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|BISO President Nneka Okonkwo, COM MSMHS, at the Melanated Luncheon|
Over 20 members strong, the first Black Interprofessional Student Organization (BISO) is celebrating its inaugural year at TUC. BISO’s mission and purpose include supporting the academic achievement and personal growth of students of Afro-American and African descent; instilling a sense of pride and appreciation for African diaspora culture, histories, and experiences; and creating an affirming atmosphere that encourages healthy relationship building, interdisciplinary collaboration, and intercultural communication.
BISO’s President, Nneka Okonkwo, noted, “Visibility, representation, and inclusivity are impacting the way we navigate healthcare. We strive to provide a supportive atmosphere that empowers our students with the tools they’ll need to serve the diverse community both in and beyond the classroom.”
On January 14, BISO hosted a Melanated Luncheon to celebrate their induction, and to provide a communal space for students to come together and build relationships.
“It was opened to the entire campus and the community to give allies a chance to support our cause and bolster our collaborative approach,” said Ms. Okonkwo. “Events like this create an affirming space for the development of community by demonstrating that everyone is valued.”
When asked to describe the principle behind Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine (OMM), Jordan Keys, DO, Vice Chair of the Osteopathic Practices and Principles Department, starts to hum a childhood song, “The thigh bone is connected to the knee bone…”. The physical manipulation of the body to promote and restore health, OMM is a core component of the College of Osteopathic Medicine’s curriculum. After undergoing years of experience and specialized training, DOs like Dr. Keys gain a palpable understanding of how to diagnose and treat the body.
|Jordan Keys, DO, demonstrates OMM|
When discussing the osteopathic principle of structure influencing function, Dr. Keys states, “We move our ribs 16 times a minute to breathe; breathing spreads oxygen throughout our body and impacts our lymphatic and circulatory systems. If you have a scoliosis or curvature of the spine, that changes the way those ribs move; they don’t move as efficiently, and it takes more energy and metabolic activity just to breathe.”
OMM can help to correct misalignments that might cause the body to decompensate while adapting to these stressors. When applying OMM, DOs consider the whole body, knee bones and all. As a student, Dr. Keys first became intrigued by OMM when she discovered that a woman who was having “neck pain” was actually about to have a heart attack. By putting her hands on her patient, Dr. Keys realized that there was no tension where there should have been for the patient’s recent surgery. Instead, she found stiffness and tenderness in her patient’s back, which may indicate that something could be wrong with her heart.
“Taking the time to do an osteopathic exam on this patient potentially saved her life in a situation where someone else might have been focused only on treating her neck pain,” remembered Dr. Keys.
When teaching the tangible skill of OMM in the classroom, Dr. Keys takes into consideration how each student approaches touch with their own past experience and comfort level.
“OMM might be the most intimate thing for the patient whom you’re assessing and treating,” said Dr. Keys. “As a physician, they’re often telling you something they haven’t told anyone else. What an honor and a privilege it is to have that relationship with your patient. I take it very seriously.”
When becoming Provost and Chief Academic Officer last January, Dr. Sarah Sweitzer set out to firmly establish Touro University California (TUC) as Vallejo’s anchor institution. With a vision to lead TUC forward by its founding Jewish auspices of social justice, intellectual pursuit, and service to humanity, Dr. Sweitzer has been a staunch advocate for TUC’s many efforts to address the social determinants of health and close achievement gaps in the classroom right here in Vallejo and Solano County.
“TUC is on the precipice of that next level, and we’re only 20 years young,” Dr. Sweitzer said with a smile. “Older academic institutions don’t come close to the community impact that TUC has. We are literally living our mission, which is rooted in social justice and service to the community.”
|Provost & CAO Dr. Sarah Sweitzer|
Over the course of Dr. Sweitzer’s first year, the strength of TUC’s community partnerships has swelled with organizations like Kaiser Permanente, Sutter Health, Vallejo City Unified School District, and regional non-profits. As a Vallejo native, she joined TUC students in inspiring youths from local high schools with new on-campus career preparation events like Health Care in Your World and Medical Career Opportunities.
As a way to recognize those in the community who light the pathin the areas of health, education, community mobilization, and social justice, TUC inaugurated the Community Lamplighter Awards in November, strengthening its shared mission with others.
Someone keen to engage with community, Dr. Sweitzer leads listening tours across campus. Hearing the desire to improve the campus space and security beginning on March 11, a new badge system will secure building access across campus. The listening tour has also led to marked technology infrastructure improvements with the completion of the classroom renovation project.
Now on her second year, Dr. Sweitzer is leveraging her own challenge, asking faculty and staff to be “Ready for the students of 2030!” The forward-thinking call to action emphasizes that it is through the innovative changes of today that TUC prepares to meet the dynamic needs of future students and their professions.
“Using a surfing analogy, we’ve been watching the rollers come in, chosen our wave, and that wave is cresting. We’re ready for an epic ride,” stressed Dr. Sweitzer. “We have to prepare today to be ready for 2030.”
