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Dr. Louise Santiago’s Vision for Transforming Vallejo Classrooms
With a lifetime of supporting and building collaborative leadership as a Vallejo school administrator, Dr. Louise Santiago, the newly appointed Assistant Dean of the College of Education and Health Sciences, has a heartfelt commitment to providing Vallejo youths strong models to look up to.
|Louise Santiago, PhD, Assistant Dean of the College of Education and Health Sciences & Director of the Graduate School of Education|
“Achieving equity in school systems means having to undo the long-term historical effects of government policy,” stressed Dr. Santiago. The impact of congressional law that targeted single white women as a cheap labor force for American education can still be seen today. While over 65% of students in the US education system are from diverse backgrounds, teaching at all levels remains predominantly white, and at the top of leadership, fewer than 2% are people of color.
The barriers are cultural as well. Dr. Santiago remembers the devastation that her own parents felt when she came home during college and told them that she was changing career path from computer engineering to education.
“They thought that I was going to be poor and my life was going to be so difficult. I had popped the bubble in the American dream that they had for me; it was a very difficult day,” recalled Dr. Santiago. “I see it in a lot of kids when they say, ‘I can’t possibly be a teacher,’ because money is an important driver in the American system.”
But building that pathway for teachers of color is well worth the effort for Dr. Santiago, who is already familiar with the “parking lot outreach” that it took for her to build strong relationships with parents as a school administrator.
“If you want students to aspire to be change agents and go out and do something in the world, they need to be able to look around and see themselves reflected in the adults around them,” said Dr. Santiago. “If all they see are people who don’t look like them at all, there’s a subconscious decision to say, ‘Oh, that’s not a job for me. I have to go out and do something else.’
“This is all the result of systemic oppression, and we have to change opinions to say that teaching is a viable profession. And one where you earn a decent living with perks like health benefits,” she continued.
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Having started the Solano County Diverse Educator Network (DEN) at the beginning of
this year, Dr. Santiago, with Solano County Superintendent Dr. Lisette Estrella-Henderson,
and others are investing their time in devising ways to address what they see as the
three primary venues for increasing diversity in the educator workforce.
First, building a mentor pool to help those returning home from college to consider teaching as a substitute. The support system aims to help new college grads who may be discouraged by their job prospects and a high cost of living.
Second, starting an academy model for current high school students to help lay out the pathway to teaching for them before they leave high school.
Third, seeking out opportunities to support school staff such as instructional assistants or campus supervisors who could become credentialed to teach the same students they see each day, further deepening the school’s ties to the diverse community it serves.
“As Provost Sarah Sweitzer says, we’re here to be that anchor institution for the community,” explained Dr. Santiago. “If I’m going to be in the community, I’m going to be in the community.”
Katherine Ku, TUC’s First Student Fulbright Scholar, to Close Gaps in Care in Rural Ethiopia
Armed with a burning passion for finding community-based approaches to health system strategy, Katherine Ku, DO/MPH Class of 2022, will head to rural Ethiopia in 2021 on a highly sought after Fulbright Scholarship.
|Katherine Ku, College of Osteopathic Medicine/MPH Class of 2022, Fulbright Scholar, Schweitzer Fellow|
Once there, she will work to close the gaps between emergency care and the communities they serve by looking closely at barriers to neonatal sepsis care in a place where the blood infection is one of the leading causes of infant death.
“The gold standard is a seven-day course of intravenous antibiotics, but that’s just not feasible in many rural communities,” said Ms. Ku. “So how are there ways that the community can help health professionals make a better strategy, not just on a generally localizable level, but a locally specific approach?”
Beyond the challenges of transportation, a strong religious identity for many families in the area means that parents will refrain from investing resources in children until they have been baptized, which can turn deadly, Ms. Ku explained.
By working with the area’s health professionals as well as community stakeholders, she hopes to find sustainable solutions that might otherwise remain hidden from the area’s decentralized health system.
The Fulbright will connect her with a research team on the ground from Emory University that has had a decade-long relationship with Ethiopia’s Ministry of Health as well as strong connections in the rural community she will serve.
|Katherine Ku and Professor Carly Strouse at La Clinica|
Before coming to Touro, Ms. Ku spent two years in the Peace Corps volunteering in a public health capacity in West Africa, an experience that has since guided her approach to healthcare.
“I’ve always wanted to incorporate a global health perspective to my career path, and I knew I wanted to do a longitudinal study abroad to help develop my skills as a future physician,” the Bay Area native explained. “But I didn’t want the trip to be short. I wanted to get to know a community and bring a skillset to the community and take away some knowledge that I could bring back to my own community in the US when it was done.”
