Inspiring Faculty

Inspire. Mentor. Teach.

What makes for inspiring faculty? Is it compassion for their charges? A clarity or an eloquence of expression in the classroom? Is it a dedication to their field itself, pushing its boundaries with new and innovative research? There is no single answer to this question, but for the second year in a row, we asked our students to offer their answers and tell us which faculty member they thought represented that ideal. Each graduating student, from the various schools that make up the Touro College & University System, was asked to nominate a professor that had an impact on them during their educational experience at Touro. Our students offered a plethora of reasons for their choice, but one sentiment came through like an underlying melody: students felt that the professor they nominated had made them not only better students, but better and more capable individuals. We present this year’s Inspiring Faculty, or IF, members. It seems fitting that the values these faculty members sought to instill in their students echoed Rudyard Kipling’s famous poem of self-empowerment, “If,” and its final lines: “If you can fill the unforgiving minute/ With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run/ Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it.”

Shifra (Sandhaus) Leiser

What Her Students Say

“Dr. Leiser was my favorite professor from the first day of class in the OT program. She is kind, sweet, and helpful. She really cares about her students and made every effort to help us learn and catered the classes to our needs. She went above and beyond for us every single day. I had her as a professor for quite a few classes and wish I had her for even more. She knew tons of information about the field and was able to illustrate every concept with examples from her own career and life.” 

—Melissa Houboff

“Occupational therapists get people back to the ordinary business of living,” said Dr. Shifra (Sandhaus) Leiser, an assistant professor at Touro College School of Health Sciences. “The mission of occupational therapy is to help someone do something that they couldn’t do before. That’s the reason why occupational therapy (OT) can appear so vastly different in various settings. Sometimes we are dealing with an injury that precludes someone from engaging in his or her daily occupations; sometimes we are dealing with developmental issues that are impacting typical skills development. The critical question to ask at any stage and at any age is how to help individuals and families to engage or reengage in the activities that are most meaningful to them.”

“The mission of occupational therapy is to help someone do something that they couldn’t do before."


Dr. Leiser said that her desire to enter the health field stems from her family’s history. Hailing from Scranton, Pa., she watched closely how her parents, Rabbi and Mrs. Samuel and Sonia Sandhaus, raised their large family while devoting their time to health care professions and to communal needs; her father as the executive director of a nursing home and her mother as a nurse practitioner. Dr. Leiser learned critical life lessons in faith and devotion from both sets of grandparents. Her maternal grandparents survived the Holocaust and rebuilt their lives after immigrating to the USA. Her paternal grandfather served in the United States Armed Forces and liberated several concentration camps.

“In a way, healing is in our family,” said Dr. Leiser, whose seven siblings are either in communal work or in the health field. “My upbringing compels me to help people through their struggles. I push my clients to draw on their own reservoirs of strengths and resilience for the journey ahead. I want to liberate the voice within my clients, and if needed be the voice of those who cannot speak for themselves.”

Dr. Leiser attended Yeshiva University, and, wanting to enter the health field, debated about which career to pursue.

“I wanted something in the health sciences, but I had a creative and holistic spark,” said Dr. Leiser. “I realized that was exactly what OT is. It’s not just medicine but quality of life, a combination of both psychology and biology.”

She pursued a master’s in occupational therapy at NYU and then practiced clinically. Her hunger to know more—and help her clients more—led her to pursue her post-professional doctorate in occupational therapy (OTD) at Misericordia University in Pennsylvania.

“I wanted to make sense of the bigger picture of occupational therapy: how all the theories intersect and reinforce each other,” said Dr. Leiser. “It was deeply meaningful for me to return to academia. Being re-exposed to the material with the eyes of a practicing clinician made me fall in love with occupational therapy all over again.”

Re-energized from her doctoral experience, Dr. Leiser wanted to inspire the next crop of occupational therapists, and so began teaching at Touro in 2014.

“I wanted to give over my experiences and practice,” said Dr. Leiser. “Imparting some of what I know feels tremendously rewarding. The message I try to give over to my students is ‘open your hearts.’ I want my students to know that, ultimately, they might not be able to solve every problem their patients face. But if they’re willing to be there with their patients and enter their patients’ world, they can make an incredible difference.”

She believes that the affection her students feel for her stems from her understanding of them and their struggles.

“Having my students say that I’m an inspiring professor really made me look back at what I do,” reflected Dr. Leiser. “I try to be very real in the classroom. I recall being on the other side of the desk not so long ago—juggling classwork with home-life while wanting to excel in all areas. I try to be relatable in the journey of going from student to novice clinician and then from novice clinician to a more experienced professional. I try to show my students that professors are real people that have faced similar issues and succeeded.”

Dr. Leiser lives in New Jersey with her husband, Yaakov. They are proud parents and grandparents.

Have a Mentor

One of the instrumental steps for becoming a successful occupational therapist is mentorship, said Dr. Leiser. “OT is both the science of practice and the art of practice. There are many styles and many ways to do the art of practice and it’s only through mentorship that you can really develop your own abilities,” she said. Dr. Leiser counts occupational therapists Dinah Leiter and Judith Bluestone as her mentors and says the mentoring tradition continues for her at Touro, where her mentors include Drs. Stephanie Dapice Wong, Beth Chiariello, and Yocheved Bensinger-Brody.

Interesting Fact

Dr. Leiser’s paternal grandfather, Rabbi Morris A. Sandhaus, was the first Jewish Chief of Chaplains for the US Army. When Dr. Leiser’s grandfather liberated the concentration camps during WW II, one of the survivors he assisted was the leader of a Chasidic dynasty, the Bluzhover Rebbe. The two maintained a close relationship from that time on.

Favorite Quote

“If you knew who walked beside you at all times, on the path that you have chosen, you could never experience fear or doubt again.”

— Dr. Wayne Dyer

Tipsuda Bahri, M.D.

