In this Issue
One of the most anticipated events of the year, Match Day, took place March 19 and although the festivities were hampered a bit by COVID-19 restrictions, the elation felt by many of the graduating Class of 2021 was not diminished at all.
Around 100 students gathered around Zoom screens, flanked in most cases by loved ones – or even dogs in some cases – complete in some locations with balloon arches, banners and streamers, and anxiously awaited the moment when they would all open messages informing them of the location of their residency.
Prior to seeing the name of their Match Day pairing, the day was already a big success, with Dr. Walter Hartwig, Director of Enrollment Management and Student Success explaining a number of records and first for Touro University California’s College of Osteopathic Medicine.
TUCCOM had a record for primary care matches, emergency medicine matches, and the largest percentage of matches in California in school history.
The school also managed a number of first, including a first-ever match in New Hampshire, as well as a 100-percent match rate for orthopedics and dermatology specialties.
“This world is a better place now because of your match,” Dr. Hartwig said to the class.
The day is normally quite emotional for faculty and students alike, with Dr. Hartwig’s voice breaking at times. “It’s so difficult to not be in the same room with you all,” he said. “I’m going to try to just get through this.”
Of course, while many students matched with their top choice, some students didn’t, as is the case every Match Day. But this isn’t as bad as it seems at first, explained Dr. Tami Hendriksz, Associate Dean of Clinical Education.
“It’s important to remember, they chose you. You are their match,” Dr. Hendriksz told the students. “I’ve seen the magic of the match work in amazing ways.”
Dr. Hendriksz said many students not getting their top choice in the past ultimately met the love of their life during their residency, came to find it was the best match after all, or eventually stayed on long enough to become chief of staff.
“We are all so lucky that you are the future of healthcare and of our profession,” Dr. Hendriksz said.
“I want to let you all know how amazing you’ve all been,” said Dr. K. Scott Whitlow, Associate Dean of Clinical Education, who was experiencing Match Day for the first time. In recognizing this class has faced the usual medical school challenges, along with those generated by the COVID crisis, Dr. Whitlow continued, “You are going to be more prepared…in how you look at challenges, maybe more than any other class in the history of medical school.”
Of the key milestones and accomplishments, Dr. Hartwig illustrated that the Class of 2021 achieved:
- Successful match rates higher than the national average in 14 of the 15 disciplines
- Record number for matches in Internal Medicine and matches in California
- Five graduates combining residency training with military service in the United States Army, Navy and Air Force
- The highest concentration of primary care matches in a single class
The event concluded with a pre-recorded video of well-wishes and congratulations from TUCCOM faculty, which followed an earlier video slideshow of photos highlighting the students’ journey through Touro since day one.
Most people are aware of the film, The Wizard of Oz. In it, there is a scene near the end where Dorothy realizes she’s had the power to return home to Kansas all along.
In a similar sort of way, PharmD candidate Joanne Canedo, who is expected to graduate from Touro University California this year, has had everything she’s needed right here in front of her.
A Vallejo-native, Canedo graduated from San Francisco State prior to earning her Master’s in Medical Health Sciences at Touro ahead of her PharmD enrollment.
It was at TUC that she had access to some inspiring and helpful faculty members, including Dr. Shane Desselle, for whom she served as a research assistant.
Dr. Desselle is not only a highly-respected member of the College of Pharmacy faculty, he is a highly-regarded researcher and educator globally, and this helped create a path for Canedo that she will soon blaze for other COP students.
To the best of anyone’s knowledge within the College of Pharmacy, Canedo will soon be TUC’s first Ph.D. candidate from the pharmacy program when she pursues that degree in Pharmacy Administration from the University of Mississippi.
Canedo not only hopes to focus on social and behavioral pharmacy research, she also looks forward to a time when she can help counsel and mentor future pharmacy students unsure on a specific career path.
Gaining notoriety for her trailblazing efforts wasn’t something that drove Canedo, but she realized others might gain from her experience.
