. He added that AUA is truly a melting pot of diverse cultures, contributing to 4–5% of the country’s GDP and helping Antigua become an economic power in the Caribbean.

AUA student Adaola Onyenaka performs the national anthem of the United States.

He thanked Mr. Neal Simon, Co-Founder and President of AUA, for choosing Antigua and stated that the government would ensure all efforts will be made to further the growth and development of AUA.

AUA President and Co-Founder Neal Simon speaks of AUA’s history, accomplishments, and future.

In a very poetic and humorous style, Mr. Simon described the institute’s journey from its inception to its present state. He thanked all faculty, alumni, students, and staff for their valuable contributions to AUA over the past 10 years. Dr. Peter Bell, Executive Dean of Clinical Sciences, spoke about AUA’s remarkable distinctions, including approval and recognition by the New York, California, Florida, and CAAM-HP accrediting bodies. Mr. Mohandas Pai, Chairman of Manipal Global Education, spoke about the contributions of the Manipal group to the field of education in India and globally. He said that the partnership between Mr. Simon and Dr. Ramdas Pai demonstrates strong and stable leadership. Dr. Seymour Schwartz, Provost of AUA, spoke of the influence of the institute in the past decade in terms of students, faculty, emergency response teams, and healthcare events organized by AUA. He also stated that out of the 1,400 doctors who have graduated, 75% are providing primary care.



Alumni Dr. Jasmine Rivera-Marcelin and Dr. Hassan Masri described the challenges they faced on their journey to become successful medical graduates and expressed gratitude to their alma mater. They especially thanked the faculty for their dedication to training highly qualified physicians. They also acknowledged the government of Antigua and Barbuda for opening its land and resources to this institute, and the administration and faculty for their commitment to its growth. Finally, they encouraged current AUA students to achieve their dreams of becoming compassionate physicians. Dr. Chitra Pai, MD Professor of Microbiology

How AUA Shaped the Life and Career of Dr. Rivera-Marcelin Dr. Jasmine Rivera-Marcelin (Valedictorian, Class of 2011) returned to the AUA campus to celebrate the university’s 10th anniversary. In a moving speech, she recalled her experiences at AUA that had the greatest impact on her life and career. She began by recounting her childhood in Antigua and her early dream to become a physician, saying, “With AUA’s offer and full scholarship to attend [through the Antiguan Tuition Grant], I had my road map, and every decision made thereafter was to achieve that dream.” In her first semester she also met her “partner in science and in life,” her husband, Dr. Alberto Marcelin. She highlighted AUA’s dedication to each individual student by thanking her clinical coordinator for making an extra effort to keep her and her husband together during the majority of their rotations so they could share their community medicine experience. In 2011, Dr. Rivera-Marcelin was accepted to the Internal Medicine residency program at the Mayo Clinic. She admits that before her interview, no one in the program had heard of AUA, and out of 75 residents, she was the only Caribbean medical school graduate. “Though I had not yet completed my own research, I never once felt inadequate.” She went on to publish three peer-reviewed journal articles, was first author of a manuscript published in the January 2013 issue of The Mayo Clinic

Dr. Rivera-Marcelin greets T.V. Mohandas Pai, Chairman of Manipal Global Education.

Proceedings, and authored a book chapter on the effects of HIV and hepatitis B on the kidneys. Her research has resulted in the increase of HIV screening among primary care providers by 34%. She began her Infectious Diseases Fellowship at the Mayo Clinic in July 2014. Dr. Rivera-Marcelin closed her speech by revealing that she is often asked about her medical education and is always enthusiastic about sharing her AUA experience. “This institution has much to be proud of in its graduates,” she said. “We have residents, fellows, and attending physicians in positions across specialties throughout North America and around the world. Each AUA graduate has the ability to achieve greatness.”

AUA Earns Florida Department of Education Approval In 2014, after extensive review, AUA College of Medicine was licensed by the Commission for Independent Education of the Florida Department of Education, meaning AUA is approved to provide clinical clerkships in the state. This officially makes AUA one of only three Caribbean medical schools with approval from the New York State Education Department and the Florida Department of Education, recognition from the Medical Board of California, and accreditation from the Caribbean Accreditation Authority for Education in Medicine and other Health Professions.

