Touro College Of Osteopathic Medicine Receives 2024 Inclusive Alumni Excellence Award

April 24, 2024

Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine (TouroCOM) is the recipient of the 2024 Alumni Association Inclusive Excellence Award from Insight into Diversity magazine, the largest and oldest diversity and inclusion magazine in higher education.

The award recognizes TouroCOM’s programs, culture and initiatives that encourage and support diversity, inclusion and a sense of belonging for all alumni regardless of race, ethnic background, sexual or gender identity, religion, and socio-economic status.

“From the time we opened in 2007, the Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine, based in Harlem, N.Y., has been committed to increasing diversity in the physician workforce,” said Executive Dean Dr. Kenneth Steier. “By reaching out to our community, we have been able to identify promising students and help guide them into careers as physicians. This prestigious award provides a degree of external validation that our efforts are working and we are extremely proud of all of our physician alumni.”

Growth and Expansion

TouroCOM opened a second campus in Middletown, N.Y. in 2017 and a third in Great Falls, Montana in 2021. The alumni department, formed in 2017, represents just over 2,400 alumni working all over the United States, with the largest concentrations of graduates in New York and California. Alumni are employed in every medical specialty but the majority work in primary care.

“TouroCOM is one of the most progressive, inclusive and diverse medical schools, with a stated mission to increase the number of underrepresented minorities (URM) in medicine and to serve the underserved,” said Director of Development and Alumni Relations Beth Portnoy, who launched the department and has since been joined by Mary Dermigny in Middletown.

In keeping with TouroCOM’s mission, diversity is front and center in alumni programming and efforts are made to involve alumni in every possible point of the student lifecycle, said Portnoy. “We want them to feel like they’re part of the life of the school.”

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Lectures, Mentoring Events, Graduations  

Through an alumni lecture series, diverse alumni who are leaders in their fields share their expertise with fellow alumni, students and faculty. The lectures tackled such topics as physician burnout, unconscious bias, and mentorship.

“Speed Mentoring” events have given students a chance to get candid advice from alumni in a range of medical specialties. Online mentoring programs are co-sponsored with student organizations such as the TouroCOM Diversity Task Force, the Latino Medical Students Association, and the American Medical Women’s Association.

“.. shared their experiences and success stories …”

At a recent “Alumni of Color” event, alumni shared their experiences and success stories with students and discussed everything from work-life balance to challenges facing patients and people of color.

Alumni speakers are also featured at White Coat and graduation ceremonies, annual reunions in New York City and at receptions at national conferences, all of which offer additional opportunities for graduates to engage with the school.

Sowmya Gadey, DO, an internist at a community health center in Norwalk, CT and founding chair of the alumni board, spoke at last year’s DO commencement about the importance of community service and advocates for establishing a student-run clinic in Harlem with the help of the alumni.

“We can lead by example and show others they can do so as well,” said Gadey, who comes from a family of immigrants.

Fundraising and Communications

In 2020 the association expanded into fundraising with scholarships started by female alumni of color. The “URM UWorld Scholarship” provides annual scholarships to URM students to help defray the high cost of medical board preparation. In 2024, an alum used her first paycheck to establish a fund for students who are single mothers. The school also communicates its commitment to diversity and inclusion by highlighting diverse alumni in the media and in internal publications, where alumni are recognized for their contributions to the school’s mission.

“… a passion for mentorship …”

“Our students have a passion for mentorship, and alumni love seeing how their school has grown since they graduated and succeeded,” said Portnoy, noting residency match rates and first-pass rates on medical boards approach 100 percent every year. “The school is rapidly increasing in stature and it’s thrilling for alumni to be a part of that. Their story is our story and their success is our success.”

Photo credit: TouroCOM.

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