Assistant Professor & Course Director of Pathology; Chair, Department of Basic Biomedical Sciences

Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine, Harlem

Tipsuda Bahri


“Dr. Bahri is the most involved, dedicated, hard-working, and selfless professor I have ever had. When I had a tough time with my pathology class, she sat me down—even when it was long past dismissal time—and helped me through everything. She is incredibly knowledgeable and makes learning enjoyable. She is just an amazing person, inside and out. I ended up getting an A + in my pathology class and more than that, I gained a mentor for life. Thank you for everything that you do, Dr. Bahri. You are a true role model!”

— Praveena Tathinen

Dr. Tipsuda Bahri’s father was a lab technologist and she joked that she spent much of her childhood in the laboratory. “My parents didn’t believe in babysitters,” laughed Dr. Bahri, course director of pathology and chair of the Department of Basic Biomedical Sciences at TouroCOM Harlem. “I sat in a lab during my summer vacation watching my father test things and that piqued my interest. My grandfather and uncle were physicians so healthcare was an obvious choice.”

Dr. Bahri, who was born in Thailand and moved to the US with her parents when she was three, also had a strong artistic streak.

“I was interested in painting and photography, but in Asian families, we’re encouraged to pursue something more stable and keep our art as a hobby,” she said.

It was her interest in art that factored into her decision to specialize in pathology. “Pathology is a very visual field,” said Dr. Bahri who studied at The University of Illinois College of Medicine in Rockford. “You look at cells in microscopes and see them in two and three dimensions and you need to mentally put them together.”

Dr. Bahri did a five-year pathology residency at the University of Chicago and followed it up with two fellowships: one year in blood banking/transfusion medicine and then a year in a surgical pathology.

“Pathology is a huge umbrella category,” said Dr. Bahri. “When people think of pathology they think of forensic pathology like CSI. But the bread and butter of pathology are two things: anatomical pathology and clinical pathology. Anatomical pathology consists of analyzing any tissue or organ that goes through surgery or a clinic: a skin biopsy, a lesion, a tumor. All these things need to be analyzed and documented, whether they’re benign or malignant. Clinical pathologists typically work or run laboratories that analyze various results. In essence, a pathologist is a doctor’s doctor.”

After finishing her residency in 2001, Dr. Bahri practiced for several years in the Chicago area. In 2008, she and her husband decided to move to the tristate area and Dr. Bahri began teaching pathology at TouroCOM Harlem.

“There was a big learning curve,” admitted Dr. Bahri. “You never quite know where the class will go. You have to be able to shoot from the hip and recalibrate. You can have a guided plan when you start a session, but you also have to be ready if the lesson goes in another direction.”

Dr. Bahri said her teaching was made easier by the late Dr. Robert Stern, who co-taught the pathology course with her. “We were like momma and poppa to the students,” recalled Dr. Bahri. “I miss him. He imparted a lot of teaching skills to me over the years. One of the lessons he told me is you’re not going to know everything. If a student asks you a question, it’s fine to say you don’t know. Medicine is always changing. Be humble in the face of what you don’t know.”

Dr. Bahri became chair of the Department of Basic Biomedical Sciences in 2013.

“I’m a tiger mom for my students. I want the best for them."


“I’m a tiger mom for my students,” said Dr. Bahri. “I want the best for them. When a student tells me ‘I heard your voice while I was taking the boards,’ I know I did my job.”

Her students describe her as a rare mix: a challenging and demanding professor with an encyclopedic mind for rare diseases and disorders, but also a warm maternal figure whose office hours extend far beyond the school day.

“I’m at TouroCOM until eight most nights,” said Dr. Bahri. “If I’m advising a student, they need to meet with me on a regular basis. If I know that they’re having a rough day and need to talk to me, I’m here. I don’t want to lose touch with my students after their second year. I need to make sure they’re doing what they need to be doing and that they’re happy.”

Her relationships with her students typically extend far beyond their academic experience. “I’ve been invited to Jewish weddings, Vietnamese weddings and Muslim weddings,” recounted Dr. Bahri. “I meet my students’ kids. It’s nice that my students see me as someone whom they can reach out to. I’m honored. I see them being happy as practicing physicians and that’s all I wanted for them.”

“This is my family here and these are my kids,” concluded Dr. Bahri. “I don’t only want them to do well on their exams; I want them to do well in life. I want my students to remember me as a gentle tiger mom who always had their back.”

Favorite Quote

Instead of a quote, Dr. Bahri said she thinks often of the song "Déjà vu" from singer Teena Marie:

I'm young and I'm old
I'm rich and I'm poor
I feel like I've been on this earth many times before
Once I was a white gazelle
On horseback riding free
Searching in the darkness for a piece of me
I can feel this for sure
I've been here before
I can feel this for sure for sure
I've been here before
I used to be a queen you know
In an island by the sea
With rainbow coloured people
Happy as can be
Never had a problem
There never was a care
And love was ever flowing and it's feeling shared

Interesting Fact

Dr. Bahri’s husband Najib Bahri is a North African percussionist and an inheritor of the Andalusian style of music.

Giuseppe Infante

What His Students Say About Him

“Professor Infante is an exceptional person. He is always willing to help his students and he sees the potential in them, even if they don’t see it in themselves. Joe opened up our minds beyond our usual ways of thinking and pushed us beyond our comfort zone.”

— Zulma Morales

The way he tells it, Professor Giuseppe Infante’s life plans were totally derailed by a best-seller he bought in an airport. About to start his studies for a nursing degree at Long Island University (LIU), Infante picked up Jurassic Park on an airport book rack.

“I was blown away,” recalled Infante, commonly known as Joe to students and fellow faculty alike. “I started taking liberal arts class and I loved these literature classes about Greek mythology and African American literature. I was two semesters away from becoming a registered nurse and taking courses in pharmacology. At the time, I was working at a hospital, but I realized I just wanted to read books.”

Infante switched his major.

“Some people thought I was crazy,” said Infante. “But I started reading poetry and it was the best move I ever made.”

Infante said his love of poetry partly stemmed from his musical ability: Infante plays several instruments. “As adults, bands typically disintegrate; people have jobs, spouses, and kids. But poetry you can do all on your own.”

