Alumni News

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  • 28 Nov 2016 12:35 PM | Anonymous

    Long after the graduation ceremony and the first year of residency, AUA valedictorians continue to have amazing post-graduate careers. Read on to learn about our latest valedictorian’s achievements.

    Dr. Samantha Thomas (Class of 2014)

    Having taken a year off the Match after graduating, Dr. Thomas is now Categorical Surgery Resident at St. Agnes in Baltimore, MD. As an Antiguan citizen, she hopes to return to Antigua to practice after completing her residency.

    Dr. Veena Patel (Class of 2013)

    Dr. Patel began an Internal Medicine residency at the University of Texas Health Science Center after graduating. Now a Chief Internal Medicine Resident at that same teaching hospital, she’s studying quality improvement and patient safety with Baylor at the VA in Houston. She plans on applying for a rheumatology fellowship next year.

    Dr. Whitney Boling (Class of 2012)

    After completing a transitional residency year at Detroit Medical Center/Wayne State University, Dr. Boling earned an Ophthalmology residency at Indiana University School of Medicine. Though it’s incredibly rare for Caribbean medical school alumni to secure an Ophthalmology residencies, two AUA alumni have done so – Dr. Boling and, as of this year, Dr. Rizwan Shaikh, who is completing his residency at Baylor.

    Dr. Jasmine Riviere-Marcelin (Class of 2011)

    Dr. Marcelin started her career as an Internal Medicine Resident at the Mayo Clinic and is now an Infectious Disease Fellow there. As social chair for the fellowship, she organized a huge fundraiser for its HIV clinic. She has recently published papers on outcomes of transplant patients treated with oral ribavirin for RSV infection and concepts in CMV disease management in liver transplant patients.

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  • 28 Nov 2016 12:34 PM | Anonymous

    AUA student Jessica Thomas (Class of 2016) was recently honored for earning a Future Leadership Project (FLP) Fellowship at the Student National Medical Association (SNMA) 2016 Annual Medical Education Conference (AMEC), which was attended by hundreds of medical and pre-medical students, residents, physicians, and residency directors. She was joined at AMEC by third-year AUA students Shantale Williams and Troy Davis.

    In addition to being among the first Caribbean medical school students to become a FLP Fellow, Thomas was appointed National Vice Chair of the International Affairs Committee. As National Vice Chair, she will be contributing to the organization of a mission trip to Cuba in 2017.

    “This conference was a great opportunity to network and introduce SNMA to Caribbean medical students,” said Jessica.

    Though there aren’t many SNMA chapters at Caribbean medical schools, Jessica has been instrumental in restarting a SNMA chapter on campus. During the 2016-2017 academic year, Shantale will be the President and Troy will be the Vice President of the AUA SNMA chapter.

    Entering their last semester of Basic Sciences, Shantale and Troy attended AMEC to network, discover more clerkship opportunities, and learn strategies to excel in medical school. One workshop, “How to Ace Your Boards,” provided essential USMLE Step 1 study resources and tips on optimizing study schedules. Shantale was pleased that she met many physicians and residency directors who encouraged her to reach out to them when she begins her clinical rotations.

    “Attending the SNMA conference showed me the light at the end of the tunnel and the reason why I am working so hard to become a physician,” said Shantale. “I made lifelong bonds with individuals who were in my shoes just a couple of years ago and are now successful residents and physicians.”

  • 28 Nov 2016 12:26 PM | Anonymous


    Nickul ShahSome students are lucky enough to have research opportunities during med school. Others are even luckier and get to publish research articles as med students. Dr. Nickul Shah conducted research during Clinical Sciences that just resulted in the publication of his first book.

    The 2016 AUA graduate is the author of Hepatitis C Infection and Adverse Hepatic Complications to Anesthesia (Scholars’ Press). The book grew from a case that Dr. Shah observed during a surgical rotation at Northside Medical Center in Youngstown, Ohio.

    He was working under Dr. Peter Devito, a surgeon, and Dr. Samuel Wilson, an anesthesiologist. A man in his early 50s was admitted for a simple hernia procedure. Before the operation, which was conducted on a Friday night, he told the staff that he had hepatitis C. He attributed the infection to a tattoo he had gotten decades earlier. When they began the procedure, the patient’s liver had a normal red-tan color with regular borders. Six hours after the hernia operation, on Saturday, his blood pressure began to drop and he went into shock. His body temperature was dropping too, and his heart rate was elevated. They administered fluid support and took other measures to bring his blood pressure back up, but it continued to fall through Sunday. On Monday, as they had originally planned, they reopened him at the site of the hernia to check for bleeding or any sort of internal hemorrhage and discovered that his liver had become completely black with irregular nodules. Dr. Wilson asked Dr. Shah what he thought the problem was. Dr. Shah said he didn’t know but thought maybe it had something to do with the hepatitis, while Dr. Wilson told him he suspected it was “anesthesia-induced.” He told him to look into it and try to find out what had gone wrong. The patient would later go into organ failure, and then cardiac arrest twice before expiring.

