Our Community - Dr. Jeffrey Sersland
"Fueled by a Field of Dreams"

The Island Newspaper, Ambergris Caye, Belize            Vol. 14, No. 19            June 10, 2004

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Dr. Jeffrey Sersland

Physicians are a necessity in any community. In order to realize the dream of becoming a doctor, countless hours of studying are required, demanding many sleepless nights and several years of education. However, molding students to become doctors is a completely different story. It is an intense job, one that requires patience and an overall love for the profession. This week, The San Pedro Sun is proud to introduce to you a person who puts all this and more into his career - Dr. Jeffrey S. Sersland.

    Jeffrey Sersland was born in Grand Forks, North Dakota, USA on July 11th, 1964, to Carol and Gerald Sersland. He grew up enjoying a carefree childhood with his brother and sister.

    Dr. Sersland attended Belmont Elementary School and after graduating, enrolled in South Junior High School. After successfully completing his junior high studies, he entered Central High School, where he enjoyed football, wrestling and playing ice hockey with his classmates. During junior high school and high school, Jeffrey did civil service work at the Grand Forks Water Maintenance Plant. He recalled doing "anything and everything" at the water plant. After graduating from Central High School in 1982, he followed, and supported, his childhood friend Virgil Hill, a former silver medal Olympian and light heavyweight champ in the world of boxing. During this time, Dr. Sersland was invited by his lifelong friend to be a "corner man" in a fight in Minnesota against Willie Mayberry. Additionally, "on the card" was Leon Spinx, a former heavyweight champion.

    A few years later, Dr. Sersland entered the University of North Dakota (UND) to study Political Science and Pre-law. After graduating with honors from UND in 1989, he married Renae Berg, and each went on to pursue a career in law. Dr. Sersland then enrolled in law school in Michigan but after a year of studies, realized that law was not his "cup of tea."

    Dr. Sersland next accepted a job with Unger and Associates, a Fortune 500 Company, to oversee Citibank's student loan portfolio. Working extensively and having to travel three hours to work everyday, Dr. Sersland decided to accept another offer, working at the College of DuPage as a Senior Financial Specialist. Within a year, he was promoted to Director of Financial Aid and worked closely with the board at the college.

    Sometime thereafter, Dr. Sersland and his wife, Renae, made a huge sacrifice and returned to school at UND to take on Pre-medical studies. Both, Jeffrey and Renae completed the two-year pre-med program in one year and began applying to medical schools. "The medical field is very competitive and even with a science grade point average of 3.61, it is not enough anymore to walk in the door of a university and study medicine. Nowadays you have to be in the top 97th percentile for any university to accept you," he stated. After being placed on an alternate list at UND, Dr. Sersland realized it was time to take some drastic measures and moved abroad to study medicine and accomplish his dream of becoming a physician.

    Dr. Sersland moved to Montserrat and registered at the American University of the Caribbean (AUC). Being in academics for many years, Dr. Sersland felt like he was not only attending medical school, but also doing fieldwork for establishing a school of his own. He recalled taking final examinations with a gas mask on, because the island's volcano had recently erupted. At that point, AUC moved to St. Maarten, and the upper classmen were temporarily relocated to Belize to finish their studies. Classes were conducted in rooms located above the Biltmore Hotel and the Atlantic Bank in downtown Belize City.

    Dr. Jeffrey visited Ambergris Caye for the first time in 1995, and instantly fell in love with the island and the people. It was at this time, that he began to plan a medical school for Belize. While still enrolled in school, Dr. Sersland petitioned the Belize Government for a charter to operate a medical school. When the charter was granted, he began the process of leasing property and acquiring faculty for a new medical school to be located in San Pedro Town. In September of 1997, Dr. Sersland opened St. Matthew's University (named after his best friend Matthew Uhrich of North Dakota). Soon after, the Government of Belize honored him with "The Pioneer Award" for establishing a medical school within the country of Belize. Meanwhile, Dr. Sersland ran operations out of California and England while completing his medical degree. In 1998, he returned to the island to directly oversee operations from this point onward. The school grew as planned but in June of 2001, Dr. Sersland was informed that the other shareholders (representing 56% of the company) no longer wanted to be in Belize. Dr. Sersland vowed to stay in Belize and continue supporting the people and the country as a whole.

    It was not long before Dr. Sersland received numerous requests to consult with other medical schools throughout the Caribbean. In the end, he decided to link with Dr. Fredrick of SABA and Medical University of the Americas-Nevis to establish another campus. In late January 2002, Dr. Sersland again began to see his dream take shape as the Medical University of the Americas Belize was established, this time, with the proper controls and protection. Dr. Sersland's proudest moment with the new school came as a result of one of his students, Ken Nguyen, scoring in the top 1% on the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE). Today, he is happy to say that MUA Belize has approximately 70 basic science students and 50 clinical students. With the assistance of friends and supporters, a new campus building was constructed in January of 2004. Dr. Sersland stated, "This is monumental in the sense that there are only six permanent campuses in the Caribbean, and MUA Nevis, Saba and Belize represent 50% of all permanent campuses in the Caribbean. This shows long-term commitment and vision for the students and the country in which we reside." In his free time, Dr. Sersland enjoys spending time with his family and traveling around Belize. "I love to travel within Belize and visit my good friends throughout the country," Dr. Sersland told The San Pedro Sun. Recently, he took on another responsibility as an owner of the San Pedro SeaHawks, the island's semi-professional team. "It is an exciting venture. I never thought that one day I would own and operate my own 'futbol' club. I love the enthusiasm and the fan support; it is just amazing to be part of such a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity." In the near future, Dr. Sersland plans to expand the university to include a Technical Training Program as well as a full-fledged graduate program. For the time being, he is content with the decisions he has made and the path destiny has led him down. "You can not stop dreaming, it is dreams that make one's life tolerable. No matter the adversity, never let anyone tell you, that you cannot fulfill your dreams," Dr. Sersland ended.

    Dr. Sersland is an entrepreneur willing to give as much as he can back to the people. An outstanding husband and father, with a sincere love for the country of Belize and its people, Dr. Jeffrey Sersland has "injected a healthy dose of knowledge" into "Our Community."

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