Infante’s professor, the poet Lewis Warsh, became his mentor and pushed him to attend an MFA at LIU, where he focused on poetry and wrote the poems that would compose his first collection of poetry, ways of dying naked in mexico city.

While he was in his final year, Infante began teaching at Touro College New York School of Career and Applied Studies (NYSCAS) and working in the school’s writing center. One thing that immediately impressed Infante was how active his students were in class, especially given that many worked a full day before class and had families to take care of at home.

“Many of our students in NYSCAS are older and more mature than the typical student body,” Infante explained. “They work all day and come to class. I learn from them. My attitude quickly became: How can I give them what they need to succeed?”

Concern for his students’ workload also affected his class structure. Instead of 300-page novels, Infante began favoring teaching his students through short stories. “We’re a click-nation,” said Infante. “Everything is 160 characters or less and I’m conscious of that. Many of my students are science majors or human resource majors, so I want something to grab them quickly and engage them.”

Through his classes, Infante stresses the universalizing potential of literature.

“Take for example, James Baldwin’s Sonny's Blues,” stated Infante. “The lead character is a black man in Harlem dealing with societal factors like racism and poverty. On my own, I can’t understand that, but through reading the story I can connect to it. Similarly, Joyce Carol Oates’s short story, Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?, puts you in the mind of a 15-year-old girl in the 1960s. Stories have been a part of humanity’s oral tradition forever. They open up conversations for us to the bigger picture.”

And this in turn, Infante hopes, leads to something greater: empathy.

“When you’re studying science, a cell is always a cell, but reading a story is a subjective experience and it allows you to see the world in a different kind of way,” said Infante. “My hope is that the next time my students are driving and someone cuts them off, they might think about that person in the next car and wonder: what is it in their life that makes them act the way they do? Maybe their wife is pregnant, or they have an important medical test. Literature makes you conscious of humanity. You can read a story and it can change your day, even your life. We’ve had people cry in class and it’s transcending.”

“You don’t need to be Hemingway; you don’t need to be a poet; but you need to understand the value and importance of clear writing."


In addition to his literature courses, Infante teaches several sections of college writing. Having the ability to write well is a requirement for almost every job, Infante maintains.

“I want my students to learn organizational skills for their writing. If one of my students is a sanitation worker, he might move up to become a manager and he’ll need to be able to write. If you’re a nurse, you need to write clear medical notes. You don’t need to be Hemingway; you don’t need to be a poet; but you need to understand the value and importance of clear writing.”

Recently, one of his students was accepted into his alma mater, LIU, for an MFA.

“It doesn’t guarantee a good paycheck, but you have to follow your heart,” laughed Infante. “I could’ve been making bank as a nurse, but would I be walking around with a smile all day? I’m genuinely happy to be here. I love it. I’m on campus for twelve hours, but I don’t feel like I’m working.”

Poet and Publisher

Infante launched his own publishing house called Overpass Books. The house published Infante’s first collection of poetry: ways of dying naked in mexico city. The press has published several books including collections by his mentor Lewis Warsh.

One Poem Everyone Should Read

Howl by Allen Ginsburg. “It was declared obscene when it was published,” said Infante. “It talks about the grittiness of humanity. You might not like it, but you should read it.”

Interesting Fact

Infante is a self-described horror fanatic. He has his favorite three movies tattooed on his arms: Phantasm, Nightmare on Elm Street, and Evil Dead. He also has a podcast about the genre and hopes to eventually create his own horror movie. “I think it was Stephen King who said that social commentary is embedded in horror. Look at the classic Night of the Living Dead by George Romero, it’s a brilliant critique of society, beginning with the fact that the protagonist is black, and the film has parallels with the Civil Rights movement.”

Myra Berman

What Her Students Say

“Dean Berman's teaching style is challenging and engaging. She offers us examples of her real-life experiences from her career in social services. She encourages teamwork and the value of our relationships with other students and the entire Touro community. Her emphasis on these points is crucial to our legal education and to our transmission into the legal profession after graduation. Dean Berman also sets a great example as a leader—she is always available and willing to help anyone with anything that she can. When she helps us, she reassures us that we can succeed. (But she certainly makes us work hard!) She has specifically been a source of strength for students in the evening section. Dean Berman understands that we are carrying the weight of the world on our shoulders and she respects us for it. There are not enough nice things I can say about this woman—I am truly lucky and grateful to have had her as a professor.”

- Jessica Weber

F. Scott Fitzgerald famously said that there are no second acts in American life, but Touro Law’s Myra Berman might have to disagree with him.

After almost 20 years as a social worker, Myra Berman was ready for the next step in her career.

“I was a practicing social worker, but my sister was in law school and she would regularly call me to help her understand some cases,” recalled Berman. “I fell in love with the substance of it. By the time my sister graduated I was convinced that it was something I wanted to do.”

While she credits her sister with the spark, Berman said that during her career—as she rose quickly from a social worker to the director of a foster care and adoption agency—Berman realized the limitations of her influence as a social worker.

“It really upset me that an entry-level lawyer with very little legal or life experience could go in front of a judge and influence his opinion, but the judge wouldn’t hear a word I said despite the fact that I was in charge of 1000 children in an agency,” said Berman. “I decided I would go to law school so that judges would hear me.”

When her last child left the nest in 2001, Berman enrolled in Touro College Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Center’s night program. After graduating in 2005, Berman accepted a position as assistant director of academic development in the law school. Though she considered a career in public interest law, Berman said she realized that a position in a law school was an exciting opportunity. “I felt I could do more if I stayed in the law school. I could influence hundreds of young lawyers and contribute to the profession itself.”

“There is nothing like being in the classroom and nothing like knowing that students are responding positively to the goals and objectives you’re trying to achieve,” stated Berman.

