July 15, 2015 – Nearly $66,000 was raised by the Harlem community to fund scholarships for underrepresented minorities to attend Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine at the school’s second official “parlor” meeting hosted recently by attorneys John Lynch and Sylvia Khatcherian at their home on West 116th Street in Harlem.
The donations bring the total proceeds raised for the TouroCOM Fund for Underrepresented Minority Students to approximately $160,000.
“These events give the medical school a chance to introduce our student leaders to Harlem. Their stories and life experiences point to the need for generous support for such dedicated people in order to meet the needs of underserved medical communities,” said TouroCOM’s Executive Dean Robert Goldberg, DO.
Eighty invited guests attended, including political, judicial, medical and lay leaders from Harlem as well as Touro officials.
“We need your help to get more underrepresented minorities into TouroCOM, and to see that they graduate without crushing debt, so they come back into the community, work to improve public health, and make better role models and make us all better people,” said Touro President Dr. Alan Kadish. Dr. Kadish said 37 percent of Touro’s approximately 18,000 students at its 29 campuses are underrepresented minorities, but “we want more.”
In a reference to the mass shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina last month where nine people were killed, which is being investigated as a hate crime, President Kadish said education is the key to eventually eradicating bigotry and racism.
Other speakers agreed. Former Governor David Paterson, event chair and distinguished professor of health care and public policy at Touro said, “It is an honor to be part of an institution such as Touro, which has taken such an interest in making sure all the young people in the state get an education and that we start to fill in the areas that students are turning away from – science and technology and mathematics and other fields, and particularly medicine, where we do have a startling lack of doctors from the African American and minority communities.”
Dr. Hemant Patel, director of internal medicine at TouroCOM’s Family Health Center, who provided a generous challenge donation for the event, recounted his family’s personal story of being forced to leave Uganda by the government of Idi Amin. Patel grew up sharing a one-bedroom apartment in the Bronx with nine others across from Montefiore Hospital, dreaming one day he would work at the hospital.
“The only way to fight anything is to educate, educate and educate,” Dr. Patel said.
Gabrielle Jasmin, a second-year medical student who earned a master’s in Interdisciplinary Studies in Biological and Physical Sciences at TouroCOM before entering the DO program, told her story as well. Jasmin, whose family immigrated from Haiti, is president of the Student Government Association and a mentor to high school students interested in medicine. She said her family always emphasized the importance of education, particularly her mother, who worked as a home health aide.
“I wanted to shoot for the stars. I wanted to become a doctor. I wanted to leave an imprint on the community and that is what I try to embody every day in my life,” she said, adding that it was experiencing the 2010 earthquake in Haiti while on a medical mission there that cemented her drive towards medical school. “I had the privilege to witness firsthand what poverty really looks like.”
Rhoda Asimeng, another second-year student, serves as vice president of the student club Creating Osteopathic Minority Physicians who Achieve Scholastic Success (COMPASS); president of the Student National Medical Association (SNMA); and also mentors younger students interested in pursuing medicine.
Asimeng’s family immigrated from Ghana, West Africa – her father came first with $28 in his pocket. He worked in the meatpacking district until he was able to bring her mother and her six siblings to the U.S., where they shared a two bedroom apartment in the Bronx. She was able to get an education with the help of scholarships. She said when her parents passed away by the time she finished college, she strived to be a good role model for her siblings, and similarly has found the most satisfaction in her volunteer work in medical school, mentoring youth interesting in medicine.
“As a mentor…it is really is amazing,” she said. “My parents did not work [so] hard just for me to become a doctor. It’s more than that. It’s [being] a person of influence. If I can help in some way, that would be amazing.”
Second-year student Tatiana Carillo, who is president of COMPASS and vice president of the school’s Student Osteopathic Surgical Association (SOSA) chapter, told of being raised by a single mom in the South Bronx, surrounded by drug addicts and prostitution, where they lived in a studio apartment with her grandmother, cousins and a sister. She, too, made it through college on scholarships. After medical school, she said she wants to return to her former neighborhood.
“I want to come back to my area and say, ‘I was you and I can help you. What can I do?’ That’s where my home is. I want to be able to practice there and do outreach with my fellow physicians.”
Also speaking was Geoffrey Eaton, deputy chief of staff for Congressman Charles Rangel. Among the guests present were Franc Perry, civil court judge; Tanya Kennedy, supervising judge, civil court; Ms. Deneane Brown-Blackmon, director of Housing and Community Renewal, Manhattan Community Board 10; Ms. MacDella Cooper, professional model and philanthropist; Woody Pascal, deputy commissioner, Division of Housing and Community Renewal; Seven Brown, internationally licensed esthetician, educator and speaker at Harlem Skin Clinic; and Michael Hardy, executive vice president and general counsel, National Action Network.
For further information on Touro College, please go to:http://www.touro.edu/
Photo credit: L-R, TouroCOM student leaders Rhoda Asimeng, Gabrielle Jasmin and Tatiana Carillo.