Harlem community leaders and Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine (TouroCOM) founders and their supporters packed the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem Wednesday night to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the school’s opening in Harlem and their joint efforts in educating.All proceeds from the Gala will go towards funding additional scholarships for URMs.
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To rousing applause, Dr. Hazel Dukes, president of the NAACP New York State Conference, who is both a founder of the TouroCOM-Harlem Community Advisory Board (CAB) and was honored at the event, renewed the CAB’s commitment made ten years ago to help TouroCOM educate minority doctors and address health disparities by serving the underserved.
“I decided that I would be a voice for Touro and tonight, 10 years later, I’m still committed to make sure that…our board will continue the same legacy,” Dr. Dukes said. “Health is wealth and we are committed to making sure that everyone receives quality health care and Touro is on the road to making that happen. They are committed and we renew our commitment.”
Following Dr. Dukes, Dr. Alan Kadish, president of Touro College and University system, reinforced the message, “Disparity cannot be allowed to continue. We need to continue to work together to make sure all citizens have equal access to excellent health care, as our graduates have provided, and that they have role models,” the president said. “We’ve done a lot but we need to more. We want to make sure students are not inhibited from studying medicine because they can’t afford it.”
In addition to providing guidance to the school and serving as a liaison to the Harlem community, the CAB established a scholarship fund that prior to the Gala raised more than $170,000 that resulted in 15 scholarships to URM students.
Numbers Show Success
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The numbers show TouroCOM’s success. According to the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine, an average of 7.86 percent of students enrolled in osteopathic medical schools between 2009 and 2017 were URMs, whereas TouroCOM enrolled nearly double that number during the same period, an average percent of 13.98 URMs.
Since its inception, the school has graduated 116 DOs (Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine) who are URMs. Additionally, over half of TouroCOM’s 868 graduates who went on to residencies ended up in primary care, which includes family medicine, internal medicine, OB/GYN and pediatrics. Of the graduates, close to 30 percent undertook residencies in underserved communities or primary care shortage areas.
The festive evening included appearances by numerous high profile leaders in Harlem and NYC, including former Mayor David Dinkins, former Gov. David Paterson, and the five original members of the TouroCOM-Harlem Community Advisory Board being honored: Dr. Dukes; the Hon. C. Virginia Fields, president and CEO, National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS, Inc.; Geoffrey E. Eaton, president, NAACP Mid-Manhattan Branch; Walter J. Edwards, CEO of Full Spectrum of N.Y., LLC, and Michael A. Hardy, Esq., General Counsel, EVP, National Action Network
TouroCOM founders honored were Dr. Bernard Lander, OBM, founding president Touro College; Martin Diamond, DO, founding dean; Sheldon Sirota, DO, OBM; Thomas J. Monahan, M.A., past executive secretary, NY State Bd. Of Medicine; and Jay Sexter, Ph.D., founding CEO.
After a cocktail reception with jazz music provided by The Phil Young Experience, the awards program opened with a 10th Anniversary Video. Alumni shared how their education made them want to serve local communities and help the underserved. Founders talked about how the CAB helped the school succeed in its mission to serve those in need.
Awards were then presented to honorees, accompanied by more videos.
“A lot of our brightest and best sometimes have a hard time getting the grades to get to medical school. At TouroCOM [a] master’s program has really given them that extra help our people need to survive to get into medical school and be successful and we’re making history,” noted CAB member/honoree Geoffrey Eaton.
Pursuing the Mission
Several alumni attended the Gala, as well as a URM scholarship recipient, 4th year student Dale Marie Simpson-McKie, who is finishing her rotations at Stony Brook Southampton Hospital. “I feel a strong pride for TouroCOM and am inspired to continue to embody the values and mission of Touro as I continue in residency in my career,” said Ms. Simpson-McKie, who is interviewing for residencies in emergency medicine and hopes to work in an underserved area. “The scholarship meant an opportunity to complete my dream. One of the greatest obstacles in medical school is the financial commitment.”
“It was a joyful evening celebrating TouroCOM, those who were integral in its inception and the wonderful community it serves,” said Patricio Guaiquil, a native of Chile and a resident in family medicine at Jamaica Hospital in Queens. “As an alumnus, I take great pride in the training I received and look forward to practicing family medicine in diverse underserved communities, true to our mission statement.”
Dr. David Forstein, newly-appointed Dean of TouroCOM, said he would work aggressively to develop pipeline programs and work to make other Touro schools, including Touro College of Pharmacy, Touro College of Dental Medicine and School of Health Sciences, accessible in Harlem. He also said he will work to start a Touro Center for Osteopathic Family Medicine and Pediatrics in Harlem.
“If you want to be of value to the community, you have to be of service in the community,” Dean Forstein said.
For further information on Touro College, please go to: www.touro.edu