Alums Connect with Alma Mater Over Coffee

Graduates from Various Programs Take Time Out of Their Day to Recall Time at Mare Island Campus

March 01, 2024
A photo shows Touro University California MPH alumna Ashley Cumpus inside The Quarters Coffee House, Thursday, Jan. 11, 2024.
Touro University California MPH alumna Ashley Cumpus is shown inside The Quarters Coffee House, Thursday, Jan. 11, 2024.

By Glen Faison, Alumni Engagement Director, Touro University California

I’ve been reaching out individually to alums from the area for the past several months and have learned a great deal from those who have agreed to meet with me.

My hope is to meet with our alums in person, but I found that three of our alums from the MSPAS/MPH program who responded to my invitation no longer live here but were willing to meet with me via Zoom. Meanwhile an MPH alum asked to meet via Zoom, even though she lives nearby, because of her work schedule.

My first two meetings since my last report were with alums from programs in the Graduate School of Education.

Victoria Gaba and Natalie DuMont

Victoria Gaba (MA.Ed. 2016) obtained her Teaching Credential and then entered and completed the GSOE Master’s degree program. She’s a kindergarten teacher in Fairfield. Natalie DuMont (GSOE Teaching Credential 2020) is also a kindergarten teacher but in Vallejo.

Gaba and DuMont each had separate careers prior to entering education, although Gaba had vast experience in early childhood education through her work as a teacher and leader at a pair of Montessori Schools, one in American Canyon and one in Benicia. She has also worked in the hospitality sector and in high-end retail.

Gaba describes early childhood education as her “first love.”

She says she chose Touro because it is a local, private university with small cohorts in the Master’s degree programs. She says she made great connections among members of her cohort as well as with her professors while at Touro.

DuMont’s background before entering the education profession was in the environmental sector, with time working at Google added into the mix. She worked with the Greenbelt Alliance in both San Francisco and Solano County, with the Solano Land Trust, and with the Solano Resource Conservation District based on her undergraduate degree in Human Biology, with a focus on Environmental Science Policy, and a Master’s and Earth Systems, both from Stanford University.

She says she loved her Touro University California experience, particularly in the areas of social justice, socioeconomic awareness, and social-emotional learning.

Desiree Miranda

Desiree Miranda (MPH 2020) and I met via Zoom. She works with Solano County EMS through Solano County Public Health, and previously worked at a nonprofit that supports the Vallejo City Unified School District.

Miranda through her work with Solano EMS and the county indicates she has to navigate the sometimes-murky waters of local government politics, bureaucracy, and red tape in order to bring her Public Health expertise to bear for the benefit of Solano County residents.

Her path to her MPH degree was in some respects nontraditional.

Specifically, she worked full time with the Vallejo schools’ Nutrition Program while taking classes to obtain her MPH degree, focusing at the schools on obesity prevention education with fourth- and fifth-graders. Her work schedule saw her taking MPH classes in the summer with students in the Joint MSPAS/MPH program so she could keep pace with her cohort.

Miranda was born and raised here and has a passion for Vallejo.

“I wanted to be part of the change,” she says of her decision to attend Touro University California, obtain her MPH degree, and work at the local level.

Ashley Marhi Cumpas

Ashley Marhi Cumpas (MPH 2016) has worked for Solano County since the end of the fall semester of her final year in the MPH program at Touro, working at various times for Public Health, Family Health Services, and again with Public Health.

She’s now in communications and public information, including work with as well as workforce development within Public Health.

Cumpas says she got what she needed from the MPH program at Touro to succeed in the field of Public Health, including what she describes as “a better foundational background” than she would have had otherwise.

She laments the level of resources the MPH program had at its disposal when compared to the larger DO and MSPAS/MPH programs during her time at Touro, something that was offset by the good field study options that were available at the time.

Cumpas was excited to learn that the MPH program has Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion backed into the curriculum now – something she saw take on greater significance in the Public Health sector a couple of years after completing her Master’s degree program.

Elena Makani da Silva

Elena Makani da Silva (MSPAS/MPH 2014) spent a decade working with Solano Public Health until taking a new job in December in Lincoln working with Peach Tree Health. She applied for a Physician Assistant role and, after some discussion, was offered and accepted the position of Medical Director.

Peach Tree is a Federally Qualified Health Center that serves a mostly rural population through a handful of clinics in and around Lincoln. The program at Touro gave her the skills to better serve patients first with Solano Public Health and now with Peach Tree.

“The MPH has allowed me to see my patients differently,” she says.

Lt. j.g. Haley Vering and Joseph Geschlecht

Lt. j.g. Haley Vering (MSPAS/MPH 2023) and Joseph Geschlecht (MSPAS/MPH 2023) were part of the same cohort whose members went through the Joint MSPAS/MPH program during the COVID-19 pandemic. I met with each via Zoom.

The experience proved challenging and, in some ways, liberating.

Geschlecht works in thoracic oncology. He describes the experience of his cohort as an “aberration” due to restrictions put in place to prevent the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19.

He said he and his class have a different relationship with the University and their professors as a result – with commencement in Sacramento essentially the first time many of them had a chance to get together as a group. He said he and his classmates are more disconnected than other alums, although he has taught some here at Touro with the Clinical Applications class.

Vering currently serves in the U.S. Navy as a Physician Assistant in Florida. She opted for the Global Health path while at Touro because she knew she would be treating military personnel and civilians with diverse backgrounds.

She says the MSPAS/MPH program at Touro left her “very well-prepared academically,” although she says many in her cohort, herself included, would have benefitted from continued practice reading EKGs while working on their joint Master’s degree program. She says she received additional EKG training through a pair of cardio rotations.

Online classes during the pandemic were a benefit to Vering, who says they allowed her to spend more time with her husband, who is a pilot in the Navy, because she did not have to be on campus to attend classes.

Dr. Fatima Hernandez

Dr. Fatima Hernandez (PharmD 2020) remains in charge of organizing the University’s mobile vaccination clinics throughout the community. Touro’s mobile program has a contract from Solano County to conduct Public Health vaccination clinics.

“It’s a lot,” Hernandez says.

The program this year offers Tetanus-Diphtheria-Pertussis (Tdap), influence, and COVID-19 vaccinations.

Hernandez’s role at Touro now includes teaching interprofessional medical Spanish to College of Osteopathic Medicine, College of Pharmacy, and School of Nursing students. She has revamped the course curriculum based on part of student feedback. She says she takes a motivational approach to teaching the 15-week course, and is working on a six-week version for faculty.

“It’s been a rewarding experience,” Hernandez says of her time working at Touro since completing her Doctorate degree. “It takes the training I got from Touro to provide exceptional service to the community.”

Interested in getting together for a chat? Send me an email at