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In the heart of Harlem

by Barb Boose One Comment
Starting a medical school anywhere is daunting enough. But when Martin Diamond, D.O.’62, was invited to help with such an effort in Manhattan, he agreed only if the school would be located in a neighborhood with few doctors, high needs and a rich history.

With his impressive resume, Martin Diamond, D.O.’62, would have been entitled to decline an invitation to help fulfill a vision both ambitious and complex. But it was that resume and his advocacy for the underserved that made him ideal for the job: to help establish and lead the first medical school in New York state in 30 years–in the heart of Harlem.

“Our mission is to increase under-represented minorities in medicine and to attract people who want to serve underserved communities,” says Diamond, the school’s founding dean. “Plus there had never been a medical school in Harlem.”

The new Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine–part of an extensive network of Touro colleges and schools around the world– welcomed its first class on Sept. 4, 2007, in the former Blumstein’s department store. Now students fill its classrooms, laboratories and clinical training areas. The fact the college was but a dream of Touro leaders barely four years ago says a lot about Diamond’s leadership and experience.

“I personally believe we achieved our goal because of Martin Diamond and his relationships,” says Dr. Jay Sexter, chief executive officer of the new college.

Attending the announcement of the new medical school in 2007 were Jay Sexter, Touro COM CEO; Kenneth Knuckles, president and CEO, Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone; then- lieutenant governor and now New York Gov. David Paterson; Martin Diamond, D.O.’62; founding Touro College President Bernard Lander; Daniel Laroche, president, Empire State Medical Association; and Sheldon Sirota, Touro College vice president for osteopathic medicine.

That’s a reflection, in part, of Diamond’s years of service on boards of the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine, the New York State Board for Medicine, the New York State Osteopathic Medical Society and the American Osteopathic Association, to name a few. He served as an associate dean at both the New York College of Osteopathic Medicine and the Touro University College of Osteopathic Medicine in Vallejo, Calif., along with maintaining an active family practice.

Diamond credits his distinguished career in large part with his enrolling at DMU–then the College of Osteopathic Medicine and Surgery–as “probably the best decision of my life.”

“Had I gone into allopathic medicine, I never would have had the interesting career I’ve had, never would have been exposed to the exciting experiences I’ve had,” says Diamond, past member and president of DMU’s National Alumni Association of the College of Osteopathic Medicine.

The new school took over the historic Blumstein's department store in Harlem.

Diamond also has a passion for serving the underserved and the discriminated. A Jew who grew up in a black neighborhood in New York City, he experienced anti-Semitism while in the Navy. “I’ve been a minority my whole life,” he says.

That’s one reason Diamond wanted the new medical college to be in an area with very few practicing physicians. That also was a reason some people thought the idea was crazy.

Last year, in its second year of accepting students, Touro COM received 3,400 applications for 125 slots. Diamond became dean emeritus last July, but he continues to work with its administrators and faculty. He also tries to meet every student. “I don’t know what I’ll be doing next July,” he says, “but I doubt I will be retired.”

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