In this Issue
With June serving as LGBTQ+ Pride Month, it might seem like most of the progress stood to be gained by members of this community has been pretty well taken care of, with same-sex marriages fairly commonplace, and LGBTQ+ individuals holding elected offices of various sorts throughout the country.
In truth, however, there is more ground left to be gained than has been gained. More than half of states still have some type of statutory ban on same-sex marriages and unions, and often elected officials identifying as being a member of the LGBTQ+ community are still very frequently the first person like themselves to have done so.
Beyond increased acceptance and broader visibility, members of the LGBTQ+ community still face a major hurdle in terms of full inclusion, which is access to appropriate healthcare options.
While healthcare providers might be more inclusive-minded than some groups, there remain blind spots for many providers as to the specific needs and concerns of LGBTQ+ community patients.
Likewise, many patients – who may or may not be living as an ‘out’ individual – might face anxiety and discomfort in discussing their healthcare needs fully with a provider who might not fully understand these trepidations.
Members of Touro University California’s Rainbow Health Coalition have spent much of their recent time and energy advocating for Safe Zone training. Safe Zone training, in short, lets the LGBTQ+ community know that healthcare providers are open-minded to be supportive and humble enough to ask specific questions in ways that aren’t belittling or demeaning.
RHC vice president Andrea Lapira, a Joint MSPAS/MPH student, said, “Safe Zone training is really important, and I love that it is offered to Touro students of different programs.”
The group has also advocated for the new elective “LGBTQIA+ Considerations in Healthcare,” which includes lectures about trauma informed care, intersectionality, trans health, pediatric, and elder population considerations, Lapira said.
“The elective is not just limited to COM students. In fact, many PA students were very interested in this elective and have audited it this past semester,” Lapira added.
RHC has also strongly advocated for this sense of awareness for groups not directly affiliated with the campus. RHC held a fundraiser earlier in the spring to benefit Solano Serenity Center, and they plan to include elements of this training when they participate in the upcoming Teen Life Conference at TUC.
“Nobody is ever going to be an expert on any one culture, so I think the way that Safe Zone training demonstrates and promotes how important it is for providers to remain open-minded, humble, and open to listening and learning from their patients is crucial to compassionate healthcare,” Lapira said.
Even well-intentioned future providers might not always know how to even start the process of being a Pride community ally. Safe Zone training helps resolve that, Lapira said.
“It’s wonderful to be ready to be an ally or advocate but sometimes it's difficult to know where to start: Safe Zone training provides both the tools and a point of reference for those who need it,” she said.
One of the things Safe Zone training emphasizes (and what RHC advocates for in general) is not to make assumptions about anything in regard to our future patients,” Lapira added. “By normalizing things like asking for someone’s pronouns if they are comfortable giving them or using non-gendered language, it reduces the stigma surrounding the community.”
In sports, they often say once is a fluke and twice is a trend.
Touro University California College of Pharmacy Professor Dr. Shane Desselle proved recently that his being named a Fulbright Specialist was no fluke, as he received word that he has earned that distinction for a second time.
“Earning this Fulbright award is every bit as fulfilling as earning the first one,” Dr. Desselle said.“In a sense, perhaps even more so, as earning a second Fulbright is somewhat rare and is indicative of the Fulbright Committee's evaluation of my first Fulbright award as being a highly successful one.”
Pharmacy is still a relatively new area for Fulbright, so earning a second recognition is a rarified feat.
“It's significant on a number of accounts,” Dr. Desselle said.“Again, pharmacy has not been represented well in the Fulbright program, yet we have a lot to offer to potential hosts, including knowledge about health curriculums, medicines use, medicines distribution and supply chain, as well as integrative collaborative health management issues that can improve health outcomes for any number of populations.”
Fulbright Specialists are usually sought-after experts by institutions around the world seeking to improve particular areas of study – in this case, pharmacy.
COVID-19 has complicated that element to a degree but Dr. Desselle, with the possible return of international travel, is hopeful to soon venture to the University of Sydney in Australia. A trip to Sydney is a great match, he said.
“They (U of Sydney) have a number of projects that are right up my alley, in terms of organizational culture in their pharmacy school, as well as curriculum design in the pharmaceutical managerial sciences,” Dr. Desselle said. “Additionally, I work with several of their faculty as editors on journals and textbooks as well as research projects on the pharmacist's role in educating the public on use of complementary and alternative medicines.” Still, a trip to Sydney is not a foregone conclusion, and Dr. Desselle could end up elsewhere.
The unique experience of Fulbright is that it offers an opportunity to share knowledge, but also for the Specialists in question to learn more about the world in general.
