A Heartwarming Reunion: TouroCOM Maintenance Worker Treated by School Alum

Beloved Maintenance Worker Alfred Richardson Is Support and Fixture for Med Students at the Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine

January 30, 2024
The two men - Bhagat and Richardson - standing together in hallway of medical office, smiling at camera
Dr. Priyal Bhagat, TouroCOM Class of 2017, with patient and Touro employee Alfred Richardson.

When Dr. Priyal Bhagat, Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine (TouroCOM) Harlem alum class of ’17, entered the examining room at his medical practice in the Bronx recently, he didn’t recognize the gentleman waiting for him. “I thought he was one of my orthopedic patients. I didn’t recall him at first,” said Dr. Bhagat.

Then he remembered. The patient was Alfred Richardson – a friendly maintenance worker from his student days at TouroCOM. Richardson was popular on campus. He took a personal interest in the students and provided moral support if they were down and stressed. He opened study rooms at night for them, asked how their exams went and met their families at graduations. After they left to start residencies, he stayed in touch on Facebook.

“Alfred’s a guy you can’t forget if you were a med or a master’s student at TouroCOM. He gets with all the students. He’s so open, down to earth,” Dr. Bhagat recalled. “He’s probably the guy who spends the most time there - other than the students.”

Now a sports medicine and vein treatment specialist at Essen Health Care in the Bronx, Dr. Bhagat is treating Richardson for “venous insufficiency,” a condition common among patients who stand for long periods of time. The veins in the legs are not working as well as they should, causing pain and swelling. He’s getting treatment to prevent leg ulcers and varicose veins. With a few more sessions left, Richardson reports he is feeling better and is on the road to recovery, thanks to the care and concern of the doctor who he has known since he was a master’s student. (Richardson released this information for publication.)

A “Larger than Life” Character

When Richardson, now 60, joined Touro in 2012, his first position was at the University’s former headquarters in the Flatiron District. His assignment was to sit at the narrow entryway and check IDs – including that of Touro’s new president, Dr. Alan Kadish.

He relocated to the Harlem medical school shortly after it graduated its first class, in 2013, where he wears more than one hat, as students and faculty alike fondly recall.

“Alfred is a larger-than-life character,” said Dr. David Colbourne, director of medical simulation and a professor at TouroCOM, who invited him to his wedding, where Richardson demonstrated hip hop dance moves from his earlier years as a performer. He danced in the early hip hop movie, “Wild Style,” and made guest appearances on television and on music tours, such as “Purple Rain” with Prince.

“He’s a very unique person. Very outgoing, gregarious and actually remembers the people he interacts with. When he comes into a room, it lights up. He knows each person individually and has an anecdote for everyone. He is one of the larger stones in the foundation of TouroCOM,” said Dr. Colbourne.

Richardson is also known as a collector of multiple android phones and designer glasses; as an amateur drone flyer; a computer whiz; and a “gadget guru” who is fascinated by electronics and AI devices.

“I have so many different electronic things in my house – it’s ridiculous,” said Richardson, citing various Amazon devices that, for example, monitor the weather and turn off the lights at his home; numerous laptops, tablets, and phones; a Smart TV; seven Smart watches; a motion-activated video doorbell; and a Blink security camera through which he views his apartment from school on his phone, to name but a few devices.

How things work has always been of great interest, Richardson explained. He earned a bachelor’s degree in computer science at Monroe College in the Bronx and worked for a while doing computer programming and troubleshooting but then moved on to other jobs.

“I get bored easily. I’m one of those people who goes from thing to thing,” he said.

Loves Helping Students the Most

Still, he’s able to put his background and skills to good use helping people – including the TouroCOM community – with anything related to computers and IT. Dr. Colbourne credits Richardson with helping him recover information on his phone.

But helping the students is what he loves the most. “I respect them and really appreciate them, they’re the future doctors of America. They’re there to save lives. I try to make it as easy as possible for them so they can strive. I tell them all the time, ‘You are going to be great doctors. Study hard but learn to give yourself a break.’ It’s important that they feel important.”

Back at Dr. Bhagat’s office, the two of them started going through the doctor’s photos on his phone and recalling the days when Dr. Bhagat had been a student. They pulled up a photo of the two of them together at graduation. “Wow, look at this!” said his new doctor with amazement.