Lauren Fleig Named Student DO of the Year at TouroCOM Middletown

Taking a Social Worker Outlook to the Medical Profession

January 14, 2019
TouroCOM Middletown\'s Lauren Fleig (bottom right) is TouroCOM Middletown\'s 2019 Student DO of the Year.

“I wanted to be sure I could give back to the community that I was seeing on a daily basis,” Fleig said. “I applied to the social worker position to put my money where my mouth was; to see if I could help people.”

Fleig’s role in that position was to help geriatric individuals above the age of 65 live on their own.

“Sometimes we did simple things: like providing Meals on Wheels,” recalled Fleig. “Other times we helped arrange doctor appointments and provided transportation; still other times we just came over and spent time with them. I got to meet Philadelphia one family at a time.”

The position provided Fleig with a first-hand look at the stark realities of a population that struggled to meet their daily needs.

“You see people who worked their entire lives getting the short end of the stick because of fixed-incomes,” said Fleig. “Their social security check is $1000 a month and their roof falls apart. It’s $8,000 to fix and they can’t pay for it. The roof starts leaking and eventually they’re living in a condemned house. We visited families who couldn’t afford to put locks on their doors. Sometimes all we could do was put a band-aid on a situation. But little victories are still victories.”

Fleig carried the attitude with her as she applied to medical schools.

“I wanted to practice primary care and I wanted it to have a component of social work,” said Fleig. “TouroCOM’s mission is to serve the underserved and that is what I want to do.”

Fleig started at TouroCOM Middletown in 2016. She is in her third year and is currently on rotation in Orange County, NY.

“We’re all very new and green and fresh out of the classroom, but the faculty and the patients are always happy to see us students,” said Fleig. “They’re not just content, but actively want to talk to us about their issues. I think making a doctor takes a village, and Middletown has welcomed us and risen to that challenge.”

As part of the decision for DO Student of the Year, a student is nominated by either a faculty member or a fellow student. Once chosen, candidates must write an essay explaining why they deserve the award. For her essay, Fleig described her work volunteering with the local homeless shelter and her position as co-chair of the student committee that organized a community health fair in Middletown last year. Mid-essay, Fleig pivoted and stressed the help she received from her professors and fellow students.

“As a non-traditional medical school student, I found the pre-clinical years really challenging,” said Fleig. “It’s only because of all the faculty and students around me that I was able to succeed. I don’t think I would’ve succeeded anywhere else. It was the constant encouragement and love and, at times, the necessary tough love that got me through.”

Self-effacing to a fault, she concluded her interview by emphasizing the role others played in her life.

“Anything I’ve accomplished is a direct result of those around me, even this honor,” said Fleig. “They say it takes a village to raise a child; it takes a village to raise a medical student and I’ve had that village.”

Fleig intends to become a family physician.