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Jode Jann Rago, M.D. (’09) Family Practice Resident William Beaumont Hospital, Troy, Michigan


As a part of the AUC Alumni Contact Network, you will play a vital role in helping

mentor aspiring doctors by contacting prospective, admitted and current students to share your experience at AUC and your knowledge of the medical field. Hearing your perspective as an AUC graduate and accomplished medical doctor helps encourage potential students and motivate current students to succeed. Alumni volunteers assist prospective and current AUC students by addressing general questions or concerns and offering their unique experience at AUC through conversations via phone or e-mail. (We need volunteers from all states, especially California)

Office of Alumni Relations 305-446-0600, ext. 1060,

To find out more, please contact the Office of Alumni Relations at 305-446-0600, ext. 1060 or

Table of Contents SPRING 2011, NUMBER 8

7 20 Students Benji Ho, Ariful Alam, Chris Vytlacil

4 Campus

12 Current Trends

15 Cover Story: Mission Accomplished Cover: Paul Nanda, M.D. (‘03) examines a patient in El Progreso, Honduras.

27 A Perfect Match

Richard Peterson, M.D. (‘00)

33 Awards and Publications

34 Class Notes


36 Alumni Profiles

38 Island News

41 Alumni Association News Allison Chen, M.D. (‘10)

First Words It is an honor it is to present yet another edition of AUC Connections. Our magazine has become the foremost publication to feature stories ― big and small ― on the many successes of our graduates. For this edition, we spotlight our graduates who have traveled the globe on medical missions. We also feature three different graduates from the 2009 and 2010 classes. All three secured residency placements in a variety of specialties at premier programs across the nation. Allison Chen, M.D. (’10) was ranked at the top of her class and accepted an OB/GYN residency at Rush University in Chicago, Ill. Michael Sharghi, M.D. (’10) matched into a very competitive anesthesiology program at Penn State College of Medicine in Hershey, Penn. Justin Millard, M.D. (’09) matched into orthopaedic surgery at Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis, Ind. Millard is also the first international medical graduate (IMG) to be accepted into this distinguished program. You’ll also read about Ron Testa, Ph.D., AUC’s new Dean of Basic Sciences and his dedication to student service and his desire to create a learning environment where resources are readily available. His feature for this magazine will show our readers what he has already accomplished in five years since joining AUC and his vision for the future of basic medical sciences at AUC. In addition to the varied stories here, you’ll learn the AUC Alumni Association is celebrating its seven year anniversary and that this not-for-profit organization has some very big things planned to honor that milestone. The AA has launched its first major fundraising drive with a simple goal: provide resources and useful events for students and graduates. Membership dues will be collected in order to build a sound financial base for a variety of different programs to benefit the university community. The AA is on its way to meeting its $10,000 goal. The first lifetime member, James Kochkodan, M.D. (’83), kicked off the drive by generously donating $1,000. They are counting on the support of alumni like you to meet the rest of the goal. In order to increase their membership, the AA is now offering four different membership levels, with special incentives, for you to choose from. Becoming a member has never been easier. Alumni can now make donations online via our new website: Different perks come with the varied levels, and members will stay updated with an online newsletter. It’s a great cause so I hope you will join the organization in supporting our students and graduates. I am very excited to share all that’s inside this amazing issue, so turn the pages and discover for yourselves. Thank you all for your continued support of AUC and the alumni association. Sincerely,

Dave Jones Director of Alumni Relations

Letters to the Editor Please send your comments and suggestions to

SPRING 2011, NUMBER 8 Director of Alumni Relations

David F. Jones Editor

Sophia Pino

“I just wanted to compliment you and your staff on such an excellent AUC Connections

Copy Editors

issue. Great!”

Patricia Litwin Nicole White

— Paul H. Hartel, M.D. (’00), FCAP, FASCP

Contributing Writers

“I made a copy of each of the Canadian profiles and sent them to my Torontonian cousins! Great stories!” — John Povanda, M.D. (’93)

“What a beautiful job. Congratulations! An excellent edition of AUC Connections. You did wonderful work. It was well worth the wait. Thank you.

Deborah Acosta Danielle Alvarez Karina Chavarria Paula Distefano Nicole White Graphic Designer

Marta A. Oppenheimer Contributing Photographers

Ryan Fisher Robert Holmes Ara Howrani Matthew Imm Jason Jones Solange Reyner Carla Sosa Todd Stone

— Elmer Mark Kropp, M.D. (’87)

Editorial Office

“Hi and thank you for the AUC Connections journal.

AUC Connections Office of Alumni Relations Medical Education Administrative Services 901 Ponce de Leon Blvd., Suite 700 Coral Gables, FL 33134 Phone 305.446.0600, ext. 1054 Fax 786.433.0974 E-mail Web

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AUC Board of Trustees

“The previous edition was excellent. I wanted to write you after I got it but I kept forgetting. I was really impressed by the stories and photos. AUC Connections has really come a long way. I’ve seen similar magazines for college alumni and they’re not nearly as good. Honestly, when I read the previous edition I kept saying to myself, “THIS is AUC Connections?” It was so good, I showed it to some relatives and friends. You and your staff deserve a lot of praise for a job really well done. Thanks for your efforts. Keep up the good work!” — Mark Allen Thoma, M.D. (’92)

David Campbell, FACHE Robert Chertok, Ph.D. The Rev’d Jeffrey L. Hamblin, M.D. (’92) Ronald Harden, O.B.E. Richard Kitch, J.D. Robert Sokol, M.D. Alumni Association Executive Board

Faith Dillard, M.D. (’99) President Tarik Haddad, M.D. (’01) Vice President Rizwana Fareeduddin, M.D. (’01) Secretary Ronald Schneider, M.D. (’02) Treasurer Please send all questions, comments and suggestions to the address or e-mail listed above. AUC Connections editors reserve the right to edit all print submissions for length and clarity, and assume no responsibility for unsolicited submissions. Reproduction for publication without written permission is prohibited. Opinions expressed are those of the editorial staff or contributing writers and do not necessarily represent the official positions of Medical Education Administrative Services, American University of the Caribbean or the AUC Alumni Association. AUC Connections is printed by Color Express at 7990 West 25th Court, Hialeah, FL 33016. If your address or contact information has changed since you last updated it with AUC, please submit your new information to the address above or online at:


A Dean of All Trades By Nicole White

t’s a few hours before he officially assumes the role as American

The son of an Italian working class family, Testa always dreamt of being

University of the Caribbean’s new Dean of Basic Sciences and Ron

a doctor.


Testa, Ph.D, is mildly distracted. As the new dean, he is now responsible for shaping the basic sciences curriculum for every student who walks into the storied halls of AUC’s campus and keeping faculty and board members happy. But there is another pressing issue at hand. His beloved, Cameron — a blond miniature Dachshund, has a ruptured disc. He is rushed to South Florida for emergency surgery and the prognosis is uncertain. “It’s been an eventful 72 hours,’’ says Testa.

His mother had no high school degree and his father is a retired tool and dye maker, but they believed in the benefits of a college education. His parents envisioned a practical profession said Testa: “My dad thought I should major in accounting, be something.’’ But the young Testa had other dreams. “Growing up I knew I wanted the title doctor before my name. I don’t know if it’s because I had this image that their life would be so different,’’ said Testa. He fell in love with psychology in his very first class as an undergraduate.

Days later, Cameron is back on St. Maarten and recovering though his

He soon realized his desire to be a doctor would be fulfilled not by wearing

walk is as shaky as a “drunken sailor” Testa tells his Facebook friends.

a white coat and administering care in an emergency room, but by tackling

The family crisis is averted and now Testa, who assumed the new role on May 1, must concentrate solely on business and there’s plenty to focus on. The summer semester has begun and there are some 97 students to welcome and get indoctrinated to the ways of the island and medical school. There are two commencement ceremonies, a symposium with faculty and board members and staff from the various hospitals where students do their clinical rotations and there is a curriculum to shape.

the mental and emotional aspects of medicine. He majored in psychology as an undergraduate at the University of Connecticut and received his master’s and Ph.D. degrees in clinical/ community psychology at the University of South Florida in Tampa. With each degree his parents kept wondering when the real work would begin. “These are the kind of people who didn’t grasp the notion of multiple degrees but every month they would send me a check to partially pay for

Testa, who as the former Associate Dean of Student Affairs spent four

my rent,’’ said Testa. “It was a substantial amount of money but they were

years advocating solely for students, must now wear multiple hats: dean

investing in a dream and they didn’t even know what the dream meant.”

of many things.

His first job as a faculty member at Plymouth State University in New

And yet, even as he shifts gears and tries to get used to this concept, his

Hampshire paid $25,000 and though he’d beat 110 other applicants to

concern remains with students. Despite the change in title, he wants to

land the position, his parents were still aghast:

reassure them that he’ll still be accessible. “I hate to think that I’ll be spending less time with students,’’ said Testa. “Instead, I envision creating opportunities that students feel that they have access to the Dean.’’ Testa notes that he will continue to focus on the well-being of students, and the barriers and obstacles they face and how he can best empower them to get through the program. But the focus now said Testa, “will also be about how the institution, its faculty and its students are working in some cooperative way in a climate that supports success.’’ Ron Testa has been dealing with large groups, managing relationships his entire life. He is one of four children born to Angelo and Fannie Testa – who had 17 siblings. He also has 55 first cousins.


“You’ve been in school all this time to make that kind of money? I don’t understand it but you seem very happy,’’ the elder Testa told his son. “It’s been an odyssey and a journey to where I am now,’’ said Testa. “To say the least, they are extraordinarily prideful.’’ Though happy at Plymouth State, Testa said he yearned for the warmth of the Florida weather and set his sights on returning there. He accepted a job at the University of Miami’s Miller School of Medicine as the associate professor of psychology and clinical director of an adolescent sex-offender unit. He later went to teach at Barry University where he was associate dean of academic affairs for the School of Adult Continuing Education. Life was great in Miami.

“Be humble and serve. You have been given a great privilege to become a physician.’’ Photo by Carla Sosa


He shared a beautiful home with his partner and their two dogs Cameron

“He’s the man for the job. I’ve never seen anybody more passionate

and Cody.

about the students here,’’ said Sadler. “Testa comes in and just breaks

All was well. His partner suggested the two buy a home in the Caribbean and they stumbled on a great house in St. Maarten. They visited, fell in love with the home and purchased it. Six weeks after closing on the house, he saw a posting for a new position at the American University of the Caribbean. Was this fate? “I was quite satisfied with what I was doing at Barry,” said Testa. “But I was intrigued by the position. “I thought, how strange is this timing but it seemed like a good fit and a good opportunity for someone who had been at a medical school and had worked with non-traditional students,’’ said Testa. “My academic experience seemed to fit a place like AUC, an out-of-thebox place that’s helping people from non-traditional backgrounds secure

down barriers. He’s kind of like a student himself.’’ Testa says he fights hard because he respects the students’ unfailing desire to make it to medical school: “They arrive by default. They arrive somewhat wounded and somewhat humbled. But these were the courageous ones who said, I think I can do it.” “AUC said yes to these students because we believe that students are more than a composite of test scores,’’ said Testa. His mission now is to let the world know that AUC is the Caribbean’s best kept secret and to see it ranked as a top medical school. He will do so he says, by focusing on creating two centers of excellence. The first will be a teaching and learning center of excellence where teachers and students will collaborate on research projects. The goal he says, is to demonstrate how you facilitate learning excellence in medical education.

a medical degree and I now own a house on the island,’’ said Testa. “It

In the second, the emphasis will be on professionalism, social responsibility

did feel like destiny in some ways.’’

and diversity so students will not only master basic sciences, but understand

He applied, got the job and has never regretted making the change to an island lifestyle. Once there, he poured himself wholeheartedly into fighting for the students. Testa fought hard, on their behalf, to have a member of the student government association represented at faculty meetings. He also helped

the inherent responsibility they have to the well-being of the community and to embracing diversity as physicians. When AUC students graduate he wants them to have one clear purpose: “Be humble and serve. You have been given a great privilege to become a physician.’’

to get students the opportunity to rewrite the honor code and the power

And as they treat patients: “Be humble and authentic in working

to select two of the six faculty members on the student evaluation and

with them.” q

promotion committees. “You can’t represent your constituency if you don’t hear what they have to say,’’ said Testa. “They need to be there. We needed to hear their voice directly.” For that, and many more reasons, he is revered by students who consider him among their biggest advocates. He is accessible in person and is often counted as a friend in the student’s bible of social activity: Facebook. “We all love Dr. Testa. I think we’re all very lucky to have him,” says Benji Ho, author of the blog, Diary of a Caribbean Med Student. “He is not afraid to spend time with students and genuinely listen to what we have to say.” “Testa deserves the job,” says Jody Sadler, M.D. (‘09), last year’s student speaker and former member of the Student Government Association. Photo by Carla Sosa



by Sophia Pino

hile researching Caribbean medical schools, Benji Ho came across

“He had so much

a wealth of information generated by the schools about academics,

potential ahead of

facilities, and island life. However, he struggled to find high-quality, student

him, and yet his

generated information.

life was already at

Until he came across a handful of student blogs written by AUC and other Caribbean medical school students. “The blogs that I did find really inspired me to create my own blog,” said Ho, whose blog, Diary of a Caribbean Med Student went up in July 2009.

risk,” said Ho. “I soon realized that although the pedestrian-friendly cities I imagined

“I always kept a diary, but I was the only person who read it,” he said. “I

myself designing

felt that in this day and age, if your diary has good information that others

in the future may

can benefit from, then why keep it to yourself?”

make the environment more suitable for physical activity, no design of

On the blog, Ho chronicles his experiences leading up to and while completing medical school. He discusses a variety of aspects of the life of

mine could ever help him and his family as much as the direct care and guidance of a doctor,” he added.

a medical student, starting from the application process and continuing on

As graduation loomed upon him, he began to explore his career options.

to the present day. On the way, the reader meets his friends, classmates

At his father’s suggestion, he began shadowing physicians at a pediatric

and family, all the while staying informed of what’s going on at AUC and

clinic, and later in the radiation and oncology departments of a hospital.

in Ho’s life.

“Many patients would come in with problems that arose from their

His post topics range from dispelling myths about living in St. Maarten to

lifestyles. The doctor wouldn’t just treat the illness, but also would advise

quashing rumors about what classes students think they don’t need to

them on lifestyle changes that would help with the condition,” said Ho of

study for. He also posts responses to reader questions about all aspects of

working in the pediatric clinic.

being not just an AUC student, but a Caribbean medical student.

