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20 Years Reflection

July 23, 2019
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From the desk of the President, Dr Kallol Guha:

I started Saint James School of Medicine (SJSM) in 1999. This year SJSM completes 20 years. This milestone puts SJSM in a very elite category. We are one of the oldest Caribbean Medical Schools as well as one of the very few that commenced operations in the previous century.

When we started in 1999, we worked out of a hotel conference room with a little over 10 students. Today, we have two campuses on the islands, a head office in Chicago, several hospital partners, 1,500 students, and hundreds of SJSM graduates who are practicing in various disciplines of medicine across USA and Canada. We are also in an elite category of being accredited by both of the principal accrediting bodies that operate in the Caribbean. The success we have achieved has exceeded my wildest imaginap.

I am from India. I was not considered good enough for a higher education there. Nor was my family rich enough to send me abroad. But I was motivated. So in August 1969, I boarded an Iraq bound cargo ship from Bombay (at the time, Mumbai now) as a deck passenger with $3as passage money. In 15 days we landed in Iraq. From Iraq we went via land through seven countries all the way to Denmark travelling by any means we could. There I started my life as a dishwasher until I got into state subsidized education in the University of Copenhagen where I completed my first doctorate in Physiology followed by a second doctorate from the University of Kuopio in Finp.

I started Saint James as a way of giving back for all that I have received. I believe education in the US is too expensive. I wanted to give capable and motivated students a way to achieve their dreams. And that is Saint James.

One of the main reasons I started SJSM was having spent decades as an administrator and educator at Ross University and Saba SOM, I thought I could do better. In many respects I have! But going from being an employee to an entrepreneur, I understand that there is a lot more than meets the eye. My respect for these institutions is of the highest order, for what they have taught me, and the contributions they have made to making Caribbean Medical Schools mainstream.

This two decade long journey has not been without its trials and tribulations. We started on the Island of Bonaire, but due to political issues, we moved our Bonaire campus to St. Vincent. On hindsight this particular move was a blessing in disguise but at the time it was a cause of a lot of angst not only for our management team but also for our students. We were hit by a massive hurricane in 2017, which endangered our students. We have seen the evolution of the Caribbean Medical School industry which meant more and more regulation that we have to comply with. Over the years we have weathered reputational onslaughts from competitors (who I may point out don’t exists any more) who have spread misinformation, and in some cases still continue to do so. These may seem trivial, but from an administrative stand point, these are herculean tasks, that we have bested due to the strong belief in our mission, as well as a rock solid team, who keeps the students’ best interest in mind.

Another reason for our success is the alliances, acquaintances, and friendships that I have created along the way whether it's from the management teams of other schools, the students that I have taught in my extensive career spanning over 40 years, or some of the island governments we have had a very positive and fruitful relationship with. But what makes everything truly worth it, is even to this day when I walk into a hospital and a student can recognize me either as a professor or as an administrator and comes up to introduce themselves and discusses their successes as well as how grateful they are for the opportunity provided by SJSM. That truly makes everything worth it.

One thing that hasn’t changed in the last two decades is my outlook that I can do better. Everyday we challenge ourselves at SJSM. Whether its keeping tuition rates one of the lowest amongst all accredited Caribbean Medical Schools, or the best USMLE passing rates, I strongly believe there is a significant room for improvement. And no matter how competitive or challenging the outlook becomes I am confident that with our strong management team as well as our outstanding students we will weather any obstacles thrown our way and come out on top.

At this milestone, I’d like to express my sincere gratitude and appreciation to the entire team at SJSM. We are extremely thankful to all of our employees, faculty and staff – past and present – with whom we have proudly worked side-by-side as we continually endeavor to help them and support the mission of the school. Thank you for helping make SJSM a great company now and for decades to come.

Here’s to looking forward to another 20 years!

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