In 2009, Berman became the director of the school’s Collaborative Courts program. In her capacity in that position, she designed a program that placed law school students in the federal and state courthouses located across the street from the law school campus. First-year students observe judges and lawyers and work with Touro alumni inside the system. Second-year students rotate throughout the court system and perform simulated cases before sitting judges in the courtroom. Second and third-year students routinely participate in court proceedings, working alongside prosecutors, county attorneys, Legal Aide attorneys and private practitioners.

“We integrate what our students learn in the classroom with what they see and hear in the courtroom,” Berman explained.

Berman was appointed as the school’s first associate dean for experiential learning in 2012, where she expanded on several programs to help students prepare for their professional careers. “The focus has been to get the students out of the building and into the neighborhoods,” said Berman.

She helped spearhead the school’s involvement with Suffolk County’s Access to Justice this past year. As part of the program, law students help individuals who couldn’t or were otherwise unable to retain legal help.

“The goal is to close the gap for residents who don’t have access to justice,” Berman said. “It’s hard for people to get to court and it’s hard for them to get a lawyer. There is a significant population that are undocumented and are afraid to get services, so we go out and help them.”

As part of the program, students are stationed in various places like schools and libraries around the county, offering free legal advice to residents. “Our law students will either refer them to lawyers in our community legal partnership program or to our clinic where we will take on their case,” said Berman. The neighborhood program also has a pipeline component where law students visit high schools to facilitate mock trial programs and talk about legal issues relevant to teens. “Inside the classrooms are all these wonderful kids who want to learn and are interested in becoming lawyers,” said Berman. “And our students are helping them towards achieving that goal.”

In addition to her administrative responsibilities, Berman also teaches several law courses including Constitutional Law, Children and the Law, Criminal Law, and Family Law. Despite the scope of her responsibilities, her students know that she always has time for them: “No matter how many hats Professor Berman wears, she always put her students first,” said graduate Dorothy Kong.

Her class on the court system benefits from the relationships she has developed with the courthouse. “The chief justice of the court gave us a courtroom for the class,” said Berman. “We are based in the district court, but we go from one court to another depending on the topic we’re studying. Judges talk to my students and lawyers teach them about practice.”

The final presentations are oral arguments in front of a sitting judge.

As the volume of comments we received from her nominations attests, Berman’s relationships to her students goes far beyond the classroom and more than one nomination card mentioned a video chat meeting with the professor over the weekend to discuss an issue.

“My students are people, not just students,” said Berman. “I do mother them a bit. Law school is difficult, and I want to make sure they’re doing well.”

“Teaching allows me to grow, not only as a teacher, but as a person."


“Teaching allows me to grow, not only as a teacher, but as a person. It’s invaluable. I love to sit and talk with people who are eager to learn. It helps me, and it helps them. It’s the best of all possible worlds: I get to teach students and learn from them and those are the two most important things to me,” Berman said, before adding, “Aside from my grandchild.”

Big Family, Bigger Hearts

Berman said that the close relationships she develops with her students stem from her family dynamic. She is the oldest of eight and took care of many of her siblings. “In class, I have very high standards for my students and I expect them to reach those standards,” Berman explained. “But outside the classroom there’s nothing I won’t do for them.”

Fun Fact

Social work and law aren’t the only careers Berman has considered. In her late twenties, she pursued a doctorate in English Literature at Stony Book University. She finished her coursework for her Ph.D. but ended up having to leave the program early for personal reasons. Berman said that being a part of the program and teaching classes helped her decide her future career. “In The Canterbury Tales, there’s a line in the clerk’s tale: ‘Gladly would he learn and gladly teach.’ When I read that I had this moment of realization. That is who I am: gladly would I learn, and gladly I teach. The two are interchangeable; one is totally dependent on the other. I don’t think you can be a good teacher without being a good learner.” Not one to leave things unfinished, Professor Berman said she is thinking about returning to finish her doctorate.

Robert Baker, D.O.

Assistant Professor, Osteopathic Medicine

Touro University Nevada College of Osteopathic Medicine

Robert Baker


“Dr. Baker goes above and beyond to help us in areas that have nothing to do with his areas of expertise. He takes personal time to stay late and meet with students for a variety of reasons. He helps make us better physicians and better people.”

— Ryan Doucette

Dr. Robert Baker grew up on his grandfather’s farm in a small rural town near Dayton, Ohio.

“Pretty much all that was out there were corn and soybean fields,” he said. Growing up in the Rust Belt near the larger-than-life car factories helped steer Dr. Baker toward a career in the automotive industry. At the University of Toledo, he studied mechanical engineering and later spent five years working for Chrysler and Ford in Detroit.

It was during that time that Dr. Baker began suffering from chronic neck and back pain.

“After two years, I became frustrated that no doctor could solve my pain,” he said. “Around that time, I was looking for a more purposeful career, and a neurologist told me to look into taking the chiropractic route."

Dr. Baker later worked with two separate chiropractors, though his pain remained. Through his own independent research, he discovered the book Spontaneous Healing, which included a chapter about a famous osteopathic physician named Bob Fulford.

“Once I read that chapter, I knew osteopathic medicine was going to be my life’s purpose,” he said. “I’ve since found out that many of my colleagues have gone into osteopathic medicine, specifically osteopathic manipulation, because of that book.”

After finishing medical school at Ohio University, Dr. Baker completed his residency in neuromusculoskeletal medicine and osteopathic manipulative medicine at Saint Barnabas Hospital in the Bronx, N.Y.

Having a penchant for medicine and a desire to teach, Dr. Baker began searching for medical schools to help train the next generation of osteopathic physicians. “When I found out that Touro University Nevada had this incredible teaching environment with some clinical work as well, I knew this was where I wanted to be,” he said.

The art of using one’s hands to heal is one of the aspects Dr. Baker loves most about medicine. He tries his best to instill that same passion in his students.

“Our main tools are our hands, and using them is a very authentic way to heal the body."


“I love being able to help effectively without needing a lot of barriers,” he said. “Our main tools are our hands, and using them is a very authentic way to heal the body.”

When it comes to his students, Dr. Baker emphasizes the importance of time management in medical school. He recommends they read the book The Miracle Morning to help maximize their time and stay organized.