After graduation, when not shadowing physicians, taking pre-med courses,

“Blogging gives me time to pause and look back at everything. It’s part of

or working on scientific research, he was also a piano accompanist for

my medical education, helping me to evaluate my experience and find

the choir classes at the Institute of Religion in Athens, Ga.

meaning in what I’m doing without forgetting the experience,” said Ho, who was also an Anatomy Teaching assistant and class representative for the Student Government Association. Growing up, he never really considered becoming a physician. Although

“I did a lot of research and was impressed by the quality of AUC’s faculty and track record of graduating physicians. Of all the Caribbean schools I looked into, I really liked AUC best, especially because of the small class sizes and that graduates are able to practice in all 50 states,” he said.

his father is a pediatrician, the junior Ho found himself drawn to the arts. In college, he studied architecture and linguistics. Inspired by a professor

Now in his 5th semester, Ho and his blog are going strong.

who told him that architecture can save the world, Ho began creating

“The school has definitely exceeded my expectations,” he said. “It is a

designs with healthier lifestyles in mind, such as winding walkways instead of shortcuts, to encourage walking. He also created a proposal for a redesign of St. Louis’ Clayton Market, which earned him acclaim from both his professors and the university administration. In spite of his acclaim as an architecture student, Ho felt unfulfilled. While

small close-knit community. The professors want to be there and want to teach us. They are always accessible and finding ways to encourage interaction and a sense of community.” The blog, he maintains, is a part of his scholarly success.

helping out at his father’s pediatric practice one day, he watched as an

“Some people go out to relax, some people go to the beach. I blog. I feel

obese 8-year old stepped on to a scale.

having a leisurely activity like that helps me as a student.” q

Keep up with Benji at:


Dean’s List I

n recognition of high academic achievement through the Basic Sciences portion of the curriculum, the American University of

the Caribbean acknowledges students who have excelled at the end of each semester. To qualify for the Dean’s List, students must carry a credit load of at least 15 credits and have earned a semester cumulative average grade of at least 87.

Congratulations to these outstanding students who have made the September-December 2010 Dean’s List (listed in alphabetical order):

Residency Support Network The Residency Support Network is here to help students navigate the different aspects of the residency application process. In addition to our information webinars, match handbook and personal statement assistance, we have also assembled a team of Alumni to answer questions and give advice on how best to prepare for the match and interview process. They also serve as a support team to guide new graduates as they begin their residency programs. If you are a graduate interested in joining, please contact Nicole White at or use our sign-up form at


1. Peter Abromaitis 2. Joshua Akers 3. Lia Alvarez 4. Priyanka Annigeri 5. Faizan Arif 6. Fiona Atitso 7. John Ballantyne 8. Nicole Barberis 9. Luke Barr 10. William Barrett 11. Rani Bashiti 12. Julia Belanger 13. Kimberly Biichle 14. Martin Binesh 15. Derek Blevins 16. Erica Bloom 17. Dawn Boeker 18. Michael Bogoyevac 19. Alan Boucher 20. Julie Burkett 21. Carter Capra 22. Rajinderpaul Chahal 23. Aaron Chopee 24. Mark Ciraldo 25. Keith Cohen 26. Jared Crisafi 27. Edward Daniele 28. Gregory Decker 29. Lance DeRoss 30. Erica DiMaria 31. John English 32. Eleanor Estebanez 33. Dayse Fernandes 34. Tiffany Freemantle 35. Travis Fuchs 36. Garret Garofolo-Gonzalez 37. Blair Germain 38. Brian Hachey 39. David Hill 40. Evan Hiner

41. Brett Hiroto 42. Johnathan Hollyfield 43. Amy Jaeger 44. Joshua Jalad 45. Sara Karnib 46. Gurpal Kundi 47. Daphne Lang 48. Alexander Levitin 49. Zachary Lipowski 50. Andrew Lukaszewicz 51. Sanjay Mahatma 52. Naddi Marah 53. James Mellone 54. Irina Mishagina 55. Ashley Modica 56. Carissa Monterroso 57. Jennifer Morrison 58. Jaqueline Mulee 59. Pallavi Nadendla 60. Evan Nadler 61. Jordan Nagle 62. Jared Newman 63. Tram Nguyen 64. Melissa Nicholls 65. Nathaniel Nowacki 66. Adeyimika Omololu 67. Jennifer Onochie 68. Qinshi Pan 69. Subhasree Pachangam 70. Shruti Pandita 71. Khyati Patel 72. Kyle Pearson 73. Thien Phung 74. Farhan Qureshi 75. Justin Raper 76. Prasanth Ravipati 77. David Rayburn 78. Thomas Ridge 79. Soofia Salehi 80. Damian Salerno

81. Timothy Schainker 82. Todd Schlossman 83. Sara Schmitz 84. Subin Sharma 85. Haroon Shaukat 86. Mousa Shukr 87. Jeffrey Silpe 88. Rajinder Singh 89. Reid Singleton 90. Jules Sleiman 91. Benjamin Smith 92. Tanvi Sojitra 93. George Soliman 94. James Spawn 95. Kimberly Stawarz 96. Brandon Stransky 97. Mahino Talib 98. Phuc Tran 99. Katlynn Van Ogtrop 100. William Wagner 101. Aaron Yon 102. Amanda Zehrer


Former Canadian Soccer Star Looks Forward to Residency by Sophia Pino


anadian medical schools are notoriously difficult to get into. With only 17 medical

schools in the entire country, some of the nation’s best and brightest are often left to find another way to pursue their aspirations of a career in medicine. Patrick Laing is one of those students. The Nanaimo, British Columbia native was a star soccer player at the University of Victoria. After graduation, he started his own company, working with the Canadian government on how to manage invasive plants. Although he was successful as a plant biologist, he felt that a career in medicine was the right path for him. “I wanted a career that allows me to help people in their day-to-day lives,” said Laing, who is presently completing his clinical rotations. His decision to come to AUC was influenced by the appeal of the small class sizes and the good reviews he saw online. The prospect of not having to go through the lengthy Canadian application process was also a plus for Laing. “He’s a hard worker,” said Jenna Laing, his

Clinical student Patrick Laing with his wife, Jenna.

wife. “He strives to do the best he can.” Laing’s best thus far is one of the highest USMLE scores in AUC history

“You have to be driven to get through it,” he said of the Caribbean medical

and being ranked number one in his basic science class. He has also

school experience. “It helps you develop and mature really quickly and

earned Honors in his pediatrics rotation and is a member of the Alpha

makes you a more proactive learner,” he added.

Omega Phi honor and service society. Succeeding in medical school, Laing says, depends on the individual student.

“We work together to get things done,” said Mrs. Laing, a registered nurse. “It’s hard being a medical student and it’s hard being the wife of a medical student, but you learn to understand each other’s situations. We’re lucky

“I wanted a career that allows me to help people in their day-to-day lives.”

that we’re best friends,” she said. Both Laings agree that they have chosen the right path. “AUC is definitely helping Patrick get to where he needs to go,” said Mrs. Laing. Patrick will begin his residency in internal medicine at the University of Utah in July 2011. q


Beyond Basic Sciences By Nicole White


UC’s Alumni Relations office, along with Sue Atchley, Ph.D.,

Cohen was thrilled by the student turnout and feedback: “It was amazing.

last year launched Beyond Basic Sciences — affectionately

I can’t wait to go back again!”

dubbed BBS — an alumni lecture series program designed to provide clinical, residency, research and other important medical information to AUC students.

Other presenters have included Antonella Morra, M.D. (‘96), who spoke to Canadian students about the different pathways to gaining residency in their homeland and Nancy Conley, M.D. (‘03), who spoke

BBS gives graduates, who plan to visit the island, the opportunity to

about Integrated Medicine and how she had blended her passion

reconnect with current AUC students and faculty, and share real-life

for alternative and traditional medicine to create a successful private

experiences about what they face during residency and beyond.

practice in Reno, Nev.

Alumni choose their topic and spend an hour interacting with students.

Dave Jones, AUC’s Director of Alumni Relations praised the program.

The sessions have received rave reviews from students, eager to hear from graduates who once sat as students in the very lecture halls to which they’ve returned to give their talks. K.C. Cohen, M.D. (‘05) — who is completing a residency in general surgery — kicked off the series with a graphic presentation titled “Anatomy of Trauma”. Cohen shared slides on the gritty realities of the

“Beyond Basic Sciences presents a great learning forum for our students,’’ said Jones. “Hearing first-hand about AUC graduates’ experiences during clinical rotations and residency is a highly educational and inspiring way to learn more about a specific specialty or program. Future speakers can choose the format, be it a question/answer session or a slide slow presentation with discussion.”

trauma room and why paying attention to anatomy is crucial to the real

If you’re interested in participating in BBS please contact Dr. Atchley

life scenarios doctors face.

at See you on the island! q AUC CONNECTIONS 11

Current Trends

Connected - All Day, By Nicole White


ifth semester student, Benji Ho’s blog —

The Facebook page created for May 2010 students, “was amazing in

— reads like an encyclopedia of all things AUC and life on the island

that it not only allowed me to connect to my future classmates, but it

of St. Maarten: what to pack before you move to the island, how to save

also put me into direct contact with upperclassmen who were

on books, how to navigate the bumpy streets of St. Maarten.

more than ready to answer any question I had,’’ said Willis.

It is an exhaustive and thoroughly researched blog with timely and

“Having that direct line of communication helped to

lively updates that Ho somehow manages to update regularly despite an

damper any uneasiness I may have had about living

intense workload.

in a foreign country,’’ he said.

Ho’s blog is one of the 12-plus blogs created by students and spouses of

Willis says he and other students also use the

AUC. Countless others float around in the online world traversed by foreign

video-sharing site, Skype, for face-to-face chat

medical school students, eager to gather every morsel of advice and

with loved ones on a regular basis.

insight as they prepare to spend years away in a foreign country. Shanique Shaw, who began classes at AUC in August 2010, credits Ho’s blog and Facebook with helping to give her a sense of what lies ahead in St. Maarten. “I don’t think I would feel as confident about my [upcoming] experience at AUC hadn’t it been for Facebook and Benji’s blog,’’ said Shaw. “Before I even became aware of Benji’s blog, I found a student who just happened to be a USF [University of South Florida] alumnus and emailed him via Facebook to ask him about his experiences,‘’ said Shaw who also used Facebook to connect with a student who’d made it to the Dean’s List.

It wasn’t always this way. When James Kochkodan, M.D. (‘83), studied at AUC’s Montserrat campus in 1980 there was only one telephone booth in the island’s square for students to call back home. Students made the one mile trek to Plymouth and then patiently waited their turn to use the phone. Those who lacked the patience would pay local residents to use their phones or be content with writing letters.

Blogs and social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook, have virtually

“We had no computers, no Facebook, no cell phones,’’ said Kochkodan.

erased the chasm that once existed for students attending a foreign

But he believes that lack of instant communication back home also forged

medical school. You may be thousands of miles away from family and friends but now able to chat daily and remain connected easily. The connections have helped erase some of the anxiety students once had about moving to an island so far away, an island that is void of many of the conveniences found in the United States. Social networking has now become a staple of the university from admissions, to matriculation and beyond. There are now Facebook groups for prospective students, residency and alumni as well as an official page where links are posted to online articles about the university and

strong bonds with fellow students. “I think it drove students to lean on other students and make friends a lot more quickly because we had no choice,’’ Kochkodan said. And besides said Kochkodan, “After the second semester and as we became more comfortable with our situation, there wasn’t much need to communicate back home. We just settled into our lives and focused on school.’’

general medical news said Dave Jones, director of alumni relations.

And even though Facebook has also

“Social networking sites have become a great tool for sharing information

allowed graduates to reconnect with long

within the entire AUC community,’’ said Jones.

lost classmates, Kochkodan says he still uses the telephone to stay in touch.

“It’s revolutionized communication on so many levels,’’ said Jones. “In the past whereas only one person may have benefitted from a discussion

And don’t expect him to sign up for

through email, now every member of the group can not only educate

Facebook anytime soon.

themselves, but also interact and share his or her experience on the topic.”

“I’m happy that the students now have more of

Third semester student Stacey Willis said he read Ho’s blog and

a safety net or an instant and constant connection

connected with his classmates on Facebook weeks before his move from

to home that we never had,’’ said Kochkodan. “But

New Orleans to the island.

I still wouldn’t trade it for the years we lived without it.’’ q


All Night, All theTime

Focus Still on Experience as Workweek Shortened by Deborah Acosta


ustin Bright, M.D. (‘07), is 14 hours into a 30-hour shift at St. Vincent Mercy Hospital in Toledo, Ohio, a regular work day for

a resident in emergency medicine. Two weeks ago he worked a total of 84 hours, and before that, it was 78. As bad — and as long — as those hours might seem, they represent a huge decrease in the number of hours resident doctors put in for their in-house training. Just five years ago, they worked 100 hours a week, if not more. In 2003, the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education

Justin Bright, M.D. (‘07)

a result of it. Before the hour limits, he said, residents knew their patients inside and out. Now, once a resident’s time is up, the patients are signed over to other residents who don’t really know what to do with them. “There’s less continuity of care, and no one really knows their patients at all,” he said. Bright also worries that decreasing hours will result in unprepared, inexperienced doctors.

adopted recommendations from the Institute of Medicine for an 80-hour

“If you’re not in the hospital enough, you’re not going to be experienced

work week and requiring residents should go no more than 16 hours

enough to graduate,” he said.

without a five-hour break or nap.

Despite another study by the University of Chicago and the University of

“The human brain simply does not perform reliably for 24 consecutive

Arkansas for Medical Sciences that advocates on-duty napping to reduce

hours without sleep,” said Charles A. Czeisler, M.D., Ph.D., at Brigham

resident fatigue, Bright said such a solution could be more of a problem.

and Women’s Hospital, who worked on the 2008 study published in the National Academies Press.

“I feel worse after that nap,” Bright said. “In the event that I shut my eyes later on tonight, they’d page me an hour into it anyway. I feel better taking

Interns and residents who put in more than five 24- to 30-hour shifts in a

30 hours straight. If I’m going to be in the hospital, I’d rather do some

month were involved in 300 percent more fatal errors than when they did

work,” he said.

not work extended shifts, Czeisler said. The study also found that they were more likely to fall asleep during surgery, while examining patients, during hospital rounds and during lectures or seminars. Sleep deprivation is also putting the residents themselves at harm.

