With a Network of PA Programs, Touro’s Whole Is Greater than the Sum of Its Parts
1. Touro is a single, integrated health care education system.
With campuses on both coasts, the Touro College and University System is one of the largest health care educational systems in the country, offering a wide array of medical degree programs. Together with New York Medical College in Westchester County, Touro educates approximately 5,300 health sciences students annually. The original Touro PA program was started in 1972 in Brooklyn, New York, at Touro College. The president of the college at the time recognized that the PA profession was an important field with an especially promising future.
2. Touro has four different PA programs nationwide.
The Touro College and University System encompasses two PA programs in the New York City area (Manhattan and Long Island), one in northern California (Vallejo), and another program in Nevada.
“The advantage of having four different programs is that it allows us to collaborate on larger projects, see what other campuses are doing well, and share resources,” explained Manhattan’s Program Director Kristin Thomson, MHS, PA-C. “If a student wants to do an unique elective, we can reach out to our other campuses.”
- The Touro Manhattan program, located in the middle of New York City, caters to the non-traditional student who may need to work during their didactic year. Classes are held from 4:00–9:00 p.m. Monday through Thursday and all day on Sunday. “It’s not a part-time program, but the hours are unique,” said Program Director Thomson. “And it supports the program’s commitment to Judaic tradition by having Friday evening and Saturdays off.”
- In response to community need, the Long Island-based Bay Shore program opened a second branch campus on Long Island in Mineola in 2000 — the Winthrop Extension Center. Begun at Coney Island Hospital, it remains a hospital-based program that is the mirror image of the Bay Shore program, only smaller. The Bay Shore program also offers an online master’s degree for current PAs, allowing them to become more competitive. This option is open to anyone who graduated from an accredited program.
At Bay Shore, all faculty are required to work clinically within the specialty that they teach, so they’re not just teaching the subject — they’re actually practicing it, too. “The faculty and staff are zealous defenders of this profession,” said Program Director Rongo. “They don’t just come to work to collect a paycheck and go home. They take their work very seriously.”
- The Vallejo program, located just northeast of San Francisco, is the only PA program in the country where all students also earn a Master of Public Health degree. The 33-month program includes a six-week public health field study in the community health track local communities or in one of the global health track countries of Cambodia, Ethiopia, or Bolivia.
- The Nevada program is one of the few PA programs in the country that offers a bridge program, which is geared toward veterans and other non-traditional students. This allows PA program candidates to take those upper-level science prerequisites that are often the hardest to fulfill; it also ensures them an applicant interview. PD Chan-Padgett said that one bridge program participant had been a construction worker and another had been a parking valet before enrolling.
This program is the newest member of the Touro family. As the only PA program in the state, when it started in 2004, there weren’t many PAs in Nevada. “We blazed a trail for PAs,” said Program Director Vicki Chan-Padgett, PA, who has been with the program from the beginning. “Students are the best ambassadors, and when we started sending students out for rotation, people began realizing the value of PAs.
Emblematic of all Touro’s PA programs, the Nevada program, located in Henderson, is heavily involved in the local community. It operates a mobile health care clinic and has started a free clinic in a women’s shelter.
3. Touro’s focus on serving underserved populations is a primary reason why PA students choose Touro.
A commitment to providing health care to those populations that need it most is a hallmark of the entire Touro University system. The Vallejo, California, program’s website proudly proclaims that 56% of its PA graduates work in medically underserved areas. With the statistics to back it up, Touro realizes that if they accept students from rural and underserved areas into their programs, they will be more likely to return to those areas to practice.
Vallejo Program Director Grace Landel, MEd, PA-C, said for the classes that matriculated between 2010 and 2014, 74–95% of the students had experience serving medically underserved populations, 20–21% were from underserved areas, and 28–36% were underrepresented minorities — compared to the national average of 17%, as reported in PAEA’s Twenty-Ninth Report on Physician Assistant Educational Programs in the United States, 2012–2013.
4. Touro seeks a highly diverse student population.
The website states that “since its inception, Touro has both served and supported diverse communities by making world-class educational opportunities” available to students “across all races, nations, and creeds.”
Nevada Program Director Chan-Padgett explained that their holistic approach to admissions puts an emphasis on volunteerism and the written statement. “We look for non-traditional students, because they add depth to the class.”
Bay Shore Program Director John Rongo, MS, RPA-C, said that, along with having students who come from as far away as China, the Dominican Republic, and Canada, they also have a lot of third-generation candidates for their program. “We don’t really have to seek out diverse students. Our reputation for diversity is mainly by word of mouth.”
5. Touro programs have their roots in Judaic culture with a commitment to intellectual inquiry and social justice.
The original Touro College in Brooklyn was established “to perpetuate and enrich the Jewish heritage, with a focus on values and respect for applied knowledge and discovery.” To this day, the Bay Shore program, like all of the Touro programs, observes Judaic traditions and is closely connected to the local community, where most of its PA graduates are now supervisors or hospital administrators. This is often the desired result of the Touro requirement that all students do at least one clinical rotation in an underserved area.
“There’s an old biblical expression that says, ‘Many are called, but few are chosen.’ It’s the same principle here,” explained firefighter-turned-PA-student Smagala. “This program is as much a test of your mental fortitude as it is of your mental aptitude — there’s a reason for that. When you leave here for a career in the field, people’s lives are going to be in your hands. That is an extremely important responsibility.”