Dr. Maria Pino is TouroCOM's Teacher of the Year

Trading pastries for prescriptions: All about the Assistant Professor of Pharmacology

March 16, 2015

Dr. Maria Pino’s clear passion for her subject matter is just one reason why she’s been chosen as Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine (TouroCOM)’s 2015 Teacher of the Year.

In their nomination of Dr. Pino, Payal Aggarwal (OMS-II) and her classmates wrote that Dr. Pino is a “tireless” advocate for her students. “A teacher is a role-model, instructor, and support system. Dr. Pino meets all these criteria and constantly does more than is expected from her,” said Aggarwal, who also serves as vice president of TouroCOM’s Student Government Association.

For example, they mention the video lectures Dr. Pino patiently records for students to watch after class, the way she makes each one of her iTunes lessons exciting (even when the subject matter is difficult), and the one-on-one advisement sessions she has with students every week to make sure they can keep up with the material.

Dr. Pino, herself, is humble about the recognition. But she admits that one reason she cares so much about her students is because the memory of being a student is still fresh in her mind. She herself received her Ph.D. in Pharmacology just a few years ago, in 2010, from St. John’s University. St. John’s was also where she received her M.S. in Toxicology and B.S. in Pharmacy.

“When I speak to my students, I primarily see their points from a student’s perspective, because I was just one myself, not long ago.”

The professor began working at Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine in November 2010, after a decade of working as a pharmacist (and then a supervising pharmacist) in community and retail settings. Besides for filling prescriptions, she was also in charge of running the day-to-day operations of the store: scheduling, staffing, and management.

Her experience in pharmacy management, she says, was greatly influenced by her years working at her father’s bakery in Whitestone, Queens as a teen. Maria, as she was then known, ran the front of the store—placing pastries in boxes, making coffee, taking orders from customers. Years later, the pastries were traded in for prescriptions. “In the pharmacy business, I was very sensitive to patient service. It’s not just coming in and treating the patient, it’s really getting to know them and their lifestyle, and even, sometimes, their families.”

Now, as an Assistant Professor of Pharmacology, she applies those same lessons she learned years ago to her teaching career. Students enthuse about her willingness to go above and beyond the call of duty in helping them succeed—especially when it comes to preparing for the Board Exams. Dr. Pino serves as the advisor to many students and works with each of them to devise study plans. 

 “She understands that all of us are worried about the Boards, and goes the extra mile to meet with us individually, even after her regular office hours,” says Aggaral. “She organizes lunch review sessions to help students prepare. She even asks students to send her their questions that they’re struggling with, so that she might be able to help.”

And it’s not that she isn’t busy—as a toxicology professional, she writes publications with her colleagues fairly often, and regularly attends international conferences (like the International Congress and Societies of Toxicology) to present abstracts. In 2007, she was one of the top ten presenters at the meeting of the Mid-Atlantic Society of Toxicology at Rutgers University.

But her students always come first, she says. And now, the assistant professor is seeing how much she’s impacted her students.

“In the beginning of the year, I wasn’t sure how I would make it through Pharmacology, let alone the Boards and later the Wards,” explains Brothers. “But now, thanks to Dr. Pino, it’s become a subject that I love and consider teaching in the future myself."