Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine Student Wins Fellowship to Work in Ghana

Date: March 24, 2014
Alia Sommerville
Alia Sommerville
Media Contact:

Barbara Franklin
Director of Communications
212-463-0400 x5530
Barbara.franklin@touro.edu

New York, N.Y. – Alia Sommerville, a fourth-year medical student at Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine (TouroCOM), has been awarded a scholarship from National Medical Fellowships, Inc. (NMF), a non-profit organization that advocates for increasing the number of underrepresented minority physicians in the United States. The $5,000 award was made possible by The Lincoln Fund, a long-time supporter of the NMF and its mission.

The scholarship is making it possible for Ms. Sommerville, who hails from Gaithersburg, Md., to further pursue her passion of practicing medicine in the area of women’s health in underserved communities. She left for Ghana this week to spend seven weeks working in two OB/GYN clinics, helping to deliver babies and care for patients.

“I am so excited and grateful for the opportunity to go to Ghana. I love to learn about different cultures and ever since I was little I’ve wanted to visit Ghana,” Ms. Sommerville said on the eve of her departure. “I am not sure exactly what to expect, but I have heard wonderful things.  I believe this will be a memorable experience that will prepare me for the management of my future patients locally and abroad.”

“Ms. Sommerville is a dedicated and hardworking medical student who embodies our mission.  It is no wonder that she received this prestigious award,” said Dean Robert Goldberg, DO. “I know she will make us proud as she represents our school and Harlem when she cares for those in need in Ghana.”

Ms. Sommerville is a graduate of the University of Delaware, where she earned a B.S. in medical technology. After completing the Master of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies in Biological and Physical Sciences at Touro in 2010, she entered TouroCOM, where she has been active in a variety of extracurricular activities and serves in leadership positions to advance community health and minorities in health care.

Currently she is minority services coordinator for the American Medical Association, and is a TouroCOM regional liaison to the Student National Medical Association, through which she has helped launch a program to retain minorities in medicine. She has mentored Harlem youth interested in pursuing careers in the health sciences, and helped start the Black Student Health Alliance at TouroCOM. During the summer of 2010, she traveled to Haiti for ten days on a medical mission where she helped rebuild clinics, set up a surgical room and inventoried supplies in the aftermath of the earthquake.

After graduation from TouroCOM, Ms. Sommerville will be working as a resident in OB/GYN at York Hospital in York, Pa., which she hopes will eventually be followed by a fellowship in maternal fetal medicine.

Ms. Sommerville said she first became interested in women’s health while working as a volunteer during college in the labor and delivery unit of a hospital. She was assigned to work with a young woman close to her in age, who was three months pregnant, diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, and assigned to bed rest in the unit for the duration of her pregnancy because she was poor and her living conditions were deemed unfit.

“Her situation could have easily been mine. For the first time in my life, I was playing an integral role in delivering care to a patient,” Ms. Sommerville recalled. “The experience helped me see things from a different perspective and made me keenly aware of the role that money, race, and other factors play in our healthcare delivery system. It charged me with a mission to become a physician in the hope of making an impact on the delivery and availability of healthcare to the community.”

TouroCOM advances the osteopathic profession and serves its students and society by providing a firm educational foundation that encourages research and scholarly activity and participation in community service. Osteopathic medicine is a distinct form of medical practice in the U.S. that provides all of the benefits of modern medicine including prescription drugs, surgery, and the use of technology to diagnose disease and evaluate injury. It also offers the added benefit of hands-on diagnosis and treatment through a system of therapy known as osteopathic manipulative medicine.

Since its founding in 2007, TouroCOM has dedicated itself to encouraging minorities to enter medicine and to increasing the number of primary care physicians. The school functions as an integral part of the New York City/Harlem community, working with local schools and other colleges and universities to promote the study of medicine, encourage continuing development, increase educational opportunities and deliver medical services in a variety of community settings. In addition to its focus on primary care, the College emphasizes the promotion of wellness from prenatal through geriatric care. For further information visit: http://www.touro.edu/med/