The Miami Herald
December 25, 2000

Medical school operates on its image

Institution in Grenada emerges as Caribbean educational force

 The Boston Globe

 TRUE BLUE POINT, Grenada -- It was a tiny, offshore medical school thrust into
 the Cold War when U.S. troops stormed this island nation in 1983 to rescue U.S.
 students from an unstable socialist government.

 Back then, St. George's Medical School was little more than a cluster of
 trailer-style buildings tucked into a lush tropical hillside, a haven for aspiring
 doctors who couldn't get into a stateside program.

 Now St. George's is in the midst of a transformation that officials here hope will
 change its image as a sleepy refuge for second-tier U.S. students into a truly
 Caribbean university.

 ``This is a school that has withstood battles before, mostly with people who
 doubted us,'' Charles Modica, St. George's founder and president, said in an
 interview. ``But we see an opportunity now to become more pan-Caribbean while
 still being a top-notch medical school.''

 St. George's ambitions are well-timed. The number of high school graduates
 produced every year by the Caribbean's two dozen countries has grown to about
 125,000. Some study in Cuba, Puerto Rico or the Dominican Republic, but most
 traditionally go to the University of the West Indies, which has campuses in
 Jamaica, Trinidad and Barbados.

 Over the last five years, the school has undergone an expansion that would be
 considered dramatic for any university. In a $42 million overhaul, funded mostly by
 tuition and loans from investors, it has added libraries, classrooms,
 state-of-the-art laboratories and beachside dormitories.


 The result has been the birth of a small city of salmon-colored buildings on the
 southern end of the island. Enrollment has surged to more than 2,100, compared
 with about 600 at the time of the 1983 military intervention.

 When trustees recently decided to shut down the English program -- one of
 several new undergraduate programs targeted at Caribbean students -- because
 only three students had signed up, St. George's ran into criticism from the
 normally supportive Grenadian government. Authorities have pressed for the
 university to admit more local students.

 Caribbean students make up about 13 percent of St. George's undergraduate
 enrollment and 4 percent at the medical school.

 Grenada's government agreed to expand the school's charter in 1996 to let St.
 George's become a full-fledged university, adding new undergraduate and
 graduate programs. Although the medical school still draws the most students,
 St. George's now offers studies in veterinary medicine, business administration,
 public health and marine biology.


 The average grade-point average for entering students this year was 3.4 on a
 scale of 4.0, just below the 3.5 average in U.S. medical schools. Of the graduates
 who take the standard medical licensing exam for the first time, 93 percent of St.
 George's graduates pass, slightly higher than the average of U.S. medical

 Faculty and administrators say students here are talented enough to study
 medicine but often unfairly rejected by narrow admission standards at U.S.
 medical schools, and students flourish in St. George's ``problem-based'' medical
 instruction, which combines American and European teaching styles.

 Students say the novelty of Grenada's beaches and year-round surfing wears off

 ``My friends all think I'm kicking back, drinking piña coladas and having a great
 time,'' said Baher Maximos, a 22-year-old from Ontario, Calif. ``But . . . there's not
 much to do here in Grenada except study, so that's what you end up doing the
 most. This isn't Cancún.''

 Robert Crone, dean of international programs at Harvard Medical School, said
 there was plenty of skepticism when programs like St. George's were developed.
 ``That's not necessarily the case now,'' he said.