Touro welcomes first class of medical students

Photo by Matt Ehnes of Jared’s Detours

Touro University held a white coat ceremony and ribbon cutting for its new College of Osteopathic Medicine in Great Falls on Aug. 7.

During the ceremonies, the university and community leaders welcomed the inaugural class of 125 medical students and 60 faculty to the new 100,000 square-foot building with state-of-the-art labs, a simulation lab and a kosher cafeteria.

The Great Falls college is expected to educate up to 500 medical students at full capacity by its fourth year and employ 90 faculty, staff and administrators, according to the university.

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Touro is working with Benefis Health System to develop new residency positions, as it has in its other campus locations, in specialties including emergency medicine, family medicine, internal medicine, psychiatry and surgery, according to the university.

The college is Touro’s sixth medical school, expanding the university system’s existing national footprint of medical schools that currently includes an allopathic medical school, New York Medical College, and four colleges of osteopathic medicine located in Nevada, California and in Harlem and Middletown, New York.

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“Opening our doors and getting our students settled into the new facilities marks just the beginning of our contribution to the healthcare community in Montana and surrounding regions,” Elizabeth Palmarozzi, founding dean of TouroCOM Great Falls, said in a release. “We thank the Great Falls community, the Benefis Health Systems and all of our clinical partners, along with everyone whose support and efforts helped to make this a reality.”

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According to Touro, Montana is facing a healthcare crisis, with 11 of the 56 counties in the state lacking a practicing physician and 52 counties identified as areas with health professional shortages.

“One of the core pillars of our Touro University mission is to support underserved communities and the opening of TouroCOM in Great Falls represents a further expression of that,” Alan Kadish, M.D., president of Touro University, said in a release. “We are eager to train the next generation of healthcare providers and offer much-needed medical care to Great Falls and the greater Montana community. We look forward to starting this new chapter in Montana by officially opening our newest campus and welcoming our inaugural class to the Touro University family.”

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About 30 percent of Touro’s current student body in the osteopathic medical schools is comprised of underrepresented minorities and 55 percent of graduates practice in underserved communities with 60 percent entering the primary care field, according to the university.

Studies show that many students tend to start their professional careers in states where they have either attended school or where they match for their residency so Touro officials are working to create clinical rotations and graduate medical opportunities in Montana, according to the university.

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One of Touro’s goals in Montana is to increase representation of Native American students in is classrooms and the primary care presence in small rural communities.

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“Touro medical schools are creating culturally competent workforces that serve their local communities. In Montana, Touro aims to increase representation of Native American students in our classrooms, while also promoting primary care presence in small rural communities,” Dr. Kenneth Steier, executive dean of TouroCOM, said in a release. “Our new presence in Great Falls speaks to our institutional vision of bringing exceptional educational opportunities to areas where they are needed and to the people who will truly benefit from our expertise.”