Clerkship, residency, and licensure opportunities are extremely limited without these approvals. It has taken other Caribbean medical schools decades to earn some of these distinctions, while AUA has achieved the same and more in less than 10 years.

THE AUA TIMES AUA Students Praise FIU Clinical Clerkship Certificate Program The first class of AUA College of Medicine students has graduated from Florida International University Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine’s (FIU HWCOM) Clinical Clerkship Certificate Program.

Students, faculty, and staff of the HWCOM Clinical Clerkship Certificate Program

In 2013, AUA and FIU HWCOM signed a landmark agreement allowing qualified AUA students to complete all their core and elective rotations at clinical sites affiliated with FIU HWCOM.

family regularly. Gomez actually attended FIU for her undergraduate studies and knew from experience that she would receive an excellent education. Along with Cohen, she will participate in the 2016 Match.

Through this program, AUA students are able to participate in rotations with and be evaluated by FIU HWCOM faculty, access FIU academic and recreational facilities, and be exposed to top national and international faculty and guest speakers. Students who complete the program receive an FIU certificate program transcript sponsored by HWCOM and a Certificate of Completion, which indicates that they have completed their rotations at sites approved by FIU HWCOM.

“I think we can all agree it’s not every day that a foreign medical school graduate gets to be part of such a unique medical program, so you will absolutely stand out,” Gomez said.

AUA students Nicole Cohen, Jackeline Vajita Gomez, and Garry Mann, along with their colleagues Jeremy Sawh and Raihaan Khattak, were some of the first to complete the FIU Clinical Clerkship Certificate Program. Cohen earned high honors in Psychiatry, Pediatrics, Family, and Internal Medicine. “I chose this one-of-a-kind program because I like the convenience that comes with having back-to-back rotations at clinical sites located in one city,” Cohen said. An interest in medicine runs in her family. Her father, Dr. Jacob Cohen, is a urologist in Dade County, and her brother, Tal Cohen, is also an AUA student. In fact, it was her brother’s experience at AUA that inspired her to apply to the school. “I wanted to attend a school that offers an education on par with U.S. medical school standards,” Cohen said. “AUA was the perfect match for me.” Jackeline Vajita Gomez was born in Cartagena, Colombia, but was raised in Miami. From the age of seven, she dreamed of becoming a physician. She decided to participate in the FIU program because it would bring her close to her hometown. After studying abroad for two years, she enjoyed being able to see her

Ruben Diaz-Neda, HWCOM Coordinator; Nicole Cohen and friend; Jackeline Vajta Gomez

Garry Mann attributes his success at FIU to his early clinical experience at AUA. The skill he demonstrated gave his teachers the confidence to involve him in limited medical procedures not typically performed by clinical students. He admits that one of the challenges he faced was communicating with patients who spoke only Spanish, but acknowledges the staff, who were always happy to help him overcome the language barrier. “They’re more than willing to help a clinical student in need,” Mann said. The success of these students in FIU’s Clinical Clerkship Certificate Program may give them more opportunities to earn residencies than other Caribbean medical school graduates.



AUA Praised in Fight Against Physician Shortage AUA College of Medicine was recently praised in The Huffington Post, Roll Call, and The Hill for its efforts to stem the physician shortage. By 2020, there will be a deficit of 91,500 physicians in the United States. Now only five years away, this dire shortage is an encroaching reality. U.S. medical school acceptance rates are stagnant, and the U.S. Congress hasn’t increased the number of residency positions available. This catastrophic combination has made it harder for many people throughout the country to find primary care physicians, the specialty that has been hit hardest by the shortage.

“Historically, these schools have been stigmatized, and some of the current schools still lag behind their American counterparts. But there are good schools there too, like Ross University School of Medicine and the American University of Antigua College of Medicine,” said Alexander.

