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Doctors-to-be celebrate, after weathering 2 hurricanes

A group of aspiring doctors is finally celebrating their White Coat Ceremony after enduring the devastation that Hurricane Irma and Maria brought to their university campus in the Caribbean island of Dominica. On a now-viral photo, the doctors-to-be are seen happily celebrating; only a few months ago, they were not sure what the future would bring.


The Ross University School of Medicine, Dominica, campus was destroyed, much like the island after the hurricanes in September. The university’s administration quickly rolled out a “floating campus” on board a ship, to house the students while they finished the fall semester.

The RUSM “floating campus” housed students, faculty, and staff after the hurricanes. (Photo:Charlie Spell)
The Dominica campus was destroyed by Hurricane Maria. (Photo: Charlie Spell)

Charlie Spell IV, is one of the students pictured. He shares with Yahoo Lifestyle that he is proud of his colleagues for remaining strong amid adversity.

“Our White Coat Ceremony was long overdue, considering the myriad obstacles we had to overcome to have the ceremony,” he says. “Hurricane Irma first postponed our ceremony because it delayed travels of our family members to the island. A week or so later, Hurricane Maria showed her face and wreaked havoc on the island of Dominica, causing our entire campus to be evacuated via ferry to the neighboring island of St. Lucia.”

Spell, alongside his 1,400 classmates, is now completing his fall semester medical sciences curriculum on a cruise ship ported off the island of St. Kitts.

Spell says the ship “has been an unparalleled experience itself.”

The 24-year-old graduated from Morehouse College in Atlanta, but calls Memphis, Tenn., his home. He plans on opening a practice in his hometown after graduation, as he wants to give back to his community.

“I decided to pursue a career in medicine,” he says, “because I have a passion for improving the general welfare of mankind and I recognize the impact of instilling positive health habits as a means of promoting preventative care.”

The students will relocate to Knoxville, Tenn., to continue their studies come spring semester. Lincoln Memorial University will serve as the new facility for the Ross University School of Medicine.

“I am proud of my colleagues and the Ross administration for remaining strong and not allowing a series of unfortunate events to deter us from achieving our goals,” says Spell. “It has been a rough journey, but sustainable.”

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