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2023 Year in Review: Achievements of UMHS faculty, students & alumni

Posted by Scott Harrah
December 21, 2023

2023 was a proverbial banner year for UMHS, with the best Match Day ever, the return of the Global Health Institute to give students experience in humanitarian healthcare work in developing nations, many webinars and livestreams for current and prospective students on important medical issues and career possibilities. UMHS students, faculty, staff and alumni made us all proud with their outstanding achievements in medical education, medicine, research, social outreach and more. Our students, faculty and alumni achieved many new things in St. Kitts, the USA and Canada

The UMHS Endeavour takes a look back at 2023 with a sample of just a few outstanding achievements of students, alumni and faculty.

Zach Match DayUMHS had one of its best Match Days ever in 2023, with students securing residencies spanning 11 medical specialties across 24 states & territories. Pictured: Dr. Zach Vandeveer. He matched in Interventional Radiology at Spectrum Health in Michigan. Photo courtesy of Dr. Vandeveer.

Best Match Day ever

Match Day is an exciting time around the UMHS community as our graduating students celebrate the successful completion of medical school and look ahead to a brand-new adventure. This year, UMHS celebrated one of the most successful Match Days in the school’s history. Students from the Class of 2023 secured residencies spanning 11 medical specialties across 24 states and territories, including multiple matches in California, Texas, Michigan, and Puerto Rico, and the school’s first matches in Oregon and New Hampshire.

In a message to students, UMHS President Warren Ross celebrated the 2023 Match Results, noting that students secured residencies in highly coveted programs at top-notch teaching hospitals. UMHS students entering this year’s Match earned residency positions in primary care specialties spanning internal medicine, family medicine, pediatrics, psychiatry, and surgery, as well as specialized programs including emergency medicine, pathology, anesthesiology, neurology, and diagnostic radiology.

“Congratulations to this year’s graduates on the best Match Day in our school’s history,” said President Ross. “The quality of programs our students matched into is vast and impressive, including our first residency at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, the Mayo Clinic in Florida, Tulane University, and Albert Einstein in Pennsylvania. Your hard work, dedication, and perseverance have paid off. Amazing. Congratulations!”

While medical school requires extraordinary focus and resolve to make students’ dreams of becoming practicing physicians a reality, this year’s graduates overcame additional hurdles since many students were studying basic science on the UMHS campus in St. Kitts when the Covid-19 pandemic erupted. This graduating class continued their studies remotely, completed clinical rotations during multiple Covid surges, and persevered through challenging circumstances. 

“The wide breadth of UMHS students’ achievements in acquiring residencies in unusually challenging times demonstrates the grit, determination, and medical aptitude of this graduating class,” said Ross. “We wish them all the best as they continue their journey to becoming highly skilled and compassionate physicians.”

Click here to view the complete 2023 Match Results.


Dr Nagappa and Med4You team-1UMHS Global Health Institute Director Dr. Jaggadeesh Nagappa with Med4You students in Costa Rica. Photo courtesy of TK.

 UMHS Med4You Club brings healthcare to Costa Rica

UMHS students from the Med4You club traveled to Costa Rica in late April as part of a mission trip with the UMHS Global Health Institute and Vida Volunteers to bring badly needed healthcare services to an MUA (medically underserved area) in the Central American nation.

The UMHS Endeavour spoke to three students—Roberto K. Negron Laguna, EBS5 and Neishalis Muniz, EBS4 and Jairo J. Camacho Rivera, EBS5 and Med4You President Spring 2023 and DIRIG Vice President Spring 2023— about the trip and how working with patients in a remote area of Costa Rica was such a valuable learning experience, and why there is a need to continue doing humanitarian healthcare work in developing countries. We also spoke to Dr. Jagadeesh Nagappa, a UMHS Professor of Physiology who is the Director of the Global Health Institute and advisor to the student organization Med4You. Dr. Nagappa and the UMHS Global Health Institute and Med4You are planning upcoming medical mission trips to MUAs in various countries.

We asked three UMHS students who were part of the Costa Rica mission trip about why they wanted to help medically underserved patients in the Central American country. Below are highlights from students who participated in the trip.

Robeto with Isaac.jpegUMHS student Roberto K. Negron Laguna, ESB5, works with a young patient named Isaac in Costa Rica. Photo courtesy of UMHS Med4You.