Policymakers have been trying to find a solution to the shortage without increasing the number of residency slots available. In an October 2014 article in The Hill, former Congressman Ronnie Shows supported highranking Caribbean medical schools, particularly AUA, that meet the standards of U.S. medical schools. “In 2013, AUA students got medical residencies at some of this nation’s most prestigious hospitals, including Student cares for local patient at AUA Women’s Health Fair. Duke University Medical Center and Loyola University Medical Center in Chicago,” said Rep. Shows. AUA students and graduates have proved they are on In a recent Roll Call article, former Congressman par with their U.S. colleagues. All medical students Silvestre Reyes agreed. He praised AUA graduates who and graduates have to pass the United States Medical have gone on to practice primary care in underserved Licensing Exam (USMLE) to qualify for clinical rotations communities throughout the United States. and apply for residencies, respectively. AUA has a first-time USMLE Step 1 pass rate of 95%, which is “My neighbors lacking adequate medical care don’t comparable to that of U.S. medical schools. Also, the care if a physician was educated at Harvard or AUA,” majority of AUA graduates do go into primary care. said Rep. Reyes. “If they are good doctors and willing to practice in West Texas and the U.S.-Mexican border “Studies show there is no difference between the quality region or in other underserved and poor communities, of care patients receive from doctors who attended we welcome their dedication, especially if they practice foreign medical schools and from those who went to primary care.” U.S. medical schools,” said Rep. Reyes. Unfortunately, consideration of this option is stifled by the poor quality of some other Caribbean medical schools. In a November 2014 article in The Huffington Post, journalist Paul Alexander opined that this should not doom the quality schools.

AUA graduates hundreds of students each year who are prepared to tackle the challenges presented by the physician shortage. AUA hopes to fill the demand to provide healthcare where it’s most needed.

AUA Approved for Canadian Student Loans In 2014, AUA was approved by the Canadian Ministry of Education and placed on the Master Delegation List, allowing eligible students to receive Canadian federal loans, provincial loans, and federal grants. This is under the auspices of the Canada Student Loans Program (CSLP), which offers loans, grants, and repayment assistance to fulltime and part-time students seeking postsecondary education. Student financial assistance is provided in partnership with the CSLP and most provinces and territories. In addition to this honor, AUA is the only Caribbean medical school to be a member of the Association of Commonwealth Universities.

THE AUA TIMES AUA Clinical Chair of Pediatrics Publishes New Book Dr. Alvin Eden, AUA Clinical Chair of Pediatrics, recently published a book, Fit from the Start: How to Prevent Childhood Obesity in Infancy, a comprehensive, practical guide for parents who want to raise their infants (age 0–12 months) with lifelong healthy eating, sleeping, and exercise habits. The book was published by Shape Up America!, an organization dedicated to educating the public on healthy life choices. Dr. Eden has been a practicing pediatrician for more than 40 years and published his first book in 1975: Growing Up Thin. He has shared his medical expertise on national TV shows and was a clinical professor of pediatrics at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York, N.Y. He wrote the book with Dr. Barbara J. Moore, PhD and Adrienne Forman, MS, RDN, in response to the childhood obesity epidemic sweeping the U.S. Fit from the Start has received rave reviews from the U.S. medical community. Dr. M. Joycelyn Elders, the 15th U.S. Surgeon General, praised the book for its excellent

advice and its “easy-to-read, matter-of-fact” style. Director of the Yale Prevention Research Center Dr. David L. Katz was enamored by the book’s “engagingly detailed” information about building “an early, solid foundation of life long good health.” Dr. Eden hopes the book will be a resource for parents who supplement infant care with regular checkups. If you would like to purchase a copy, it is available at, Barnes & Noble, and other major booksellers.

