In this Issue
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Certain folks in the inspiration and motivation field suggest you can’t be something until you see something.
Master of Science in Nursing Class of 2018 grad Kayla Elias didn’t have to look far to find inspiration for a career where she could help people.
Her father, Lt. Mariano Elias Jr., a 22-year veteran firefighter/EMT with the San Francisco Fire Department, gave her plenty of inspiration to serve others.
“I have never seen someone so dedicated and passionate about what they do,” Kayla said. Elias said her father serves as both an inspiration and a sounding board for her more difficult days.
“He has stayed positive throughout this pandemic, and that gives me motivation and inspiration to keep going,” she said. “I know that I can get through this as well. It’s nice to have my father to confide in.”
But even with that level of support and preparation, the coronavirus pandemic caught most people off guard and soon thrust Kayla into a roaring tempest wherein there was one rule for everybody: survive.
Part of the early risk with Covid-19 was the novel aspect of it, which is to say, nobody really knew anything about it at the time. Healthcare professionals were thrust into a world of treating patients without really understanding how the virus spread, what personal protective equipment was effective, or the best ways to treat people who were positive.
“What really made me anxious was not knowing who had Covid since anyone could have (it) and not know it,” Elias said. “Work went as usual until I treated my first Covid patient.
“Upon seeing my Covid patient assignment for the day, I felt very scared and numb – I wanted to cry. I didn’t know what to do. But I knew I had one thing to do, and that was to take care of this patient,” she said.
Entering into a dark world filled with scary unknowns was certainly daunting for nurses like Elias, but it was scarier still for her patients. Not only did the virus have a tight hold on their health, due to isolation restrictions, patients were left to fight the battle alone.
Well, not completely alone.
“I can’t imagine what it must feel like to know you have Covid 19 … and be in an isolation room all alone, no visitors allowed, and seeing the nurses and doctors gowned up in all this scary PPE,” Elias said.
Like a swelling hurricane, Elias and her co-workers weren’t quite sure how big this disaster would get, but with more and more positive patients needing care each day, the pandemic began to have psychological effects.
Elias often found herself wondering if her PPE was enough, or even effective. Every small sniffle or itch in her throat made her wonder if she would soon be in an isolation room herself, not as a nurse but as a patient.
This fear hasn’t deterred her. If anything, it’s strengthened her resolve to be committed to her patients.
Some patients interact digitally with their care team, but Elias still treats her patients face-to-face.
“I feel bad because sometimes I am the only person they see for days, and that must make them feel very isolated,” Elias said. Her commitment to patient care in this way can create obstacles, like taking the time to fully and carefully don full PPE before entering a patient room – only to have another patient in an adjacent room ring for help.
She focuses on doing things properly and calmly. She understands keenly that a sick nurse is no nurse at all. Through it all, Elias credits her time at Touro with equipping her with the tools she needs to be effective in this battle.
“Obtaining my Masters of Science in Nursing from Touro has helped me to see the bigger picture of things,” she said. “I had great professors and mentors who were strong and smart women, and they inspired me to use my skills to provide the best patient care as much as possible.”
Part of what helped her through this fight was knowing that she wasn’t alone – whether in an isolation room or not. She drew comfort in knowing her fellow Touro grads were in the fight as well.
“Knowing that my colleagues are fighting this pandemic together and that I am not alone has helped me stay strong throughout this whole process,” Elias said. “I am forever grateful for my colleagues at Touro University.”
Americans have a seemingly simultaneous love-hate relationship with our immigrant soul. On one hand, we praise our quilted tapestry made up of people from all over the world, but on the other hand, recent immigrants to America – no matter what period of time – have faced at least some backlash from those already living here.
College of Pharmacy student Delia Jimenez has a familiar-sounding story to many immigrants, but in the middle of Hispanic Heritage Month, it’s an important reminder of why everyone should celebrate diverse cultures.
“My parents, older sibling, and I immigrated to the United States from Mexico in hopes to seek a better life,” Jimenez said. “As an immigrant to the United States, learning English as a second language was a challenge when trying to communicate with my peers.”
