Touro College School of Health Sciences Celebrates Commencement at Tilles Center for the Performing Arts

Date: September 14, 2012
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Barbara Franklin
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Pioneering Physician Assistant and Military Veteran Dr. James Gilliam, MPAS, Delivers Commencement Address to Over 300 Graduates, Families and Friends.

New York, N.Y. – Touro College students at the School of Health Sciences received bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees at a commencement ceremony on Tuesday, September 11th at the Tilles Center for the Performing Arts, C.W. Post Campus, in Brookville, New York.

The commencement address was delivered by Dr. James Gilliam, MPAS, one of the first physician assistants in the country, who has over 38 years of experience as a PA, including 28 years of experience in the military.

Marking the significance of the four suicide attacks in the United States on September 11, 2001, Dean Louis Primavera, Ph.D., told the assemblage that the ceremonies were a time for celebration and giving thanks, but also a time for reflection.

“We celebrate the outstanding accomplishments of our graduates and wish them well in their careers,” Dean Primavera said. “We are thankful for the hard work and dedication of our faculty and staff, as well as the support that our graduates received from their families. We reflect on the great loss that our country experienced on this day, and hope for better days in the future.”

The most outstanding student in each of the School’s full-time, professional degree granting programs received a special award, the Maimonides award, for exemplifying the highest professional ideals of a health sciences practitioner.

Presiding over the conferral of degrees were Dean Primavera and department chairpersons from the School’s Bay Shore and Manhattan campuses, representing the departments of Nursing,Occupational Therapy, Occupational Therapy Assistant, Physical Therapy, Physician Assistant,Speech Language Pathology, and Undergraduate Studies.

Dr. Gilliam, whose career as a physician assistant has taken him to the four corners of the world, reminded the graduates that medicine has always been a combination of art and science, and their education is not yet complete. He said they will continue to learn from their patients. They will learn their own limitations and those of the medical profession, he said.

“The fact that you are graduating here today is a testament to your continued commitment to the highest standards of the art of patient care,” Dr. Gilliam said. “It is a testament to your compassion. Caring about your patients is the most important thing you’ll ever do.”

Dr. Gilliam retired from the U.S. Navy Military Sealift command in 2012, where he served as a shipboard Medical Services Officer. He previously served in the U.S. Coast Guard, and the U.S. Army as an airborne combat physician assistant with service across Central and South America, including in the Army Jungle Warfare Training Center in Panama. Most recently, he participated in multiple deployments to the Persian Gulf in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, part of the War on Terror. Dr. Gilliam is a 1974 graduate of Baylor College of Medicine’s Physician Assistant Program, one of the first such academic programs ever offered.

The Maimonides award winners announced at commencement were: Raquel Sarf of Lawrence, N.Y. (Occupational Therapy/Bay Shore); Adina Greenfield of Monsey, N.Y. (Occupational Therapy/Manhattan); Irina Brileva of Brooklyn (Occupational Therapy Assistant/Manhattan); Kristen Wertz of Bay Shore (Physical Therapy/Bay Shore); Sharon Safdieh of Brooklyn (Physical Therapy/Manhattan); Susan Day of North Babylon, N.Y. (Physician Assistant/Bay Shore); Oleg Melnyk of Staten Island (Physician Assistant/Manhattan); Kaitlin Kalogeras of Patchogue, N.Y. (Physician Assistant/Winthrop University Hospital); and Elisheva Spitz of Kew Gardens (Speech and Language Pathology).

Established in 1972, the School of Health Sciences provides programs in a broad range of allied health professions and the medical sciences. The School has grown considerably since its inception, and is committed to making professional education accessible to students of all backgrounds. Programs are offered in multiple locations and in innovative formats. Although based in Bay Shore, Long Island, the School also offers programs at Touro’s main campus in the Chelsea section of Manhattan, in two locations in Brooklyn, and at an extension center at Winthrop University Hospital in Mineola, Long Island.