Another concern is that if hospitals implement the five-hour nap, they will have to find more doctors to fill those hours, a cost estimated at around $1.7 billion. “There has to be a happy medium that can be reached,” Guisto said. But

“As soon as I get in my car, I realize how tired I am,” said Bright. “I’ll

“you need to put the hours in. Sitting at a library and reading a book about

admit I’ve almost fallen asleep a few times on my way home.”

it is not the same.”

“But working nights, even long nights, has its benefits,” said Bright, 32.

Bright suggests implementing a subject requirement instead of an hour

“There’s a lot of learning that goes on in the middle of the night when you’re alone. Medicine is all about life-and-death decisions, and we need to learn to do that well,” he said. These decisions happen at night, he said, when you’re alone with a skeleton crew. “You don’t have time to think you’re tired when you’re on.”

requirement, for which each resident must see a predetermined number of different cases before graduating. If it were organized like that, he said, maybe they would not need to be at the hospital for 80 hours a week. Avelino Verceles, M.D. (‘99), faculty member at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and specialist in Pulmonary Critical Care and Sleep Medicine, has another suggestion. “If you’re limiting the amount of

Nicholas Guisto, M.D. (‘08), recalls sticking around after his shift was over

hours that a resident can spend in a hospital training, one of the answers may

to see if there was an interesting case going on that he hadn’t seen before.

be to extend the residency programs,” he says. He thinks the new work week

“You need to cram as much into those years as possible in order to graduate as a competent and experienced resident physician,” said Guisto, now

should remain as it stands, because, he says, it has improved their quality of life, and has decreased depression and burnout rate among residents.

an anesthesiologist based out of Chicago. “Looking back, it was a blink

However, Bright maintains that although he’s made some personal sacrifices,

of an eye, and now it’s gone.”

he’s happy with his current workload.

Cutting back to 80-hour work weeks can actually lead to more mistakes,

“I’ve loved every single second I’ve been in this hospital,” he said. “I like that

said Guisto, who said he has seen a decline in the quality of residents as

it’s hard for people to do. It’s part of the badge of honor that we wear.” q


Mission Accomplished S

eek always to do some good, somewhere... Even if it’s a little thing, do something for those that need help, something for

which you get no pay but the privilege of doing it,” said physician, medical missionary and 1952 Nobel Prize winner Albert Schweitzer. An accomplished musician and theologian, Schweitzer decided at the age of 30 to enter medical school in order to be able to go on medical missions to Africa. Upon completion of medical school in 1913, Schweitzer and his wife left their home in present-day Alsace, France and moved to Lambaréné, which is now part of present day Gabon. There, they built a hospital which is still in service today. Much like Schweitzer, the AUC graduates in the following pages have scattered across the globe to find the places where they can share

Iraq: Population: 29,671,605 Infant Mortality: 43.16 per 1000 live births Major Diseases: Hepatitis A, Typhoid Fever, H5N1

their talents with those in the most need. q

Richard Peterson, M.D. (’00)




Population: 16,746,491 Infant Mortality: 7.52 per 1000 live births 18.2% of the population lives below the poverty line

Population: 88,013,491 Infant Mortality: 78.99 per 1000 live births Major Diseases: Malaria, Meningococcal Meningitis, Hepatitis A and E

Population: 1,919,552 Infant Mortality: 56.42 per 1000 live births 49% of the population lives below the poverty line

Richard Peterson, M.D. (’00)

Paul Nanda, M.D. (’03)

Gabriel Gizaw, M.D. (’07)




Population: 14,790,608 Infant Mortality: 20.26 per 1000 live births Major Diseases: Dengue, Malaria, Hepatitis A

Population: 7,989,415 Infant Mortality: 21.04 per 1000 live births Major Diseases: Dengue, Malaria, Typhoid Fever

Population: 11,651,858 Infant Mortality: 30.9 per 1000 live births Major Diseases: Malaria, Hepatitis A, Typhoid Fever

Kristin Gore, M.D. (‘08)

Paul Nanda, M.D. (’03) Richard Peterson, M.D. (’00)

Paul Nanda, M.D. (’03)

Statistics are from the CIA World Factbook


Leading by Example Paul Nanda and his ingenious approaches to medicine in the field By Danielle Alvarez n Lesotho, Africa, there are no ventilators, much less pediatric

50 -100 patients daily from El Progreso and surrounding communities in

gastrointestinal surgeons. A three-day-old boy born with duodenal

a makeshift clinic.


atresia will die before he is even given a formal name. The condition, in which the first part of the small bowel is not developed and does not allow the passage of stomach contents, is fairly common and resolved with a

Nanda works with the students to conduct blood pressure and diabetes screenings for the entire community of about 200 people.

simple surgery. A relatively simple surgery with the resources available

To help encourage consistent follow-up appointments, Nanda developed a

in the U.S. In Lesotho however, those resources are difficult to come by.

system in which patients are given their own personal medical history

Another missionary surgeon on the site had unsuccessfully attempted the repair. But for a day-and-a-half before the baby died, Paul Nanda, M.D. (’03), along with one of his students and two other medical residents, helped the baby breathe by manually pumping air into his lungs. The frequency of such dire medical situations is what drives Nanda to travel to some of the world’s neediest destinations to practice what he calls “MacGyver medicine.” Like the fictional character Angus MacGyver — the resourceful secret agent played by actor Richard Dean Anderson on the TV series “MacGyver”—

booklet, which is updated with each visit. The process, Nanda added, gives “patients a chance to take an active role in their health. Instead of doing acute things, we want to make a difference in the community,” he said. The group’s effort to provide ongoing medical care for the rural Honduran communities attracted the interest of the Global Health Education Consortium, which recognized PODEMOS founder Matthew Imm with the Lancet Outstanding Community Service Award at its 2009 conference. Imm says the award really goes to his fellow students and to Nanda, who nominated him.

Nanda and his team use practical technology, good will and persistence

“What makes him such an effective global health physician is his ability

to save peoples’ lives.

to see potential and shared humanity in places where few others venture

He spends two months out of the year traveling with fellow physicians and medical students to some of the world’s poorest areas. Nanda also created a special team with the department of family medicine at Ohio State University that travels exclusively to Lesotho. “I believe that if someone is not actively doing something against the problem, they are part of it,” said Nanda, a clinical assistant professor of family medicine and family physician at Ohio State.

to look for it,” Imm said of his professor. His vision and commitment also inspire others. “He is always looking for ways to improve both in a professional and personal level. I feel that he does not receive near the amount of credit that he deserves,” said colleague Dr. Travis Najera. Nanda began his family medicine residency at Ohio State after graduating in 2003 from AUC. He feels that his efforts to help the needy communities

Nanda, also the director of global health for the university, started the

of Africa and South America, provides students a holistic

Lesotho program out of the Department of Family Medicine in 2008. He

approach to medicine while helping the community.

chose the location because of its lack of health care and desperate need. According to Nanda, the southern African nation has the third highest rate of AIDS in the world.

Although he was raised in the Midwest, Nanda frequently traveled to Hawaii to analyze crops with his father, who studied corn genetics.

The student group provides an array of medical services out of Maluti Adventist Hospital, an old mission hospital, and its outlying clinics that

The doctor says his parents never “technically” pushed him

support more than 100,000 people in 264 villages.

into a career in medicine but says, “When you grow up Indian in this country, they more than recommend it.”

Medical studies abroad are invaluable in that they allow students to grow both personally and professionally, Nanda said.

He attended Indiana University and started medical school at AUC in 1999 after being waitlisted by eight U.S. schools. He

“You can’t teach life experiences in the classroom,” he said. Nanda also works with an OSU student-led initiative, PODEMOS. Podemos is Spanish for “we can.” Under Nanda’s supervision, Ohio State medical students travel to El Progreso,

says it was his will to be a physician that kept him on his track. “The strong undercurrent of desire superseded any other obstacle. I wouldn’t have been happy doing anything else,” the doctor said.

Honduras, for anywhere between one week or one month to spread

While he focuses his efforts largely on global health care,

medical awareness and to conduct research with the help of grants provided

Nanda also holds strong opinions about America’s universal

by the university. Nanda travels with 10 to 20 students every visit and sees

health care debate.


I wouldn’t have been happy doing anything else.”

“It’s a push and pull,” he said. Everyone wants to keep their pieces of the

Although Nanda got the travel bug at an early age, it was a trip to

pie, and after a while, there’s no pie left and so many people still without

Zimbabwe in 2006 that changed his perspectives and life goals. It continues

health care,” he said, urging for a preventative health care system as

to inspire him to promote medical studies abroad, he said.

opposed to the “reactionary” method in place now.

“People don’t appreciate what extreme poverty is,” Nanda said. “When you go first hand — it changes you, how you live your life and practice medicine.” Nanda, who has also traveled with students to Belize to acquire learning in wilderness and rescue medicine, said he hopes to continue the two-year old PODEMOS program and open more clinics throughout Honduras, Belize and Mexico. The group eventually plans to open a freestanding clinic in El Progreso that will have a more comprehensive approach, including nutrition, dental and nursing services. Nanda said he also hopes that the university will one day have a stable location in Lesotho, where students can be sent to assist on a regular basis. The doctor is quick to keep the spotlight not so much on his contribution and the students’, but on the things that need to be addressed. But family members do not mind sharing how they feel about his contribution. “I think at his young age he has already accomplished more than some people do in a lifetime,” said his father, Dave Nanda. q Above: Dr. Paul Nanda examines a patient in El Progreso, Honduras. Left: Nanda with children from El Progreso. Photos by Matthew Imm in Honduras.


Home is Where the Need is AUC grad finds purpose in mission to Ecuador by Kristin Gore, M.D. (‘08)

left the pager, white coat, and the worries of residency in South Carolina

cat.” There are other

and flew to Miami to meet my team members. There, I met the group for

significant problems


the first time. We had a team of 13 doctors, two nurses, a med student, a

associated with this

premed student, and a pharmacist from all around the United States. With

condition such as feeding problems, developmental delay, and

the help of the Global Health Outreach, the mission branch of the Christian

malformations of the face. This baby was so dehydrated that she

Medical and Dental Association, we were brought together to help the

was losing neurological functioning, unable to move her eyes,

residents of Chone, Ecuador. We flew into Guayaquil, the capital city,

and had absent reflexes. Her anterior fontanel (soft spot on her

arriving at 3 a.m. The next day, we drove six hours to Chone, a town even

head) was so deeply sunken, it was frightening. We didn’t have

the locals refer to as a place you “just drive through and don’t even stop

any IVs readily available, so we mixed up an oral rehydration

to eat.” As we neared the town, which is only 50 miles from the equator,

solution of sugar, salt, and potassium and had the mother spoon

the palm trees changed to bamboo trees to cactus and then finally to just

feed the baby one liter. We also gave her a shot of antibiotics.

dirt. The houses were all made of bamboo and on stilts to prevent flooding

When she was brought back for follow up, she looked like a

during the rainy season. The temperature was in the 90s, even though it

new baby! She was looking around the room and responded

was winter.

well to the neurological exam we gave her. With a simple intervention,

We arrived in Chone and set up the “clinic” — a two story building with

we managed to save her life. It was a good feeling, albeit short lived.

10 rooms. The rooms were each equipped with a wooden table, a few

On our second day, a mother brought her two year old to the clinic. The

broken plastic chairs and four oscillating fans which we rotated among

first doctor she saw was the anesthesiologist downstairs who had just

each other. We put sheets over the tables and they became exam rooms.

finished a case in the OR. She handed the seemingly lifeless child over to

Our makeshift pharmacy was stocked with the donated medicine we

him. The mother was in hysterics. The anesthesiologist rushed the child into

brought with us and arranged as best we could. Our antibiotics were classified as “gram positive antibiotic coverage on the right side, gram negative on the left.” It brought to light how broadly things can be treated, when in America we can be so painfully detailed and dogmatic in our approach. Eventually, we even ran out of the 10,000 donated vitamins we had collected. I went to sleep that night so excited that I finally was on the mission field again… but this time as a doctor.

the OR and began ventilating her with a respirator bag. All of a sudden, I hear “Pediatric code blue in the OR” from upstairs! I ran down to find the little girl lying on the OR table, turning blue. I immediately started running a code. It was my first pediatric code since certification! Compressions were started immediately as a nurse attempted to get an IV. On the monitor, we saw that she was flatlining. Her heart was not beating. We gave a round of epinephrine, resumed compressions, and then intubated the

The next morning, when we arrived at the clinic, the line was already

child. After 15 minutes of this cycle, we had not made any progress. The

down the street to see the “American doctors.” People were pushing to

child was likely dead on arrival, but we did everything in our power to

get through the line and to the front door. We made it through the crowd,

reverse the inevitable. We tried to explain to the mother that we had done

and went to our individual rooms. I set up my personal equipment and

all we could. She took the girl in a taxi and sped off. Later on, a translator

various books on tropical medicine ready to begin my journey. Some of

told me that the child had been taken to a witch doctor in town earlier in

our patients walked for hours to get to us. Many of them were from very

the day for “bad dreams.” He gave her an unknown substance meant

poor surrounding mountain villages, but made sure to wear their best

to “cure” the dreams, and an hour later the child was unresponsive. The

clothes. One of my first patients actually put in her dentures in front of me to say hello, dentures that were even missing many teeth! I knew it was going to be a good week.

girl’s father was a known gang leader in the town with a bad reputation. He was very angry and threatened to come back in the night and steal all of our supplies. We had to have security on guard of the clinic for the

On the first day, I had an infant with a very rare case of Cri du chat

next 24 hours. Thankfully, he did not make good on the threat, and we

syndrome, a rare genetic disorder. One of the symptoms is a very distinct

were safe. A sad outcome, but we found comfort in the fact that we had

cry that literally sounds like a cat. In French, cri du chat means “cry of the

done everything we could for his daughter.


Dr. Kristin Gore interacts with patients at the Ecuadorian clinic.

Throughout the week, I stayed very busy. I saw 50 patients a day by myself,

After patients saw a doctor, they were taken to evangelism. There were

and the clinic saw over 1,500 people in under 5 days. I had the opportunity

Ecuadorian missionaries there who educated the patients about the life of

to take care of all kinds of patients, from OB/GYN cases, to pediatric

Christ as they received their eye glasses, toothbrushes, vitamins and

patients and adults — another reason why I love family medicine. I

medications. The missionaries from bigger cities in Ecuador were starting

treated many dermatologic infections that we rarely see in the United

a sister church in rural Chone. It was a successful, rewarding trip on so

States. I felt like I could take part in the dermatology boards after my trip.

many levels.

