TouroCOM Middletown Student Wins Prestigious Shelly Arnstein Minority Scholarship

OMS II Lynn Allyssa Désiré Will Have Part of Her Medical School Expenses Paid by AACOM

September 18, 2020
TouroCOM Middletown OMS II Lynn Allyssa Désiré is the 2019 recipient of the Shelly Arnstein Minority Scholarship. Above, Désiré holds the monetary award with TouroCOM Executive Dean Dr. Kenneth Steier.

TouroCOM Middletown OMS II Lynn Allyssa Désiré, MS, MPH, is the 2020 recipient of the Shelly Arnstein Minority Scholarship. The award is given by the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (AACOM) to two underrepresented minority students either entering medical school or continuing their medical education. The award is named after Arnstein, a groundbreaking scholar in the field of participatory decision making and a past executive director of AACOM.

“This is a very important scholarship to help recruit underrepresented minorities to the medical profession,” said Kenneth Steier, DO, FACOI, FCCP, MBA, MHA, MPH, Executive Dean of TouroCOM. “We are proud a TouroCOM student was selected to receive this award.”

The scholarship provides $8,000 towards medical school expenses. To apply for the scholarship, applicants must be part of a recognized minority group and must pen an essay describing their own struggle to enter medical school as well as an innovative way to increase minority representation in medicine. Désiré spoke about her own journey to medical school. Raised in Haiti, Désiré emigrated to the US at the age of 15 after the 2010 earthquake that devastated the country. Her hometown was almost completely obliterated.

“My parents and I took a leap of faith,” recalled Désiré. The leap paid off and Désiré finished high school and earned her undergraduate degree at the University of Florida. During the gap-year that followed, she returned to Haiti as a healthcare researcher.

“I fell in love with public health and determined to have it part of my career,” said Désiré who then moved to New York to gain a Master’s in Public Health. “I felt helpless after the earthquake. I was affected by the injuries and the death and I wished I was able to assist people. The earthquake showed me the necessity of public health—public health covers a lot of things from environmental health to health administration to basic infrastructure. While we couldn’t have predicted the scale of the earthquake, having a better public health system would have saved thousands.”

After completing her MPH, Désiré decided to continue her medical pursuit and joined TouroCOM Middletown’s Master of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies in Biological and Physical Sciences in 2018 and was accepted into the DO class for the following year.

For her own suggestion as to improving minority representation in medicine, Désiré relied on her own unhappy experiences in university to propose a network of mentors for minority students on the undergraduate level.

“There’s a specific path to take to go to medical school and many minority students are in the dark about which courses to take,” said Désiré. “For someone like me who didn’t have advisement, I was already five steps behind by the time I was a junior in college.”

“In some ways it’s a catch-22,” continued Désiré. “You have a lower percentage of minorities in medicine and therefore you have a lack of advisors who have seen minorities be successful in medicine, so they don’t push students into medicine. Not to mention advisors who simply discourage medical school as a choice for minority students.”  Désiré hopes her story inspires other underrepresented minority students to pursue medicine and that her ideas will assist with the AACOM's efforts to diversify medicine.