By KibkabÃ© Araya The Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine celebrated its grand opening Monday at the Apollo Theater in Harlem. The college, which is the first medical school to open in New York State in the last 30 years, aims to help underprivileged communities such as Harlem banish health disparities. “The mission is to increase the number of under-represented minorities in medicine, and to also find non-minorities who want to serve a community like Harlem,” Dr. Martin Diamond, dean of the college, said.
Jazz music lured the business-casual dressed guests into the theater. Parents, faculty, and colleagues were there to support the class of 2011, who will become osteopathic physicians in a few years. During the opening ceremony, the current students walked into the theater hand in hand with kindergartners adorned in lab coats. Part of the goal of the college is to reach out to Harlem children and get them involved in medicine at a young age by sending medical students to elementary and middle schools to discuss the benefits of a career in medicine. Touro College also implemented a seven-year program to recruit diligent high school students with a B+ grade point average and SAT scores of 1700. These students will be awarded scholarships and financial aid to study medicine after graduating high school. Only 135 students earned a spot in the class of 2011 out of 1800 people who applied to the program. Many students said they applied because they wanted to serve their community.
“I think it is very important, and I’m honored to be in a place to learn and serve the community at the same time, and hopefully having this school in the community will bring good things to the community,” said Bunmi Olarewaju, a Nigerian-born New Jersey resident, who said he wants to be a doctor to improve health conditions among minorities.
Congressman Charlie Rangel (D-Harlem) and Dr. Muriel Petioni—a 93-year-old African American female physician—were both in attendance. Both received awards from the Touro College administration for their long-term achievements in helping minorities receive better health care.
“I am excited about having a medical school here in Harlem, but I am even more excited about having an African American medical school who is committed to serving the under-served, and also committed to recruiting under-represented minorities, and also equally excited about supporting them in the community,” said Dr. Bruce Peters, clinical dean of the college, who relocated his family from Kansas City to join the school.
Siatta Dunbar, an incoming student, said she believes that being in Harlem will serve as a great resource for students going for a medical degree.
“I think as part of our mission, part of our job is to learn the humanities behind medicine. And I think being in Harlem, we really need to capitalize on the humanities for reaching out into the community, to service the community, and be educated on it, which is the infinite importance,” Dunbar said.
“We’re here to stimulate the community and stimulate the young people to study science, and eventually qualify for medical school,” Diamond said.