Worms were also a big problem in that area. Mothers would tell me in

The average monthly salary in Ecuador is $200 per month, while the average

passing that they would find 12-inch worms in their children’s stools. To

monthly rent is $200. A private doctor’s visit alone is $30. Health care

me, that would be alarming, but to them, not such a big deal. I also saw

simply isn’t an option, much less a priority for many people. The cramped

some very sad cases of end stage diseases that I couldn’t give medicine

living conditions, combined with the lack of access to even basic health care,

for, but with my translator’s help could pray with the patients and comfort

are causing rapid disease spread. I am honored that I had the privilege

them. I could see the hurt and the struggle in their eyes. All too common the

to help in any way that I could, and let my little light shine through.

causes were poverty, an unfaithful partner giving his girlfriend a new STD, malnutrition, severe dehydration, or a chronic condition that desperately needed intervention that just wasn’t available.

As we drove away from Chone to a town called Manta for a day of rest, I felt a tremendous sense of inner peace, in spite of being in such an unfamiliar place. I hadn’t even had time to look at a map of Ecuador before

The crowd became larger as the week went by. What seemed like hordes

I got to the airport. I just showed up ready for what God wanted. As I

of people would try to push their way through the front doors. I would

looked out the window, the huts on stilts passed by. I saw children playing

walk up the faux-marble stairs up to the sweltering hot second floor to an

soccer in the dirt, while their parents made their sparse living selling fruit on

empty exam room, pause for a moment, and feel happier than ever. I was

an unpaved road where few travel. I haven’t ever been able to pinpoint

doing what God put me on the earth to do. I was a medical missionary.

why I feel more at home in third-world countries than I do in America. It’s

Many patients would walk back to the clinic the next day to bring me fruit

been that way since I began doing mission work with my family as a child.

and small gifts for their appreciation. One lady even sewed me a night

Then, it came to me. Home, for me, is where the need is. My passion is to

shirt because her three children — ages 8, 6 and 2 — had never seen a

help those in need, and I will always be at home wherever I can help those

doctor before me. Unforgettable indeed.

who need me. q


Destined for Success Air Force surgeon Richard Peterson elevates care for soldiers and civilians By Paula Distefano


or many people, a roadblock is a sign to turn around and go home. For Richard Peterson, M.D. (’00), it meant an opportunity to find

the way around it to get to his destination. Peterson, a decorated major in the U.S. Air Force and a leader in the field of bariatric surgery, could have decided on a different career when he was denied admission to a U.S. medical school. He chose, instead, to take the more challenging route of going abroad for his medical education, and succeeded beyond even his own high expectations. “I don’t think I was inhibited at all [by going to AUC],” he said. “In fact, it made me more well-rounded because of my experience.” His drive, coupled with a passion for surgery, carried him through medical school, residency and fellowship training, with accolades along the way. Originally from California, Peterson transferred to AUC in 1999. AUC’s wide selection of clinical rotations in the United States were what primarily drew him to the university. He completed most of his clinical rotations at St. Agnes Hospital in Baltimore. Upon graduation, he secured a residency position in the hospital’s general surgery department. “Being an unrelenting person, where you are working everything, always being present and showing the people who are going to have an impact in your life — whether it be your career or not — shows that you are the right person for the job,” Peterson said of his clinical rotations and subsequent residency appointment to the prestigious program. At St. Agnes, Peterson went on to become chief resident, won research grants and was published. During his third year of residency, he joined the Air Force not just to supplement his income, but out of a sense of patriotism and civic duty during a time when the country was still reeling from the events of 9/11. In 2004, he was invited to pursue a civilian-sponsored laparoscopic surgery fellowship by the joint service graduate medical

the institute’s trauma center. Peterson says being a military surgeon comes with its advantages. “I am not bound by the constraints of insurance companies, in terms of being able to offer the right surgeries, or right treatments for patients,” he said. “We do meet the standard of care but I don’t have to deal with pre-authorizations and all that kind of thing. It makes it easier to take care of the patients more readily.” Being a member of the Air Force also afforded him the opportunity to go abroad, and help where help is most needed. For six months in 2008, Peterson was deployed to the Air Force’s largest theater hospital in Iraq. For his laparoscopic work in trauma care on U.S. troops there, he was awarded a Commendation Medal, one of the highest honors in the military.

education selection board, which he completed at the University of Southern

“Basically, traumas would come in, and we would use a laparoscope to

California, in Los Angeles.

identify if [troops] needed a formal operation or not,” Peterson explained.

After residency, Peterson was stationed at Wilford Hall Medical Center, in San Antonio, Texas, where he took over the bariatrics program, the largest Department of Defense bariatric program in the country. Besides being chief, he is also a consultant for bariatric surgery to the United States Air Force Surgeon General, and assistant professor at University of Texas Health Science Center, as well as a prolific researcher.

“It was something we could do quickly, in the span of five to seven minutes, and then we would send them off on their way to Germany. We worked on U.S. soldiers and Iraqi civilians.” It was, Peterson said, an incredibly rewarding experience. “I was glad to be a part of taking care of our soldiers, who basically relied on us to be safe if they got hurt. We [currently] have a 98 percent survival

As an Air Force surgeon, Peterson treated military beneficiaries, retirees

rate in the military, which is the highest its ever been in any U.S. war,” said

and dependents, in addition to active duty members and civilians through

Peterson. “It was nice to be a part of that.”


The experience was not only personally rewarding, but medically as well.

and Metabolic Suregery at the University of Texas Health Science Center

Being in a war zone, the surgeons didn’t have to deal with much of the

in San Antonio. Peterson also serves as an Assistant Professor of Surgery

bureaucracy that has overcome the American medical system.

at the university.

“The time for the patient to come into the ER to the operating room was

For now, he continues with his research, the first of its kind, testing whether

literally under three minutes,” Peterson recalls. “We had four rooms but

surgery, specifically laparoscopic sleeve gastrectomy, or intense medical

“I was glad to be a part of taking care of our soldiers, who basically relied on us to be safe if they got hurt.” could have eight operations going at one time. Everybody moved and pushed in. We were there to take care of the patients.” “It was, in essence, the purest medicine I’ve ever been a part of,” he said. Peterson recently returned from a humanitarian mission to Honduras, also sponsored by the U.S. military. Proficient in Spanish, he was able to lead a

management offers the best outcome for type-2 diabetes in mild-to-moderately obese patients. The study, a randomized controlled trial, is being conducted under an IRB protocol. The preliminary results are good. “Obesity is truly an epidemic in this country,” said Peterson. “No one wants to go out on a

limb and say that bariatric surgery is a cure for diabetes, but based on the literature, all of the operations that are offered—specifically gastric bypass —definitely have a higher remission rate, almost a cure for type-2 diabetes. It is somewhere in the 80-85 percent range compared to 13 percent with medical management alone.”

team consisting of two staff surgeons, a resident surgeon, anesthesia staff,

Dr. Brandon Proper, fourth-year surgery resident at San Antonio Military

two anesthesiology residents, two OR nurses and three OR techs. In the eight

Medical Center and member of the Honduras medical team, says Peterson’s

days the team was there, they set up in a community hospital in the city of

ability to lead and teach were definitely assets during the trip.

Puerto Cortez. Alongside a local surgeon, they were able to perform 80 surgeries, including laparoscopic and open gallbladder and hernia surgeries. “The first day we were there, patients were just lined up,” said Peterson. “And it was super rewarding. Because there were only two surgeons that worked in that hospital, they couldn’t do more than two or three cases a

“He is excellent to work with, and an excellent teacher,” said Proper of Peterson. “He teaches you to be a surgeon, his technical abilities are exceptional. He was our commander on the trip from the military standpoint, and everything was well organized. He is calm and collected under pressure.” q

day, and we came in and we pushed the system and the hospital to doing ten cases a day, and these patients would have been waiting for months, if they got treated.” The team was also able to donate some laparoscopic equipment to the facility, as well as teach new techniques to the local surgeons. They expect to return to Honduras in six months, to pursue more humanitarian medical work. In October 2009, he was inducted as a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons. In December 2009, Peterson was sent to Chile, as a trainer in disaster response and trauma systems, through the Defense Institute for Medical Operations. After returning from his final deployment in May 2010, Peterson completed his service commitment to the Air Force in December 2010. He is presently Chief of Bariatric and Metabolic Surgery and Director of the Center for Bariatric

Top left: Dr. Richard Peterson is a bariatric surgery subject matter expert to the United States Air Force Surgeon General. Above: Peterson and his team traveled to Honduras on a humanitarian mission. There, they were able to perform 80 surgeries alongside a local surgeon.


Call of Duty Graduate lands rare military match position and starts own legacy of helping others By Sophia Pino rowing up in Ethiopia, Gabriel Gizaw, M.D. (’07), saw his uncles,

“You get to secondhand assist in the surgery, whereas in the United States,

both physicians, work under the constraints of extreme poverty and

you would be watching from behind a window,” he added.


inadequate medical care.

In his final year of medical school, Gizaw joined the Ethiopian North

“I came to appreciate the inherent intellectual and emotional challenges

American Health Profession Association (ENAHPA). ENAHPA, founded in

involved in practicing medicine,” said Gizaw, as he debated whether he

1999, is an organization created in response to the growing need for

would follow in their footsteps.

physicians and nurses in the country.

But, at the age of 16, political strife in his native country forced Gizaw and

Ethiopia has been plagued by wars, famine, corruption and governmental

his family to move to the United States, where the dream would have to

collapse which eventually led to the exodus of a great deal of the country’s

be built from scratch. His physician uncles, Drs. Saifu and Efrem Daniel,

health professionals. According to the World Health Organization (WHO),

had to complete residency again in order to get licensed in their adopted

for Ethiopia’s 80 million inhabitants, the ratio of physicians is one per

country. Gizaw saw first-hand their determination, dedication and passion

40,000 and only one nurse per 5,000 people. In the United States, we

for medicine, and realized he had inherited the same drive.

have one physician for every 330 people and one nurse for every 110

He decided, then and there, that he would work towards the goal of one day, becoming a doctor.

people. The country’s fragile infrastructure provides little financial support toward its health care system, leading to high death rates from preventable diseases, low life expectancy, and approximately 1.5 million people

After completing high school, Gizaw attended a junior college and worked

infected with HIV/AIDS. Severe droughts and a growing population have

as an EMT to help support his family. His work as an EMT led him into a

led to food shortages and widespread malnutrition.

brief career as a respiratory therapist, before joining the U.S. Navy as a Hospital Corpsman in 1997. As a Corpsman, he was able to serve in the Navy and complete his bachelor’s degree in Health Sciences from Old Dominion University. In 2001, he was honorably discharged to attend American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine. He applied to

Upon completion of medical school, Gizaw worked in research and respiratory therapy at Temple University Hospital before rejoining the Navy and beginning his internal medicine residency at the Naval Medical Center in Portsmouth, Va.

both the United States as well as other Caribbean medical schools but

In 2007, shortly after completing medical school, Gizaw went on his first

chose to come to AUC.

mission to the University Hospital in Addis Ababa.

“My best years in medical school were my clinical years,” he said. Gizaw

Being able to return to his homeland and help address those needs that

completed many of his clinical rotations in the United Kingdom, an experience

first drew his uncles to medicine, was a dream come true.

that, he says, gave him a great deal of confidence.

He accompanied a team of surgeons, physicians, and nurses on a mission

“In the U.K., you have a lot more hands-on experience. You do work-ups and

to perform open-heart surgeries. The team, led by Ingida Asfaw, M.D.,

IVs and get to be in the OR,” said Gizaw, who was able to assist in 41

performed nine open cardiac surgeries and one tracheostomy in a period

surgeries during his surgery rotation at Medway Maritime Hospital in Kent.

of two weeks. Asfaw, a Detroit-area cardiac surgeon and founder of ENAHPA, performed the first open-heart procedure in Ethiopia in 2003. “They initially tried to put me in an observership,” said Gizaw. He ended up assisting in creating the hospital’s makeshift ICU. “I worked as an interpreter, helped bring in and set up equipment. I was just learning the ins and outs when I landed on an idea,” he said. Gizaw noticed that there was no doctor on the ICU after hours, so he volunteered to be the overnight physician. “I would run the ICU at night, and relay any information via telephone to the doctors who had gone home for the night,” said Gizaw. The primitive setting was not without its share of challenges. Electrical problems, lack of power outlets, outdated equipment, and poor sanitation were just a few of the obstacles encountered by the team. In spite of the challenges, they remained resourceful.


“We didn’t have IV monitors, so we used drip counts to administer infusions. If the patient was too cold, we used IV bags heated with hot water to keep them warm,” he said. In 2008, ENAHPA once again invited Gizaw to participate in another mission to Addis Ababa. He served as resident physician on a new makeshift ICU in the Ethiopian capital’s Military Hospital. During this mission, the team of 62 health professionals was able to complete 20 heart valve replacement surgeries, seven pacemaker implantations, and 16 ENT procedures. Again, the team was faced with a set of challenges unheard of in western hospitals. “The operating rooms were not sterile and poorly lit, we had to bring in lights and keep them plugged with an extension cord,” said Gizaw. “Toward the end of the trip, we even began to run out of medication,” he added. In spite of the challenges, Gizaw perseveres in his humanitarian goals. “I wanted to give back to Ethiopia, but I also wanted to give my hands to as many continents as I can,” he said, referring to his decision to rejoin the Navy after completing medical school. “The Navy has a long legacy of humanitarian work and is now focusing even more on that work. I can do missions anywhere in the world and get to be a part of that legacy and continue my dream of helping others,” said Gizaw. After completing his first year of residency he plans on training and serving as a flight surgeon for a few years before completing the rest of his residency. Flight Medicine is a subdivision of occupational or preventive medicine that specifically deals with pilots, air crews, and passengers. “I am looking forward to it,” he said. “It is going to be an interesting adventure.” q

Bottom left: Dr. Gabriel Gizaw looks in on patients. Right: Gizaw and ENAHPA team with Ethiopian staff and patients.

