Student D.O. of the Year

Previous Winners

Every year, the TouroCOM Middletown student and faculty send in nominations for students they think deserve to be the Student DO of the year, as part of an initiative by the Council of Osteopathic Student Government Presidents (COSGP). Each nominee completes an application and the final winner is chosen by committee. The winner goes on to compete at the national level for Student DO of the Year which often includes a cash prize.

The Student DO of the Year (SDOY) Award Recipient:

    1. Must be a full time student at a College of Osteopathic Medicine

    2. Cannot be a previous school or national Student DO of the Year recipient

    3. Represents the following ideals and values:

        • Leadership

        • Commitment to Community Service

        • Dedication to the Profession

        • Professionalism

        • Embodies the Osteopathic Philosophy

2021/2022 - John Zakhary

"On behalf of the SDOY Committee, it is our honor to present to you TouroCOM Middletown’s student doctor of the year award winner, John Zakhary. John was the SGA President during the height of the pandemic, and you can imagine the unique challenges he and his fellow members of student government faced while trying to keep the community connected and engaged while ensuring that the students’ needs were being met academically in an everchanging educational landscape. He is not only a leader in the sense that he held many leadership positions, but he also led by example in his dedication to service to the community of Middletown, and to the mission of providing affordable healthcare to all. It is through his actions that we see the foundational tenets osteopathic medicine shine through in his leadership by example, service to the community when it needed it most, his dedication to accessible medicine, and the professionalism he shows every day.

We know better than most that we’ve started down a hard path and that it is impossible for anyone one of us to do it alone. John personally spearheaded the creation of the school study buddy program that set up persistent links for students to find and study with other students based on subject. He also reached out to our sister campus in Harlem to collaborate on joint student resources.

He has been an active part in the community working with local High School students to kindle their interest in the STEM fields via the Med Achieve as well as his volunteering activity with Reach Advocacy, the Middletown Warming station, Hope for Honor, St. Francis Inn, GRIPA, Goodwill guides not to mention various church volunteer opportunities he has participated in.

His propensity for taking initiative and seeking out leadership positions started from a young age as a boy scout where served his community as far as to reach the title of Eagle scout. Having heard more than a few of his rousing speeches it’s no wonder that he has long honed his craft of the spoken word through his affiliation with Toastmasters International, where he has been awarded several accolades by his peers. And somehow in the already chaotic life of leadership in medical school, he found the time to complete his MBA during his vacation rotation block.

John’s dedication to affordable healthcare has been a long endeavor which is evident through his participation in the SOMA Improving Insulin Affordability Resolution S-20-13, as well as the Minority Health Curriculum Committee Proposal. He has gone above and beyond in staying true to the osteopathic philosophy, by taking his elective rotation in Osteopathic manipulation and Obesity medicine. He truly seeks to ease the pain of chronic illness and strives to find health, which is something every DO swears an oath to do."


Excerpt from Letter of Recommendation

SDOY Selection Committee

2020/2021 - Harry Qi

"We are honored and delighted to present to you this year’s Touro COM Middletown’s Student D.O. of the Year: Harry Qi, OMS-IV, MSc. While we had many competitive and accomplished applicants this year, Harry stood out by proving himself to be a student truly invested in his school and community, and by tirelessly working for the betterment of both. He is fondly remembered as our most capable and well-loved Student Government Association (SGA) President, a strong supporter and organizer for volunteer programs, and a compassionate TA in many subjects. However, many of his accomplishments are not known to the student body, and only after reading his application did these other works come to our attention. He has published and presented research papers, volunteered numerous hours, and committed himself to learning new skills that will make him a better osteopathic physician. Taken together, these traits speak to his service, humility and hard work, all of which are foundational characteristics within an osteopathic philosophy. We believe that Harry’s combination of leadership, service, dedication to medicine, professionalism, and embodiment of the osteopathic philosophy make him an ideal fit for National D.O. of the Year.

Harry is best known as a previous SGA President. Through his leadership, many volunteer programs were revived and made accessible for students. He tirelessly represented Touro COM Middletown, and all osteopathic students, at numerous COSGP conferences and committees, working as a Global Health Committee member, Constitution and Bylaws Review Committee member, N.Y. State Osteopathic Medical Association (NYSOMS) Student Delegate, and NYSOMS Public Affairs Reference Committee member, among other things. He would lead numerous COSGP initiatives here at Touro Middletown, working on the SDOY Committee, the Teacher of the Year Committee, and the Joint Curriculum Committee as well. These positions are a testament to his leadership, involvement, and commitment to bettering osteopathic medical school experiences and organizations.