    The medical examiner would eventually report that the patient had a cirrhotic liver on autopsy, but did not list a cause for the cirrhosis. “After extensive research, the anesthesiologist and I determined that the anesthetic may have exacerbated his cirrhosis, with the underlying hepatitis C infection,” Dr. Shah said, adding that while cirrhosis is cumulative, necrosis can result in cirrhosis in an acute manner after drastic organ injury. In this case, it can be said that necrosis was the initial state, and over time cirrhosis occurred.” In the book, Dr. Shah explains the descriptions of key terminology used in the study and the differences between acute injury from fulminant hepatic injury and cirrhosis in the book.

    An article he wrote about the case appeared in Internal Medicine (“Hepatotoxicity after Sevoflurane Exposure in a Patient with Chronic Hepatitis C”) in 2015. This year, he published an article about an unrelated case in Consultant (“A Case of Squamous Cell Carcinoma of the Scalp in an African Man”). Scholars’ Press noticed the Internal Medicine article and approached him seven months ago about writing a full-length book about the patient he operated on at Northside Medical Center during rotations. When he sat down to write it, he decided to explore the case through the lenses of anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, immunology, and serology. The target audiences are health professionals who want to read something off-the-beaten path, and general readers.  He recommends it to anyone interested in learning more about hepatitis and virology.

    Writing a book is definitely something Dr. Shah would do again. He is also interested in teaching, but his most immediate and main goal is to pursue a career as a clinical pathologist.

    The book is currently available on Amazon and the AbeBooks site. It will be available at Barnes & Noble at a later date.

  • 13 Oct 2016 10:31 AM | Anonymous

    Paul Khaper, MD (Class of 2013), is about to begin practicing at Riverside Healthcare’s Watseka Campus, an hour outside of Chicago, Illinois, and was featured in the Daily Journal, a paper covering the Kankakee Valley where Watseka is located. Dr. Khaper did his internship and residency in family medicine at Northeast Iowa Medical Education Foundation in Waterloo, Iowa. He is a member of the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine and the American Academy of Family Physicians. I'm committed to providing quality and compassionate care to patients and their families with an emphasis on patient education," Dr. Khaber tells the Journal.

  • 18 Feb 2016 9:20 AM | Deleted user

    Before Dr. Dave Swaby (Class of 2015) began his Pediatrics Residency at Richmond University Medical Center in New York, he already had experience as a global healthcare provider. As an Army veteran, Dr. Swaby studied and practiced medicine during his service, which had him stationed around the world.

    Serving Abroad

    Though Dr. Swaby was always interested in medicine, he didn’t initially want to become a physician. When he discovered the Army offered recruitment scholarships for those pursuing a career in healthcare, Dr. Swaby enlisted.  From there, he completed his basic training at Fort Jackson, SC and the officer basic course (OBC) in Texas. He served tours in South Korea, Iraq, and Kuwait. He studied nursing but, eventually, wanted more.

    A Life-Changing Experience

    After an unfortunate incident left a young Iraqi girl and her family severely wounded, Dr. Swaby was in charge of her care. The Army didn’t travel with pediatricians so his team had to treat her to the best of their knowledge. Dr. Swaby arranged for her follow up care and the equipment needed for her rehabilitation.  When she received  a wheelchair, she was incredibly grateful. Dr. Swaby realized his true calling was to become a pediatrician.

    “When we were leaving, she told me, in English, ‘Thank you,’” said Dr. Swaby. “It was the first time she ever spoke English. Someone ended up adopting her in the United States.” 

    A Non-Traditional Path

    After spending nearly a decade in the Army, Dr. Swaby decided it was time to apply to medical school. Considering he was older than the average medical student, it was nearly impossible to enter a U.S. medical school. Caribbean medical schools were more flexible, though. He heard about AUA and thought it might be a good fit. The rest is history.

    “I appreciate the confidence the administration had in me,” said Dr. Swaby. “AUA gave me the tools to succeed in medicine.”

    Teamwork is Universal

    The teamwork he experienced in the Army continued to inform his medical education – and extracurricular activities. He formed a cricket team on campus, which competes with local teams. Now in his residency, Dr. Swaby finds his Army experience particularly useful when working with a small team.

    “If you don’t work together, you’re going to drown,” said Dr. Swaby. “You can’t do it all by yourself.” 

    Even though he’s begun his residency, he’s still in the Reserves in case he is needed again. He highly recommends other military veterans use their VA benefits while they can and enroll in AUA.