For Roberto K. Negron Laguna, ESB5, the Costa Rica mission trip helped him learn about the healthcare needs of people in need.

“I have always been interested in helping people in many ways, for me as a person I understand that you can help anyone with a ‘good morning’ or ‘how are you?” as simple as it sounds it can change anyone’s perspective on their day or even life,” Mr. Negron Laguna said. “The little things matter. Being in medical school has solidified my perspective and the idea of helping others. Since then, my thoughts have changed in how to help someone in a distressed situation. I would think going to Costa Rica as a medical student might be scary, I was doubting myself. Not sure as a medical student if I was going to be able to help the patients in distress. Many thoughts come to your mind as in what you might encounter or what your challenges may be. However, the urges and fire that I had inside my heart helped me overcome that fear and those thoughts. I have two amazing parents who raised me, and since I have a memory, I have seen how my parents always help others. It’s like a tattoo that gets imprinted on yourself, as a person I have always tried to copy them. What’s better than flying somewhere during school break to go outside of your comfort zone to the aid of someone that you don’t know and have never seen in your life. I found that there is no better feeling and reason to not go and help someone in distress. That fire and urge my parents embedded in me is what drove me to go to Costa Rica and complete this humanitarian mission.”


group picNeishalis Muniz briefing one of the doctors from the clinic, discussing what they thought a potential diagnosis was & what treatment to give the patient. Photo: Courtesy of Neishalis Muniz. 

Neishalis Muniz, EBS4, also had a great experience in Costa Rica.

I went from April 25 to May 1st,” Ms. Muniz said. “My main reason for going to Costa Rica was because I always wanted to be part of Doctors Without Borders. I myself have done mission trips and large community events to help people. However, my interest in Costa Rica was that it was a new place I have never visited before. I love to help those in need and I feel like it's our job as future doctors, as humans, to help those in need if you have the opportunity to do so. I happily would’ve gone to any place as long the criteria was to help patients. Also, I love to see how there can be differences in health care, in comparison with different countries. I was open to anything and was interested to learn and grow in my skills and in my experiences.


Jairo with Med4You team in Costa RicaUMHS student & Med4You president Jairo J. Camacho Rivera, ESB5 with Med4You students in Costa Rica. Photo courtesy of Med4You.

Jairo J. Camacho Rivera, ESB5 and Med4You president, also found the Costa Rica trip rewarding.

Since I joined UMHS, I have always heard about different students having the experience of going abroad and serving other countries and at the same time putting into practice the knowledge that they have learned until then,” he said. “Therefore, when last semester we as the Executive Board decided that the Costa Rica Trip was going to take place, I didn’t think twice about it and joined them. I don’t regret my decision. Attending this trip helped me after two years of being a medical student to reaffirm that this is my passion. Not only I was able to do what I love, but I was able to put into practice all I have learned and give the patient a piece of knowledge so they can modify their life.   

Learn more about the Costa Rica trip on the UMHS Instagram feed.

For information on Med4You, please email

 Dr Nagappa 3-1

UMHS professor Dr. Jagadeesh Nagappa (standing) working with a patient at a clinic in Costa Rica. Dr. Nagappa is the Director of the UMHS Global Health Institute. Photo courtesy of Dr. Nagappa.

UMHS Global Health Institute returns

After a long absence due to the COVID-19 pandemic, UMHS started its Global Health Institute once again, working with the student body in the group Med4You, first established by a UMHS student in 2017. Dr. Jagadeesh Nagappa, the Director of the UMHS Global Health Institute, will soon be organizing more medical mission trips around the world, working with the Med4You student organization.

"This Global Health initiative, supported and funded by the UMHS administration, provides students with practical and immersive training that encompasses diverse cultural and clinical aspects, expands knowledge about other cultures, and helps them gain a deeper understating of global health, and their personal development," Dr. Nagappa said. "Also, students have the opportunity to collaborate with physicians, participating in the diagnosis, treatment, and education of patients in diverse geographical locations around the world and locally in St. Kitts."

UMHS students participating in the mission trips get hands-on experience working with medically underserved communities.

"Through this program, students can observe a wide range of clinical cases, including diseases that are specific to the communities (countries) they visit, as well as general conditions found worldwide," Dr. Nagappa said. "Importantly, the medical program enhances students' cross-cultural communication skills, fosters respect for people from different backgrounds, and fills them with a sense of satisfaction that they are contributing to the rural communities where health services are not available."

