A Surprise Wedding Proposal at TouroCOM Middletown’s White Coat Ceremony
Odeolphe Augustin, Class of 2023, Pops the Question as He and Classmates Begin Med School Journey
The ceremony to don his white coat was an especially important milestone for TouroCOM Middletown student Odolphe Augustin. Donning his white coat symbolically marked his entering into the medical profession as a first-year medical student. And, Augustin, who dreamed of being a doctor since he was five, also planned to ask his longtime girlfriend, KeyAna Zoe, to marry him.
“She’s been the support I needed,” related Augustin, who met his girlfriend when they were both students at SUNY Albany. “She kept me afloat.”
Augustin was one of 134 first-year medical students to don their white coats on July 22 at the Paramount Theater in Middletown, NY. The ceremony, a rite of passage in medical schools, marks the beginning of a student’s medical journey. (TouroCOM Middletown’s sister school TouroCOM Harlem has the white coat ceremony at the conclusion of the second year of medical school, before students go out on rotations.)
During the ceremony, Touro College Provost Patricia Salkin spoke of what the white coat entailed for the new students.
“The white coat that you will receive represents many things, but first and foremost, it represents privilege,” said Provost Salkin. “It is a privilege to attend medical school and it is a privilege as well as a responsibility to serve others… You now represent the medical profession on a whole new level.”
TouroCOM Executive Dean and TouroCOM Middletown Founding Dean Dr. Kenneth Steier spoke about the students’ newfound responsibilities. TouroCOM Middletown received 12,000 applicants for the 134 spots available in the class. “We expect a lot from our medical students,” said Dr. Steier. “Only the best, the brightest and the most highly motivated become medical students.”
“Congratulations to the class of 2023, you are on the road to becoming a physician. As you put on your white coat you begin the transition to becoming a healer—someone who cures diseases and saves lives.”
During the ceremony, TouroCOM Middletown awarded Teacher of the Year awards to faculty members Dr. Tanchum Wong and Dr. Alan Braun as well as Student of the Year to OMS IV Lauren Fleig.
Keynote speaker, Cornerstone Chief Medical Officer Avi Silber, M.D., spoke of the relationships his hospital staff have developed with third year TouroCOM students.
“Working with Touro students has made us all better doctors,” said Dr. Silber. “They’re curious; they ask questions; they really look at the patients. I’m encouraged and proud of them.”
Student Government President OMS II Jermeen El-Zabet and SGA Public Relations Lead OMS II Harman Sawhney spoke about life at TouroCOM and what the students should expect.
“The next four years will be some of the most challenging and rewarding years of your life,” said Sawhney. “But Touro is a family and we are all here to support you. We want you to succeed.”
Among the 134 first-year students were several students who graduated from the TouroCOM Middletown Master of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies in Biological and Physical Sciences program.
“It’s really emotional,” said Mackenzie Kimball, an alumnus of the University of Michigan who relocated to New York for the program. “It’s the result of so much work--blood, sweat and tears. Putting on the white coat is a life-changing moment for me.”
“I’ve been dreaming of this my entire life,” said Brooke Racanelli, who grew up in nearby Goshen and was born in Horton Hospital, the site that is now TouroCOM Middletown’s building. “It’s absolutely surreal,” she laughed.
At the tail-end of the program, Dr. Jerry Cammarata, Dean of Student Affairs at TouroCOM Middletown, announced that, in a new tradition, the last student to be called up would be coated with his family. Augustin walked to the stage with his immediate family and girlfriend in tow. After donning his white coat, Augustin dropped to one knee and proposed to his surprised and speechless girlfriend. She nodded yes and the two embraced. To the sounds of applause, the White Coat Ceremony officially ended and medical school officially began.