Previously honored as a Schweitzer Fellow, Ms. Ku has also employed a community-based strategy to health with La Clinica Transitions Clinic where she worked with formerly incarcerated individuals to establish both a peer-support group and a visual storytelling project to provide a space where they could tell their story.
In both projects, she stressed, the point was to let the people decide for themselves what exactly they needed and how the resources that have been made available to them can be better tailored to their needs.
“Its’ important to remember that medicine isn’t just what we see in the hospital,” said Ms. Ku. “As medical students, we get isolated in this medical student role working in hospitals on rotation, but there’s just so much more out there.”
Although the travel restrictions for COVID-19 have delayed the project that was set for this August to early 2021, Ms. Ku is still thrilled.
“I’m going to be working to understand a community and culture, and in addition to that, I’ll be working with an established team on the ground that has intimate knowledge of the community we’re going to be working with,” she said happily.
A Burning Desire to Help Saves Lives:
Tony Lotte, College of Pharmacy Class of 2020 Class Speaker
2019-2020 Rho Chi Delta-Delta Honor Society Vice President
2017-18 Academy of Managed Care Pharmacy President
|Tony Lotte, College of Pharmacy Class of 2020 (R), at the Lodi Sikh Temple Flu Shot Clinic|
When Tony Lotte, College of Pharmacy Class of 2020, saw a health care disparity at the Sikh temple he was visiting during clinical rotations, he sprang into action, calling for volunteers to help administer flu shots at the temple.
“He didn’t have to do that,” said Dr. Lucinda Chan, who served as a preceptor at four of the nine clinics. “He was on rotation, a time when most just disappear. But Tony is always giving back…He had coordinated free flu shots with Walgreens, and it was all thanks to Tony and his negotiating skills.”
One event at one temple expanded into nine temples throughout San Joaquin and Stanislaus County in Lodi, Sacramento, Stockton, Manteca, and Modesto. Over 650 flu shots were administered as well as 200 diabetes screenings.
“Many there didn’t have the concept of flu shot,” explained Mr. Lotte. “They didn’t understand the benefit or know it was an annual thing and assumed it was something you get one time like other vaccinations.”
The program grew to include diabetes and blood pressure screenings, a decision that Mr. Lotte and Dr. Chan agreed saved lives.
The diabetes screening unveiled that one individual’s blood sugar level was over 500, a number four or five times what would be healthy.
“Had we not screened him, he might have continued living life with neuropathy, heart disease, or kidney disease," said Mr. Lotte. "The reason that he hadn’t checked his sugars was because he no longer had insurance. But we were able to refer him to a low cost clinic.”
|The 2018 Alameda County Pet Fair|
This wasn’t the only time that Mr. Lotte’s desire to help had made a difference. Dr. Chan recalled a time when she urgently needed volunteers for the annual pet fair in the Alameda fairgrounds. When she reached out to Tony, who was out of the area, he organized a dozen of his peers to come help.
“He could have said no, we’re all busy with rotations, but he said, ‘Let me see what I can do’; and that’s Tony,” Dr. Chan reflected. “He’s that kind of leader.”
For his constant efforts promoting quality of life, eliminating disparities, and improving the health of all groups, Mr. Lotte was also recently recognized nationally with the United States Public Health Service Excellence in Public Health Pharmacy Award.
As his graduation sits weeks away, Mr. Lotte will next embark upon a PGY1 Residency in Kaiser Permanente South Sacramento where he will continue to serve the community that he is from. The soon to be PharmD was selected by his class to be their commencement speaker, and looking ahead, what he sees are still more opportunities to help.
“Right now, we’re going through some uncertain times. We’ve gone through many uncertain times in the past and always persevere. As health care workers, we have to be united because our patients need that,” he said.
Commencement Student Speakers from the College of Osteopathic Medicine and College of Education and Health Sciences
- Reagan Sanez, Master of Science in Nursing, College of Education and Health Sciences (CEHS) whose capstone project in the Nursing Program focused on the use of classical music as an alternative pain management approach for cancer patients.
- Lisa Marie Smith, Master of Education, CEHS, a two-time Touro graduate who received a NapaLearns Fellowship towards her Innovative Learning degree.
- Yvette Alcalá Hernández, Master of Public Health, CEHS who has promoted inclusive health education and health equity for Black infants and their families while at Touro.
- Sadia Chohan, Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies and Master of Public Health, CEHS who has a passion for humanitarian work that began in high school and continues today.
- Roman Roque, Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine, College of Osteopathic Medicine, who served as a founding member of the wellness, academics, resilience and mindfulness committee and grant writer for Vallejo People’s Garden while at Touro.
