At a celebratory gathering that included bagpipes, an electric piano and a flutist, the Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine (TouroCOM) conferred diplomas upon 126 members of the Class of 2018 on May 29th at the Apollo Theater in Harlem. The mood dominating the ceremonies was one of joy, optimism, excitement, and especially gratitude – for the support of families, friends, loved ones, faculty, administration and others who helped and encouraged the graduates during medical school.
Keynote speaker COL Kevin C. O’Connor, DO, associate professor of medicine and director of executive medicine at The George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences, embraced that message and took it a step further in telling the graduates to be “good” doctors – not “great” doctors. “You were taught to be ‘good’ by the people in this theatre today. The things that make you good are the intangibles,” he said. “Good doctors make eye contact, and are active listeners. Good doctors truly empathize and take on small portions of their patients’ suffering – enough to be ‘effected’. Good doctors genuinely love their patients. Love your patients with abandon. Make yourselves available to them.”
Dr. O’Connor urged the class to collaborate with colleagues, and remember the faculty and residents and everyone they will learn from. “Self-identify as a patient advocate. Nobody flies solo – now more than ever,” he said, concluding, “Always remember those patients because without them you’re just really a sucker with a really expensive white coat.”
About 55 percent of the class, 69 graduates, will become residents in primary care, which includes internal medicine, pediatrics, family medicine and OB/GYN. The remainder will be residents in anesthesiology, radiology, psychiatry, emergency medicine, general surgery or have rotating internships. They will be joining top tier academic medical centers, many in New York but also around the country, including the University of Massachusetts School of Medicine, New York Medical College, Montefiore Medical Center, Icahn School of Medicine at Beth Israel, New York Presbyterian, and University Hospitals/Cleveland Medical Center. Approximately 70 percent will be serving the underserved and 21 graduates, 17 percent of the class, are underrepresented minorities – two cornerstones of TouroCOM’s mission.
“Finding Health” Makes DOs Unique
In his welcoming address, Dean David Forstein, DO, told the graduates, “You have earned the privilege to care for patients, to hear the intimate details of their lives,” and quoted Andrew Taylor Still, the founder of osteopathic medicine, on what makes them unique: “to find health should be the object of the doctor. Anyone can find disease’. This concept, seeking to find health, is what makes you distinct as osteopathic physicians.”
Touro College and University System President Alan Kadish, M.D. noted that “society has gotten complicated” and changes in how health care is delivered create challenges for the future. “We’re also existing at a time when it seems harder and harder for us to come together on common goals and principles,” the President said. Yet with their talent and education coupled with Touro’s mission of service to humanity that has been instilled in them, he said he was confident they would overcome the challenges. “You will do us all proud,” the President said.
Echoing Dean Forstein’s comments on the distinctions of osteopathic medicine, class speaker Clark Johnsen observed that not everyone will know what “DO” stands for when they leave Touro or what it represents. In addition to promoting the treatment and understanding of the patient as a whole and “not a mere collection of symptoms,” DOs are groundbreakers – for example, osteopaths were leaders in the education and medical licensing of women in the United States, Johnsen said. “TouroCOM in its inception and mission is continuing this pioneering tradition by emphasizing the importance of training a truly diverse cohort of new doctors [to] reduce medical disparities and improve patient care throughout our communities,” he said.
Numerous student awards were presented. DO Student of the Year went to Gabrielle Jasmin for outstanding service to the school, leadership, research and dedication to the profession. The Dean’s Award for the highest academic standing went to Clark Johnsen. Jessica Koren and Kimberly Chen both won the Excellence in the Preclinical Years Award, as well as the Excellence in Public Health Award. Jessica Koren also received the Excellence in the Clinical Years Student Award. The Research Award went to six graduates: Ameerah Wishahy, Bishoy Saad, Robert Post, Jake Lichterman, Luke Menken and Krystal Garcia. Tania Garcia won the Community Service Award from the Medical Society of the State of New York.
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