“I’ve always said that medical school would be twice as easy if I were twice as smart,” he said. “But now, I’m starting to realize that when things are balanced and your sleep, diet, and stress levels are under control, medical school actually becomes twice as easy.”


Dr. Baker was the axel vibration engineer for the team that helped launch the 2002 Ford Thunderbird.


Stephen Jones, Ph.D.

Assistant Preclinical Dean at TouroCOM Middletown, Assistant Professor

Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine, Middletown

Stephen Jones

What His Students Say

“Dr. Jones is an excellent lecturer and professor. His lectures were always organized and well-prepared. He was always available after-hours for extra help. After exams, he personally reached out to students that were struggling. I have never seen a professor so dedicated to helping students outside of his lecture hours. This is all in addition to his commitment and responsibilities as an assistant pre-clinical dean. He is always pleasant and personable to work with. Without him, many of us would not have made it through our pre-clinical years as healthy as we did.”

— Jacklyn Lee

For Dr. Stephen Jones, immunology isn’t only a science, it’s a story.

“The story begins when the host recognizes a pathogen, which activates a response that leads to the recruitment of white blood cells to the site of infection,” said Dr. Jones, assistant preclinical dean at TouroCOM Middletown and TouroCOM Middletown’s resident immunologist. “It’s a story with a beginning, middle, and end, and that’s how I teach it. I try to get my students to learn the process instead of memorizing the different components in isolation. I want my students to understand the story of what is the immune response.”

Like many of the best professors, Dr. Jones’ path to a Ph.D. in immunology began with an inspiring professor who gave the young Jones the confidence to pursue his passion.

“Growing up I thought I would be a forest ranger,” recalled Dr. Jones. “I was the kid who roamed through the forest and looked for opportunities to rescue birds or tape together broken tree limbs. I wasn’t a kid that took the tough science courses because I didn’t feel that I was smart enough to excel in those ways.”

“Then, towards the end of my first year of college, when I was still an undeclared major, I decided that the best direction for me was the one that I had a real interest in: science. Even though I doubted my ability to do well in it. I even prepared my parents for some low grades. But I had outstanding college professors who taught courses like cell biology and immunology and I was just fascinated.”

It turned out to be a wise choice and Dr. Jones was wrong about his earlier belief in his own limitations.

“Pretty soon that interest in science turned into a passion. I learned that even if something is really challenging, if you’ve got a passion for it, you can do it. The learning and grades will come if you’re passionate about it.”

Dr. Jones did his Ph.D. in immunology at Thomas Jefferson and then a postdoc fellowship at the Trudeau Institute in Saranac Lake, New York. While there, Dr. Jones authored many well-received papers ranging from vaccine development to compromised immune systems in the elderly. But perhaps more importantly for the future Dr. Jones, he started teaching at a local community college.

“I had an idea that teaching might be my end-point and that a purely research career might not be quite for me,” said Dr. Jones. “After four semesters of teaching an evening course in biology, I was confident that teaching science was going to play a dominant role in my academic career.”

In 2008, when Touro launched their first osteopathic medical school on the East Coast, Dr. Jones signed up to teach immunology and loved it.

“What drew me to Touro was that the main component of my job was the teaching itself. Research was important, but the most important thing was being an excellent teacher. Touro puts teaching first."

Stephen Jones

“It isn’t easy to find a medical school that puts such an emphasis on strong teaching,” said Dr. Jones about TouroCOM. “At most medical schools, teachers are there to write grants and do research and teaching is a small component of their overall job. What drew me to Touro was that the main component of my job was the teaching itself. Research was important, but the most important thing was being an excellent teacher. That aligned with what I wanted to be. Touro puts teaching first.”

“When a student has that look of recognition when they understand something that you are teaching, it’s priceless,” said Dr. Jones. “When you are able to present information in a way that is relevant to the students and connects with the students, that is one of the best experiences you can have as a teacher. You’re giving them something they can use as they move forward in their career.”

He moved to TouroCOM Middletown when the sister campus opened in 2014.

“Contributing to the TouroCOM mission as the assistant preclinical dean in Middletown has been a thrill. Every day I am thankful for the opportunity to serve in that role and to work with such wonderful faculty and students.”

Aside from his role as assistant preclinical dean and teaching immunology to first and second-year students, Dr. Jones is also the program director of the TouroCOM Middletown Master of Science program.

“I feel a special connection with the master’s students,” said Dr. Jones. “They’re taking that intermediate step between their undergraduate career and medical school. They work so darn hard and, for many of them, this is their opportunity to get into medical school that they might not of otherwise had. They work at 150 percent and I know what that’s like.”

In 2011, Dr. Jones received a Touro College Faculty Research Award grant to pursue his research in immune system suppression in patients with multiple myeloma. The following year, Dr. Jones received the TouroCOM Teacher of the Year Award.

Despite having taught the same course for several years, Dr. Jones said that there is always a novelty to the material and the students. “It’s always a different group of students and they never cease to amaze me by the way they approach the material,” said Dr. Jones. “They always have a different set of questions and different weaknesses and strengths. You are always adjusting to help your students succeed. What they need changes from year to year. And immunology is an advancing field; there’s always another breakthrough and it’s great to be able to talk to students about new materials and new techniques.”

Interesting Facts

Dr. Jones is a big fan of authors Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child. He is also a bit of a heavy metal fan, a byproduct of growing up in the 1980s.

Rule of Life

“You’ve got to have a passion for what you do. You don’t want to look at every day as a chore. If you’re interested in what you do, it’s not work anymore.”

Steven Blaustein, Ph.D., MS, CCC-SLP, BCS-CL

Associate Professor, Graduate Program in Speech-Language Pathology

Touro College School of Health Sciences

Steven Blaustein

Dr. Blaustein is the epitome of what every professor should be. He is respectful, enthusiastic, funny, genuine, and most importantly, caring. Dr. Blaustein always has time for his students. No matter what the situation, if you walk into his office, he is always ready and willing to help. He prepares for his lectures and makes sure they are fun and interactive. He incorporates personal stories in his lectures to help us learn from his experiences. He asks for feedback from his students throughout the course to make sure he is teaching in ways that make learning easiest for us. I truly love Dr. Blaustein and I wish he was able to teach every class.”