“I wanted to give back to Ethiopia, but I also wanted to give my hands to as many continents as I can.” AUC CONNECTIONS 23

2010 Residency Placements

American University of the Caribbean graduates have obtained residencies in traditionally highly competitive fields and many report having been offered a choice of residency positions by the time they graduate. Below you will find a list of the positions that have been reported to us by the NRMP (and placements outside of the match reported to us directly from our graduates). Please note that this is not a complete list and will be updated as more positions (pre-match and post-match “scramble”) are reported to us. For a comprehensive list, please go to and click on “alumni”. Deaconess Health System, IN (2 Matches) Doctors Hospital of Michigan, MI Excela Health, PA Florida Hospital-Orlando, FL (3 Matches)

Flower Hospital, OH Franklin Square Hospital, MD Geisinger Health System, PA (2 Matches) Grand Rapids Medical Education, MI

University of Tennessee-Chattanooga, TN University of Arizona/UPHK, AZ UAMS-AHEC Pine Bluff, AR UAMS-AHEC Texarkana, AR UMDNJ-Capital Health, NJ UMDNJ-Hoboken University Medical Center, NJ UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School Piscataway, NJ University of Wyoming-Casper, WY University of Wyoming-Cheyenne, WY

Hoboken University Medical Center, NJ

University of Maryland, MD

Kaiser Permanente, Riverside, CA (3 Matches)

Wayne State University, MI

Kern Medical Center, CA (2 Matches)

University of Toledo/St. Luke’s Hospital, OH William Beaumont Hospital, MI

Louisiana State University School of Medicine-New Orleans, LA

Rapides Regional Medical Center, LA

Mayo School of Graduate Medical Education, FL

General Surgery

Medical College of Georgia-Augusta, GA Memorial Health/University Medical Center, GA Mercy Medical Center-Des Moines, IA Montgomery Hospital, PA Morehouse School of Medicine, GA Mount Carmel Health System, OH Munson Medical Center, MI

Berkshire Medical Center, MA Monmouth Medical Center, NJ Nassau University Medical Center, NY Providence Hospital, MI University of Southern California, CA University at Buffalo, NY (2 Matches) Waterbury Hospital, CT West Virginia University, WV

NSLIJ-Glen Cove Hospital, NY

PGY1 Anesthesiology

Oakland Physicians Medical Center, MI (2 Matches)

Internal Medicine/Pediatrics

Providence Hospital, MI

Louisiana State University-New Orleans, LA

Brookdale University Medical Center, NY

Research Medical Center, MO

Penn State-Hershey Medical Center, PA

Resurrection Medical Center, IL

Pitt County Memorial Hospital/Brody School of Medicine, NC

Riverside Family Medicine, VA

Emergency Medicine

San Jacinto Methodist Hospital, TX (2 Matches)

Internal Medicine

Earl K. Long Medical Center, LA (3 Matches)

SIU Carbondale, IL

Sinai Grace/Detroit Medical Center, MI

Penn State-Hershey Medical Center, PA (3 Matches)

Southern Regional-AHEC, AR

Albany Medical Center, NY

St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center, OH (2 Matches)

St. Francis Hospital Center, IN

AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center, NJ

University of Arkansas-Little Rock, AK

St. Vincent Hospital Center, IN

Aurora Health Care/ASMC, WI

University Hospitals, Jackson, MS

SW Oklahoma Family Medicine, OK

Ball Memorial Hospital, IN

University of Toledo, OH (2 Matches)

University of Arizona Affiliated Hospitals, AZ

Carilion Clinic/ Virginia Tech, VA (2 Matches)

Louisiana State University HSC-Shreveport, LA

University of Florida/Shands Hospital, FL (2 Matches)

Case Western/MetroHealth Medical Center, OH (2 Matches)

University of Massachusetts Medical School, MA

Drexel University/Hahnemann University Hospital, PA

Family Medicine Anderson Area Medical Center, SC (2 Matches) Aultman Hospital/NEOUCOM, OH

University of Illinois Methodist Medical Center, IL University of New Mexico, NM

Baton Rouge General Hospital, LA

University of South Carolina/Greenville Hospital System, SC

Carilion Clinic-Virginia Tech, VA

University of Tennessee-Knoxville, TN


Good Samaritan Hospital, Cincinnati, OH GRMERC/Michigan State University, MI Henry Ford Health Sciences Center, MI (2 Matches) Hospital of St. Raphael, CT

Hurley Medical Center, MI


Nassau University Medical Center, NY

Indiana University School of Medicine, IN

University of Arizona/UPHK GME Consortium, AZ

St. Louis University, MO

Kaiser Permanente-Santa Clara, CA

University at Buffalo, NY

University of Arizona/UPHK GME Consortium, AZ

Lankenau Hospital, PA

University Hospitals-Columbia, MO

University of Connecticut Health Center, CT

Lenox Hill Hospital, NY

West Virginia University, WV

University of Utah Affiliated Hospitals, UT University of Washington Affiliated Hospitals, WA

Leonard J. Chabert Medical Center, LA Long Island College Hospital, NY


University of Arkansas, AR

Lutheran Medical Center, IN

Aultman Hospital/NEOUCOM, OH

Wayne State University/Detroit Medical Center, MI

Meharry/Metro General, TN

Louisiana State University-New Orleans, LA

University of Southern California, CA

Memorial Health University Medical Center, GA

Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center, Shreveport, LA


Nassau University Medical Center, NY

Medical University of South Carolina, SC

Mercer University School of Medicine/Medical Center of Central Georgia, GA Mercy Hospital and Medical Center, IL

Palmetto Health-Richland, SC

Methodist Hospital, NY

Providence Hospital, MI


Monmouth Medical Center, NJ

Rush University Medical Center, IL

Christiana Care, DE

Mount Carmel Health System, OH

Sparrow Hospital, MI

Oakwood Hospital, MI

Nassau University Medical Center, NY (4 Matches)

St. Peter’s University Hospital, NJ

Ochsner Clinic Foundation, LA

Staten Island University Hospital, NY


Palmetto Health-Richland, SC

UMDNJ-Newark, NJ

Maimonides Medical Center, NY (2 Matches)

Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center, WA

West Virginia University, WV (2 Matches)

St. Mary’s Hospital, CT

Queens Hospital/Mount Sinai, NY San Joaquin County Hospital, CA St. John Hospital, MI St. Louis University, MO St. Mary Mercy Hospital, MI St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center, OH Stamford Hospital-Columbia, CT

University of Arizona Affiliated Hospitals, AZ

Orthopaedic Surgery

Westchester Medical Center, NY

Indiana University School of Medicine, IN

Western Reserve Care System, OH



University of Miami/Jackson Memorial Hospital, FL

Providence Hospital, MI (2 Matches)

West Virginia University, WV

Transitional Year

Staten Island University Hospital, NY


Providence Hospital, MI (2 Matches)

SUNY Health Sciences Center-Brooklyn, NY (3 Matches)

Atlantic Health-Goryeb Children’s Hospital, NJ

Henry Ford, MI

Tripler Army Medical Center, HI University of Connecticut Health Center, CT (2 Matches) University of Southern California, CA (2 Matches) UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson-Camden, NJ (4 Matches) University of Miami/JFK Medical Center, FL University of New Mexico-Albuquerque, NM University of Tennessee/Erlanger Medical Center, TN University of Tennessee-Knoxville, TN

Penn State/Hershey Medical Center, PA Jersey Shore University Medical Center, NJ (2 Matches)

PGY2 Anesthesiology:

Louisiana State University-New Orleans, LA

University of Massachusetts, MA

Memorial Health University Medical Center, GA (2 Matches)

Westchester Medical Center, NY

Metro Health, OH


University of Illinois-St. Francis Medical Center, IL University of Oklahoma, OK University of Tennessee-Chattanooga, TN (2 Matches) University of Hawaii, HI

University of Mississippi Hospitals, Jackson, MS

University of Kansas, KS

Wilson Memorial Regional Medical Center, NY

William Beaumont Hospital, MI

Wright State University-Boonshoft SOM, OH

Winthrop University Hospital, NY

Internal Medicine-Preliminary

Pediatric Primary Care

AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center, NJ

Maimonides Medical Center, NY

Einstein/Beth Israel Medical Center, NY

SUNY Upstate Medical University, NY UMDNJ-R W Johnson-Piscataway, NJ Westchester Medical Center, NY

Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation SUNY HSC Brooklyn, NY Nassau University Medical Center, NY University of Texas Medical School, TX


Maimonides Medical Center, NY

Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation

Nassau University Medical Center, NY (2 Matches)

University of Kentucky, KY

Long Island College Hospital, NY

Einstein/Beth Israel Medical Center, NY

Louisiana State University-Shreveport, LA Providence Hospital, MI (2 Matches)

Rural Medicine

Queens Hospital/Mt. Sinai, NY St. John’s Hospital, MI


St. Vincent Hospital-Worcester, MA

East Tennessee State University, TN

Westchester Medical Center, NY

Long Island Jewish Medical Center, NY

Eastern New Mexico Medical Center, NM


Photo by Todd Stone

AUC Grad Part of Effort to Change Licensure Requirement for IMGs By Nicole White


wo states — Georgia and Arkansas — have shortened the wait time for

“We are United States citizens who didn’t get into a state school but took

international medical school graduates to become licensed physicians.

the same tests as state-side kids so it was unfair,’’ said Swartzentruber.

The Georgia State Composite Medical Board agreed in March 2010 to

Even with the lobbying efforts, the decision was a bit of a shock said

change the licensure requirement from a three-year wait to just one year.

Swartzentruber: “We were willing to take 24 months, but now this means we

The state will now allow any foreign medical student, regardless of what

can start getting these numbers lined up so we can start working right away.’’

stage they are in residency, to be licensed in the state after one year providing that they graduated from a school on the California list of

Swartzentruber was also the first resident to receive his license under the

approved schools. Graduates of schools not listed on the California list

new guideline.

are still required to complete three years of post-grad training.

Members of the Georgia Hospital Association and the Georgia Physician

Arkansas’ medical board took similar action in April 2010. Arkansas’

Work Force Board pushed for the changes as they became increasingly

change is however conditional and applies only to graduates in residency

aware of a shortage of licensed physicians, especially those willing to

programs within the state. Both states made the change as they face a

work in rural areas of the state, Swartzentruber said.

shortage of physicians. The changes became effective on June 1. The licensure change is a major windfall for doctors with degrees from Caribbean medical schools because it allows them to be on equal footing with those who attended school in the United States. Those graduates now receive a medical license within a year of residency.

“It is schools like ours that are filling the residency spots. For folks living in rural communities it made sense to address this issue,’’ said Swartzentruber who also represents family medicine residents on the Georgia Academy of Family Physicians board.

The decision means physicians can receive the provider number they

The change had an immediate impact on those in Swartzentruber’s residency

need for insurance purposes. It also allows doctors to give prospective

program: seven of the 15 graduates attended Caribbean medical schools.

employers a firm start date upon completion of their residencies.

According to figures from the Federation of State Medical Boards, 27

Having to wait until the end of a three year residency program to apply for

states currently require IMGs to wait three years for licensure while 11

licensure, meant months of delays for doctors eager to work’’ said AUC

have a two-year requirement. The remaining states have a one or two

alumnus Gary Swartzentruber, M.D. (’08), who led lobbying efforts

year requirement for graduates from both foreign medical schools and

in Georgia to get the change made.

American-based medical schools. q


A Perfect Match AUC graduates explore their journey to residency By Sophia Pino

Vital Stats: Allison Chen, M.D. Undergraduate years: Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois


he three graduates featured here, are a powerhouse of personalities who have matched

into some of the most competitive specialties and

Residency: OB/Gyn, Rush University Medical Center, Chicago, Illinois

prestigious programs. Their combined drive,

AUC Honor: Ranked number 1 in graduating class

dedication and AUC education, prepared them for

Fun Fact: Played college soccer

their respective journeys as an Orthopaedic Surgeon,

Photo by Carla Sosa

Anesthesiologist, and Obstetrician/Gynecologist. Their accomplishments defy the persistent rumors that there is a stigma attached to International Medical Graduates, that these graduates cannot match into competitive specialties. Every year, AUC graduates, like the ones featured here, prove that the rumors are false. Students survive basic sciences, clinical rotations and then prepare their residency application — a final rite of passage for every medical student. After

Vital Stats: Justin Millard, M.D.

four years of hard work, it’s the final hurdle in the

Undergraduate: Purdue University

race to become a practicing physician. For many, the final months of medical school are a blur of test scores, letters of recommendation, CVs, interviews, and the anticipation of that fateful third week in March. It is no secret that the competition for a residency placement is fierce. According to NRMP data 37,556 students and graduates competed for

Residency: Orthopaedic Surgery, Indiana University School of Medicine AUC Honors: Was selected to serve on the 2006-2007 Curriculum Reform Committee. Fun Fact: Millard’s son, Oliver, was born on St. Maarten. Millard helped deliver him, along with a midwife

Photo by Ara Howrani

25,520 positions in the 2010 Match, an all-time high in available positions. Of those applicants, 5,508 were U.S. citizen graduates of international medical schools, or U.S. IMGs. 1,749 of those US IMGs that completed applications matched to a PGY-1 position. The advantage of being an IMG, not reflected in the data, is the ability to pre-match. Students and graduates of AUC, and other international medical schools, have the ability to accept an offer for a residency position outside the NRMP Match. Many AUC graduates have obtained their residency placements this way. On July 1, 2010, over 180 AUC graduates walked through the doors of their residency programs for the first time as doctors. Here are the stories of how these three graduates sidestepped the stigmas and landed their residencies. q

Vital Stats: Michael Sharghi, M.D. Undergraduate: University of California, Los Angeles Residency: Anesthesiology, Penn State, Hershey, Pennsylvania AUC Honors: Dean’s List, member of Alpha Omega Phi Fun Fact: In college, worked on research on spinal cord injuries

Photo by Carla Sosa


How Allison Chen Rose from Uncertainty By Nicole White


With that light bulb moment came the preparation. Chen had moved to

Not here as the number one ranked student among her graduating peers.

“My self esteem was back, I started taking courses and studying again for

llison Chen should not have made it here.

Not here as a newlywed starting an OB/Gyn residency at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, her first pick in the National Residency Matching Program.

North Carolina and started taking anatomy and physiology classes.

the MCAT,” she said. But getting into medical school would still prove difficult. Her MCAT score and GPA were just above average and she knew the

Anywhere but here.

odds were stacked against her.

Allison Chen, M.D. (‘10)’s journey to medical school was after all, a

“I just didn’t feel like it was feasible. My mentor suggested I look at international

walk against the odds.

medical schools or get a masters degree to beef up my resume.’’

She was, she admits, a college student who “slacked off” during her

A master’s degree didn’t seem to make much sense so she considered

undergraduate years at Northwestern University.

a different route. Her parents, who are both in the medical profession,

She even said as much on the personal statement she would eventually write as a medical student:

remembered seeing students from AUC parading the halls of Providence Hospital and suggested she apply there and to other foreign medical schools.