    “After a certain number of years, you’ll lose your benefits if you haven’t used them,” said Dr. Swaby. “I’m really happy about my choice to study at AUA.”

    AUA has a grant available for eligible veterans and VA benefits are available as well.

  • 15 Jan 2016 2:16 PM | Deleted user

    As a Junior Chief General Surgery Resident at NYU Langone Medical Center, Dr. David Schwartzberg runs an entire surgical team either at the Manhattan VA Hospital, Bellevue Hospital or NYU Tisch Hospital. Every day, he makes decisions impacting patient’s lives by managing their pre- and post- operative care and with his attendings, performing some of the most advanced operations in the country. Nearly a decade earlier, he was a medical school applicant unable to enter a U.S. program due to his low MCAT score. This is Dr. Schwartzberg’s story:

    Family of Medicine

    Though Dr. Schwartzberg comes from a family of physicians, initially he wanted to become a musician. After a long conversation with his grandmother, she guided into the medical profession as he switched his business major to pre-med midway through college.  Though he remembers wanting to be a pediatric heart surgeon as a child, he is now focused on surgical oncology, specifically colo-rectal oncology.

    Putting in the Work

    After just falling short of getting into a U.S. medical school, Dr. Schwartzberg considered spending two years performing research in a lab and retaking the MCATs before reapplying to U.S. medical schools again or forging ahead and applying to a Caribbean medical school. He enrolled at AUA, where he proved U.S. medical school admission committees wrong: he excelled during Basic Sciences and won the Phi Delta Epsilon International Medical Fraternity’s Outstanding Medical Student award while becoming an anatomy prosector and teaching assistant.

    He chose AUA over Ross and St. George’s because he could complete all of his clinical rotations close to home in New York, at the same locations that U.S. medical students rotate. For his electives, he focused exclusively on surgery and pursued research opportunities that would eventually land him his position at NYU.

    “You should get involved with research early and ask attendings physicians during clinical rotations about research opportunities,” said Dr. Schwartzberg. “If you’re really passionate about becoming a surgeon, you’ll need to give up your free time.”

    Actionable Research

    After graduation, Dr. Schwartzberg obtained a Categorical General Surgery Residency at Monmouth Medical Center in Long Branch, NJ, but continued building his research credentials. His research at Memorial Sloan-Kettering focused on colon cancer, particularly concerned with patients at risk of being afflicted with a rare, aggressive form of the disease and operative treatment strategies. Additional research was in the field of pediatric surgery to identify metabolic surgical options for obese children as well as other projects. One of his projects helped identify computerized orders that became a problematic ordering tool.

    “There was a belief that using computers would spare us from human error when forming a diagnosis or documenting orders,” said Dr. Schwartzberg. “However, the results of my research proved that these computerized systems produced more errors than humans during the early implementing phase.”

    Coming Home

    Dr. Schwartzberg is now one of six Junior Chief Surgery Residents to be appointed at NYU for three reasons: his research, awards, and scoring in the top percentiles on the American Board of In-Training Exam (ABSITE). Before earning this prestigious residency, he received the Sills Award for being an outstanding teacher to medical students and fellow residents as well as the David Averbach Award for Outstanding Resident, Best Surgical Manuscript and multiple other academic accolades. At Sloan-Kettering, he earned the Dr. Murray Brennan Research scholarship, which gave him an opportunity to meet with the top surgeons in the United States. His decision to attend NYU also allowed him to see some familiar faces.

    “All of my friends and family live in New York and I really relished being able to live closer to them,” said Dr. Schwartzberg. “NYU is one of the best hospitals in the country and there is no better place to train,” he said.

    Keep Working

    Since he started his residency at NYU, Dr. Schwartzberg has been working around the clock. Up at 5am he reviews labs, radiologic imaging and vital signs before leading a team to care for and treat his patient’s. By 6:40AM, he makes recommendations on which patients should have an operation that day.

    He spends the rest of the day teaching students at NYU School of Medicine as a Junior Teaching Assistant and focuses on surgeries until midnight. His routine starts all over a few hours later. Even though his hours are long, he still finds time to work on more research projects at Sloan-Kettering, study and start a family. Next year, his final year at NYU, he will be one of the Chief Residents in General Surgery. In the meantime, he will continue to work to become a leader in his field and eventually become a surgeon.

    “Patients come up to me and ask if I can be their surgeon,” said Dr. Schwartzberg. “As a resident, I can’t give them a card since I’m just a resident, but it’s nice to know that my work is making a difference in their lives.” 