— Marisa Taormin

For Dr. Steven Blaustein, speech therapy has a clear mission.

“Communication is one of the key elements that makes us human,” explained Dr. Blaustein, a professor at Touro’s School of Health Sciences’ Master’s in Speech-Language Pathology. “Being able to turn thought into a symbol and being able to share that symbol—I stress symbol rather than language, since we communicate in many forms—enables us to share our ideas with another and let that person know that you understand them.”

Despite his more than 40 years in the field, a plethora of high-ranking positions and experience with nearly every major speech disorder, Dr. Blaustein regards his career as a speech language pathologist with some surprise. His initial career aim, as a music major in SUNY New Paltz, was to be a heavy metal drummer. Then he took a single speech class.

“My professor was inspiring,” Dr. Blaustein recalled. “He asked me to take a few other courses and I ended up becoming interested in the field of communication disorders.”

“I figured I wasn’t that good of a drummer anyway and a career path as a speech pathologist made more sense than becoming a rock musician,” he laughed.

Dr. Blaustein graduated in 1972 and enrolled on a Veterans Administration scholarship in Penn State for a master’s in speech-language pathology. After completing an internship at the Manhattan VA Hospital, Dr. Blaustein officially began his career as a speech therapist at Mt. Sinai Medical Center. That experience, which could be likened to a trial by fire, heralded the wide path his career eventually took.

“There were 1200 beds and our department served both in-patients and out-patients,” recalled Dr. Blaustein. “We were responsible for seeing patients with a variety of communication disorders: from cases of post-neurological surgery to pediatric psychiatry to laryngectomy. It was a remarkable learning experience.”

The position also put him at the forefront of state-of-the-art research into speech disorders, including medication trials for ALS and some of the first cochlear implants. “They were miraculous,” Dr. Blaustein said about his first experience with the implants. In addition to his regular duties, Dr. Blaustein also became the coordinator for the hospital’s cranial facial center. Fluent in Spanish, he also served as the Speech and Language Center’s community liaison to visit and work at HeadStart locations and daycare centers in East Harlem where he conducted screenings, workshops and programs for parents.

Dr. Blaustein finished his doctorate in 1980 at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, writing his dissertation on Spasmodic Dysphonia patients at Mt. Sinai who were undergoing a new procedure to alleviate the condition by crushing the laryngeal nerve. “It was innovative work treating a very difficult debilitating disorder.”

“Speech and language pathology is a blend of science and the uniqueness of human communication,” explained Dr. Blaustein. “The challenge of diagnosing and analyzing various communication disorders and then being able to determine interventions, compensatory techniques, and strategies to help individuals communicate is personally very rewarding. The net result is to enable adults and children to communicate, one of the most central elements of being alive.”

After fifteen years, Dr. Blaustein left Mt. Sinai to start a speech language pathology department at St. Barnabas Hospital in the Bronx. After the department became successful, he left to pursue his own private practice, where he also consulted and provided evaluation services to a number of agencies and programs serving the New York City Board of Education and the New York State Early Intervention Program.

While he managed his own practice, Dr. Blaustein began teaching as an adjunct clinical professor at NYU.

“When I stand in front of a classroom, I remember what it was like to be in that seat, but now I have the ability to help and guide my students in the same way that my professors guided and helped me."


“I learned that I loved being in the classroom with students,” Dr. Blaustein said. “I loved sharing the knowledge and experiences I had. It kept me current. It allowed me to give back to young speech therapists embarking on a career that I was passionate about. It gave me a bit of nostalgia; teaching reminded me of the knowledgeable and motivated professors I had. When I stand in front of a classroom, I remember what it was like to be in that seat, but now I have the ability to help and guide my students in the same way that my professors guided and helped me.”

Dr. Blaustein joined Touro as a full-time faculty member in the speech-language pathology program in 2015.

One piece of advice he gives to his students is to be aware of and appreciate how broad the possibilities are in a speech language pathology career. “It’s very flexible,” he said. “I’ve worked in schools, hospitals, and nursing homes. I’ve had a private practice and served as an expert witness in court. I’m on the board of a therapeutic school in Manhattan. A career in speech-language pathology can be tailored to what makes you the happiest.”

Despite his full-course load, Dr. Blaustein still maintains his private practice and frequently invites his students to watch his interventions and get a taste for the realities of the field.

“I still see cases where there are rare disorders that I haven’t seen before,” said Dr. Blaustein. “That’s what keeps me going. It never gets old.”

Still in Touch

The work of a speech therapist has long-ranging impacts. Dr. Blaustein received a letter from the mother of one of his former patients recently. It read: “You might not remember me, but you saw my child when he was two-years-old and diagnosed with autism. I was devastated and we spoke about interventions and not giving up hope. I’m writing this letter on the day of his graduation. He is already accepted into college. Thank you for your support.” In another case, a parent in Florida brought her son who was considered severely autistic to meet with Dr. Blaustein. Dr. Blaustein realized that there was a misdiagnosis and that the child was suffering from childhood apraxia of speech, a motor programming disorder that results in children being unable to make the sounds of speech, despite adequate intelligence and comprehension. “He was demonstrating the frustrations of not being able to communicate,” said Dr. Blaustein about the child’s behavior. “I worked with him for quite a while. I attended his high school graduation and he finished college and is now in a master’s program.”

Interesting Fact

Dr. Blaustein’s band name was The Centurions.

Tami Hendriksz, D.O.

Associate Dean of Clinical Education, Associate Professor

Touro University California, College of Osteopathic Medicine

Tami Hendriksz

What Her Students Say

"Dr. Hendriksz is an incredible advocate for her students. As a past Touro student herself, she understands us and is eager to advise and assist in any way. She is an invaluable part of Touro and receiving this nomination would only be a small portion of the recognition she deserves."

