Photo contributed The St. George’s University School of Medicine, based in the picturesque capitol of the Caribbean nation of Grenada, has sent a considerable number of students to practice in the Fresno area.
Written by Donald A. Promnitz
As Fresno and the Central Valley battle to fill empty slots in the health care industry, the region has been able to get some relief from — of all places — a medical school in Grenada.
That’s because in recent years, St. George’s University School of Medicine has seen 45 of its graduates come to Fresno to begin their residencies in the last five years. This includes five graduates in the Saint Agnes Medical Center Internal Medicine program alone in the last year. Located in St. George’s, the Grenadian capitol, the medical school currently has more than 5,500 students attending.
The university’s medical school began in 1976 as a way to provide the needed medical school education to aspiring doctors who had trouble finding admissions in the United States. This has garnered a reputation of being a “second chance” school, but according to Dr. Fred Jacobs, executive vice president of St. George’s and chair of the Department of Medicine, they’re anything but a haven for rejects.
“The truth is that most of those students were not substandard applicants — there were just too many good applicants for the spots there were,” Jacobs said. “So most of these students who didn’t get in, it wasn’t that they weren’t qualified… there just weren’t enough spots.”
Actually, he argued that the school’s graduates — including his son — are not only just as qualified, but highly sought after. As evidence, he pointed to the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) Step 1 tests taken by St. George students after their second academic year. It’s the same exam taken by all medical students wishing to practice in the United States, and with a pass rate of just over 96.2 percent, they’re above the national average.
Among these is Tyra Reece, who will be graduating with her M.D. in June. Originally from Long Beach, she said that life on the island was a difficult adjustment, but she had to adapt quickly if she wanted to succeed.
“But once you get over there, you have to get in the setting of just studying for 14 hours,” Reece said. “So that initial shock of not being in the United States kind of gets out of you because you kind of have to start getting going.”
However, the studying and hard work haven’t gone unrewarded or unnoticed, and Reece will be starting a residency at UCSF Fresno after graduating, with three of her fellow St. George alumni.
“The metric that matters is the product that you’re producing… is a medical school graduate acceptable to a residency director, who will one day be a practicing physician,” Jacobs said. “And we produce more practicing physicians than any other medical school in the world.”