“I was an immature 17 year-old who lost focus of what was important and spent four years stagnant in my own uncertainty and fear.” Chen, who played college soccer, says she focused more on the sport and hanging with her peers than studying: “The truth is I fell into the wrong crowd and wasn’t as focused as I should have been.’” Graduation loomed, the desire to be a physician still burned in her belly but her GPA was far from superior so she worried. Like her grades, her self esteem tumbled.

A Dream Come to Life She chose AUC, a decision steeped perhaps in serendipity: Chen and her family had seen the school during a family vacation in St. Maarten when she was a teenager. “I had no idea I would end up there,’’ she said. And there she was, the fall of 2006, headed to the Caribbean, leaving family, friends and a committed relationship with her boyfriend Aaron

Her dad, Michael Chen, M.D., an endocrinologist, also questioned her pursuit. “I didn’t encourage her to be a doctor and I didn’t discourage either,’’ said the elder Chen. “It is a disruptive life especially when you have a family. It is too much studying, too many years buried in a book. I didn’t want that for my daughters,’’ he said.

McCracken. The two were married last April. At AUC Chen said she became singularly focused on applying an almost fanatical work ethic to her studies. She would not repeat her undergraduate mistakes. Her approach worked. She was among the inaugural students to be

Medical School or Nothing Still determined, she moved to Boston with her older sister Susan and started working at a clinic as a medical assistant. It was at the clinic that medicine became alive, a moving breathing thing, no longer a profession to be deciphered in a text book.

honored on AUC’s first dean’s list and remained on the list throughout the rest of her basic science instruction. In her fourth semester she was selected by AUC to represent the student body on the admissions board which aided in the review and selection of new students. In her fifth semester, she was inducted into the Alpha Omega Phi honor and service society. Evaluators from her clinical rotations were equally impressed: “Allison is

“I finally started to see the profession, the humanitarian aspect of the

a hardworking, dedicated and disciplined student. She demonstrates

relationships formed with doctors and patients,’’ Chen said.

excellent clinical skills and knowledge of medicine. She also displays

With positive feedback from doctors at the clinic, who praised her work

an intense motivation to learn. She distinguishes herself through pertinent

ethic, her focus became clear.

questioning, proving her vivid interest and her inquisitive mind.” — Kennedy Omonuwa, M.D.

“Textbooks didn’t expose me to the realities of medicine but becoming a medical assistant made me know for sure that becoming a doctor was what

And another: “Great attitude, extremely hard working & bright student.

I wanted more than anything,’’ Chen said.

One of the best students I have had.” — Narayan Prabhakar, M.D.


to Number One Friend and fellow AUC graduate Brittany Stam, M.D. (‘10), introduced herself to Chen via a handwritten note taped to her door. The two were neighbors as first semester students and have been inseparable since. Stam, who began an OB/Gyn residency at Staten Island University Hospital in July, says Chen never let the accolades she received throughout medical school change her in any way. “I’ve never met anyone so humble,’’ says Stam. “If you didn’t know her you wouldn’t have thought she was [ranked] number one. She never talked about her grades, she builds everyone else up and downplays her own work.”

Hold Your Head High As she gets on her way to finally practicing the profession she once thought seemed out of reach, Chen encourages AUC students to be as prepared as they can be when getting ready to tackle the rigorous match and interviewing process. “There were many times that we were in a room with students from other intimidating medical schools but you have to interview with your head held high because if you don’t believe in yourself or your school, then nobody else is going to believe it so I practiced that all the time,’’ said Chen. Added Chen, “If they feel like you’re timid then that’s when they start to doubt you.’’ In retrospect, Chen says she is grateful for her delayed entrance to medical school. “Those two years helped me mature, it gave me time to do a lot of personal reflection and I became more confident in my academic abilities,’’ said Chen. “There are many routes to medical school but you have to be wholeheartedly committed to this field for the rest of your life,’’ added Chen. “You need to be ready to put in the work that is required but most importantly, you have to be passionate about it.” Even her dad has learned to accept her decision. “I bounced things off her a lot when she was in medical school and I was surprised how much she knew,’’ said the elder Chen. “I think she’s proved that she can do anything she puts her focus on,’’ added Chen. “I never had a doubt she could be a very good physician. “I didn’t want her to go through all the years of training but I’m glad she did and I’m very proud of her.’’ q

Photo by Carla Sosa


Going the Extra Mile Justin Millard recognized as first IMG to match into coveted orthopaedic surgery program By Sophia Pino


In addition to his busy schedule, the couple welcomed their first child together, a baby boy named Oliver. Millard helped deliver Oliver at home, with the help of a midwife.

reach. Justin Millard, M.D. (’09) reached for orthopaedic surgery,

After finishing basic sciences at the top of his class, Millard went on to complete core rotations at Kern Medical Center in Bakersfield, Calif. He also completed electives in New York and Louisiana.

nternational Medical Graduates (IMGs) face a unique set of challenges when applying to more competitive residency programs. Many just

assume that residencies like orthopaedic surgery are simply out of their

and found that it was in his grasp. Millard is the first IMG to match into Indiana University’s orthopaedic surgery program. “I wasn’t all that surprised when it happened,” said Lia Millard, his wife. “I have this feeling about Justin. He just works harder than most people. He always goes the extra mile. I knew in my heart that it would all work out for him,” she added. Millard’s journey to medical school and beyond took him through careers in hospitality, political campaigns, and ultimately the ownership of his own consulting business. Medicine, however, kept calling. Millard had originally applied to an American medical school in 1999, after graduating from Purdue University. When he was not accepted, he chose to follow a career in the hospitality industry, before branching off into other areas. “The first half of my professional career was in the culinary arts. It was not a passion that would sustain me indefinitely,” said Millard. “My wife,” he said, “was the impetus for exploring the possibility of medical school at age 30.” In the fall of 2004 he submitted his application to AUC. By the following August, he and his family were living in St. Maarten. “We just sold everything we owned and moved out there,” said Lia Millard. “I have traveled a lot in my life, so I was up for the challenge,” she added. One of the reasons the Millards chose AUC was the quality of the schools in St. Maarten. They had moved to the island with Marie, Lia’s then 16 year old daughter. While on the island, Millard excelled academically and was active in several on-campus organizations. He served as president of AUC’s Alpha Omega Phi Honor and Service Society and was selected to serve on the university’s Curriculum Reform Committee. He was also selected to work as a teaching assistant for the Anatomy Department.


Millard knew going into medical school that he ultimately wanted to pursue a residency in orthopaedic surgery. He chose his electives with that goal in mind and researched residency programs extensively. He also completed a not-for-credit observership to gain additional experience. According to Millard, information on IMGs and orthopaedic surgery programs was difficult to come by: “In the course of exploring orthopaedic surgery, I contacted all 153 programs to find out which programs currently had IMGs as part of the program and what kinds of residents they take,” said Millard. His exploration led to a formal research project on the subject. In 2008, together with Jack Choueka, M.D., the Chairman of the Department of Orthopaedics at Maimonides Medical Center in New York, he created a survey to collect valuable information on IMGs practicing in the specialty. The study, entitled “Characteristics of International Medical Graduates (IMGs) in U.S. Orthopaedic Surgery Residency Programs,” found that out of 3,206 IMGs that applied to the programs, only 80 or 2.5 percent were accepted. Furthermore, 72 percent of those IMGs who successfully matched to orthopaedic surgery programs completed a preliminary surgery program or a research fellowship. The research was presented at the 2010 annual meeting of the American Orthopaedic Association. Millard applied to 100 Orthopaedic Surgery programs for the 2009 Match. He obtained interviews at three of them, but matched at none. He was able to obtain a preliminary surgery spot at the University of Missouri. “I had a very competitive CV and scores, but did not get the interviews my American counterparts did,” he said, adding that he felt very lucky to have obtained a residency in his chosen specialty. Undeterred, he reapplied for his PGY-2 year for 2010. He obtained a residency at the University of Indiana, and is the first IMG to match into orthopaedic surgery there. “I was extremely lucky. It doesn’t happen often,” said Millard, who began his residency on July 1, 2010. q

Photo by Ara Howrani


Eye on the Prize Michael Sharghi’s determination lands anesthesiology residency By Sophia Pino


ccording to his mother, Marianne, at the tender age of 8, Michael Sharghi, M.D. (’10) made the proclamation that he was going to be

a doctor. At the age of 26, Sharghi’s proclamation finally became a reality. He received his diploma on April 3, 2010, and began his residency in anesthesiology at Penn State in Hershey, Pa., on July 1. “He is a very focused person,” said his mother. “He keeps his eye on his goal and nothing distracts him” As an undergraduate at the University of California Los Angeles, Sharghi was involved in research on spinal cord injuries. “I chose spinal cord injury because I thought it was a very interesting field,” said Sharghi. “There are no treatments for these injuries and the research group I worked with was working on some very novel projects. It gave me the opportunity to learn neuroscience as well as learn how to conduct research from the beginning to the end of a project,” he added. He was also a member of two honor societies, Alpha Lambda Delta and Phi Eta Sigma and on the Provost Honors List in 2003. Not satisfied with being just a standout college student, Sharghi went on to excel at AUC as well. He was on the university’s Dean’s List for three semesters and was the recipient of the Dr. Dale Von Wormer Pathology Award. Sharghi was also inducted into Alpha Omega Phi and served as the organization’s secretary. Now a graduate embarking on his residency, Sharghi is relishing the possibilities the future will bring. He says that he knew, going into medical school, that he wanted to specialize in anesthesiology. “I liked the hands-on work as well as the pharmacology and physiology,” he said. “I am looking forward to learning and practicing anesthesiology and taking on the responsibility that comes with being a resident,” he said. The process of applying for residency is unnerving for many students. There are many documents to keep track of, numerous deadlines, and a lot of time to wait for results. According to Sharghi, the key to the process is to simply stay on top of things. “Start early and get your applications in on the first day. As long as you’re organized about it, it’s fine. The waiting can be nerve-wracking though,” he said. During the interview process, he says he was not treated differently than the U.S. applicants. He says he was occasionally asked why he chose to go to a Caribbean school, but outside of that, he saw no other differences. “I feel as prepared as my American counterparts. I feel comfortable with my Photo by Carla Sosa


knowledge and preparation.” q

Awards Lisa Wilson, M.D. (’07), anesthesiology resident at the University of Toledo, Ohio, won the 2009 Arnold P. Gold Foundation award for Excellence in Teaching and Humanism. Third-year medical students selected four residents to receive the prestigious award, based on their demonstrated commitment to teaching and compassionate treatment of patients and families, students and colleagues. In addition to a commemorative pin and cash prize, the winning physicians were also inducted into the Gold Humanism Honor Society. Kosala Samarasinghe M.D. (’98), has received the “Top Doctor” in internal medicine award from the San Diego Magazine for three years in a row. The nominees chosen to receive the prestigious award are selected by their peers for their excellence and dedication to their specialty. Samarasinghe and his wife, Jennifer Pendleton, M.D. (’98), an allergist-immunologist, live in San Diego with their two children. q

Dr. Joseph “Jody” Sadler (’09)

Publications Joseph “Jody” Sadler, M.D. (’09), was published in the peer-reviewed online publication BMJ Case Reports. His study, “Possible Fenugreek Induced Haemolysis in a Patient with Previously Unknown G6PD Deficiency” appeared in the publication’s July 2009 edition. Sadler also presented the poster “Infants with Hypocalcemic Seizures: Who is Most at Risk?” at the Pediatric Academic Societies Annual Meeting in May 2009, in Baltimore, Md. The abstract was published in Neonatal Neurology. Abdo Sattout, M.D. (’97), published a case report in the November 2009 edition of Cases Journal entitled “Cardiac Arrest Following Cannabis Use: A Case Report.” Sattout lives in Liverpool, England. Dr. Abdo Sattout (’97)

Agnes Hewitt, M.D. (’00), co-authored an article with Peter Sharkey, M.D., fellow Riddle Memorial Hospital physician, on reducing postoperative nausea and vomiting (PONV) after total joint arthroplasty which will be published in Clinical Orthopedics and Related Research, a leading orthopaedic journal. The article is based on a study both doctors conducted that involved administering a drug called Emend before surgery. Emend, which is commonly administered to chemotherapy patients to prevent nausea vomiting, has also been reported to decrease the incidence of PONV. Among the study group of 50 patients who were treated with Emend preoperatively, 61 percent experienced no documented instances of PONV during their hospital stay, and hospital stay length was also reduced for those patients. Patients who did not receive the drug preoperatively experienced nearly twice as many episodes of PONV after surgery. Hewitt is a hospitalist with Rothman Orthopedics, a Philadelphia-area group practice. Hewitt is board-certified in family medicine, but says she found hospitalist medicine “much more challenging and rewarding.” John Millichap, M.D. (’04), pediatric neurologist, published “Dravet Syndrome: When to Suspect the Diagnosis,” “Child Neurology: Past, Present, and Future, Part I: History,” and “Emerging Subspecialties in Neurology: Neuroinfectious Diseases”

Dr. John Millichap (’04)

in Neurology, the official journal of the American Academy of Neurology. He also published “Neurological Complications of Respiratory Syncytial Virus Infection: Case Series and Review of Literature” in the Journal of Child Neurology. Ranjan Avasthi, M.D. (‘04), psychiatry resident at Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta, Ga., presented a poster at the 25th Annual International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies (ISTSS) entitled “PTSD, Psychosis and Adaptive Functioning in a Highly Traumatized, Urban Community Sample.” Avasthi won honorable mention at the 2008 ISTSS meeting with the poster “Relationship Between Childhood Sexual Abuse and Adult BMI in a Low-Income African American Sample.” In September 2009, Avasthi was a presenter on Native American health disparities at the American Psychiatric Association Components Meeting, in Washington, D.C.; and was lead discussant at a how-to session at the October 2009 IPS meeting in New York City. His article, “Impact of Trauma Exposure, Psychiatric Diagnosis, and Resilience on HPA Axis Function,” co-authored with T.E. Weiss, R.K. Bradley and K.J. Ressler is being prepared for publication. He also presented “Bridging the Cultural Divide,” a workshop on immigrant mental health issues at the APA Annual Meeting in New Orleans, La., in May 2010. q

Dr. Ranjan Avasthi (‘04)


Class Notes

1980s Robert A. Carabelli, M.D. (’81), is board certified in pain management, physical medicine and rehabilitation. He has published extensively in professional journals such as Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Back Pain Monitor and Physical Therapy. His research has been presented in numerous professional conferences, and he was a contributor to the book “Innovations in Pain Management.” Carabelli often appears on radio and television talk shows to discuss those topics in pain management, physical medicine and rehabilitation.