“I'm not a huge fan of attention, so I originally wanted to shy away from the spotlight. But after some reflection, I want my story/experience to be heard to other students because I want to inspire others to not be afraid to go after what they want even if it means choosing a nontraditional path,” she said. “I want other students to be encouraged by my story to challenge themselves to get out of their comfort zone and have the mentality in thinking ‘why not’ when it comes to discovering different opportunities.”
Canedo credits the guidance and availability of the faculty as being key in her development as a student.
“The faculty always made themselves available to help and support students. If the faculty at Touro were more closed off, I would not have been able to discover my interest in conducting research related to social and behavioral pharmacy,” she said. “I am also very grateful to have received the proper support and encouragement from the faculty, especially from Dr. Desselle. He has been the best mentor in guiding me through the steps to pursue a PhD.”
And just as Canedo wasn’t seeking the spotlight, she also wasn’t necessarily in pursuit of becoming a trailblazer – although she is hopeful her journey will lead others to follow in some form or another.
“I hope this will further pique incoming COP students to want to understand how much of an impact conducting research in social and behavioral pharmacy can have to help expand pharmacy roles in the health profession,” Canedo said. “I also hope that students will realize how rewarding it can be to be able to use research to work in academic or industrial positions.”
Most people, at some point in their life, have made a statement along the lines of, “I’m feeling really stressed out.”
April is Stress Awareness Month and it may get right to the heart of the point in understanding that, while most people have heard of stress, lots of people don’t really know what stress is exactly.
One thing that’s clear, however, is that stress isn’t just something that bums us out and ruins our day; it’s ruining our health.
By dictionary definitions, stress, most simply put, is a physical, mental or emotional condition that causes bodily or mental tension. The tricky thing is, like fat or sugar, stress isn’t something that can simply be avoided. Some level is good for proper health and function, but an overload can be detrimental.
“When we experience stress our body releases the hormone cortisol,” said Dr. Jordan Keys, Assistant Professor and Interim Chair of the OMM Department with Touro University California’s College of Osteopathic Medicine. “Although, cortisol is incredibly important if we need to go into “fight or flight” mode, when we have chronic stress, this hormone can cause considerable adverse health effects- including elevated blood pressure, elevate blood glucose and weight gain.”
While people might “feel” stressed, how that stress affects them can vary.
“Some patients will experience change in mood, sleep and appetite. People can feel fatigue and have a lack of interest in things they would normally enjoy,” Dr. Keys said. “One of the main things people do when they are stressed is forget to take deep breaths.”
To help prevent stress from having an adverse health effect, it’s important to recognize the sources of stressors – which differ from person to person.
“Some key things to working through stress is learning to be aware of what creates stress in your life and ways that you and your body respond to it,” said Dr. Keys. Mindfulness practices and breathing exercises are good starting points, she said. “The better we are aware of our responses to stress, the better we will be able to learn to identify and work through stress. It is impossible not to have stress in our lives. However, learning your resiliency is critical to navigating stress and its impact on your life.”
People experiencing acute stress symptoms, resulting often in feelings of depression or helplessness, or those experiencing long-term or chronic stress, should seek assistance from medical professionals in treating stress.
“There are therapists and counselors that can help one understand stress, how to identify it and tools to work through it,” Dr. Keys said. “Stress is inevitable, but its impact on your life and health is not.”
Paul Gonzales, MPAS, PA-C has been an Assistant Professor with the Touro University California Joint PA/MPH program for a little more than a year, but his face might still be a bit unfamiliar to many on campus.
That’s because the bulk of his time has been spent away from campus, with TUC going to a remote format due to COVID-19 just a couple of months after he accepted a position to teach at the school.
Having arrived at Touro from Dallas by way of Austin, Texas – where he lived for more
decades – Gonzales missed out on much of his chance to fully experience everything the Bay Area has to offer due to shelter-at-home orders, although what “free” time he might have seems spare as he’s involved with many different aspects of the PA/MPH program, including co-coordinating Surgical Principles and Technical Skills, Psychiatry, Topics in PA Practice, helping with Clinical Applications (physical exam skills), reviewing and interviewing PA applicants to our Joint Program, and lecturing in a variety of topics in medicine or pharmacology.