  • 13 Nov 2015 1:18 PM | Deleted user

    Some healthcare coverage gaps around the world are so large that they could be considered chasms. AUA alumna Dr. Erin Kirkegaard doesn’t just talk about fixing healthcare and addressing these gaps on a global scale – she does it. This year alone, she traveled to Rwanda as a volunteer physician and Washington, DC as an advocate for more residency positions in U.S. teaching hospitals.

    Passion for Primary Care

    Currently, Dr. Kirkegaard is an Internal Medicine Resident at Providence Sacred Heart in Spokane, WA and teaches Internal Medicine at the University Of Washington School Of Medicine. She has also been heavily involved in medical research since her undergraduate years at the University of Washington. As an undergraduate researcher at Stanford University, she studied the interaction and replication of polio enzymes. Despite her love of research, she enjoys interacting with patients more.

    "I’m not a big fan of sitting behind a lab bench all day – I prefer working with people,” said Dr. Kirkegaard. “That’s why I want to go into hospital medicine and global health.”

    Working with Congress

    Earlier this year, Dr. Kirkegaard traveled to Washington, DC with the American College of Physicians (ACP) to meet with lawmakers and advocate for Medicare reimbursement changes, more residency positions, and medical education reforms. She argued that the current Medicare reimbursement system, which compensates teaching hospitals for training residents and provides a fixed amount for services covered under the program, is unsustainable for doctors entering primary care positions, who are adversely affected by rate cuts.

    “Student loan debt is a huge problem and partly the reason why there’s a shortage in primary care physicians,” said Dr. Kirkegaard. “Students opt to go into higher paying specialties because of the burdens of repaying their loans and lack of funds from Medicare to cover their expenses.”

    The Complexities of Practicing in an Unfamiliar Culture

    Recently, Dr. Kirkegaard returned from a three-week trip to Rwanda with Healing Hearts Northwest, where she assisted an intra-thoracic cardiac surgery team with peri-operative management of open-heart surgeries. In total, she helped with 16 procedures that repaired congenital heart defects and replaced valves that would have led to rheumatic heart disease. Her contribution was significant, as there were only four cardiologists available for the twenty million people in Rwanda. Many of the patients she worked with had no access to antibiotics and walked two hours to get to the clinic.

    “Many people there could have died from strep throat,” said Dr. Kirkegaard. “The sequelae of strep throat eventually attack the heart valves if left untreated. It was an eye-opening experience.”

    While working with these patients, social status complicated health decisions. One patient was hesitant to receive much needed heart surgery because there was a risk that she might become infertile. In Rwandan culture, women who can’t bear children are treated as outcasts.

    “Our treatment options were limited due to the financial, cultural, and logistical confines of the Rwandan medical infrastructure,” said Dr. Kirkegaard. “It was clear, however, that this young girl's failing heart, through no fault of her own, could not withstand a pregnancy and she would die without surgical intervention. She ultimately decided for the surgery.”

    The Future

    Dr. Kirkegaard is currently applying for a Global and Rural Health Fellowship, which focuses on improving healthcare in underserved communities around the world. She advises students seeking to follow her career path to study hard, ask questions, and be confident.

    “There’s a misconception that Caribbean medical school students aren’t qualified to be physicians, but you can prove to your attendings that you’re as good as any U.S. medical student,” said Dr. Kirkegaard. “Through my outreach this year, I proved that any Caribbean medical graduate could make positive change throughout the world.” 

  • 12 Nov 2015 3:59 PM | Deleted user

    Dr. Angela Echeverria (Class of 2010) has been certified by The American Board of Surgery. Currently, she is a Vascular Surgery Fellow at Baylor University College of Medicine in Houston, TX.

    She was a Categorical Surgery Resident at the University of Arizona in Tucson, AZ. She has presented her research at the Society of Laparoendoscopic Surgeons Annual Meeting, Academic Surgical Congress Annual Meeting, and Western Trauma Association Annual Meeting. She has received the Best General Surgery Video by a Resident award, the Best Urology Video, and Best Urology Video by a Resident at the 2012 SLS-MIRA-SRS Joint Annual Meeting and Endo Expo. 

  • 12 Nov 2015 2:40 PM | Deleted user

    Dr. Leilani Garcia (Class of 2012) is now a Hospitalist at Carthage Area Hospital in Carthage, NY. Dr. Garcia was an Internal Medicine Resident at Pinnacle Health Systems in Harrisburg, PA. She graduated in 2000 from Indian River Central School in Philadelphia, received an associate degree from Jefferson Community College, and a BS in biology from the University at Albany. 

  • 22 Oct 2015 2:28 PM | Deleted user

    American University of Antigua (AUA) College of Medicine participates in the William D. Ford Federal Unsubsidized Stafford Loan and Federal Direct Graduate PLUS loan programs. For more information, please contact a Student Financial Services representative at 877-666-9485 or [email protected]

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