The language barrier was only one issue. Like many first-generation immigrants, Jimenez’s parents have a limited educational background, so she couldn’t rely on their help throughout her educational career the way most students can.
Add to that the additional complexities presented by the pursuit of complex science degrees and her work was certainly cut out. Left wandering in the dark, as many immigrants are when facing a new country, culture and education system, she endured numerous setbacks and roadblocks.
But she was armed with one very important quality, one that all immigrants leaving everything they’ve known to a world of unfamiliar mysteries are armed with, persistence.
“I knew that I wanted to step foot into the healthcare field, but I just did not know how to get there,” Jimenez said. “Nevertheless with perseverance, after spending five and a half years, I became the first person in my family to obtain a baccalaureate degree with honors in Chemistry and Biochemistry.”
Another common unfamiliarity for many immigrants was the concept of routine medical and dental exams, and Jimenez knew she wanted to be a resource for her family to turn to with medical questions.
“I wanted to become that outlet for my family to turn to with their medical questions,” she said. “Much of my healthcare experience came from working in the dental field for many years. I always thought that I wanted to become a dentist, but after being a caregiver for my grandmother when she became ill . . . it was apparent to me that there was more that I can do as a pharmacist.”
Jimenez has lived in Vallejo for twenty years and having Touro literally in her backyard was a stroke of good fortune that made her decision to become a pharmacist all the easier.
She’s hopeful that many other students will follow the same path she has chosen, no matter how daunting a task it might seem.
“Oftentimes minorities cloud their head with thoughts of doubt and believe that the finish line is too far to reach, or like myself, believe that things are too good to be true and success stories are not supposed to happen to people like me,” Jimenez said. “As Hispanics are underrepresented in higher education, it is an honor for me to represent Hispanics in colleges of pharmacy.”
Despite the obvious challenges presented by COVID-19 to one of Touro University California’s most popular campus events, 2020 Club Day was a great success, even with the online setting.
The virtual version ran for several days online, allowing students plenty of time to fit perusing of clubs into their digital lifestyles. Even with that, the first day of the event was highly popular, with nearly 1,900 students checking in with different clubs to learn more about different campus activities and areas of interest.
Director of Student Affairs Winnie Bush lauded the students for making the event so successful.
“TUC students truly enjoyed this year’s club fair,” Bush said. “Many found the fair easy to navigate and enjoyed the opportunity to connect and network with the various student clubs and organizations.”
Bush said many students wanted to see the virtual aspect of the fair continue in the future as the expanded timeframe allowed more students to visit more booths and engage even deeper with different campus clubs.
“The attendance was very robust and I am really proud of the outcome,” Bush added. “The fair would not have been possible without the various group leaders who completed their clubs page.”
The connections students make with other students in graduate school might ultimately turn out to be nothing. Other times, as in the case with Dr. Keith Yoshizuka, Assistant Dean of Administration, Chair of Social, Behavioral & Administrative Sciences, they can turn out to really be something.
Dr. Yoshizuka found himself on the cusp of accepting a job at the University of California San Francisco when he got a call from an old pharmacy school classmate – Dr. Debbie Sasaki-Hill, then Associate Dean of the College of Pharmacy at Touro.
That call changed Dr. Yoshizuka’s career path and changed Touro University California for the better. He joined the faculty as a charter member and has been teaching young pharmacy students about law, ethics and administration ever since.
“I have been in pharmacy management/hospital administration for the majority of my career,” Dr. Yoshizuka said. “I am licensed to practice both law and pharmacy in California and other jurisdictions. The combination has served me well during my career.”
Yoshizuka brings students a unique perspective in his teaching. Sciences can often be a dreary memorization of formulas, numbers, symbols and more.
“I employ the Socratic Method of instruction, similar to the way I was taught in law school,” Dr. Yoskizuka said. “Most students hate it, but it is one of the best ways to stimulate critical thinking skills and to get student to think quickly on the spot.”