Taking part in extensive leadership positions in no way meant that Harry disregarded his professional studies. As an EM residency applicant, he ensured that he would be prepared and ready for the challenges of practicing in the emergency department. He is currently publishing a paper on ED visits during the COVID-19 pandemic, and has broad experience when it comes to emergency care. He has served on a volunteer ambulance corps for over 2 years, worked as an ED scribe, and then later became a scribe project leader. As a project leader, he has scribed in EDs across several states, totaling over 1,200 hours of scribing. He was tasked with setting up new scribing programs as well, allowing him to be acutely aware of the ins and outs of the emergency department. He is also certified in Bleeding Control by the ACS. He has proven himself to be academically successful as well, having gained direct matriculation to Touro COM by achieving a high GPA in Touro’s Master of Science program. He has served as a TA and Class Representative for several classes, and students still use his histology notes to this day.

Lastly, we would like highlight Harry’s volunteer work. Aside from advocating for and organizing volunteer programs as a leader, he also took part in several volunteer opportunities himself. This included working at a local clinic, health fairs, homeless shelters, and a hospital elder life program. This totaled to more than 100 hours of volunteering. Additionally, he has worked as a mentor for numerous students. For his work at a particular health fair, he earned a Charities Certificate of Appreciation. The aggregation of his work has earned him a place as a member of the Golden Humanism Honor Society and the Sigma Sigma Phi (SSP) Honor Society.

It is difficult to describe someone as accomplished or well rounded as Harry in a short letter. We hope our recommendation of Harry Qi proved without a doubt his worthiness in being named National D.O. of the Year. His work and dedication to leadership, service, medicine, professionalism, and the osteopathic philosophy are second to none. Sincerely, The Touro COM Middletown Student D.O. of the Year Committee, 2020-21"

Excerpt from Letter of Recommendation

On behalf of the SDOY Selection Committee

2019/2020 - Abigail Dominguez-Trujillo

Abigail is really an extraordinary example of hard working, humble, and kind medical student. She always goes above and beyond for her peers and our local community. We are proud to say that she will be representing our school at National level for SDOY selection

"Abigail has excelled academically, engaged in research and community outreach projects, and has provided encouragement and support to her fellow students while providing new opportunities for our student body. Given her leadership at our college, in our community, and at the national level, she is someone who fulfills the ideals of the osteopathic profession."

Excerpt from Letter of Recommendation

On behalf of the SDOY Selection Committee

2018/2019 - Lauren Fleig

Lauren Fleig has made community service to her peers and the Middletown community a priority during her time at TouroCOM Middletown. Her academic achievements, professionalism, leadership status, and contribution to community service made her the clear choice for this year’s TouroCOM Middletown 2018-2019 Student DO of the Year.

Lauren, originally from Pennsylvania, began her medical school journey taking night classes for her post-baccalaureate as she worked as a social worker for senior citizens. In between complicated social work cases she would study her MCAT prep flashcards. It is evident that hard work and passion precedes all her achievements, which will make her a well-rounded osteopathic physician.

During her three years at TouroCOM, Lauren has served in numerous leadership positions, including Parliamentarian of the Student Government Association, Student Ambassador for interviewees, and Chief Medical Student for Orange Regional Medical Center. She has received many awards including Most Helpful Student, as well as the Tony Danza Community Service Award. She has not only organized, but participated in, a number of events that promoted osteopathic medicine and community health including yearly community health fairs, and the student run health clinic at HONOR; a local shelter for the homeless.

Lauren’s plans to one day practice Family Medicine in an underserved area. Her personality, collaborative spirit, humility, and ability to put students, faculty (and one day patients) at ease with her friendly demeanor is definitely a strong, and unique characteristic. There is no doubt she will become an outstanding osteopathic physician and is well deserving of the 2018-2019 TouroCOM Middletown Student DO of the Year.

Stephen C. Jones, Ph.D., Preclinical Dean

On behalf of the SDOY Selection Committee

2017/2018 - Johnny Truong

"The Student of the Year is awarded to that student who has exemplified extraordinary professionalism and leadership at the medical school.

Our awardee has mentioned that his strongest motivator for becoming a Physician is to be able to lift up his community. He was a registered nurse in Canada. While working, he regularly volunteered his nursing services for the homeless population, prepared breakfast for low income elementary school students, as well as disinfecting and repairing medical equipment for a local nonprofit. While at Touro, he continued his tradition of community involvement by volunteering during Touro’s bi-weekly health clinics at orange county’s homeless shelter, and local habitat for humanity projects. For his community work, Johnny received the Tony Danza Community Service award and received the most helpful award from fellow students.

Johnny says he plans on practicing as an Osteopathic Physician in the United States and hopes to help fix some of the inequalities in medical care; “coming here and seeing my classmates trying to find a doctor that takes their insurance, that’s a bit foreign to me,” he admitted. “I can’t imagine having to choose between seeing a doctor and paying for food. It’s sad to see people in America, the greatest country in the world, struggling.”

