January 8, 2018 - The Record
Mallory Mitchell, College of Osteopathic Medicine Doctoral Candidate for the Class of 2018, was named the 2017 Student Doctor of the Year. Ms. Mitchell stood out to the selection committee because of her community work as coordinator at the Berkeley Suitcase Clinic and her efforts to improve neonatal care in Tanzania through the Shirati Babies Project, which she founded.
What was your first reaction to being named Student Doctor of the Year?
My first reaction was honestly just surprise. I thought it was really flattering that I had been nominated for the award by some of my classmates, and I jumped at the opportunity to share about my philanthropy project. However, I did not expect to be chosen as the recipient. While I am very proud of the work I have done in the field of global health, I know many of my fellow medical students at Touro University California have done amazing work as well.
This award is very meaningful to me because it is a representation of how hard I’ve worked towards a specific goal and assures me that the late nights and early mornings have all been worth it.
You started the Shirati Babies Project. For those who don’t know, what is that project?
Shirati Babies Project is a philanthropy that I created after spending the summer following my first year of medical school in Tanzania, working in the maternity ward of Shirati District Hospital.
I was teaching neonatal resuscitation to the local birth attendants. After one delivery, I began respirations on an infant who was born early, and was immediately told by a local nurse that I shouldn’t bother because the infant was too small to survive. I was stunned, as she didn’t look too small to me. In fact, she looked at least twice the size of my own nephew when he was born at 27 weeks gestation. He was by then a thriving 3-year-old thanks to his stay in a California NICU and the excellent medical care he received. However, the Tanzanian nurse was right. The hospital was not equipped to save a baby that small, and shortly after her birth, she died. She died when my nephew had lived and the only difference between the two babies was their place of birth.
I spent that evening mostly in bed, shocked and grieving after facing such a devastating healthcare disparity. The next day, I ran an idea by my professor and a classmate to provide this maternity ward with more necessary resuscitation supplies. This was the beginning of Shirati Babies Project, which invites people to donate $10 to sponsor a baby blanket for an infant born in the Shirati District Hospital maternity ward. The blankets are made with Tanzanian material by a local dressmaker in Shirati for approximately $4. The remainder of the money is used to purchase lifesaving respiratory supplies.
I was in awe of the outpouring of generosity from so many. Through the website, over 300 blankets were sponsored in the first few months of the project. Classmates, professors, and even strangers who heard about the story stepped up to donate to this cause in big ways. I was able to return to the hospital with 300 blankets, 40 stethoscopes, a fetal monitor, and many other respiratory supplies. The hospital staff was incredibly grateful, and so were the new moms in Shirati. Seeing the difference this project had quickly made in the local community solidified my desire to keep expanding it and providing more for the hospital.
What’s next for you?
I am currently interviewing for residency and will find out where I matched in March. After graduating from Touro in May, I will begin my Family Medicine residency. I know that I will be working hard and learning a lot, but I am looking forward to this next chapter in my career and a higher level of patient care. I plan to keep working diligently on Shirati Babies Project and maintaining my relationship with the hospital. Many residencies have resources dedicated to global health pursuits that will support me in this endeavor.
For the 2017 College of Osteopathic Medicine Student Doctor of the Year Announcement, visit here.
Dr. Irene Favreau worked her way through college as a keypunch operator in Connecticut. She then married, had two children, and worked as a para-legal until she was elected to the Connecticut State Legislature where she chaired the Human Services Committee. She received her Master’s Degree in Community Psychology and became the founding Executive Director of a nonprofit agency that helped ex-offenders get back on track after being released from prison. She then moved to California and worked as the administrator of a church community in Tiburon that was very involved in social activism. After graduating with a PhD in Higher Education & Social Change, she became the Executive Director of nonprofit mental health agencies in Marin and Sonoma counties before coming to work in Student Affairs at Touro back in 2005.
Can you tell us a bit about your family? How do they shape who you are?
My parents were immigrants from Poland who settled in a town in Central Connecticut with a large Polish population. They were hard workers and lovers of music. My mother died of cancer in her 30’s and my father died of a heart attack about 20 years later. My younger sister and I have already lived longer than either of them did, and both of us have become very aware that time is precious and it’s important to spend time doing things that make us happy with people we love. My son, who lives in San Anselmo, CA and my daughter, who lives in Georgetown, TX are the joys in my life these days and I spend as much time as I can with them and their adorable dogs, Tyke and Poppy, who are the closest thing I have to grandchildren at this point in time.
Where would we find you on the week-end?
About 15 years ago, I became an active member of the Marin Threshold Choir, and sing
at the bedsides of hospice patients at home or in care facilities in the Novato area,
where I live. I’ve been writing poetry since I was a school girl, and over the past
10 years or so, have worked on setting some of my poems to music. I’ve had some poems
published and some songs recorded, and look forward to doing more of that when I retire.
Roger Pence, meteorologist, is a 25+ year veteran science teacher in Benicia, CA public schools. He has been on the adjunct faculty team with Touro’s Graduate School of Education since earning his Master’s Degree in 2009. In 2013, he joined Solano County’s Programming and Robotics in Science and Math (PRISM) group and attended teacher training workshops through UC Davis’ C-STEM program to bring robotics and coding skills to mainstream students in science and math classes.
What got you inspired to teach?
Later in my young adult life, I found I had a knack (gift?) for being able to convey complex scientific principles to the “less informed”. I started by being employed as a forecast meteorologist for Bay Area newspapers where I had to distill complicated weather forecasts and ideas down to everyday layman’s terms in writing my daily text forecasts. The more I worked doing this, the more I arrived at the idea that I could be an effective teacher in my field of training, the natural sciences.
How do you get your students engaged?
I try to find a point of entry for students’ prior knowledge, be they middle schoolers or Touro University graduate students. I try and find interesting and intellectually challenging things for students to do in my classes that help to make the subject real and relevant. Science is a ready-made subject for hands-on investigation, and I attempt to connect conceptual learning to opportunities that employ doing.
In what ways do you build a community in the classroom?
I have become a real devotee of lifelong learning. I try and act by example as the “lead learner” rather than the unidirectional imparter of garnered wisdom. I embrace community diversity as an addition to that which makes the learning environment interesting and colorful. I also allow the students and/or community see my vulnerable side as one who does not always know the answer but is willing to “help find out”.
HELP SUPPORT OUR STUDENTS: The College of Pharmacy is looking for alumni throughout Northern California who would be willing to serve as adjunct faculty to precept our student events. As adjunct faculty, you will also have access to our online library resources! For more information, please contact Dr. Neelou Fakourfar (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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