“You Are in the Right Place and in the Right Hands”
TouroCOM Middletown Class of 2021 Dons White Coats
Several hundred friends and family members gathered together on July 24 to celebrate the 135 members of Touro College of Medicine (TouroCOM) Middletown’s Class of 2021 as they donned their white coats and took the first step in their medical school career.
The White Coat Ceremony, the donning of a medical student’s white coat, is typically held before students enter their rotations in the second year. However, TouroCOM Middletown holds the ceremony before students begin their first year, as TouroCOM Middletown Founding Dean and Chief Academic Officer Dr. Kenneth Steier explained:
“The physician’s responsibility starts when you enter medical school,” he told the crowd gathered at the Paramount Theater in Middletown, a few blocks away from TouroCOM Middletown’s campus. “In your classes, in your lives and in all your travels—you are now held to a higher standard.”
Keynote Speaker Steven L. Kelley FACHE, President and CEO of nearby Ellenville Regional Hospital, spoke about his own search for a profession with meaning that began when he left IBM to pursue a career in healthcare.
“As a physician you will be held on a pedestal,” said Kelly. “You hold the power of life and death. This is a milestone for you and your family that cannot be overstated… You are in the right place for a great future.”
The celebration was also the chance to reflect on TouroCOM Middletown’s short but impressive history. Just three years ago, TouroCOM Middletown inaugurated its first class of students in the newly renovated TouroCOM building on the site of the vacant Horton Hospital Center. Since then, the school has helped revitalized the town and produced hundreds of medical students.
“What began as an opportunity for a small city… became a successful business model of community redevelopment,” attested Middletown Mayor Joseph DeStefano during the ceremony. “You brought so much joy to our community and we thank you for that…You make our community vibrant and dynamic and we certainly are so thrilled that you have chosen to pursue your academic goals here.”
OMS-I Trent William, who grew up in the area, echoed the sentiment.
"Being from around here you can see what the students and the school have built," said William. “That’s why I chose TouroCOM.”
The ceremony included the presentations of the Danza-Lesser scholarships, the recipients of last year’s Teacher of the Year Awards and Student DO of the Year. The future doctors also heard from Student Government Association presidents Johnny Truong and Elizabeth Fierlage. The singular linking sentiment of all the speeches was the close-knit nature of the TouroCOM medical community.
“The white coat symbolizes your entrance into the Touro family,” said Fierlage. “We’re so excited to welcome you into our family.”
“Class of 2021, you are in the right place and in the right hands,” stated Student DO of the Year Erawadi Singh.
Dr. Jerry Cammarata, Chief Operating Officer of TouroCOM Middletown, pointed to the faculty seated on stage.
“Our dedicated faculty is gathered here today to welcome you,” he said. “They will be your guides for the next few years and they are looking forward to training you to become great doctors.”
The event culminated in the recitation of the White Coat Oath, let by Dr. Joyce Brown, TouroCOM Vice Chair of Primary Care and Director of Simulation, followed by the robing.
The gravity of the situation was not lost on the student-doctors who spent years getting to this point.
“We’ve been dreaming about this moment since we were kids,” said OMS-I Kanza Khalid.
“It feels really good,” said OMS-I Roxana Mehran. “I still don’t believe it’s actually happening.”
Robert Stawitzky, whose oldest grandchild is a member of the class of 2021, drove 390 miles from Western New York for the ceremony. Concerned about the effects of second-hand smoke, Robert said he gave up smoking after his grandson was born, a decision that the future doctor would agree with.
“It feels great,” he said. In a lesson that could apply to all students, he added: “I always told my children that wherever your heart goes, that’s the direction you need to go.”