“Academically, it's another opportunity to advance the profession of pharmacy, as our profession has been somewhat of an ‘underdog,’ often not recognized for our potential contribution as health providers and health educators,” Dr. Desselle said.“Personally, it's a reflection of a lifelong career in teaching, scholarship, and service, with an opportunity to engage in more travel around the world while experiencing the sights, cultures, food, music, customs, and language (even idiosyncrasies in the English language) that different countries have to offer, in addition to learning more about their history and what makes those countries what they are, today.”
Many medical students have a clear goal of becoming doctors even before embarking on undergraduate studies.
For student-doctor Zoe Quint, the process happened somewhat in reverse. Quint had experience in non-profits and teaching prior to arriving at Touro University California, which opened her eyes to the layers of problems different groups experience around the world.
From there, she decided that a career in medicine was the best way to most directly affect people’s lives.
“I knew I wanted to help people, and I felt that becoming a physician and obtaining clinical skills was the best way to most directly impact the lives of others,” Quint said.
Little did she know at the time, the seed had also been planted about the benefit of public health, as well. In researching medical schools, it was the possibility of earning a dual degree in public health and osteopathic medicine that attracted her to TUC.
“Through my time serving as a women’s rights advocate in Nepal, working as a food bank organizer in Israel and teaching nutrition and garden education in the Washington, DC public school system, I observed firsthand the impact that environment and community collaboration can have on individual health outcomes,” Quint said. “I didn't know much about dual degree programs when I was going through the application process for medical school, but I saw the opportunity when I applied to TUC and it was a huge selling point for me.”
In fact, it was such a huge selling point for her, she eventually did a Capstone research project that would end up effectively selling the idea to others.
“As a current dual degree DO/MPH student at Touro University California, I am particularly devoted to potentiating the connection between clinical medicine and population health,” Quint said.
And just as it happened with her path into medical school, settling on her Capstone topic came somewhat in reverse. Quint says she was initially interested in what previous TUC students had specialized in hoping it would spark some inspiration in her.
In reviewing a set of survey data, an idea came to Quint, but it wasn’t necessarily the one she had expected initially. It wasn’t the only “happy accident,” as a famed painter would say, that happened to Quint.
Another was simply coming to Touro to begin with. Her background was perfectly suited to thrive in a Dual DO/MPH program and, while around half of Osteopathic Medical schools have dual degree offerings, Touro’s is the largest in the country.
And her research revealed some significant benefits for future physicians in having an DO/MPH degree.
“A dual degree can provide physicians-in-training with analytical, data-driven skills that allow them to address individual behavioral factors as well as socio-environmental factors that impact health and well-being,” Quint said. “The training we receive in biostatistics, epidemiology and health policy is particularly helpful to understand the healthcare system as a whole and in what way we, as future physicians, will fit into that system.”
She sees the benefit for herself and for others to come.
“Personally, getting my dual degree in public health has been very formative in shaping my career aspirations and trajectory in medicine,” Quint said. “I believe that a public health perspective is so important in clinical medicine, particularly in the primary care fields.
“This project has made me hopeful for the new generation of healthcare providers. There's an increasing demand for more comprehensive training in medical education from the students themselves, and I think institutions are realizing that and are starting to incorporate more population health-based education into the medical curricula,” she added.
Touro University California (TUC) faculty and staff will celebrate the accomplishments of the Class of 2021 through a series of virtual commencement ceremonies where students will have the opportunity to share this moment with family and friends from the comfort of their homes.
The first ceremony took place at 10 a.m., May 23, with the College of Osteopathic Medicine. The following day, the College of Pharmacy celebrated its graduates beginning at 10 a.m.
Degrees in the Masters of Medical Health Sciences program will be conferred June 2, followed by the College of Education and Health Sciences June 13. CEHS encompasses four major programs: The Graduate School of Education, the Masters of Public Health program, the Joint Masters of Science in Physician Assistant Studies, and the School of Nursing.
In total, TUC will award 450 degrees to distinguished future doctors, physician assistants, nurses, pharmacists, public health practitioners, educators and educational administrators.
In a letter to the graduates, Chief Academic Officer and Provost Dr. Sarah Sweitzer said, “Many of you have served in communities across the globe to create and implement meaningful public health interventions. The educators among you have adapted to circumstances few other educators have had to face en masse and for such a long period of time, giving your heart and soul to your students no matter the obstacles.