- Haneef Muhammad, Masters of Science in Medical Health Sciences, College of Osteopathic Medicine who seeks to become a practicing osteopathic physician serving underprivileged communities.
- Umar Saeed, Master of Science in Medical Health Sciences, College of Osteopathic Medicine, who seeks to become an osteopathic physician that optimizes patient movement dynamics and practices humanitarian medicine.
The 2020 College of Osteopathic Medicine Teachers of the Year
Each year before completing their didactic education and embarking on rotations, the second-year student doctors of the College of Osteopathic Medicine vote for the Teacher of the Year in Primary Care, Osteopathic Principles and Practices, and Basic Sciences. Get to know the professors who each left a huge impact on the Class of 2022.
|Susan St. Pierre, DO, Assistant Professor, Primary Care|
“Dr. St. Pierre has such a radiant personality! Her presence always puts me in a good mood. She makes me excited to learn and you can ask her anything and not feel dumb. She's the best!” – Student Nomination
Trying to diagnose a cough can take medical students in a number of different directions with Dr. Susan St. Pierre’s Clinical Skills Course. But even the wrong answers in a patient case aren’t simply dead ends.
“I’ll ask, ‘So how did you come up with that?’” Dr. St. Pierre explained. “You’re going down the wrong path, but I want to understand your thinking so we can come up with the correct diagnosis.”
For students who are used to narrowing in on the correct answer, ambiguity in the classroom doesn’t always come easily. Becoming comfortable in having to make an educated guess and having the courage to back it up is the ultimate goal of her teaching, Dr. St. Pierre stressed.
“They’re learning a new language,” she continued, “so how do we create an environment where students can be curious and willing to make a mistake and recognize that being wrong is part of the process?”
And the learning works both ways.
“I find students challenge me to think about cases in different ways too. It’s been since 1991 that I was in grad school. I get into my own routine, and I have to go back to see how did I come to that conclusion. They challenge me to understand my own process,” she said.
Dr. Jordan Keys, Osteopathic Principles and Practices Teacher of the Year
“Dr. Keys is clear, supportive, kind, and inspiring. I strive to be as great a DO as they are. Thank you for all you do!” – Student Nomination
|Jordan Keys, DO, Assistant Professor and Interim Chair of the OMM Department|
Sharing a wellspring of knowledge is only one part of great teaching. The other is doing all that you can for your students. When her class came to Dr. Jordan Keys with concerns about their ability to follow the curriculum, she adapted the curriculum to meet their needs.
“Being supportive is listening, taking into consideration the individual needs of the students and doing the best to create curriculum that meets these needs,” Dr. Keys explained.
And when aspects of those needs could not be met, remaining transparent and recognizing that the validity of the students’ needs not only assured them that their frustrations had been heard, but it also helped Dr. Keys to continue to grow and learn as their educator, she said.
“The thing I love (about teaching) is the same thing that drives me crazy sometimes—the students and their willingness to question and grow,” Dr. Keys reflected. “I have learned more from my students over the years than I have probably taught them. They challenge me to think differently and challenge the status quo.”
And the ingenuity that comes with each new class of student doctor can have a lifelong benefit to their future patients.
“(Not only do I want my students to walk away with) a deeper understanding of the material, but most importantly an unending curiosity,” she continued. “This will drive them to continue to learn and grow in whatever they pursue. To let go of the fear of being wrong, you have to be wrong in order to grow and learn.”
Dr. Chitra Pai, Basic Sciences Teacher of the Year
“What a legend. Lectures are always high yield with some extra, but interesting info. Always super nice and approachable.” – Student Nomination
|Chitra Pai, MD, D(ABMM),
Professor, Basic Sciences
Ever since the childhood games that she created with friends so that she could play the teacher, educating has always been engrained in Dr. Chitra Pai’s DNA. Now that her subjects range from microbiology and infectious diseases to the Gastrointestinal, Endocrine, Reproductive system, and Dermatology (GERD) curriculum, the passion has only grown.
“For the medical students, teaching is something that has to be tailored into something that they can translate into their practice later on,” said Dr. Chitra Pai. “It’s up to us to make it very interesting and make them see the benefit of what they have to learn.”
And by doing so, Dr. Pai hopes that she will inspire the future doctors to become life-long learners who continually search for new material to bring into their medical practice.
For the MD who became a doctor without the help of a computer, technology like real-time audience polling and live zoom sessions to answer questions about prerecorded lectures lets her adapt the curriculum on the spot.
When reflecting on the challenges that her students will face as physicians, Dr. Pai hopes that they achieve a good balance of heart and mind.
“I really wish that they stay positive throughout. I believe that when you enjoy everything that you do, you exude a positive aura and energy that carries through in the doctor/patient relationship.
