Harlem Community Board Awards Grants to Minority Med Students

Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine (TouroCOM), in conjunction with the TouroCOM-Harlem Community Advisory Board (CAB), has awarded the first round of grants from its newly-established Fund for Underrepresented Minority Students. The Fund was created to provide scholarships to needy, deserving medical students who will work to improve the health and well-being of the citizens of Harlem and other medically underserved areas upon completion of medical school.

The scholarships, which total $8,019, have been awarded to five TouroCOM students and one community resident who aspires to become a physician. The TouroCOM students receiving awards, all of whom are working towards their DO (Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine) degrees, are Brian Barrett, Chantal Gomes, Dale-Marie Simpson, Patricia Jean-Charles, and Geoffrey Sanyi.

“The efforts of the Community Advisory Board and the donors to the TouroCOM Fund for Underrepresented Minority Students, will provide the school with greater flexibility in its efforts to recruit and retain qualified URM candidates,” said Geoffrey Eaton, a member of the TouroCOM-Harlem CAB.

Community Advisory Board Helps TouroCOM Meet Its Mission

The CAB was formed several years ago to provide a vehicle for communication between Harlem community leaders and the school in order to address mutual concerns and develop strategies to help the college meet its mission.

Other members of the CAB include: Hazel Dukes, President of the NAACP New York State Conference; C. Virginia Fields, President and CEO of the Black Leadership Commission On AIDS; Michael Hardy, Executive Vice President and General Counsel of the National Action Network; Lynn Holden, M.D., Associate Clinical Professor of Emergency Medicine at the Albert Einstein School of Medicine; Geoffrey Eaton, President of the NAACP Mid-Manhattan Branch and Deputy Chief of Staff, Congressman Charles B. Rangel; Icilma Fergus, M.D., Director of Cardiovascular Disparities at Mount Sinai Medical Center; Allyne Spinner, LCSW; John Crepsac, LCSW, CASAC; Martin Levine, DO, Associate Dean for Educational Development, TouroCOM; Walter Edwards, CEO, Full Spectrum of NY; Milton Haynes, M.D., Clinical Associate Professor of OB/GYN at NYU School of Medicine; and Jay Cowan, M.D.

“I Refused To Give Up”

The students submitted compelling personal statements to the CAB that cited financial dilemmas created by their successful pursuit of DO degrees, as well as barriers and roadblocks overcome to succeed thus far in medical school. They discussed values instilled through experiences early in life, and lessons learned from their chief role models as motivation for success in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles.

Fourth-year student Chantal Gomes grew up on Martha’s Vineyard and traces her early interest in medicine from following her grandfather in and out of hospitals as a child as he battled diabetes. She volunteered on the wards herself during high school and put herself on a premed track when she started college. After learning about osteopathic medicine through an outreach program, Mentoring in Medicine, she entered TouroCOM’s M.S. program in Interdisciplinary Studies in Biological and Physical Sciences, which offers a conditional entry to high-achieving students to the DO program. Long-term she plans a career in internal medicine.

On her journey to medical school Ms. Gomes said she faced obstacles that taught her to never give up or let anyone cause her to second-guess her abilities. “First it was organic chemistry and I was told that this was the class to weed out a lot of people…then it was the MCAT, which I was told that since I performed below average I would never pass the medical board exams. But I graduated at the top of the master’s program and here I am today having successfully passed on first attempt my boards,” she said. “Every challenge I faced pushed me even more. I refused to give up. I love my journey and the obstacles I overcame. Even more I love sharing my story with minority youth in an effort to motivate them.”

“I Was Meant to Be Here”

Second year student Patricia Jean-Charles grew up in West Hempstead, N.Y., the daughter of a physician, which peaked her initial interest in medicine. In high school she was able to shadow doctors through a national youth leadership group. She too had to overcome many challenges. TouroCOM accepted her into its M.S. pipeline program, which led her into the DO program as well. One day she hopes to work with the geriatric population.

Ms. Jean-Charles agreed if there’s one thing she’s learned from her experience of getting into medical school it’s to never give up on one’s dreams. “I have countless stories of doors being slammed in my face while trying to pursue medicine. A lot of the time I questioned if this path was the one for me, but I could never really see myself in any other career,” she said. “Each time I was told I wasn’t good enough I came back swinging and I never let that feeling of defeat surpass my yearning to become a doctor. When I received this scholarship I was ecstatic and almost in disbelief. It was a testament that I was meant to be here, and that all the hard work I put in meant something.”

Donations to the Fund began in the summer of 2012, with the TouroCOM-Harlem CAB mounting a full-fledged fundraising effort in 2013 that continues today and totals more than $170,000.00.

Since it’s opening in 2007, TouroCOM has become an integral part of the Harlem community. The school launched with a mission to improve the health of Harlem residents and has become a beacon in the struggle to provide opportunity for Harlem children who aspire to become physicians and attend medical school in their community. A total of 84 URM physicians graduated between 2011 and 2016, almost 11 percent of the total 795 graduates the school has produced to date.

For further information on Touro College, please go to www.touro.edu

Photo credit: Members of TouroCOM, TouroCOM-Harlem Community Advisory Board, and student scholarship winners at URM event.  Back row, L-R: Jerry Cammarata, Ph.D., CEO & Dean of Student Affairs, TouroCOM Middletown; CAB member Icilma V. Fergus, M.D.; Kenneth Steier, DO, Executive Dean TouroCOM New York and Dean, TouroCOM Middletown; Martin Diamond, DO, Interim Dean TouroCOM Harlem and Founding Dean/Dean Emeritus; John Palmer, Ph.D., TouroCOM Director of Community Affairs & Diversity; Nadege Dady, Ed.D, TouroCOM Dean of Student Affairs; and CAB member Milton O. C. Haynes, M.D.  Front Row: Touro College & University System Provost Patricia Salkin, J.D.; student award winners Patricia Jean-Charles (OMS II), Dale Marie Simpson (OMS III), Chantal Gomes (OMS IV); and CAB member Geoffrey Eaton, Deputy Chief of Staff, Congressman Charles B. Rangel.

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