“In your own ways, each of you have stood up to the challenge of COVID-19 that has altered the way we live. You responded with grace in the call to shelter-in-place, to protect the most vulnerable members of our community, and when volunteers were needed in various capacities, so many of you didn’t hesitate to raise a hand and say, “Send me.”
In a congratulatory letter to the graduates, Touro University Western Division Sr. Provost Shelley Berkley said, “Your presence here is proof that you don’t back away from challenges, and as Touro graduates, be confident in yourself, as I am of each and every one of you, that you have it within you to meet not only this challenge, but the challenges of the future we have not yet discovered.”
The annual Mosaic Celebration, Touro University California’s top fundraiser to support diversity scholarships, was hosted in a virtual format, May 13, and largely achieved its goal of fortifying the scholarship fund, which took a hit last year when it was cancelled following stay-at-home orders from the state.
The event organizers faced a major challenge in how to replace one of the key features of the Mosaic Celebration, the silent auction. University Advancement, the event planners, were able to utilize a platform known as OneCause, which allowed for an online silent auction that hosted more than 40 donated items.
The virtual setting allowed the auction to open a week prior to the event and remain open for a week after, rather than starting and culminating the night of.
In addition, funds were raised through a live raffle, patterned after a similar raffle held last fall during the virtual Lamplighter Gala.
More than 80 students benefitting from the scholarship fund, including those in Public Health, College of Osteopathic Medicine, College of Pharmacy, School of Nursing, Graduate School of Education and Physician Assistant program.
The scholarship recipients were appreciative of the support that comes from the event.
Student-doctor Will Okerblom of the College of Osteopathic Medicine said, "I really appreciate that Touro helps support diversity in healthcare by providing the Mosaic scholarship."
Sr. Provost Shelley Berkley and Provost and Chief Academic Officer Sarah Sweitzer hosted the raffle live following a recorded celebration, which included student testimonials, an award recognizing Solano County Office of Education Superintendent Lisette Estrella-Henderson, and two musical performances from former “Santana” vocalist Tony Lindsay.
Associate Vice President of Advancement Andrea Garcia was encouraged greatly by the generosity exhibited through the event. Many event sponsors were hit financially by conditions related to COVID-19, but still managed to find a way to support the event.
“That really shows how highly they (sponsors) regard our students and how engaged these organizations are in their communities.”
The scholarship fund helps support the university’s efforts of diversity, equality and inclusion and has benefitted dozens of students in the past six years.
Trio earn CILT award for innovationA trio of Touro University California faculty members earned prizes as part of the Center for Innovative Learning and Teaching’s inaugural “TUC Innovation in Teaching Awards.”
Drs. Gloria Klapstein and Carinne Brody each earned $500 awards for their innovations at the course/curriculum level, and Dr. Elena Lingas earned $250 for her innovation at the assignment level, according to Dr. Jim O'Connor, Director of the Center for Innovative Learning and Teaching, Western Division.
Dr. Klapstein was nominated for the award by Dr. Greg Gayer, Chair of the Basic Science Department in the College of Osteopathic Medicine.
In his nomination letter, Dr. Gayer said of Dr. Klapstein, “I can assuredly state that Dr. Gloria Klapstein’s course coordinating contributions, during the dynamic COVID period and all the mandatory immediate adaptive changes, not only deserve considerations for innovation but also deserve a medal of valor for going above and beyond in producing creative innovative solutions that allowed the entire COM course content delivery and assessment to be successful.”
In a statement about her innovative course practices, Dr. Brody said, “In the past, all course content was delivered during the regular weekly class times. Students were assigned some reading in preparation for class time, which included lecture and skills application activities in class.
“Last year, I invested the time to improve this class used the flipped teaching model. Now before each live class, students complete a dynamic online module when they engage with course material and then are given the opportunity to immediately assess their comprehension and apply their skills. As a result, students come to class prepared to apply their new skills in a more meaningful way to their ongoing projects, and I am able to assess understanding before class, so I can target my teaching to areas that need more support and use class time for more advances skills application.”
For her innovation, Dr. Lingas noted, “I am most proud of the pivot I made near the
end of an exhausting semester to throw out the multiple choice/short answer final
exam and to instead create a completely new, and dare I say creative, assignment.
I devised a final exam assignment that asked students to: 1) pick a topic we had covered
in class for which their thinking had changed; 2) explain what they had previously
thought about this issue and why they had thought this way; what were the influences on their thinking? 3) explain what they now think about this topic, and what aspects of the class influenced their thinking; and 4) to imagine a specific future professional career for themselves and how this new knowledge would impact this future work.”
Along with monetary awards, each recipient will receive a plaque recognizing their award and innovation.
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