St. George’s University Featured in the National Post


March 15, 2019 — National Post

When Vancouver-born Jonathan Phang had completed his undergraduate degree at McGill University in Montreal, he began applying to Canadian and U.S. medical schools. Not initially accepted, he pondered what to do next and considered getting his master’s degree. Then, as he puts it, “St. George’s University caught my eye.”

“It had a very strong curriculum and produced a lot of great doctors in both the U.S. and Canada. It was very credible,” says Phang. Fast-forward several years and several clinical rotations later – at hospitals across the U.S. in New York, New Jersey, California, Nevada and Georgia – and Phang is now back in Canada, in his first year of the psychiatry residency program at the University of Saskatchewan.

“The diversity [of my experience in the U.S. programs] definitely helped me match here,” he says. “I’ve been in Saskatchewan since last May and I’m loving it.”

With a combination of high residency matches, highly qualified faculty and an exceptional support system for its students, it is no wonder that increasing numbers of Canadian medical students are choosing Caribbean-based St. George’s University (SGU) to pursue their medical degrees.

Founded on the island of Grenada in the West Indies, SGU’s School of Medicine officially opened its doors to a small group of students in January 1977.

Today, SGU boasts more than 16,000 graduates in medicine and has been the No. 1 provider of doctors into first-year residencies in the U.S. for the last eight years combined. It is also the third-largest source of physicians for the entire U.S. workforce. In Canada, 143 SGU students have matched into first-year residency programs over the last 10 years, including 16 so far in 2019. Hundreds more have obtained residency positions in the U.S.

SGU students are matching in a broad range of specialties, including internal medicine, family medicine, anesthesiology, emergency medicine, neurology, pathology, physical medicine and rehabilitation, surgery and urology.

Ninety-one per cent of eligible Canadian students who applied for a residency position in 2018 in either Canada or the U.S. were successful. “Canadian students stand a much higher chance of matching to a residency program of their choice in North America than anywhere in the world outside of Canada,” says Sandra Banner, St. George’s University Canadian consultant and the former director of the Canadian Resident Matching Service (CaRMS).

Banner notes students are extensively prepared for both the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) and the Medical Council of Canada exams. In 2017, first-time Canadian test-takers from SGU had a 99-per-cent pass rate for Step 1 of the USMLE, which is on par with U.S. student test-takers.

“The advantages at SGU over other programs are its diversity, in terms of breadth of student population, teaching facilities and eventually where its graduates practise,” notes Josh Ramjist, who studied in the UK for the first year as a member of SGU’s Keith B. Taylor Global Scholars Program. In 2011, Ramjist started residency in general surgery at Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., and is currently the hospital’s chief resident in the department of surgery. He plans to return to Canada this summer to start a fellowship in pediatric trauma at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children.

“I can’t think of too many medical schools that have as many countries represented as SGU does,” Ramjist says. “Our teaching facilities are vast, designed to facilitate students becoming top academic achievers, and then it grows to our geographically dispersed affiliated hospitals throughout North America and the U.K.

“With thousands of graduates practicing in a wide range of specialties globally, the SGU ‘family’ of alumni are further changing the way medicine is practised globally.”

In addition to a highly qualified faculty (SGU has close to 2,000 campus-based and clinical faculty, and those with professorial rank have either a PhD, an MD or both), the university is renowned for its support system, offered through the department of education services (DES). Almost all students access this unique system, which offers support in myriad areas, from time management, study and test-taking skills to assistance with reducing anxiety.

“We had a dean from a Canadian medical school visit the campus a few year ago, who said there isn’t a school in Canada that offers the same level of support,” says SGU Canadian consultant Chuck Furey, a former MLA for Newfoundland and Labrador. “He thought it was an exceptional part of the program.”

“The student supports are simply outstanding. SGU is dedicated to helping students from the beginning of the journey to obtaining residencies, from exams to special tutorials,” Furey adds. “It’s really something spectacular to behold.”

“The university offers lot of academic support,” agrees Phang. “If you are ever struggling in a class or with study habits, they have DES small group programs that can help you with study strategies,” he adds, noting that faculty members are “more than willing to meet with you one-on-one.”

“I’m very thankful for the opportunities afforded to me by SGU,” says Ramjist. “I think back to where I was when I was an undergraduate student at the University of Toronto and thought there was a future in medicine for me, but I wasn’t sure exactly how or what path it would take. I’ve never regretted attending SGU for a minute and would do it again in a heartbeat.”

“It’s not a second choice,” adds Banner. “It’s a first-choice school, with first-choice results.”