Veterinary Topics In The Tropics
One Health, One Medicine, One Island.
That could be the motto for St. George’s University, which each year graduates hundreds of doctors in human and veterinary medicine from its oceanfront campus on the Caribbean island of Grenada.
The School of Veterinary Medicine is dwarfed by the School of Medicine—500 students vs. 4,075—but the vet school is only 10 years old. The university opened with the School of Medicine 32 years ago.
Calum MacPherson, Ph.D., vice provost for international program development and dean of graduate studies, helped plan the vet school’s birth.
“We looked to see what else could be established given our infrastructure and expertise,” Dr. MacPherson says. “The vice chancellor at the time, Peter Bourne, and myself and a number of others discussed the possibility of setting up a vet school that was utilized by the basic science medical faculty.
“If you’re learning immunology or physiology, you could utilize some of the same faculty,” he says. “Thereby you could have future veterinary practitioners with medical practitioners, getting to know each other in a classroom setting and appreciating the veterinary implications of a diagnosis, the medical implications, and how the two work together.”
At a Glance
Location: Grenada, West Indies
Degree Programs: DVM, MSc, BS/DVM, DVM/MPH, DVM/MSc
Tuition and Fees: $25,200-$44,000 annually.
The first three years in the DVM program are like anywhere else: two years of studying basic veterinary medical sciences followed by an introduction to clinical work. At St. George’s, much of the third year is spent in the Small Animal Hospital and the university pastures.
“There are a lot of opportunities for them to work,” MacPherson says. “Almost everything they touch would be new—diseases of the cattle, sheep, goats, chickens, dogs, etc., here in Grenada.”
Eighty-seven percent of St. George’s veterinary students hail from the U.S. For most, it’s back to the U.S. for fourth-year clinical training at affiliated universities such as Cornell, Pennsylvania and Texas A&M.
St. George’s isn’t accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Assn., but the distinction is “a big goal for us,” MacPherson says.
“We are continuously improving so the AVMA knows where we are at,” he says. “We want to become competent in all 11 standards that the AVMA requires.”
About one-third of applicants were granted admission to St. George’s veterinary school last spring.
“We’re looking for whether they can academically succeed,” MacPherson says of the selection process. “We look to see whether they have knowledge of what they’re getting themselves into, because it’s a very grueling curriculum. Also important is whether they have ever volunteered in a practice, shadowed a practitioner or veterinarian, and whether they know the career opportunities in veterinary medicine.”
The veterinary school plays a large role in everyday life on Grenada.
“We have a number of important links with the Ministry of Agriculture that we facilitate,” MacPherson says. “One is looking at meat hygiene at the slaughterhouse. Another is we have an outreach program every term, say for chicken farmers. We’ll bring all the chicken farmers on the island to the university for a one-day symposium on chicken feed and diseases of the chicken. We help a lot with bringing the awareness of veterinary problems to the community and also to the island officials.
“We can advise on all sorts of emerging infectious diseases, like avian influenza. We have the diagnostic capability of helping the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Health.”
Veterinary research is a growing field at St. George’s.
“We have a one-credit research course in our veterinary curriculum that students have to take in the first year,” MacPherson says. “Then there’s a three-credit elective in research. We also have a memorandum of understanding with Makerere University in Uganda. Students go out there to work with the wildlife in Queen Elizabeth National Park for six weeks. If they want to, they can take a whole semester of research at Makerere.”
MacPherson expects St. George’s influence to expand throughout the Caribbean region.
“Given the global nature of a lot of these emerging infectious diseases and how they are going to impact a number of economies, I think the vet school is going to play an ever-increasing role in working with the ministries of agriculture, health and education, not only here but regionally,” he says.
“The Caribbean is changing to having a single Caribbean public health agency. It will be one agency like the Centers for Disease Control, and we’re involved in that. Regionally, we will play a more important role 10 years from now.”
St. George’s is at the forefront of electronic learning, from the wi-fi campus to how students are taught in the lecture halls.
“We use innovative teaching techniques,” MacPherson says. “All lectures are recorded and students can play them back any time of the day or night. All the lectures are on PowerPoint, on ANGEL, on the Internet, so they can see color pictures of everything they’re dealing with. And we use TurningPoint quite a lot.”
TurningPoint is an audience response system that uses an electronic clicker.
“You would put up a question on, say, the nutritional basis for a disease—you might have a picture on the screen—and you’d have five choices,” MacPherson explains. “The students would get 10 seconds to answer, press the button on the clicker and up on the screen comes a distribution of their answers. It plays two different things: One, if you sat in the class and got it wrong but 99 percent of the class got it right, you’d say, ‘I’ve got to study that stuff. All my classmates remember it.’ If people do badly on it, then the professor gets instant feedback that perhaps he hasn’t taught that area or the objectives as well as he or she should have done. It’s a wonderful tool to learn where your students are at, and the students know where they’re at in relation to the knowledge that’s expected.”
The veterinary school employs more than 40 full-time, part-time, visiting and adjunct professors and instructors, many of them from the U.S., the United Kingdom and Canada.
“One of the strengths of our institution is that many of the faculty come because they love to teach,” MacPherson says. “The students get professors in the classroom and during office hours with an enthusiasm for teaching more than research and service, and that’s a great thing for the students.”