Bringing Quality Healthcare to Underserved Communities
TouroCOM Alum Dr. Sheneen Lalani Fights Diseases Across the Country
It’s five-thirty in the morning in late February, and Sheneen Lalani, DO, is already in a car service to her hospital in the Bronx.
After completing her fellowship in palliative care, Dr. Lalani, a 2014 alumna of Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine in Harlem, wanted to take a year off to serve as a physician to underserved populations in a remote part of the world. Then she discovered that there were places in the US—right here at home—that needed medical services just as desperately.
“So many rural areas don’t have access to healthcare and it’s really impacting the quality of life of patients in the US,” said Dr. Lalani, who, after a year serving in a rural area, chose to become a locum physician, a physician that travels to rural areas and cities across the US where medical services are needed.
“I don’t have to travel to another country to give back and work with the underserved,” said Dr. Lalani.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Dr. Lalani was on the front-line, traveling from one hard-hit region to the next.
“I remember the first COVID-19 patient we had,” recalled Dr. Lalani who worked 12-13 hour shifts for weeks straight. “Their kidney functions went from being completely normal one day to severe the next day. One day the patient would be completely fine and at night they would need oxygen. That’s when it hit us: the COVID-19 virus was here.”
“Nothing can prepare you for a pandemic,” continued Dr. Lalani. “Words can’t describe what I’ve seen and gone through. It was very challenging but at the same time, it was very rewarding—knowing this is my duty to help these patients to the best of my abilities.”
She relied on her training at Touro to make it through the roughest moments.
“It felt like a battlefield—you have to be someone willing to work with limited resources and adapt very quickly to new systems,” said Dr. Lalani. “Practicing and doing my residency in New York City trained me for that. In New York City, you work with so many different people from different backgrounds you see it all. Touro gave us a very thorough introduction to being a good doctor. Touro lit the fire within me to do what I do.”
After helping combat the surge in Texas, Dr. Lalani was sent back to New York, where she lives, to help COVID-19 patients in a hospital in the Bronx.
“It’s exhausting, but I also know that patients still need us, and we need to keep going—COVID-19 is not over,” said Dr. Lalani as she got out of the car, beginning her day in the Bronx hospital at 6:40 a.m. “There are patients that get better and go home. Seeing that makes it all worth it. And I will keep going as long as I can.”