At a festive gathering at Harlem’s famed Apollo Theater last week, the Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine graduated its sixth class, conferring diplomas upon 123 candidates for the doctor of osteopathic medicine (DO) degree. The hall was packed with the graduates’ families and friends for the jubilant ceremony, at which the new doctors were reminded by their keynote speaker that medicine is changing rapidly and they must “adapt…adapt…adapt…”
“If you are adaptable, if you are flexible, if you remain open to learning new skills, new methods, new approaches to the practice of medicine, then you will succeed,” Ramanathan Raju, M.D., president and CEO of NYC Health+ Hospitals told the graduates. “Because medicine is in a constant state of creative flux.”
Dr. Raju said the healthcare landscape the graduates will be practicing in will shift from one that is “hospital-centric” to one that is characterized by chronic disease management, preventive health, and ambulatory care.
“You’ll experience more standardization and less autonomy..and the need to follow best practice guidelines,” he said. “The empowered patient safety movement is forcing health care to be more accountable and safer than ever before….increasingly, outcomes will be the source of reimbursement rather than volume. Our results will be closely scrutinized and publicized as never before.”
Dr. Raju cautioned, “We can get out in front of these changes or we can be dragged along kicking and screaming. We can be change agents or we can be vilified in public opinion” for refusing to embrace change, advising the graduates he was sure they would “make the right [choice] because helping patients and embracing changes that will improve their health is the reason we went into medicine.”
Most of the graduates will be heading to residencies at selective hospitals renowned for their excellent training, and indeed half of the class chose primary care. Slightly over half are staying in the New York metropolitan area with a majority working in medically underserved communities.
Executive Dean Robert Goldberg expressed his optimism about the Class of 2016, and congratulated them on their success. He reminded them of the competition they faced for their seats – only one out of 60 applicants were chosen. He described the interview process as a key element, during which the school was looking for “the secret sauce,” as he explained it. “We asked ourselves, ‘When we blend this together can we produce something that’s going to work for the future?’ Looking at you today we know that we did a good job.”
Congratulating the new doctors on behalf of Touro President Dr. Alan Kadish, Provost Patricia Salkin also touched on the theme of change, noting that the future doctors’ patients will be confronted with health challenges that today may not even be known, but that the graduates have committed themselves to a lifetime of education and self-directed learning.
“We are proud to be associated with you because you have committed yourselves to a career in the service to others. They will look to you for hope…for relief…to raise their spirits. Now it is your turn…to make a difference one person at a time,” she said.
Numerous awards were presented. Marta Wronska received the Dean’s Award for the highest academic standing, as well as the Excellence in the Preclinical Years Award; Aldo Manresa received the Excellence in the Clinical Years Award; and Gabrielle Rozenberg received the DO Student of the Year Award.
Founding Dean and Dean Emeritus Martin Diamond, DO, received the Sheldon Sirota Medal, established in recognition of Sheldon Sirota, DO, for his tireless efforts in establishing four colleges of osteopathic medicine and other programs.
Two graduates, Jemima Akinsanya and Jean Shiraki, won the Medical Society of the State of New York (MSSNY) Community Service Award. Dr. Akinsanya focused on helping underrepresented minorities gain a foothold in medicine and mentoring youth in Harlem who might one day want to pursue a career in health or science. Dr. Shiraki donated her time helping students learn the policy process as well as service. She took on leading roles in the American Medical Association and MSSNY, where she directed programs and advocated on issues affecting minority communities.
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