For an outstanding commitment to medicine and the community, Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine is proud to bestow the student of the year award upon 3rd year medical student, Johnny Truong."

Kenneth J Steier, Executive Dean

At the White Coat Ceremony for the Class of 2022, July 2018


2016/2017 - Era Singh

Erawadi (Era) Singh is many things: a tutor of Tibetan monks, a DJ, an actress, a speechwriter, a lover of all things pop culture related, a second year medical student, and now she’s Touro COM Middletown’s 2016-2017 Student D.O. of the Year. After a rigorous nomination process, a committee of her fellow colleagues and professors have chosen Era for this prestigious award.

Dr. Stephen Jones, Touro COM - Middletown’s Preclinical Dean, states that “Era would gladly sacrifice the A for a B if it meant that everyone in her class ‘got it’ and did well on their exams. If she is this way as a student, and her schoolmates are benefitting from it, imagine what she is going to be like as a physician. Imagine the difference that she will make in her patient’s lives!”

Era, a native of Orange, New Jersey, has made an impact in the daily lives of everyone at Touro COM - Middletown. She has served as the President of PsychSIG, the Vice President of Gender in Medicine, head teaching assistant for the Anatomy Department, and a Sigma Sigma Phi Teaching Assistant Review and Tutoring Program Coordinator. Amongst other committees, she also serves with the Social Committee, where she is dedicated in helping her fellow colleagues have some form of stress relief and motivation through the rigors of medical school.

Fellow students say that “Era organizes the majority of the first and second year peer academic support programs at the school while managing a full D.O. student workload and being there for a phone call from any student who needs help any time of the day.” Despite her heavy workload and numerous responsibilities, Era is always positive and has a good spirit towards everyone she meets.

Era’s selflessness and compassion shines through as a volunteer for various community service events during her time as a medical student, whether it be serving breakfast to the homeless population in St. Augustine’s Soup Kitchen, to recruiting (and participating as) student volunteers for the Walk To End Alzheimer’s event, or volunteering to manifest Amelia Stutman’s efforts to unite both the Middletown and Harlem campuses to march in New York’s annual PRIDE parade in solidarity for equal care for patients.

Stephen Jones, Preclinical Dean, also states that “Era’s energy is unreal. At first you might wonder how she gets it all done. Then you speak to her and you feel that energy. Then you understand. She’s thrilled to be where she is in life. The energy comes from learning osteopathic medicine, and from supporting the college, her fellow students, and the profession.”

Era continues to support her fellow students and the school while advancing on to the national portion of the student DO of the year competition, having shot video responses for the national selection process in different parts of the school, showcasing various departments, using students as actors, and celebrating her classmates’ achievements in everything from soccer games to research. She has stated that if she’s lucky enough to be chosen on the national level, her plan is to share anything won with the student(s) she had nominated as deserving of the very same award.

So whether she’s copywriting for New York indie rock bands, editing residency and fellowship applications for friends, or baking desserts for a school event, Era can always keep ‘being a good friend’ and ‘loving Touro’ high on her list of qualities and we hope to keep her close to our hearts.

(As requested by Era herself, shout out to the other members of the committees she is a part of: PsychSIG E-Board – Lawrence DeBellis, Mariah Carroll and Rushi Patel. Gender in Medicine – Amelia Stutman, Yamini Chalikonda and Suhaira Choudhury. Sigma Sigma Phi TA Review and Tutoring Program Coordinator – Donya Nazery. Social Committee – Divya Hariharan, Alexus Taddaonio, Umberto Napoletano, Stephen Vorenberg, Amanda Sawyer, Sara Shteyman and Shanda Lewis.)


2015/2016 - Bianca Zapanta

Bianca Zapanta is currently a 3rd year medical student at Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine and recipient of Student of the Year Award for the 2015-2016 school year. Bianca was nominated by her colleagues for the award and selected by a committee after an extensive evaluation process.

Touro is fortunate to have Bianca, a native of Ottawa, Ontario as part of our school and community. She has dedicated herself to community service through various outlets during her time with us. She served as a Student Ambassador, Student Mentor for incoming class, Co-chair for Community Service Committee, and spent much of her time at local soup kitchen on her weekends.

Bianca’s generosity, respect, and compassion have been a source of guidance for many at Touro. These qualities were highlighted when she organized Touro Middletown’s inaugural Anatomy Donor Memorial Service, which has been an excellent example for incoming classes to follow. Bianca rallied the school and her classmates during a very busy time to honor individuals who donated their bodies to science as well as their family members.

Most recently Bianca was Vice President of the Student Government Association for the 2015-2016 school year. She served as an excellent connection between students and faculty to create the ideal learning environment for our student population. From ensuring good communication between students and faculty to leading our student government, she was a great source of guidance for all. As Vice President Bianca also represented our school in the Council of Osteopathic Student Government Presidents Conference (COSGP) and OMED conferences in 2016.