Alumni Earn Prestigious Fellowships After completing a residency, medical school graduates apply to fellowships as the last part of their medical training. When graduates complete their fellowships, they are permitted to practice, pending licensure. Here are just a few AUA graduates who have recently secured prestigious fellowships throughout the United States. Dr. Regina Krel, Class of 2011 Headache Medicine Fellow at Brigham and Women’s Hospital/Harvard Headache Medicine at John R. Graham Headache Center in Boston, M.A. Although she was a neurology resident at Stony Brook University Hospital Center and an internal medicine resident at NYMC/Richmond University Medical Center, Dr. Krel’s research has gone above and beyond that of many of her peers. She has researched the use of incobotulinum in refractory trigeminal neuralgia and age-related risk of depression and suicide in patients with high-dose steroid use, and she was second author on an abstract about tumefactive MS in the elderly. Her work on basilar and hemiplegic migraines was published in the acclaimed peer-reviewed journal Neurology. Dr. Talha Memon, Class of 2012 Sleep Medicine Fellow at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor Dr. Memon is pioneer among his peers. Before securing this fellowship, he was the first AUA graduate to earn a residency in California after AUA was recognized by the Medical Board of California. He matched as a Family Medicine resident at the University of California, Riverside. Last year, he obtained another first: the only Caribbean medical graduate to earn a prestigious sleep medicine fellowship at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. This is one of the world’s top-rated sleep medicine fellowships and the second- largest sleep medicine program in the country.

THE AUA TIMES Dr. Bilal Khan, Class of 2011 Critical Care Fellow at Yale New Haven Hospital During Clinical Sciences, Dr. Khan was the chief clinical student at his Internal Medicine rotation at Harbor Hospital. After he graduated, he was the chief categorical Internal Medicine resident at Jersey Shore University Medical Center in Neptune, N.J. It was here that he accomplished one of his most extraordinary feats. During Hurricane Sandy, he was one of the few MDs to remain at the hospital for five days, assisting patients in the only healthcare facility open in the area. He secured the fellowship at Yale because of the excellent reputation he earned during his residency.

Dr. Christopher Cortes, Class of 2010 Infectious Disease Fellow at New York Hospital Queens in Flushing, N.Y. While studying at AUA, Dr. Cortes had difficulty deciding on a specialty because he was interested in too many branches of medicine. When he was in clinical rotations, he found a specialty that could encompass all his interests: Internal Medicine. He was an Internal Medicine resident at New York Methodist Hospital in Brooklyn, N.Y. and received the Resident of the Year award and an Ambulatory Resident of the Year award. As an internist, he gravitated toward the Infectious Diseases subspecialty and, subsequently, earned a prestigious fellowship that will allow him to explore his passion for understanding these diseases. Dr. Raaj Ruparel, Class of 2011 General Surgery Resident at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, M.N. Dr. Ruparel was featured in the video series Saving Lives with Gus, produced by the Mayo Clinic, which utilizes social media to educate millennials on basic lifesaving procedures. He made these videos during his Simulation and Surgical Education Fellowship at the Mayo Clinic. He and his colleagues were challenged by Dr. David Farley, Co-Director of the Simulation Medicine Fellowship, who was inspired to create this initiative after an AED kit failed to save the life of a local high school athlete. Its goal is to save at least one life a year. Dr. Ruparel created a prototype, called Gus, and together they starred in these informational videos, which were released weekly on the Mayo Clinic News Network. If you would like to learn more about the series, the videos are available at and on YouTube.

AUA Launches Alumni Association In an effort to build a strong graduate network, AUA recently launched an official alumni association. AUA hopes this will foster a sense of community and create a forum for graduates and students to communicate with one another. The association will also maintain a passwordprotected directory that will allow graduates to chat with current students and impart their intimate knowledge of life in Antigua, housing options, the Basic and Clinical Sciences programs, and the residency process. The directory will be constantly updated and will benefit everyone who would like to keep in touch or help improve their alma mater. If you are an AUA alumnus interested in joining the association, please fill out your information at

Dr. Jesse Gill, Class of 2009, is now practicing Academic, Emergency, and Family Medicine in Canada.


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AUA Times: Spring 2015  

Stay up to date on the latest AUA news!

AUA Times: Spring 2015  

Stay up to date on the latest AUA news!