TouroCOM Celebrates 2018 Master's Graduation
“The Master's Program Made Me Realize I’m Stronger Than I Think”
More than 100 Students in TouroCOM’s Master of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies in Biological and Physical Sciences program celebrated their graduation on May 7. Though the ceremonies for 55 students at the TouroCOM Middletown campus and the 66 students at the TouroCOM Harlem campus were more than 50 miles apart, they shared the same sentiments: a sense of wonder and accomplishment and, for many students, an optimism for their future.
“Anything worth having is worth working for,” stated Touro Provost Patricia Salkin. “Follow your dreams and dream big.”
Students in the master’s program complete an identical program to the first-year DO students at TouroCOM. Students that score in the top ten percent of their class are then eligible to join the next year’s class as first-year DO students. Other students retake the MCATs or pursue a variety of careers in the healthcare field like pharmacy or physical therapy.
Dr. Jeffrey Karpen, Basic Science Chair at Middletown, said he hoped students took a lesson as they donned their robes. “Sometimes we are more capable than we believe,” he said.
Inaudy Esposito, MS, Executive Director of the Orange Country Human Rights Commission, was the keynote speaker at the Middletown event. Michael Hardy, Esq., Community Advisor Board Member, and Geoffrey Eaton, President of NAACP Mid-Manhattan Branch and a member of the Community Board, delivered keynote addresses at the Harlem graduation. The three speakers focused on the responsibilities of the graduates as healthcare professionals to correct healthcare disparities.
“Make sure that you when you go on your journey you become relevant to someone other than yourself, you should always be determined in everything you do and you will not only find success, but appreciation.” Mr. Hardy then challenged the students to, “Do something remarkable with your life and be the active hero in your life. Believe in yourself and the world will believe in you.”
“For the last ten years we worked together with the amazing faculty and outstanding deans to create more programs to get more people of color into schools so they can go to the next level and become doctors and come back to our communities,” said Mr. Eaton. He called the graduates, “the next level of people who might save my life.”
He might have in mind TouroCOM Harlem master’s student Shela Fields who grew up in Missouri. Fields, who received two awards for academic excellence, didn’t have a family physician. “I was blessed to not have any medical emergencies,” said Fields. Touro’s mission of serving the underserved resonated with her. Fields intends to become a family physician and serve in an underserved area like her home state.
“Everyone deserves quality healthcare,” stated Mrs. Esposito who recounted the healthcare obstacles faced by minority communities during TouroCOM Middletown’s ceremony. “Healthcare is a human right.”
Before and after the ceremony, students spoke about the challenges they faced and the inspiration they derived from their success.
“I wanted to be a doctor since I was a child, but I worried I didn’t have the potential,” said TouroCOM Harlem master’s graduate Kulsum Shaikh who festooned her cap with glitter and a picture of Michael Scott from The Office. “The master’s program made me realize I’m stronger than I think.”
Almost every day this semester, TouroCOM Harlem master’s student Mony Son rose at four-thirty or five o’clock to get a head start on her studies. Weekends, she slept late… till six a.m. Son’s dedication paid off during the Harlem graduation ceremony, where she took eight awards in academic excellence.
A native of Cambodia who emigrated by herself to the US at 18, Son will be a DO student next year at TouroCOM. “I feel like the school chose me,” said Son. (She did admit that she was really looking forward to summer vacation.)
A similar story repeated itself at TouroCOM Middletown where Stephens Grinder, a soft-spoken student from Georgia, took home five awards for academic excellence. He credited his fellow students for his success. “Working with others really helped me,” he said. “Always keep an open heart and mind.”
TouroCOM Middletown graduate Brendan Irving, of New Jersey, called the program “life-changing.” “You learn what you really want to do,” said Irving. “It made me even more motivated to pursue a career in medicine.”
The master’s program was a family affair for TouroCOM Harlem student Avneet Singh as his brother Tanhir is a third-year student on that campus and a graduate of the master’s program.
“I recommended the program to him,” said Tanhir. “Everyone is treated like family at Touro.”
Incidentally, this may not be the last member of the Singh family to attend TouroCOM as Tanhir also recommended the program to cousins.
Gloria Omari said the year in the TouroCOM Middletown program went by fast for her. “You learn how to study effectively,” she said. “It prepares you for a career in the healthcare world.”
TouroCOM Middletown graduate Itai Ojo, who took home an academic excellence award in microbiology and immunology, joked that the secret to her success in the program was that she “never left the basement.”
Site specific awards included a commendation for finishing the medical simulation internship at TouroCOM Middletown and a service commendation for students who worked in TouroCOM Harlem’s free health clinic. Several students described the graduation experience as bittersweet and the same feelings might be attributed to Dr. Karpen, who received the student-decided TouroCOM Middletown Teacher of the Year Award (he also received a can of his trademark drink: LaCroix sparkling water), as he will be retiring at the end of the year.
“You have taught us what determination and hard work look like,” concluded Dr. Stephen Jones, Director of TouroCOM Middletown Master of Science program. “You inspire us.”
Both programs concluded with the same message: wherever the future takes the graduates, they are now part of the Touro family.