—Zak Markman

Dr. Tami Hendriksz always knew she wanted to be a doctor.

“I loved science and I loved kids,” recalled Dr. Hendriksz. “I was always the older kid making sure the younger kids were okay at the playground. I also had a wonderful pediatrician growing up and that helped me realize that becoming a pediatrician would allow me to blend all my loves together.”

Then Dr. Hendriksz had what she described as a “quarter-life crisis” while shadowing several physicians before graduating from UCLA. “Every physician I met was miserable,” said Dr. Hendriksz, who explained that at the time she met the physicians, the healthcare field was in a period of transition because of changes in the insurance market. “I didn’t meet a single physician who was happy. I freaked out.”

In doubt about her future, Dr. Hendriksz spent the next couple of years as a special-education teacher. She also worked alongside her father, a retired chemical engineer, who was involved in non-profit work in South Africa. During this time Dr. Hendriksz’s sister was diagnosed with leukemia.

“My sister was twenty-eight at the time,” remembered Dr. Hendriksz. “I spent the next six months in the hospital taking copious notes of the medication she was taking. I realized I really did want to go into medicine. It wasn’t just a career for me; it was a life’s calling.” What cemented her decision was an interaction she had with an osteopathic medical physician. “This physician had a different approach. He stopped me one day and asked how my sister was. I replied with the usual: her blood counts and what chemotherapy drugs she was on. But then he said, ‘No, I asked how she’s doing.’”

“We had been there for half-a-year, but he was the first person to ask about how my sister was doing instead of about the status of the disease,” continued Dr. Hendriksz. “He told me he was an osteopathic physician and that osteopaths are trained to look at the whole person.”

Dr. Hendriksz decided to pursue her medical career with an important caveat: she would become an osteopathic physician. Wanting to stay close to her sister, Dr. Hendriksz applied to Touro University California College of Osteopathic Medicine.

“What I loved about the contrast with my pre-med classes at UCLA was that there was this sense of comradery between students at TUCOM,” said Dr. Hendriksz “We helped each other, and our faculty had an open-door policy. It was a combination of the joy of learning more about science and medicine as well as the art of helping and healing people. I loved being a student here.”

After graduating in 2006, Dr. Hendriksz did a pediatric residency at Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles. Before pursuing a fellowship in intensive care, Dr. Hendriksz decided to take a short break from medical training. “I saw a position come up at Touro and I didn’t even send in an application, figuring they wouldn’t want anyone right out of residency. But someone in the administration asked me to send in a CV and the next thing I knew, I was giving a sample lecture.”

Dr. Hendriksz began teaching in 2009 and has been on the faculty since.

“I taught special education before medical school and I enjoyed it, so I thought that sometime in the future I would teach in medical school, perhaps after practicing for thirty years. I didn’t know it would become my career so early on,” she laughed.

Dr. Hendriksz works one day a week at a community clinic as a pediatrician and uses her experiences to augment her classes.

“I bring in patients to talk about their positive and negative interactions with physicians,” said Dr. Hendriksz. “Not only does it teach my students how to interact with their future patients, but when my patients describe their medical issues, the topics become ‘sticky’ for my students and much easier to remember because they have a face to put it to, instead of just Powerpoint slides.”

Dr. Hendriksz’ typical course load includes a lot of pediatric-related courses like pediatric neurology and pediatric cardiology. She has also been named the Associate Dean of Clinical Education where she oversees students in their third and fourth year of medical school in addition to her teaching responsibilities.

“Dr. Hendriksz is a shining example of what a medical educator should be," wrote one of Dr. Hendriksz's students for her nomination. "She advocates for her patients and students alike. She is well respected by all who meet her. She does not settle for the way that things have always been done, but strives to improve medical education as a whole."

“I am very busy but very happy,” explained Dr. Hendriksz. “I’m very fortunate to work at Touro. Our classes are small so I have the opportunity to help students through this challenging and exciting time in their lives. I get to see our students progress and mature through four years. When they graduate, it’s as if they were my own children graduating.”

“Teaching forces you to stay on top of your game. You need to be the best you can be. The future is watching you."


“Teaching forces you to stay on top of your game,” said Dr. Hendriksz. “You need to be the best you can be. The future is watching you.”

Three Jobs

Dr. Hendriksz started dating her husband during her first year of medical school. The two have two daughters, ages six and eight, and Dr. Hendriksz is known to bring skeleton models to her daughters’ classes for Halloween. “I always say I have the three most rewarding jobs: the first is being my kids’ mother, that is the best thing I could ever be. The second and third are getting to teach and being a pediatrician.” (Her children’s pediatrician is a fellow TUCOM graduate that Dr. Hendriksz taught.)

Interesting Fact

Dr. Hendriksz was born in South Africa and her family has lived there for several generations. “Nelson Mandela is an incredible inspiration to me,” said Dr. Hendriksz. “Especially regarding the resilience he showed and the compassion he showed to everyone, even those who imprisoned him.”

Natural Pediatrician

One of her favorite stories from her academic career is about a student who was convinced he was going to be an orthopedic surgeon. On the first day of his pediatric rotation, he walked into an examination room to examine a six-year-old pediatric patient. He noticed the child’s collar was up and he fixed it. “It was right then that I could see he was going to be a pediatrician, but I kept it to myself,” recalled Dr. Hendriksz. “It wasn’t until later that he told me, ‘I want to do pediatrics.’ I told him he was a natural. Not everyone will fix a child’s collar like that."

Jonathan Robinson, Ph.D.

Deputy Chair and Associate Professor, Department of Computer Science

Lander College for Men

Jonathan Robinson

What His Students Say

“Professor Robinson is by far the best teacher I ever had. I would venture to claim, he is one of the best teachers you could ever have. He is kind, thoughtful, funny and not to mention—great at teaching. Professor Robinson really helps you understand how the world runs from a computer's point of view... Professor Robinson loves his students like a father loves his children. He loves watching them grow and develop into people who can go ahead and make their own decisions in life. All Professor Robinson wants is for his students to outgrow his teachings, to know so much that he is of no use to them. He challenges the students on a daily basis and allows each one to develop their skills in their own way. Professor Robinson is extremely knowledgeable in the computer world, but also in many other areas and this allows us to respect and relate to him in ways beyond the material. I have not met a student who did not like Professor Robinson. There are many that don't like the work he gives, but I think they are just scared of how he challenges them.”