With a great amount of leadership duties, managing a vigorous medical school education, Bianca finds time to spend on hobbies such as running, skiing, and traveling. She is an excellent example that hard work backed with passion, dedication, and compassion is what makes a successful medical student, and no doubt a very successful physician in the future.

2014/2015 - Christine Miller

She’s run six marathons and varsity cross-country. She’s an athlete, an author, a coder, a chemist, a teacher, a backpacker, a researcher, and a painter. She leads the Student Ambassador Program with fellow medical student Daniel Lee. And now, she’s TouroCOM-Middletown’s Student D.O. of the Year.

“Christine Miller has demonstrated excellent academic work, community participation, and leadership skills in the medical school among her student colleagues and professors,” said Dean Kenneth Steier, dean of TouroCOM-Middletown. “Her personality, collaborative spirit, and constant willingness to be of assistance to her fellow students makes her an excellent role model and student ambassador. I am confident she will emerge in four years as an outstanding osteopathic physician.”

We spoke to the Boston native about her background, research, hobbies, and experience at TouroCOM-Middletown thus far. Here’s what she had to say:

After graduating from Bucknell University, Christine returned to Boston, her hometown, to study stem cell biology full-time. She worked as a research assistant, and then lab manager, for Harvard’s Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology department, studying how stem cells influence muscle regeneration, aging and oncogenesis. One major accomplishment that resulted out of her team’s research efforts was discovering certain powerful implications of a factor called GDF11 on the regeneration of cardiac muscle. “It was amazing,” says Christine, “because this had huge implications. It’s common knowledge that cardiac hypertrophy is increased in aged hearts, but as we saw in our experiments, GDF11 changed all that. In joining young mice to old mice in a procedure called parabiosis, we found that GDF11 reduced cardiac hypertrophy in the hearts of aged mice, as well as increased vascularization and olfactory connections in their brains.” Christine’s discoveries with GDF11 in the 1000 pairs of parabiotic mice she studied resulted in seven influential publications in prestigious journals, including Science and Cell, as well as a presentation at the NextGen Stem Cell conference in Saratoga Springs in May 2014.

In 2013, Christine became one of the founders—and core manager—of the newly formed induced pluripotent stem cell (iPS) core facility at Joslin Diabetes Center, which focused on reprogramming cell lines using cutting-edge techniques and working with researchers and local core facilities to develop new approaches for iPS cell reprogramming. As one of the founders, Christine was responsible for setting up cell-culturing workshops, developing best-practice techniques, and training post-docs on using the innovative new technology she and her team developed—technology that is now being used by several research institutions, including Northeastern University and The Boston Children’s Hospital. “I was the sole scientist working in the core facility so I personally performed all of the research and work, and represented the iPS core in the greater stem cell community. I feel so proud to have contributed so much to the medical community, and to have been a part of getting something started. It was all very exciting!” says Christine.

“I originally planned on becoming a full-time researcher, but after working at Joslin for a bit, I was really inspired by a few physician scientists in the lab,” says Christine. “I loved how their purpose in the lab was so singular: to better help their patients. This helped me realize that I wanted a ‘face’ to my work, too.” Now, the medical student hopes to someday “be able to couple my medical education with bench-top research for my patients as well.” Already a big fan of the Khan Academy, Miller was attracted to TouroCOM’s flipped-classroom concept (in which medical students listen to professors’ iTunes lectures independently during their own time, and then get quizzed on the material during class.) “I thought it would help me stay on top of the material better and give me more control over my schedule,” says the medical student. “And it’s great practice for the real world. When a doctor asks you your opinion, you need to be able to answer on the spot. So constantly being probed during class helps reinforce concepts and prepares us better for boards and clinical rotations."

The first-year medical student began learning to code last year when she joined a Boston meet-up group for female programmers. The “Pythonistas,” as it was called, focused on teaching women to code in the programming language Python. “I realized what a powerful tool a computer can be if you only know how to use it. As someone with no technological intuition whatsoever, I thought that learning to code would be a great way to face my computer shortcomings.” “And once a week, outside of the meet-up, a one of the other women and I went across the street to the bar to work on some problems together. We called it ‘Pints and Python'!”

“We all have a cognitive surplus, as Clay Shirky once discussed in a TED Talk I love. If we really want to do something, many of us can allocate our time differently. I try to be cognizant of what I'm choosing to spend my time on, and I also don't mind jumping into something new to try it out.” The avid runner, who has run six marathons so far, was recruited to her undergraduate college to run track. She also enjoys painting landscapes in her spare time. ("As a medical student and researcher, it's a nice change of pace!") “I'm definitely a glass-half-full kind of person, so I think that no matter the outcome, in the end I'll have learned something.”