It’s not uncommon for faculty to push students to be strong advocates for patients, increased access to care and improved outreach to underserved communities. Dr. Yoshizuka also teaches students they can be advocates for their own profession and their colleagues.
Dr. Yoshizuka is the president-elect of California Society of Health-System Pharmacists (CSHP) and has been active advocating for pharmacists.
“I have been involved in the advocacy that resulted in two Executive Orders by Governor (Gavin) Newsom to allow pharmacists to (1) collect specimens to be sent to clinical labs for COVID testing and (2) to allow pharmacists and technicians to perform CLIA-waived point-of-care testing for COVID in the pharmacies that can produce results within 30 minutes to relieve some of the backlog of testing being experienced in some of the clinical labs where waiting times for results are reported to be as long as ten days, making contact tracing nearly impossible,” Dr. Yoshizuka said.
“I also engaged students to be advocates for their profession which resulted in the expansion in the pharmacists' scope of practice to be able to write prescriptions,” he said. These prescriptions include things like contraceptives, smoking cessation, scheduled immunizations, medications recommended for international travel, PEP & PrEP to prevent transmission to HIV, and much more.
“It is important to teach these professionals to advocate for the profession, so every year, I try to arrange appointments for all students with their state legislators to lobby for various bills affecting the practice of pharmacy,” Dr. Yoshizuka said.
Can you hear that? No matter what “that” is, most people can hear it.
For the Deaf and hard of hearing, navigating a world filled with sound cues can be challenging, but feeling like an outsider because of that impairment is even more daunting.
St. Helena High teacher Lisa Marie Smith has tackled this challenge her entire life and is helping her students do the same.
Smith earned her Educational Leadership M.Ed. Degree in 2016 at Touro University California, then added an Innovative Learning Masters in Education in 2020, which was possible through the NapaLearns Fellowship program.
Her own path as a child working through school with a hearing disability was an often difficult one, her “differences” from other students often being highlighted by their laughter and jokes at her expense.
Smith, however, learned to disarm her assailants with the very weapons they used against her – their laughter. She works not only as a teacher but as a professional clown, utilizing skills she developed, like jokes and magic tricks initially as a self-defense mechanism.
“As a teenager with disabilities, I started telling jokes and doing card magic tricks to redirect my peers laughing at my hearing aides, speech impairment to my jokes,” Smith said. “This carried into my adulthood.”
As part of a special project, Smith helped organize a Deaf Carnival, complete with carnival games, balloons, popcorn, stories and skits in American Sign Language, and just about everything else anoyone could imagine.
Except one thing was missing.
“I quickly realized that we can't have a carnival without clowns,” Smith said. “Therefore, I purchased a 19.99 clown outfit, and this is when my clowning, balloon twisting, magic, face painting hobby was birthed.”
The Deaf Carnival continues to this day and draws thousands of guests from the surrounding communities.
The carnival helps create a bridge for the hearing and the hearing-impaired to come together and connect with one another. Communication is, of course, a difficulty, but people in both groups often have a level of discomfort in knowing how to even interact with one another – the hearing-impaired being cautious over yet more ridicule and the hearing not wanting to add to that level of anxiety.
“I believe that my humor and comfort in talking about my disabilities and passion to share and educate others, put others at ease,” Smith said. In fact, in referencing her cochlear implants, she insists she has a, “magnetic personality.”
The joke aside, it’s hard to argue Smith isn’t indeed magnetic, drawn to both educate and advocate for her students, providing them with the type of support that was so lacking in her own educational journey. She even uses herself as an object-lesson as a hearing-impaired adult living in a hearing world, which she describes as a continual struggle.
“I choose to persevere and not let these barriers be the reason I don't or can't do something,” Smith said.
“I feel it is my calling and responsibility to share, educate others, and protect my students and help them to self-advocate and be comfortable with who they are,” Smith said. “They are special, hence when we are individuals with special needs, in special education, we are special and can achieve anything.”
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