He also stays busy as Director at Large and Education Committee Chair for the national LBGT PA Caucus, and volunteering with the PA Foundation reviewing scholarships and grants.
Although Gonzales has family in the Bay Area, it was really Touro’s campus culture that attracted him to the job.
“I saw opportunity, community, and positive change,” Gonzales said. “I knew that TUC was a great fit after interviewing with the faculty and staff, realizing how welcoming the environment was and how driven each person was to fulfilling the mission of recruiting individuals who want to work with under-resourced communities, providing culturally sensitive care and advocating for these communities.”
Gonzales has been an educator at heart for many years, from authoring numerous PA-oriented blog posts, to an exam prep book for PA students, to experiences through American Academy of Physician Assistants and Physician Assistant Education Association, but it was interactions with students that settled him in on a teaching career.
“Seeing students learn, grow, make mistakes, and eventually exceed expectations is a wonderful thing and so rewarding to know that you helped them get there,” Gonzales said. “One of my favorite moments in teaching is when students find their ‘ah ha’ moment and things finally click for them, boosting their self-confidence and realizing they are no longer ‘imposters.’”
Far from imposters, Gonzales sees his students as true champions.
“Our students embody leadership, teamwork, compassion, altruism, humility, service, advocacy, resilience, grit, and they are the backbone of our program,” he said. “At a time when the nation has its eye locked on public health like never before, these students are highly qualified leaders with a strong commitment to social justice, diversity, health equity, and inclusion. They have been through so much already, but will come out stronger because of it.”
As April begins, so too begins Autism Awareness Month.
Autism is a condition that may well have awareness without understanding, which is to say, many people have certainly heard of autism, but few really understand what that means exactly.
Rather than awareness, April should be, as Associate Professor of Special Education with the Graduate School of Education, Dr. Linda Haymes puts it, a month of “autism acceptance.”
The definition provided by the American Psychiatric Association terms autism as, “a developmental disorder characterized by difficulties with social interaction and communication, and by restricted and repetitive behavior.”
The specific symptoms and the severity of each can vary greatly, causing healthcare professionals to refer to this broad swath as Autism Spectrum Disorder or ASD. Because ASD can manifest in people in a range of different ways, it can be difficult for even trained healthcare professionals to know the best ways to treat people with intellectual and developmental disorders (IDD), which includes autism.
Reversing this fact is a major goal of the American Academy of Developmental Medicine & Dentistry (AADMD). The group is intent on improving the quality of care of individuals with IDDs and the student chapter at Touro University California has explained why this is important in an issued statement in recognition of Autism Awareness Month.
“Less than half of physicians felt they could provide the same quality of care to a person with disabilities as they would a person without disabilities. To make matters worse, only about 1 in 6 physicians recognized this healthcare disparity,” the group wrote in their statement.
“Misconceptions are prevalent in regards to ASD. This is likely associated with the disorder being recently recognized and associated with diagnostic criteria. It was first described 78 years ago by Leo Kanner, in 1943,” the statement explained.
Issues with providing better care have been compounded by numerous mischaracterizations of autism over the years as being some other neurological disorder or even being chalked up to poor parenting.
The rates of diagnosing autism prior to the age of three has improved greatly even in the past couple of years, which has helped improve seeking out appropriate care at an earlier age, which has started to help the AAMDM meet its stated objective.
Having greater numbers of student-doctors committed to this goal is greatly helpful, as well.
“The (AAMDM) Touro chapter strives to improve the quality of healthcare for all individuals who are developmentally disabled,” the statement explained. “It is currently commonplace that disability topics, like the above, are not included in medical school curricula. Because of this, staggering statistics show how this gap is directly correlated to the health inequities suffered by those with disabilities. For example, only about 1 in 13 medical students feel “very informed” about their knowledge of ASD.”
The club helps facilitate an elective each fall to help student-doctors combat this fact.
“We also do multiple talks in the spring which cover a broad range of topics. Becoming a member of AADMD Touro also opens the door for becoming involved in national AADMD efforts. This may include (but is not limited to) research, grant writing, or advocacy work. Currently at the national level, the club is involved in circular efforts and is helping draft a major grant proposal,” the statement explained.
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