Tami Hendriksz, D.O.
Associate Dean of Clinical Education, Associate Professor
Touro University California, College of Osteopathic Medicine
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."
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.”
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.)
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.”
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."