Med4You has successfully organized several international medical volunteer trips, each trip consisting of approximately 15-22 students and two faculty members. Past trips are listed below:

  • Zacapa, Guatemala in 2017.
  • Antigua, Guatemala in 2018.
  • Puerto Rico in 2018.
  • Boca Chica, Dominican Republic in 2018.
  • Lima, Peru in 2019.
  • Liberia, Costa Rica in 2019.
  • Liberia, Costa Rica in 2023.


UMHS will launch a new Global Health Institute website in 2024.

 Pathways to Practicing Medicine-PR

Promo for the UMHS livestream "Pathways to Practicing Medicine in Puerto Rico," held on June 13, 2023. Image: UMHS files.

UMHS livestreams: From medical specialties to practicing in Canada & Puerto Rico

UMHS continued its ongoing series of medical livestreams on YouTube and social media, offering current and prospective students insight into different medical specialties like anesthesiology and the differences between Primary Care specialties like internal medicine and family medicine to LGBTQ+ healthcare to pathways to practicing medicine in Canada and Puerto Rico.

Anesthesiology livestream Jan 23

Medical Specialty Spotlight: What is an Anesthesiologist?

Back in January 2023,  UMHS 2014 graduates Aashish Jay Kumar, M.D., D.ABA, Chief Medical Officer, Interventional Spine & Pain Specialist at Spine & Pain Specialists of the Carolinas, PLLC in Charlotte, NC & Andrew Albert Letayf, M.D., Vice Chief Anesthesiologist, Chief of Pediatric Anesthesiology, Director of Obstetrical Services, Envision Physician Services at Bethesda East & West Hospitals in Boynton Beach, FL, were a dynamic duo for an informative livestream "Medical Specialty Spotlight: What is an Anesthesiologist?".  The virtual event everything current and prospective med students need to know about anesthesiology as a career.

Canada Livestream - 7.18.23

Pathways to Practicing Medicine in Canada

Geneviève Gagné, UMHS Associate Director of Admissions - Canada, hosted the livestream "Pathways to Practicing Medicine in Canada,"  back in July 2023. Geneviève moderated a panel discussion featuring Dr. Aaron Hoo, a UMHS graduate and practicing physician in Vancouver, and Dr. Shamim Khan, a UMHS graduate and Clinic Owner at Maple Forest Family Physicians in Vaughan, Ontario. The doctors discussed their individual journeys to medical school, described their pathways to practicing medicine in Canada, reviewed key differences between practicing medicine in the United States and Canada, and provided tips for students hoping to establish a medical practice in Canada. The event included  a Q&A offering viewers a chance to ask the panelists questions.

Pathways to Practicing Medicine in Puerto Rico

In June 2023, Earl Mainer, Senior Associate Director of Admissions for UMHS, hosted a special live tream event, “Pathways to Practicing Medicine in Puerto Rico: How UMHS St. Kitts is Training the Next Generation of Doctors."

Earl lead a panel discussion featuring Andy Adler, a current UMHS student from Puerto Rico, Dr. Carlos Villanueva Soto, a recent graduate who  placed into a highly competitive residency at the University of Puerto Rico, Dr. Anelyn Martinez Rodriguez, a psychiatry resident at San Juan VA Medical Center, and Dr. Eric Adler, a UMHS parent and an esteemed plastic surgeon in private practice in Puerto Rico. The event covered topics including what students should consider when looking at medical schools, how UMHS helps Puerto Rican students to be successful, work experience and residency opportunities in Puerto Rico, and what it’s like to practice medicine in Puerto Rico.


Primary Care Spotlight promo for Oct 24 

Primary Care Spotlight: Internal Medicine vs. Family Medicine

In October 2023, UMHS Alumni Association President and Family Medicine Physician Dr. Kristin Miller (Class of 2012) from Mercy Hospital in Yukon, OK joined UMHS grads Dr. Billy Zhang (Class of 2018), an Internal Medicine Physician from Providence St. Joseph Heritage Medical Group in Irvine, CA and Dr. Valeria Fomitcheva (Class of 2019), an Internal Medicine Physician in private practice in Baltimore, MD.  On the livestream "Primary Care Spotlight: Internal Medicine vs. Family Medicine,"  the doctors shared heir insights on the differences between family medicine & internal medicine. The panelists talked about the challenges and opportunities associated with both career paths, and how they made a difference in large and small communities due to the doctor shortage. The doctors discussed how to be successful financially as a physician and have a positive impact on patients’ lives.

