"Heroes Made Here"
NYC Mayor Eric Adams Honored at Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine Fundraiser to Benefit Underrepresented Minority Scholarship Fund
Mayor Eric Adams implored underrepresented minority student doctors-in-training at Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine (TouroCOM) in Harlem to “be bold enough to take heathcare in a new direction” when they become practicing physicians.
The Mayor’s comments were made at a celebratory fundraising event Tuesday night at TouroCOM to support scholarships for underrepresented minorities (URM) in medicine. TouroCOM is a leader in training URM osteopathic physicians and is committed to increasing the number of URMs in medicine and those working in underserved communities.
Mayor Adams was an honored guest at the event, “Heroes Made Here”, which recognized the contributions of Dr. Maurice Wright, Chief Medical Officer for New York City Health and Hospital, and Walter J. Edwards, Chief Executive Officer of Full Spectrum of NY, LLC and a community leader in Harlem who has long served as a founding member of the TouroCOM Community Advisory Board (CAB). Dr. Hazel Dukes, a director of the NAACP Board, President of the NAACP New York State Conference, and another founding member of the CAB, paid tribute to her colleague Edwards at the event and TouroCOM’s mission.
Touro at 50: A Healthcare Leader Serving the Underserved
Touro University President Dr. Alan Kadish kicked off the guest speakers’ portion of the program by noting the event was part of Touro’s current 50th anniversary celebration, and its recent designation by the New York State Board of Regents as a university.
“Embodied in Touro’s DNA since it began was a commitment to serve the underserved,” said Dr. Kadish, adding that supporting education and equality “have been embedded in Touro since we began.” He noted Touro currently operates five medical schools in the U.S., and with the anticipated opening soon of a sixth in Montana, will be educating nearly five percent of physicians in the country.
Dr. Kadish called out disparities in healthcare and pledged to work with NYC to reduce disparities — a mission that is furthered, he said, by training more URM doctors who can relate to patients in the community.
“That’s why tonight’s event…is so important,” he said, adding that in the average medical school class in the U.S., URMs make up fewer than ten percent of a class, compared with “close to three times that” at TouroCOM.
Mayor Eric Adams: “Take the Tools and Define What Your Practice Will Be”
Taking the podium, Mayor Adams shared his personal story, explaining he had feared losing his sight and limbs from diabetes but his doctors helped him turn things around with lifestyle changes. The Mayor said he wanted to address the medical students who would soon be practicing physicians. He called on them to diversify medical practice by offering patients “alternatives” to pills and injections.
Adams called Touro “an amazing institution. To focus on diversity as [a] core value says a lot.”
The Mayor told the students, “Among your patient populations will be people like me and all they’ll need is an alternative. Many of these chronic diseases are treatable, reversible and preventable…Our healthcare system is not sustainable. We can’t continue down this road [with] millions of people pre-diabetic, millions diabetic. Touro will give you the basic tools. Now you have to take those tools and define what your practice is going to be.”
Following the Mayor’s remarks, he was presented with an embroidered TouroCOM doctor’s coat by TouroCOM students Jane Akhuetie and Kevin Perez, both recipients of scholarships from the URM Minority Scholarship Fund.
In brief remarks, Akhuetie thanked the attendees for supporting the scholarship program. “If it were not for the scholarship, I would not have been able to finish school or support myself in between semesters,” said Akhuetie, who was born and raised in Harlem. “As a student from a low-income background, I grew accustomed to working while attending school to make ends meet. But medical school requires that one place all of their energy and time into studying for the mastery of medicine. Thank you for this opportunity, which has allowed me to focus solely on my studies and has contributed to my academic success.”
As a founding member with Edwards of the CAB, Dr. Dukes shared some of the history of TouroCOM and Edwards’ valuable contributions in helping the school develop support in Harlem. She also spoke of her involvement in the school and said TouroCOM has been “true to its mission” of diversity and inclusion. “We in the community have to encourage our children to consider medical careers and we have to spread the word about TouroCOM. Let me congratulate the students in white coats tonight," she said.