Author: Joe Harkins
Best known to many for its role in the U.S. invasion more than three decades ago, government officials in Grenada hope memory will serve St. George’s University and hospital facilities again.
“For doctors in the United States who’d like to come back, this is an opportunity to reverse our brain drain and serve both international and local patients with the best medical care,” said Dr. E. Angus Friday, Grenada’s Ambassador to the United States, who was among the government representatives convened from 25 nations to discuss medical tourism challenges and offer recommendations at the 5th Global Ministerial Summit, Sept. 21, 2014, in Washington, D.C.
Some in attendance at the medical tourism Summit may have known about Grenada only if they remembered the U.S. operation in 1983, when American troops liberated the island from Marxist forces and evacuated several hundred medical students from St. George’s. For those who were not aware, Friday gave a short lesson in history, claiming that St. George’s had grown from only a few hundred students at the time of the U.S. invasion to some 4,000 from 140 countries today.
“This is what it’s all about,” said Friday, referencing the Summit and the coinciding 7th World Medical Tourism & Global Healthcare Congress, Sept. 20-24, 2014, at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center. “As ambassadors, we don’t usually say this, but at the end of the day, we’re all here to sell our countries.”
Backed by $750 million in foreign funds, the hospital is expected to be the linchpin behind Grenada’s ambitious undertaking to attract medical tourism patients, train doctors, serve the local healthcare community and create jobs on the island.
The investment underscores the market opportunities for high-quality medical tourism and education in the Caribbean as more island nations improve healthcare infrastructure to attract international patients. To Grenada’s advantage, Friday said open slots at U.S. medical schools are dwarfed in comparison to the number of applications those institutions receive. Last year, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges, just less than 42 percent of the 48,010 applicants to U.S. medical schools enrolled.
St. George’s, which has programs in medicine and veterinary medicine, hopes to expand upon its global reach, said Chancellor Charles R. Modica. More than two-thirds of the 5,150 students in four-year M.D. program at St. George’s are Americans citizens, and almost all of them return to the United States for residency programs.
Friday said the idea is to get those students to return to Grenada once they become full-fledged doctors.
“We were at a point of recognizing that this could be so much more” than a training ground for U.S. doctors, said Modica.
Grenada also has plans for a “knowledge zone” and “medical park” that, when completed, is expected to attract universities and companies serving the information and communication technologies industry to the island.