It has been an unforgettable year serving as the Student Government Association. As we became more involved as student representatives, the strengths of Touro as an educational institution became clear. Not only do we have an administration that prioritizes inclusion of the student voice, but we have a student body who has shown an astounding ability to self-advocate. During the past year students have worked with Touro to adapt existing curriculum to include diversity training, to create an interfaith space on campus for students and guests to pray or meditate, to provide a supportive environment where students could stand together in solidarity during tragedy, and so much more. As a Student Government Association, we have learned about the opportunities and obstacles of leadership. We have also learned of the undying spirit of Touro students to work hard to create positive change. It has been an honor representing such a wonderful body of students! -TUC SGA 2018-2019
In two neighboring classrooms, Juanisha Cox and Monique Rountree shape young futures
as they teach transitional kindergarten and kindergarten respectively at Caliber Changemaker’s
Academy in Vallejo. Both natives of Vallejo who are working on their multiple subject
teaching credentials at the Graduate School of Education (GSOE), Ms. Cox and Mrs.
Rountree introduce fundamental building blocks of the classroom to those getting their
first start in school.
For Ms. Cox, who is also in the Teaching and Learning Master’s Program, her students who begin the school year at four-years-old start their learning with instructions.
Juanisha Cox, GSOE Credential and Master student, in her classroom
“One day, I told all the students to come to the carpet, and nobody moved,” said Ms.
Cox. “I thought, ‘Did I say it wrong?’ I realized that I had to go a little deeper
and explain that it was time everyone to pull out their chairs and then join me on
According to Ms. Cox, the Teaching and Learning Master’s Program has helped her to find ways to meet the different stages of her young students’ reading development and learning styles.
Next door in kindergarten, Monique Rountree, MA, engages her slightly older students in the worlds of Math, English, Social Studies, and Computer Science. Employing what she calls a social emotional learning curriculum, she begins each morning with a greeting to ask the class how they are feeling, giving high fives to make sure her students feel well.
“I think of them as little tiny adults,” said Mrs. Rountree. “They come in on day one, most of them not knowing anything, and you see them at the end of the year progress academically as individual students. It’s beautiful to see, and to do it in my hometown of Vallejo is that much better.”
At one time scholars of the Willie B. Adkins Scholars Program, a high school program from the Vallejo City Unified School District that includes introducing children to historically black colleges and universities, Ms. Cox is now a volunteer while Mrs. Rountree is active in church clothing drives.
“For me, it was instrumental in getting in and out of college,” stressed Ms. Cox. “That’s why I continue to give back to it every year. I know I wouldn’t be where I am in life without the adults who gave me the skills, feedback, and guidance.”
For the 12th year in a row, the Joint Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies / Master of Public Health (MSPAS/MPH) Program is honored to receive the Song-Brown Healthcare Workforce Training Programs Grant through the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development (OSHPD).
This year, the program received $96,000 to assist students from rural and underserved areas in their clinical education and training as physician assistants (PAs). TUC’s application was one of only eighteen that were funded.
“We know that if we’re going to take in students from rural and underserved areas,
then we need to have the proper support systems in place to ensure these students
succeed,” said Joint MSPAS/MPH Program Director Grace Landel. “These students will
be our colleagues in just 33 months, so we need to do what we can to support them—even
a little bit of financial aid goes a long way to ensure these students can focus on
getting a quality education.”
TUN vs TUC
March 4th, 4:00 - 7:00 PM
Lander Hall Gym
Come cheer for your peers as the TUN Matadors take on the TUC Bulls in our annual basketball competition. Don't miss the dance team face off at half time!
Help Ensure a safe environment for our campus at all hours.
I Am Touro
Joseph “Jos” Villaluna, Recruiter for the College of Education and Health Sciences
A native of Vallejo who’s been part of the inner workings of the worlds of radio and staffing truck drivers, Joseph “Jos” Villaluna was glad for the opportunity to return home and join TUC as a recruiter for the College of Education and Health Sciences (CEHS). An ever smiling face, Jos is also pursuing his MBA through Touro University Worldwide. When he is not completing his homework over a glass of cabernet, Jos enjoys sports, the ukulele, and getting his favorite food at Royal Jelly Donuts in Vallejo.
What stands out about the prospective students you meet?
With our programs, we have many diverse students who bring in the unique ideas that drive our programs to success. The prospects I meet are often advancing their careers to earn a better opportunity to help their family or so they can push themselves to reach their full potential. Whatever it may be, the students are determined, dedicated, and will do what they need to do to achieve their goals and dreams. But still, they are normal people who go out and have fun!
What are the biggest changes that you’ve seen in Vallejo since you were a kid?
Having being born in the 90’s, I have seen many changes happen in Vallejo. I was very sad when Toys R Us closed and eventually became a Best Buy and happy that CC Sabathia renovated a baseball field for a North Vallejo baseball league I played for. I also remember when the big Vallejo statue was removed from the corner of Sonoma Blvd and Redwood. These are just a few things, but the biggest change I have seen is the community coming together and actually making Vallejo a great city to visit. Vallejo has great culture and that goes unnoticed by many. I may have not seen it before when I was younger, but I feel there are many organizations as well as local residents that are working towards the end goal of Vallejo being safer, hosting fun events for all ages, and creating opportunities for the youth. I am proud to have lived and grown up in Vallejo!
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