“When you’re happy, you give your best and are your most productive,” she continued.
“We have an amazing, resilient student body. They’re the inspiration that keeps me
Marganick Bien-Aime, Joint MSPAS/MPH Class of 2022, Named Schweitzer Fellow
The Schweitzer Fellowship program, which supports the standout graduate students who put idealism into action, has selected Marganick Bien-Aime, Joint MSPAS/MPH Class of 2022, as an inductee of 2020-2021. Each Schweitzer Fellow embarks on a stand-out project to transform public health for the Bay Area's underserved populations, and Ms. Bien-Aime's targets are the stressors of racism and sexism that impact the health of black women.
Ms. Bien-Aime's project will be with Solano Health Equity for African American/Black Lives (HEALs) where she will pursue a year of service to develop a meditation-based curriculum centered around the stressors of racism and sexism that impacts black women throughout their daily lives.
“It is no secret that there are significant racial and ethnic health care disparities within the United States in which black people are almost always most disproportionately affected,” Ms. Bien-Aime said in her application.
Although mindfulness and meditation see a wide range of application in contemporary self-care culture, Ms. Bien-Aime’s aim is to apply the practice specific to the stressors of racism and sexism that black women face.
“Mindfulness and meditation can produce structural changes in the brain. This ultimately changes one’s perception and response to outside stimuli,” she explained. “This is particularly important for black women.”
“Being able to effectively navigate those stressors can significantly impact its effects on our bodies, furthermore leading to better health outcomes,” Ms. Bien-Aime continued.
The ultimate aim of the project is to nurture and help support participants’ life desires, by empowering women to counteract their oppressive conditions.
As a Schweitzer fellow, Ms. Bien-Aime joins other TUC inductees like Hiroe Hu and Yasmin Bains, who’ve helped assess the mental and emotional health needs of Asian American adolescents in the East Bay, and Timothy Kim, who started growing microgreens with Pharm Fresh to transform Vallejo’s food desert.
Ms. Bien-Aime said that she wanted the opportunity to apply her public health training to a public health crisis in her journey to becoming a physician assistant. The Albert Schweitzer Fellowship is allowing her to fulfill the dream that inspired her to move from New York to enroll in TUC’s Joint MSPAS/MPH Program.
“Marganick is the kind of person who goes above and beyond the call of duty as a result of her passion and her compassion,” said Associate Professor of Public Health, Dr. Carinne Brody. “I am not surprised she is being recognized nationally for her social justice work. She has found her voice and I believe she will continue to be an advocate for vulnerable or disadvantaged groups throughout her career.”
Alumnus Sees Simple Solution to Ease Length of Stay
Wrangling a team together for daily meetings is a familiar struggle for many, but according to one alumnus’s study in March’s Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, those meetings may be able to reduce a patient’s length stay in the hospital by almost one day.
|Ryan Shilian, DO, Class of 2014, on an Integrated Care Conference|
“The study was based on a personal observation,” said Dr. Ryan Shilian, College of Osteopathic Medicine Class of 2014 and fellow in Pediatric and Adult Allergy and Immunology at University Hospital Cleveland Medical Center’s ACGME and Osteopathic recognition program.
“Coming from Touro, I had the option and advantage of rotating through different hospital systems throughout the nation and observing personally how physicians from several various hospital systems carry out patient discharge,” he added.
What Dr. Shilian noticed in one Cleveland’s community hospitals was something he called “brilliant”. Three hours following the morning multidisciplinary rounds, representatives from each aspect of patient care would hold what were called Integrated Care Conferences (ICC) to discuss any remaining obstacles that prevented discharge.
“The daily ICCs saved me so much time,” said Dr. Shilian. “At the time, as an internal medicine resident, I was part of primary team responsible for discharging patients. The meetings brought together representatives from care provider teams who were involved in patient’s care for the sole purpose of discussing barriers to discharge. This alleviated the need for me to personally reach out to each care provider team to facilitate a safe discharge.”
The study determined that with daily ICC, patients had a mean length of stay of 2.89 days compared to 3.99 days without. Even more striking, the length of stay in patients 40-70 years of age was 67% shorter.
In addition to reducing the cost of care for patients and hospitals, decreasing unnecessary length of stay can diminish the risk for common but devastating hospital-acquired conditions such as infections, injuries, delirium, or ulcers.
The promise of the findings excited hospital administration, which may seek to implement ICCs further.
“If ICCs are implemented at a larger scale in hospital systems throughout the nation, it may benefit both payers (i.e. government and private insurers) and hospitals to decrease cost and increase efficiency of care," Dr. Shilian concluded.
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