Orange County Partnership - News

Medical school ribbon-cutting a milestone in Middletown

By Richard J. Bayne
Times Herald-Record
Published: 2:00 AM - 09/01/14

MIDDLETOWN — It was a mix of accomplishment and new beginnings Sunday as Orange County celebrated the opening of a new medical school, and the 135 brand-new medical students took their oath and donned their white coats.

It was a packed house at the Paramount Theatre as local officials joined those from the Middletown branch of the Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine to cut the official ribbon, turning the former Horton Hospital into a medical school.

Officials including Orange County Executive Steve Neuhaus and Middletown Mayor Joe DeStefano welcomed the school, talking about the long-term benefits to the community and the boost to medical education and health care services it brings.

Classes started July 30.

"We are so proud to have you here," Neuhaus said. "You have the whole world in your hands."

DeStefano recalled how the city had been faced with the prospect of an empty 400,000-square-foot building, after the Horton campus of Orange Regional Medical Center closed when Orange Regional moved to a new home in the Town of Wallkill.

He said it took a "perfect storm" of cooperation to make the medical school happen.

Among others, he thanked developer Tony Danza of The Danza Leser Group, who also donated $5,000 Sunday for a special student services fund; and Dr. Ron Israelski, now director of medical education at Orange Regional, for lobbying tirelessly for the project. He recalled how Israelski convinced state officials to come through with a $1 million grant. Touro invested $25 million to turn the former Horton building into a high-tech medical school.

And then it was the students' turn. One by one, they marched onto the stage and were helped into their white coats.

The school's dean, Dr. Ken Steier, said getting the students into their coats at the beginning of the four years is a way to get them into the clinical aspects of medicine sooner.

After the coating ceremony, students took the oath for osteopathic physicians. In part, they pledged to "remember that my patients may be suffering or frightened and that human empathy may be what is most required of me."

A touching moment came when former Orange County Executive Ed Diana, who recently underwent a liver transplant, told the students how so much of what we can experience in the world "means nothing without your help."

Two Maple Hill Elementary School students, Amiya Ramkissoon and Brandon Woody, both 8, got honorary white coats and were invited to join a mentoring program, symbolizing that Touro will be pursuing community outreach in health education.