— Edon Freiner

Dr. Jonathan Robinson dates his interest in computers back to when he was 11-years-old and his father, a physicist, gave him a book on programming.

“I was a tinkerer ever since I was a kid,” recalled Dr. Robinson, a professor of computer science at Lander College for Men (LCM). “I took things apart because I wanted to know what was behind them. Programming was an extension of that: each programming task is a riddle. Each task asks: How can I do this?”

During high school, Dr. Robinson launched a successful computer consulting company with some friends (he recalled JC Penny calling them up to request their services). Dr. Robinson put his budding computer career on hold after high school, so he could spend several years in Yeshiva Shaar Hatorah and Yeshiva Ohr Hachaim in Queens.

“I was influenced by my rabbis who taught me how to learn a subject rigorously,” said Dr. Robinson. “I was influenced by my fellow bochurim, students; they mentored me and showed me how much someone who isn’t from your family, someone who could be a total stranger to you, has a capacity to influence and shape who you become.”

Dr. Robinson attended Queens College for an undergraduate degree in computer science. He then pursued a master’s and Ph.D. in the field at the CUNY Graduate Center. He earned his Ph.D. with a dissertation on robotic vision. Asked whether he found the topic interesting, Dr. Robinson offered this answer, which might be a hallmark of his general outlook.

“Every topic is fascinating once you dive deep enough,” Dr. Robinson said. “Even corrugated cardboard, if you dive deep enough there’s a whole science to it. We’re not aware of the complexity of simple things.”

After teaching for several years at Queens College, Dr. Robinson heard about the opening of a new college that blended yeshiva education with secular studies. He applied and became one of the founding faculty members of LCM.

“It’s a great joy to teach interested students,” said Dr. Robinson. “We have a lot of common values, so I find that particularly compelling and rewarding. I love having my students over for Shabbat and being able to mentor them.”

Though his skills are in high demand in the private sector, Dr. Robinson said his wife correctly pointed out that no job in the private sector would give him the joy he receives from his students.

“I can’t say I always planned to be a professor,” said Dr. Robinson. “I thought I would end up in business, but I realized teaching was my calling as I was doing it.”

As for his teaching methodology, Dr. Robinson, who teaches a variety of high-level computer classes, says he maintains an outline of what he needs to teach, but how he teaches tends to differ based on the needs of his students.

“I tell my students that my goal as a professor is to make myself obsolete. The job of a teacher is to teach his students so that he’s not needed anymore and students can learn on their own."


“It’s like that old saying; I don’t give my students fish, but I teach them how to fish,” explained Dr. Robinson. “I tell my students that my goal as a professor is to make myself obsolete. The job of a teacher is to teach his students so that he’s not needed anymore and students can learn on their own.”

After graduating, Dr. Robinson’s students are well prepared for whatever position they find themselves in.

“I was definitely prepared because of my courses,” said LCM’s Moshe Losev who interned this past summer as a developer for the global wealth management firm Alliance Bernstein. “Dr. Robinson is one of the most talented professors I ever had. Not only did he help familiarize me with the technologies of the job, but he always integrated what he was talking about in lectures with real-life software development practices. Walking into the internship, I was pretty familiar with most of the technology stack that they were using. The learning curve was much easier than it could have been.”

Dr. Robinson recalled one exchange with a student with whom he is still in touch.

“I told him I’m not here in this job so that you like me,” said Dr. Robinson. “I’m here to teach you to become independent and if that causes you to not like me, well, that’s just the price I have to pay. My goal is not to be liked, but for my students to grow. He said that, in a strange way, it was the most touching thing I’d ever said to him.”

Many of Dr. Robinson’s students stay in touch with him, long after they graduate. Some wish him a good Shabbos, some a Happy New Year, and still more email him when they have a perplexing challenge at work and need his advice. Asked about why he receives such immense satisfaction from his job, Dr. Robinson seemed moderately puzzled by the question.

“What’s rewarding about helping your child walk?” Dr. Robinson mused. “What’s rewarding about helping a person understand something they didn’t understand before? What’s rewarding about having an impact on someone’s life? I’m not sure why something like that is rewarding but it is; it’s a result of the task. I’m being paid to do something that not only allows me to support my family, but allows me to help other people at the same time. What’s rewarding about helping other people strive, succeed, and be all they can be? I think it’s intrinsically rewarding.”

Robinson’s Rags

Dr. Robinson uses rags to wipe down the whiteboard and is known to jokingly throw said towel at students when he doesn’t think they are paying attention. Dr. Robinson refers to the towels as Robinson’s Rags. Last year, his students, in addition to buying him a set of the commentaries of the Rambam, presented him with a towel emblazoned with the words, “Robinson’s Rag.”

Necessary Skills for Developers

“I think you need to have a capacity to be analytical,” said Dr. Robinson about what he considers to be important traits for software developers. “You have to be able to take a complicated problem and break it up into smaller components. Complexity can be simplified. You need to be able to recognize patterns. Learning a computer language is like learning a foreign language.” Dr. Robinson also said that necessary but overlooked skills in the computer world are soft skills, like communication and writing abilities. “Those skills are really important if you want to move up the corporate ladder.”

Interesting Fact

Dr. Robinson has six children, three boys and three girls, ranging in age from nine to 19. Some share his interest in computers and some don’t. “With my children and my students, I’m not looking for them to be carbon copies of me,” said Dr. Robinson. “If I could paraphrase what the Mashgiach (leader) of the Slobodka Yeshiva said about his students: if they were to be identical to me, I would feel I failed. No two people are the same and everyone needs to find their own path.”