Equipped with the knowledge and skills to succeed in their chosen professions, graduates of the Touro College School of Health Sciences (SHS) gathered for a joyous commencement ceremony September 9 at the Tilles Center for the Performing Arts in Brookville, Long Island.
The Physician Assistant program awarded the most degrees (136), followed by occupational therapy (63), physical therapy (61), speech and language pathology (49), nursing (31), occupational therapy assistant (25), biology (12), and psychology (5).
Calling SHS one of the “jewels in the crown” of the Touro College and University System, Rabbi Moshe Krupka, executive vice president of Touro College, wished the 382 graduates every success in their future careers—which, by nearly all accounts, seem to be benefiting from a robust job market.
Students graduating in 2014 are entering a reinvigorated labor market where career opportunities in health sciences have become especially strong and financially rewarding. In a survey, 100 percent of physician assistants from the class of 2013 who responded said they had obtained full-time employment, and 50 percent of the class of 2014 reported receiving job offers while on their clinical rotations. The average annual salary for a PA in New York City is in the range of $80,000–$90,000.
Other health sciences concentrations that have enjoyed job growth include physical therapy, which is expected to see a 36 percent increase in available positions nationwide by the year 2022, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The profession ranked as the seventh-best overall occupation on a list of the “100 Best Jobs,” compiled by U.S. News and World Report. Speech and language graduates, as well, have seen employment rates of close to 100 percent.
In nursing, employment is projected to grow faster than the average occupation, in part due to the increased number of individuals who now have access to healthcare services as a result of federal health insurance reform, according to the BLS. More nurses will be needed to care for these patients.
Additionally, employers report they are pleased with Touro graduates. In a survey conducted in 2013 by SHS of OT employers—from the fields of pediatrics to geriatrics—respondents reported they would “definitely” or “very likely” hire another graduate of Touro’s OT program.
A highlight of SHS commencement every year is recognition of the Maimonides Award winners, students selected as the most outstanding in each of the school’s programs for demonstrating the highest professional ideals of a health sciences practitioner. This year’s recipients were Keith B. Koppenhoefer for OT/Bay Shore, Alexa Moses for OT/Manhattan, Caitlin Barre for OT Assistant, Erin Di Candia for PT/Bay Shore, Renee Zarif for PT/Manhattan, Rebecca Liebowitz for PA/Bay Shore, Christine Moloney for PA/Manhattan, Andria Coopersmith for PA/Winthrop University Hospital, and Yocheved Horovitz for speech and language pathology.
Dr. Louis Primavera, dean of SHS, thanked the families of the graduates, the faculty, and the chairpersons, who he said “do an incredible job and make my work easy.” He also thanked Dr. Nadja Graff, who formerly served as academic coordinator in the PA program, founding director of the Manhattan PA program, and associate dean of SHS, and who recently was appointed vice president of the Division of Graduate Studies. “Dr. Graff has been an invaluable source of help and wisdom to me and the faculty,” he said.
SHS Leadership Awards were presented to Professor Hindy Lubinsky and Professor Sandra Russo for their outstanding work and dedication to the graduate program in speech and language pathology and to the nursing program, respectively.
Keynote speaker Dr. Maryanne Driscoll, a psychologist, educator, author, and former associate professor in the Doctor of Physical Therapy program, acknowledged that “health care is complex, challenging, and changing from moment to moment.”
Dr. Driscoll extolled the benefits of cultivating a “stress-hardy” mindset, suggesting that students and professionals can stay energized and engaged by recognizing the “three C’s”: commitment, challenge, and control. She said she came to understand those very disciplines herself while recovering from a sailing accident in February that became “a postgraduate course in rehab.” Showing the audience a wooden sliding board she used during her recovery, “to transfer anywhere,” Dr. Driscoll said the board became a symbol for her life, reinforcing the notion that “the most important change you can make is in your point of view.”