LGBTQ+ Med 6.2023

LGBTQ+ Full Spectrum Care

In honor of Pride Month back on June 21, 2023, UMHS Class of 2018 grad  Søren Estvold, MD, MPH hosted a special livestream event, "LGBTQ+MED: Full Spectrum Care,"  a virtual lecture about the various unique healthcare needs of the LGBTQ+ community. This was the third year in a row that Dr. Estvold hosted an LGBTQ+ Medicine livestream during Pride Month. Dr. Estvold completed a family medicine residency at Augusta University Medical Center in Georgia this year. Dr. Estvold is now in a Sports Medicine fellowship at Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield, CA.

fall health fair St KittsUMHS Med4You student volunteers at a Fall Health Fair in St. Kitts. Photo courtesy of UMHS Med4You.

UMHS student volunteer work on social media

Although UMHS students are quite busy with their studies, they still find time to give back to the community in St. Kitts and elsewhere. Our team of gifted UMHS Student Media Ambassadors spent 2023 posting about all kinds of events on the St. Kitts and Maine campuses as well as in clinical rotations. If you are not doing so already, be sure to follow UMHS on Instagram and TikTok and Facebook as well as X (Twitter) , LinkedIn and subscribe to our YouTube channel. Look for the hashtag #UMHSGivesBack to find the many posts from UMHS students showcasing their volunteer efforts and service activities throughout 2023.

UMHS Soccer for a CauseUMHS students & the Oncology Awareness Medical Student Association (OAMSA) rallied together for "Soccer for a Cause," a day of fun & fundraising on the St. Kitts campus. OAMSA hosts this tournament every trimester, & each time all  proceeds are donated to a cancer patient. The 2023 tournament's proceeds were given to a patient at the MD Anderson Cancer Center. Photo courtesy of UMHS OAMSA.

Links to UMHS 2023 student events on the official UMHS Instagram feed


(Top photo, above): UMHS alumni, faculty & students & top news makers of 2023. (Clockwise from far left) "UMHS Primary Care Spotlight: Internal Medicine vs. Family Medicine"; UMHS graduate ('17) & plastic surgery fellow Dr. John Trangucci; UMHS alumnus Dr. Soren Estvold ('18), host of an LGBTQ+ Medicine livestream in June; Dr. Kristin Miller, UMHS Alumni Association President & Family Medicine Physician; UMHS student Andres Adler & dad Dr. Eric Adler; Internal Medicine Physician & UMHS grad Dr. Valeria Fomitcheva ('17); UMHS Canadian grads Dr. Aaron Hoo ('16) & Dr. Shamim Khan ('17), panelsits on the livestream "Pathways to Practicing Medicine in Canada"; promo for "Medical Specialty Spotlight: What is an Anesthesiologist?" livestream with UMHS grads Dr. Jay Kumar & Dr. Andrew Letayf; (middle far right section, left to right) UMHS OAMSA Soccer for a Cause participants in St. Kitts; Dr. Nagappa & UMHS Med4You students at a Costa Rica medical mission; (middle far left section, left to right) UMHS Med4You students at a health fair in St. Kitts; Dr. Zachary Vandeveer on Match Day 2023; (bottom section left to right) "I Matched" for Match Day 2023; Dr. Andrew Letayf & Dr. Jay Kumar, panelists on the anesthesiology livestream; UMHS Med4You students in Costa Rica on a medical mission; UMHS student Roberto K. Negron Laguna with Dr. Nagappa with Vida Volunteers in Costa Rica; "Pathways to Practicing Medicine in Puerto Rico" promo. Collage by Natasha Vass.

Posted by Scott Harrah

Scott is Director of Digital Content & Alumni Communications Liaison at UMHS and editor of the UMHS Endeavour blog. When he's not writing about UMHS students, faculty, events, public health, alumni and UMHS research, he writes and edits Broadway theater reviews for a website he publishes in New York City,

Topics: UMHS News Feature

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