Dr. Robert A. Carabelli (’81)

Howard F. Webb, M.D. (’82), is a primary care physician in Saginaw, Mich. Webb and his daughter, Kathleen, a pre-med student at Michigan State, went on a medical mission in March 2010 to Monte Christi, in the Dominican Republic. Cathy Schell, M.D. (’83), is board certified in family medicine and geriatrics. She completed a two-year geriatric fellowship at the University of Florida. Kevin D. Weikart, M.D. (’84), FACP, has been elected vice councilor for the Missouri State Medical Society. He is chief of staff for Saint Joseph Hospital West, in Lake St. Louis, Mo.

Dr. Ross Andreassen (’95)

James Turner, M.D. (’86), is chief medical officer at Lower Umfolozi War Memorial Hospital, in South Africa. James “Jives” Diesfeld, M.D. (’89), and his wife Yolanda, welcomed a baby girl, Catalina Ray, on April 13, 2009.

1990s Ross Andreassen, M.D. (’95), works at NEA Baptist Surgery Center in Jonesboro, Ark., as an anesthesiologist. Andreassen and his wife, Elaine, own a home and a campground on the South Fork of the White River in South Central Missouri, and invite AUC alumni to visit. Elaine Andreassen has written a children’s storybook and stays busy keeping the campgrounds “lovely and ready for visitors.” Alumni interested in either the book or the campgrounds, can get in touch with Elaine at

Dr. Angela Camfield (’00)

Abdo Sattout, M.D. (’97), and his wife, Anna, welcomed their third child and first son, Alexander, in November 2009. The couple and their two daughters, Eva and Yasmine, live in Liverpool, England.


Dr. Sonal A. Shah (’03)

Gaurang “Raja” Brahmbhatt, M.D. (’00), family practitioner, was recently appointed assistant clinical professor at the department of medicine at UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School. Brahmbhatt was certified as an HIV specialist by the American Academy of HIV Medicine (AAHIVM). He volunteered on a medical mission to India this past December with the non-profit group Unified for Global Healing. David Bronaugh, M.D. (‘00) and Heather R. Bronaugh, M.D. (‘00), had their first son, Lance Austin, on October 12, 2007. David completed his anesthesiology residency at Tulane University in New Orleans in 2004. He is currently a partner anesthesiologist in his group. Heather completed her general surgery residency at LSU Charity Hospital in New Orleans in 2005. She is currently in private practice and the department chair of surgery at Slidell Memorial Hospital. She was recently initiated as a fellow of the American College of Surgeons. The family lives in Slidell, La. Dr. Wael Mourad (’04)


Angela Camfield, M.D. (’00), practices pediatric anesthesia and is assistant professor of anesthesia at Tufts Medical Center in Boston, Mass. Sonal A. Shah, M.D. (’03), an internist in Missouri, joined Esse Health, one of the St. Louis region’s largest independent physician groups. She completed her internal medicine residency training at Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis, Minn., in 2006. Ranjan Avasthi, M.D. (’04), is finishing up his residency in general psychiatry at the Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta, Ga., and applying for a fellowship position in child and adolescent psychiatry. Avasthi was elected president of the residents association for 2009-2010, and selected as an APA/Astra Zeneca Fellow for 2009-2011. His wife Jessica, whom he married in 2005, works as a dietician and clinical instructor at Georgia State University. Wael Mourad, M.D. (’04), recently attended National Institute of Program Directors Development, a fellowship program for leadership in academic family medicine. Mourad is assistant professor of medicine at the University of Missouri Kansas City School of Medicine. Edwin Chan, M.D. (’05), finished a residency in family medicine as chief resident in Toledo, Ohio, and recently joined the practice of AUC alumnus Abe Hardoon, M.D. (’86) — Suntree Internal Medicine, in Melbourne, Fla. John Millichap, M.D. (’06), has been accepted to a pediatric epilepsy and clinical neurophysiology fellowship at Children’s Memorial Hospital, a Northwestern University Medical School affiliate hospital, in Chicago. Ruben Garcia, M.D. (’06), is a physician with Medicine Lodge Memorial Hospital Physicians Clinic in Medicine Lodge, Kan. Garcia is the medical director for the Hutchinson Community College emergency medical services training program and medical director for Barber County — Medicine Lodge Emergency Medical Services. Tawnya Kreilkamp, M.D. (’06), completed her family medicine residency at Mercy Health System, in Janesville, Wis. She is licensed in Wisconsin and Minnesota. Kreilkamp, her husband, Todd, and their son, Logan, live in Fairmont, Minn. Kai McGreevy, M.D. (’06), is finishing a neurology residency at the University of California, San Diego. He is currently completing an Interventional Pain Fellowship at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Md.


April Ferguson, M.D. (’07), is chief resident of internal medicine residency at Maricopa Medical Center, in Phoenix, Ariz. She has been named Intern of the Year in 2008, Outstanding Teaching Resident 2009, and is currently vice president of the residents association. Ferguson has been conducting research and her abstract on PICC line infections was published in the December 2009 issue of the Journal of Critical Care. She is applying for a fellowship in infectious disease. Speros Livieratos, M.D. (’07), matched into a pulmonary and critical care fellowship at the Medical College of Georgia, started in July 2010. Peter Miller, M.D. (’07), is Chief Resident for the Combined Internal Medicine /Pediatrics Department at Albany Medical Center in Albany, N.Y. Nivedita Bijlani, M.D. (’09), started her internal medicine residency at Mount Carmel West Hospital, in Columbus, Ohio, and is loving the experience. “There is a lot of learning here along with a very supportive environment to make the stress of residency less,” Bijlani said. “I am truly enjoying my time in this beautiful city and making the most of my down time during non-working hours with the newest addition to our family — my nephew ‘Tanay Bijlani’ (meaning: belonging to one’s family in Sanskrit). Andrew R. Kennedy, M.D. (’09), matched into family medicine at Queen’s University Medical School in Kingston, Ontario in 2009. He and Lori McCue were married in September 2008. John Lusins III, M.D. (‘06), has received an American Psychological Association (APA) Psychiatric Leadership Fellowship. The fellowship is a two-year award which offers psychiatric residents, with exceptional leadership potential, many different experiences that prepare them for leadership roles. Those selected participate in a component of the APA governance structure, attend the APA Annual and Fall Component Meetings, present a workshop at the Annual Meeting, receive leadership training, visit innovative psychiatry programs and are assigned to a prominent psychiatrist for individual mentoring. Lusins is also a board member of the AUC Alumni Association. Steven Brooks, M.D. (’05), has received the 2010 American College of Surgeons Resident Award for Exemplary Teaching. The award is chosen by a committee and one resident is selected from thousands of residents around the country in any surgical discipline including: general surgery, OB/Gyn, ENT and plastic surgery. The ACS has met annually for the past 96 years however, Brooks is only the 8th recipient of this award and the first AUC student to receive the honor. q


al K. Sharma, M.D. (’84) is medical director at Community Support Services of Wyandot Center, Kansas City, Kan. Sharma completed his residency in general psychiatry at the University of Missouri School of Medicine and an additional year of fellowship with an emphasis on outpatient psychiatry and consultation-liaison psychiatry at Yale University. He completed an additional fellowship in geriatric psychiatry at the University of Kansas, and another in psycho-oncology at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, in Houston, Texas. He is licensed in Kansas. A speaker and a teacher, Sharma served as an instructor of psychiatry at the University of Missouri and at the University of Texas. He also taught pharmacology and psychopharmacology at various pharmacy and nursing schools. Sharma is a member of the American Psychiatric Association and the Kansas Psychiatric Society. While working at Larned State Hospital, he served as a chairman of the Drug Usage Committee, Clozaril Selection Committee, and a member of the Pharmacy and Therapeutic Committee. His clinical experience includes adult and geriatric psychiatry, psycho-oncology, psychopharmacology, consultation-liaison psychiatry and forensic psychiatry. His clinical areas of interest are bipolar illness, sexual trauma in women, psychiatric aspects of cancer, cancer and depression, psychiatric aspects of traumatic brain injury, metabolic syndrome and diabetes associated with psychotropics, psychopharmacological aspects of criminal behavior, and behavioral aspects of Alzheimer’s disease. q


Alumni Profiles

A Transcontinental Education: U.K. Clinical Experience Prepares Graduate for Canadian Residency By Karina Chavarria


or years James Obaji, M.D. (‘08), vacillated between being

His original plan, however, was to attend medical school in Canada,

passionate about a future in medicine and doing everything in his power

where there are only 17 medical schools for an ever growing applicant

to avoid it. In the end, he concluded that there are few professions as

pool. As is often the case, he was not admitted when he first applied to a

rewarding as medicine, so he decided to go for the profession wholeheartedly.

Canadian medical school program.

It was the education he received at American University of the Caribbean

“I’m pretty impatient and I definitely didn’t want to become one of those

that propelled Obaji to the heights he has reached and will help him attain

people that try four, five, six, even 10 times to get into a North American

his future goals.

medical program,” he said. “I saw the Caribbean as a great opportunity

“If I didn’t go into medicine, I would probably be involved in some sort of entrepreneurial venture or working in finance, seeing as how my undergraduate degree is in economics,” said

to get started right away.”

“We were all down there for the same reason and we all shared the same goals.”

minor in pre-medicine. “I definitely foresee myself combining business and medicine in the future,” he added. For now, Obaji, 29, is a first-year family medicine resident at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, the capital and largest city of Manitoba, Canada. A native of Toronto, Obaji’s desire to fuse medicine and business seems to stem from the professions of his parents. His mother, Hind Obaji, is a family physician in private practice in downtown Toronto. His father, Namir Obaji, is a retired business executive who has a degree in civil engineering. The couple, originally from Iraq, emigrated to Canada about 30 years ago. Being back in Canada has been a humbling experience for the younger Obaji, especially when it comes to adjusting back to the extreme Canadian weather.

adjust to their son’s decision. “Of course we would have rather had James attend a university closer to us in

Obaji who graduated in 2004 from Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., with a B.S. in economics and a

His parents quickly had to

Canada,” said Obaji’s mother, Hind. “But, we wanted him to pursue his desire for a career in medicine regardless of where he had to study.” Another adjustment was having their only child living away from home. But the couple turned it into a positive. “With James living in St. Maarten, we had a great excuse to visit the Caribbean twice a year,” said Namir Obaji. “It was also not difficult for him to come home a few times per year as there are adequate holiday breaks between each semester.” The parents would nonetheless have a hard time keeping up with their son, who continued traveling, even during medical school. For his clerkships, Obaji chose to take his training to even broader surroundings. “I knew my clinical training would be challenging so I sought to make my

“Temperatures here can reach as low as minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit in the winters,” said Obaji. “Quite a difference compared to St. Maarten.” Still, he initially approached the prospect of going to medical school on a Caribbean island with some trepidation.

experience as fun, interesting and diverse as possible,” he said. He requested to do his core surgery and internal medicine clerkships in Slough, Berkshire, a small town just west of London that Obaji references as the setting of the British version of the show “The

“[I] thought students who come to an island for medical school would face tons of distractions. There is way too much fun to be had and it’s very easy to get caught up in it,” he said.

Office.” Along with one other AUC student, he studied at Wexham

But once he settled in, he realized that he and his classmates were focused on their studies.

there, so the learning opportunities were

“We were all down there for the same reason and we all shared the same goals,” Obaji said. “The cutthroat attitudes that you often find in North American medical schools were non-existent at AUC.”

playground essentially, and brilliant


Park Hospital, a small community hospital with about 500 beds. “There were only a couple of medical students endless,” he said. “The hospital was our doctors from Cambridge and Oxford Universities surrounded us.”

Obaji also had the opportunity to explore his surroundings. Because program participants had most weekends off, they were able to travel to various cities throughout Europe. “I would highly recommend that AUC students do at least one or two training periods in the [United Kingdom],” he said. “It is by far the best training that I have received anywhere — no exaggeration.” Upon his return from the United Kingdom, Obaji spent about a year in the United States completing his remaining core rotations in Brooklyn, N.Y., and some electives in Phoenix, Ariz. Obaji also had the opportunity to do a couple of elective clinical rotations in his native Canada, a huge advantage for Canadian students wishing to come home to practice after graduation. “The recommendation letters that I got from these international experiences played an enormous role in my acceptance into my top choice Canadian residency program,” he said. Even as an intern resident, Obaji made fans. His colleague, Dr. Robert Bohemier, said he has enjoyed his experience working alongside him, and said he is saddened that their obstetrics rotation together is over. “We met during our residency orientation in late June,” Bohemier said. “The two of us were always keen to help and teach one another. He was also a great guy to have around the workplace, as we would often rely on one another to help us get through what could be very hectic, long and sometimes tortuous days.” Obaji said he is thankful to finally have secured a position in the medical field. “Residency is a challenging experience — you are very busy and are

Dr. James Obaji matched into a family medicine residency at The University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, Canada.

forced to learn how to manage your time appropriately in order to maintain sanity and ensure life beyond work. You also have to learn how to deal and work with various types of personalities, which may sound easy, but can often be difficult,” said Obaji. Still, after four years of medical school, he said, “it’s refreshing to have an income.” When reminiscing on his experiences at AUC, Obaji explains how he cherishes the time he spent on the island and the opportunities that came out of the experience. “I made great friends, and I often tell people that my two years down there were some of the best years of my life. Not many people get the opportunity to live on a Caribbean island. All of my friends were jealous.” q


Island News


Country St. Maarten is Born By Judy H. Fitzpatrick HILIPSBURG — The Netherlands Antilles flag was lowered in front of

of negotiations the Statuut was adopted creating a Kingdom consisting of

the Courthouse at the stroke of midnight Saturday and the St. Maarten

the Netherlands, the Netherlands Antilles and Suriname.


flag was hoisted to mark symbolically the end of one era and the birth of new Country St. Maarten, rounding off a decade of lobbying, negotiations and agreements.

“Today we are 50 years later, and after much deliberation and negotiation the Kingdom again is being re-formed. During the last 50 years we can be proud of the achievements. As a Country the Netherlands Antilles, we

The folded Netherlands Antilles flag was presented to the St. Maarten

have experienced years of mainly prosperity and growth for our people

Museum to preserve as a symbol of the dismantled Netherlands Antilles.

and also some years in which austerity measures had to taken.”

With the St. Maarten song playing in the background, roars of applause

He asked Minister Hirsch Ballin to convey St. Maarten’s “sincere

rang out from the crowd that gathered to witness the ceremony when the St.

appreciation” to Her Majesty Queen Beatrix and the Dutch government

Maarten flag, designed by Roselle “Rosie” Richardson in 1985, was hoisted.

