“A Burden I Want to Carry”
TouroCOM Harlem Class of 2021 Dons White Coats
One-hundred and twelve second-year osteopathic medical school students from Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine Harlem took the next step in their medical careers when they donned their white coats on May 14. Having completed their two years of pre-clinical education, they will begin rotations as third year student-doctors on July 1.
“It feels, in a good way, like I’m taking on a burden,” said OMS II Ronny Antony, a member of TouroCOM’s Class of 2021. “I am now responsible for taking care of someone. It’s a burden I want to carry.”
The ceremony, which took place at City University’s Aaron Davis Hall in Harlem, was attended by hundreds of friends, family members and well-wishers. This was an especially momentous occasion for members of the class who began as students in the TouroCOM Master of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies in Biological and Physical Sciences program before transitioning into their first year. Graduates of the master’s program included Danielle Marsh, who delivered the second student remarks, and students like Amos Alcious and Connor Bailey.
“Oh man, lots of emotion,” said Kristen Gavdia of Newark, NJ who also graduated from the master’s program. “There was a lot of hardship and hard work to get here, but people at Touro saw the potential in me and now I’m living out my dream.”
“I feel like I’ve come so far,” said Kay Wong, another master’s program graduate.
TouroCOM Harlem Dean David Forstein, DO, FACOOG, opened the ceremonies.
“The white coat of a physician is a symbol of professionalism for patients and their families of the humanistic and altruistic attributes of a caring doctor,” he said, before noting that the white coats that the students don are different than the longer white coats typically worn by full-fledged doctors and residents. “Your patients and their families will not be aware of that. They will hold you to the same standards as their other physicians. Do not let them down.”
TouroCOM Executive Dean Kenneth Steier, DO, FACOI, FCCP, MBA, MHA, MPH, told the students to have faith in themselves during their future rotations.
“You will learn your way around the hospital,” he counseled. “You will begin to feel like part of the hospital; it will begin to feel like home… You are ready.”
Touro College Provost Patricia Salkin spoke of the students’ newfound responsibilities. “You now represent the medical profession… You must meet the highest standards of honesty and you must carry yourself with integrity always.”
Offering the new student-doctors practical lessons, keynote speaker Karen J. Nicholas, D.O., M.A., MACOI, CS, the former dean of Midwestern University/Chicago College of Osteopathic Medicine and the first female president of the American Osteopathic Association, spoke of the importance of caring for patients, “You can be good, but you can be great with an extra effort of caring,” she said, before adjusting a quote believed to have been said by Theodore Roosevelt. “Your patient won’t care what you know, until they know that you care.”
The ceremony also included the presentation of the Frank Gray 2019 Teacher of the Year Award to Stacy Fanning as well as the recipients of the Dr. Tracy Tam Alumni Award for Compassion and the Sirota Scholarship Award. For the first time, students and faculty members of TouroCOM were inducted into the Gold Humanism Honor Society, an honor given to students, faculty and residents based on peer recommendations for community service and compassion. Twenty-three third-year students and two faculty members were inducted into the society.
At the end of the ceremony, students were coated by family members, friends or faculty at TouroCOM.
Daniele Ben Neriah was coated by her mother who has a Ph.D. in biochemistry. “My mother has been an integral part of my success and has always been supportive of me,” said Ben Neriah. She will be starting her rotations at Staten Island Hospital and is considering OBGYN. “I want to support women through their tough times and be with them in their happier times,” she said.
“I feel like I’ve been waiting for this moment my entire life and it’s finally here,” said Alex Shaykevich, a native of Minneapolis who wants to specialize in internal medicine.