Building a Sense of Community

Johnny Truong is TouroCOM Middletown’s Student DO of the Year

July 06, 2018
Johnny Truong is TouroCOM Middletown’s Student DO of the Year. Above, Truong stands with Dr. Stephanie Zezsutek and Dr. Pearl Myers, the TouroCOM Middletown faculty members that interviewed him for the school.
Johnny Truong is TouroCOM Middletown’s Student DO of the Year. Above, Truong stands with Dr. Stephanie Zezsutek and Dr. Pearl Myers, the TouroCOM Middletown faculty members that interviewed him for the school.

Truong, a native of Surrey, B.C., began his medical journey while still in nursing school. Mid-way through his program, he realized he wanted a larger role in patient care and began researching the osteopathic profession. He took the MCAT exam shortly after his licensing and then worked for a year-and-a-half as a nurse. Truong believes that his time as a nurse functioned as an invaluable proving ground for his future-self.

“I think my experience as a nurse taught me to be calm, even in stressful situations like medical school,” Truong laughed.

While the osteopathic field is still not well-known in Canada, Truong googled Canadian-friendly osteopathic medical schools and discovered TouroCOM Middletown. He flew down for an interview after his application was accepted.

“Everyone was so caring when I arrived in Middletown,” said Truong. “Everything is bigger in America than in Vancouver; my interview was the first time I visited New York. But there was this incredible warmth and sense of community that I felt during my interview.”

Shortly after his arrival, Truong took on a role in building upon that sense of community.

Encouraged by his fellow classmates, Truong ran for class representative. After his election, he worked with other representatives in Middletown and Harlem to make the already-taxing medical school experience slightly easier on his fellow students.

For his community work in the first year of his studies, Truong received the Tony Danza Community Service Award and received the Most Helpful Award from his fellow students.

“We worked with our professors to switch around classes so that students have more time to study each day,” said Truong. “We coordinated with TouroCOM Harlem to be able to effectively advocate for change, and managed to spread out our exams.”

Several months later, he ran for president of the Student Government Association (SGA).

“The first year of medical school is rough,” explained Truong. “There’s a lot of information to absorb and you have to regurgitate it weekly. I made it through because of the support of my classmates and I realized that as SGA president, I would be in a better position to advocate for my classmates.”

Among the many activities the SGA ran under Truong’s leadership was an orientation week for the new freshman with a visit to a local apple farm, Soon’s Orchard, and reinstating SGA office hours for student issues and peer-support counseling.

“We wanted first-year students to be able to voice their concerns,” said Truong. “There’s an incredible amount of stress and we wanted to be able to tell them that things will get better.”

The 2017-2018 SGA also worked to improve the mentorship efforts for first-year and second-year students as well as work on the TouroCOM Middletown’s wellness initiatives. Truong said he’s most proud of organizing the TouroCOM Middletown’s first ever Residency Match Day celebration for the Middletown Inaugural class and working closely with the deans and faculty throughout the SGA term, building a unique relationship.

Truong says he plans on practicing as an osteopathic physician in the United States and hopes to help fix some of the inequalities in medical care.  

“Coming here and seeing my classmates trying to find a doctor that takes their insurance, that’s a bit foreign to me,” he admitted. “In Canada, if I have an issue I can just walk into the clinic and get seen. It’s not a perfect system, but I feel that finding healthcare is a larger burden for a lot of people here. I can’t imagine having to choose between seeing a doctor and paying for food. It’s sad to see people in America, the greatest country in the world, struggling.”