“for the excellent cooperation.”

This was followed by fireworks and a celebratory mood as officials embraced and congratulated each other on St. Maarten’s increased autonomy.

He also thanked the people of St. Maarten and all those who had served the country the Netherlands Antilles, as well as members of the previous

The national anthem of the Netherlands, the Wilhelmus, the anthem of the

governments, who he said “have worked diligently in the preparation of

Netherlands Antilles, and the St. Maarten song had been played earlier

the new constitutional order, and all those persons who attended the

in the ceremony.

countless meetings and sat for hours and days at the negotiating tables.

Calling the occasion “momentous” and “historical,” former Acting Lt. Governor

“Your efforts and valuable contributions are very much appreciated. As

Reynold Groeneveldt, who was appointed Acting Governor on Sunday,

the last [Acting] Lt. Governor performing my final official duties, permit

lauded the “dignified manner” in which country status had been achieved

me to say farewell to the Netherlands Antilles and entrust the care and

without violence — a point echoed by Dutch Justice Minister Ernst Hirsch

responsibility for the people of this great island nation to the Governor

Ballin during the first Parliament meeting on Sunday.

and the government of Country St. Maarten.

“This process was always conducted in a dignified and businesslike manner.

“I pray that the people of the new island nation will experience prosperity

The negotiations were not easy, but never at any time was there any need

beyond measure and that our difficult days may be but few, that this country

for revolt, violence or war, like in some other countries, when it came to the

will continue to be the most favourite place on earth for many, and that the

exercise of the right to self-determination by the people of the Caribbean

people of this country will continue to find special favour with God and be

part of the Kingdom,” Groeneveldt told the gathering.

protected from all disasters.”

In attendance were local dignitaries, representatives of the United People’s

The ceremony was preceded by a cocktail reception for dignitaries and

Party/Democratic Party coalition government and the National Alliance,

invited guests at Holland House Beach Hotel. Reporters and photographers

and overseas guests including Hirsch Ballin, Caribbean Community

were barred from covering the reception.

Caricom Deputy Secretary General Lolita Applewhaite, Anguilla’s Chief Minister Hubert Hughes and Minister Walcott Richardson and spouse, and Collectivité of French St. Martin President Frantz Gumbs and St. Martin Préfet Jacques Simmonet. “Our country has become a beacon of hope for persons from many parts

About an hour before midnight, dignitaries walked from Holland House to the Courthouse, where a large tent had been set up. The Courthouse was decorated in the colours of the St. Maarten flag for the occasion.

St. Maarten Flag

of the world and we must all be very proud of the Netherlands Antilles

The St. Maarten flag was adopted in June 1985 and was officially hoisted

and what it has meant for us as a people. Nevertheless, the time has

for the first time in front of the Government Administration Building in the

come for us to make new arrangements that will go into effect shortly.

same year.

“As we embark on another stage in the pursuit of full internal self-govern-

The colour red in the flag represents solidarity and courage; while white

ment within the Kingdom, we hope that we can continue to count on the

stands for peace and friendliness and blue represents the environment,

support of all the partners in the Kingdom and we look forward to closer

such as the skies, beaches and seas.

ties and more cooperation in mutual benefit of our respective peoples,” Groeneveldt said.

The coat of arms in the flag depicts the Court House in Philipsburg; the island’s national flower the yellow sage and St. Maarten’s national bird

“In 1942, Her Majesty Queen Wilhelmina announced in her speech from

the Brown Pelican in flight with the sun as its backdrop. It also has a

London that at the end of World War II the Kingdom would embark on

silhouette of the border monument and the words Semper pro grediens

creating a new constitutional order within the Kingdom. After several years

(latin for ‘ever moving forward’) towards the bottom. q

Originally published in St. Maarten’s The Daily Herald, October 11, 2010. Used with permission.


Calypso King, The Mighty Arrow, Passes Away By Nicole White


lphonsus “The Mighty Arrow” Cassell, a native son of Montserrat, who is best known for his

infectious hit, Hot, Hot, Hot, passed away in September. He was 60. Arrow was arguably the most renowned citizen of the tiny island, once home to AUC. The university relocated to St. Maarten after the Soufriere Hills volcano erupted in 1995. Arrow’s music captivated AUC students and millions of fans worldwide. Hot, Hot, Hot would go on to sell over 4 million-plus copies. It was recorded in twelve different languages, charted in multiple countries and became the international Soca anthem. To date, over 22 different versions of the song exist. The singer once said, “My music lets me share a piece of Caribbean paradise with all the world. It’s like a ray of sunshine; it touches the heart and soul. I will not rest until Soca music is known throughout the universe.” Born and raised in Montserrat, Arrow was the youngest of 9 children. He performed in dozens of countries and with performers as varied as Celine Dion and James Brown. He won the local Montserrat Calypso Competition on three occasions. Former Beatles manager, Sir George Martin, worked with Arrow to turn his focus to his recording and touring career. He would eventually record Top: The front of AUC’s former campus in Montserrat.

22 studio albums with other notable hits including Long

Bottom: A view of downtown Plymouth in Montserrat.

Time, Dancing Mood, O’La Soca and Groove Master. q


Alumni Association Names First Lifetime Member By Nicole White ames Kochkodan,


“It’s tough enough getting through medical school knowing you’re an IMG

M.D. (‘83), an

not an AMG,’’ Kochkodan said. “But they are hardworking and driven in

alumnus who can

order to choose that venue. It’s clear that medicine means a lot to them

always be called upon

and they’re willing to go through whatever it takes to get that degree.’’

to soothe the fears of students, is the alumni

He says he’s more than willing to be a source of support.

association’s first

“Sometimes all these students need is one little bit of help and guidance.

lifetime member.

It can make their road and passage so easily travelled,’’ he said.

Kochkodan, a radiologist

“AUC was good to me so I believe in trying to help as much as I can.

with a private practice in

I wish more of our grads would come forth and feel a sense of pride and

Dearborn, Mich., has been

gratitude as much as I do,’’ added Kochkodan.

a tireless supporter of the school and is among its biggest cheerleaders.

In addition to being an AUC Ambassador, Dr. Kochkodan has been an active member of the teaching community. He serves as Chairman of the Department of Radiology at Oakwood Heritage Hospital in Taylor, Mich.,

“I feel a sense of gratitude to the school for providing me with an opportunity

Associate Clinical Professor for the Department of Orthopedics at Wayne

to become a physician. I love what I do and the fact that I’m able to pursue

State University School of Medicine and is also Associate Director of the

my life’s passion is owed to AUC,’’ Kochkodan said.

Radiology Residency Selection Committee at Oakwood Hospital in

Kochkodan, who studied at AUC when it was located on the island of

Dearborn, Mich.

Montserrat, says he’s remained a champion of the school because he’s

Kochkodan has donated $1000 to the alumni association’s general

watched it grow from humble beginnings and is proud to have seen it

fund which will be used to fund scholarships and other events to benefit

blossom over the years.

the students.

“It’s amazing to see how many physicians have gone there,’’ said

The alumni association, which is celebrating its

Kochkodan. “I went there when it was a fledgling medical school and

seven-year anniversary, has also revamped its

it’s survived and done well and put out so many great grads.’’

membership levels and now offers an increased

In addition to maintaining a connection with his fellow graduates, he says he makes the time to speak with current students because he knows that all

list of perks. For full details visit: q

they need is to hear from someone who’s been in their shoes.



Karl Stockhausen, M.D. (’08) A

ge 28, recently of Brooklyn, N.Y., formerly of Northville, Michigan, and after bravely and courageously fighting

melanoma cancer for two years, died September 13, 2009. He was born on April 8, 1981, in Livonia to William Francis and Carole Jean (Walker) Stockhausen.

Peter Yang November 9, 1983 – August 16, 2010


eter Yang, age

26, of Orange

County, California passed away the evening of August 16, 2010,

In 1999 he graduated from the University of Detroit Jesuit High

in Brooklyn, N.Y.,

School, in 2002 he graduated with honors from Clemson

after collapsing

University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Biochemistry,

suddenly at

and in 2008 he received his Doctor of Medicine from the

the gym.

American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine. He was to start a prestigious emergency medicine residency at Einstein/ Jacobi Medical Hospital in the Bronx. He loved photography, rock climbing, and had a passion for analytical games like chess and poker. He was an eagle scout. He rode round-trip coast to coast on a motorcycle, and traveled across Mexico, Cuba, Europe and India.

Peter was born on November 9, 1983, in Chico, California, and grew up in Monterey Park, Calif., the oldest of three children. In 2001, Peter graduated from Arcadia High School and went on to attend the

As a humanitarian, twice he was part of a surgical medical team in Honduras and also worked

University of California at Irvine. He played

for three months in La Parroqia, Guatemala assisting in free health care clinics for the indigenous

rugby throughout college and was president

community. At AUC, he was president of the American Medical Student Association, and with

of the UCI Rugby club for much of that time.

other students started a diabetes screening clinic on the island of St. Maarten. He was on The

At his memorial service in California, former

Student Judiciary Committee, was an Anatomy Teacher’s Assistant and an Orientation Advisor.

teammates credited him with being the driving

He was a member of the Alpha Omega Phi Honor Society. In 2006, he was asked to deliver the

force behind the club’s revival.

White Coat Speech to incoming medical students. In the talk, he advised freshmen AUC students to remember three words: contribute, discipline and humanize.

After graduating in 2005 with a degree in biology, Peter served on the executive team of

He did a clinical rotation in infectious diseases in Mumbai, India, a surgical and OB/GYN rotation

volunteers at nearby Hoag Hospital before

in an HIV Outpatient Health Clinic in London, England, and several rotations in New York City. He

starting medical school at the American

thrived on learning about international health systems, and more than anything, he was committed

University of the Caribbean. Peter really

to revolutionizing global health care. He was a man of his word, made no excuses for the way he

loved his time on St. Maarten, often saying

lived life, and inspired others to do the same.

that, with all the great people he met and

He wanted to spend his life in the service of healing others. It was his desire that his corneas be donated to The Midwest Eye Bank, which will give sight to two people. His body was donated to the Anatomy Department at the University of Michigan Medical School. In addition to his parents, he is survived by his fiancée Rhea Rahman of Brooklyn, N.Y.; his sisters, Juliet (Todd) Culp and Clara of Northville, Mich., Rachel of New Britain, Conn., his brother Luke “Stocky” of Seattle, Wash.; his niece Violet Culp and countless friends.

the experiences he delved into, it felt more like a vacation than medical school. He was due to graduate in 2012. Peter is survived by his sisters Annie and Karen, his mother Linda, and father Kevin. A viewing was held for him in Brooklyn, N.Y., on August 20, 2010, and his ashes were

A celebration of his life was held on Saturday, September 19, 2009, at Our Lady Of Victory

buried on September 4, 2010, at Pacific View

Catholic Church. q

Memorial Park in Newport Beach, Calif., with a view of the ocean that he loved so much.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests a contribution to the Dr. Karl Stockhausen Fund c/o William Stockhausen. Donations may be mailed to: Dr. Karl Stockhausen Fund, 218 W. Dunlap St., Northville, MI 48167 Donated funds will be used for purposes consistent with Karl’s legacy. Karl’s family set up a memorial Web site in his memory at


His family would like to express their gratitude for the incredible show of support from the AUC community in light of their sudden loss. It has been extremely comforting to them to know how deeply Peter touched your lives. q

We Want You

The AUC Alumni Association — a not-for-profit organization which honors the university’s distinguished heritage — will hold elections for new board members in May 2011. Open positions include: Vice-President, Secretary, Treasurer and Board Members at Large (4 positions). The elections are open to all AUC graduates.

ELECTION TIMELINE Nominations open: March 15 Nominations end: April 30 Elections: May 1-15 (ballots can be cast online or via mail or fax) Winners announced: June 1 Term begins: July 1 Term limits: 7/1/2011- 6/30/2013

Class Notes Form

Mail to: MEAS, Office of Alumni Relations 901 Ponce de Leon Blvd., Suite 700 Coral Gables, FL 33134

Via e-mail at:

For more information visit our website:

Contact Information:

Announcements: (approximately 100 words)

(Note: Contact information will NOT be published. This information will be used by the editorial board to contact you if there is a need for clarification)

Personal: (marriage, travel, births announcements, etc. )

Name: ________________________________________________________ Name while attending AUC (if different): ____________________________ Title: __________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________

Mailing Address: ________________________________________________






________________ State: ____________ Zip Code: __________

Daytime Phone:


Evening Phone:


Professional: (research, residencies, fellowships, honors, licensures, private practices, published works, etc.)

Fax: __________________________________________________________


E-mail Address:



Spouse’s Name: ________________________________________________ Children’s Names: ______________________________________________

________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________

Academic Information:


Class Year: ____________________________________________________


Certification(s): ________________ Specialty: ______________________

AUC Connections editors reserve the right to edit all print submissions for length and clarity.


Photo by Jason Jones

Nettle Bay, Saint Martin


Become the Face of AUC! Alumni volunteers play an important role in representing AUC at regional health fairs and open houses. Join our enrollment team and have an opportunity to interact with prospective students and share your unique medical school and career experience.


If you would like to participate go to


Medical Education Administrative Services Office of Alumni Relations 901 Ponce de Leon Blvd., Suite 700 Coral Gables, FL 33134

We Need Your Support AUC ALUMNI ASSOCIATION MEMBERSHIP Become a part of a family of graduates who share a passion for their alma mater. For as little as $25 a year, alumni can make a donation to the association’s general fund which supports scholarships and networking events for members. Join today. Basic ($25): Available to new graduates only. Members receive an alumni decal. Silver ($50): Members receive an alumni T-Shirt and coffee mug. Gold ($250): Alumni decal, polo shirt and coffee mug along with a bio listing in the alumni magazine and a short feature on the association’s website. Platinum/lifetime membership ($1000): This one-time fee gives you all the perks listed above, an alumni polo shirt, a feature in the alumni magazine and so much more. The alumni association is a not-for-profit organization which honors the university’s distinguished heritage. It also fosters lifelong connections and a spirit of loyalty and fraternity among graduates, students, faculty, staff and friends of the school. It is a separate entity from AUC School of Medicine.

How do I sign up? Make checks payable to: AUC Alumni Association Mail to: MEAS C/O AUC Alumni Association Attn: Office of Alumni Relations 901 Ponce de Leon Blvd., Suite 700 Coral Gables, FL 33134 Or visit the alumni website for online payment options – 10186A

AUC Alumni Connections Magazine  

AUC Alumni magazine

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