Special to DAVID
Shortly after COVID-19 ground the world to a halt nearly two years ago, Touro University Nevada sought ways to help make a difference on the frontlines. Starting March 2020, students provided free health screenings at Cashman Center for the Las Vegas Valley’s homeless population. Touro has made it their mission to bring free healthcare to the Southern Nevada assisting in the fight against the pandemic.
Shelley Berkley, the CEO & Senior Provost of Touro University Nevada, has called Southern Nevada home for more than six decades. A graduate of Valley High School and UNLV, Berkley served in the Nevada State Legislature, the Nevada Board of Regents, and represented Nevada’s First Congressional District in the U.S. Congress from 1999-2013 before joining Touro in 2014. DAVID Magazine recently caught up with Berkley to learn more about Touro’s efforts to help protect the community during COVID-19, and how the university has learned to adapt to the challenges of educating future healthcare providers and educators during a global pandemic.
When was the decision made to have Touro’s students working on the COVID-19 frontlines?
Shortly after COVID-19 forced us to work remotely, students from our College of Osteopathic Medicine and College of Health and Human Services immediately expressed their interest in wanting to assist wherever they could. Our students are pursuing careers in healthcare and education, so getting critical, hands-on training during a once-in-a-century pandemic, allows them to strengthen their educational experience while providing care to our most vulnerable populations.
What does that say about your students for showing such initiative before a vaccine was even available? Was there any hesitation?
As the state’s largest medical school, we have always prioritized the health and safety of our campus community over everything else. Since the very beginning, our students have been provided with the proper personal protective equipment to ensure they are as safe as possible working on the COVID-19 frontlines.Our mission is to provide quality education programs in the fields of healthcare and education in concert with the Judaic commitment to social justice, intellectual pursuit, and service to humanity. The fact that our students, in addition to our faculty, alumni/ae, and donors, have stepped up to help our community during the pandemic speaks volume to their character. Their actions embody the Touro mission.
What has this experience taught you about the Southern Nevada community you’ve called home for so long?
The COVID-19 pandemic is the worst healthcare crisis we have experienced during our lifetime. Despite the challenges we’ve faced, I am encouraged by the selflessness and kindness shown by many of our fellow Nevadans. In times of crisis, it is critical for us to come together for the greater good. At Touro, I’ve watched our students and faculty administer tens of thousands of free COVID tests and vaccines to the community. I have also watched our donors provide much-needed personal protective equipment to local hospitals and medical offices, as well as scholarships for our students. Whether I was in the State Legislature, serving on the Board of Regents, or in the U.S. Congress, I have always been proud to represent this community.
In your opinion, how has COVID-19 transformed medical education?
At Touro, we wanted to make sure we did everything in our power to provide our students with the best possible education in a safe environment. Our students are completing their didactic courses online while coming to campus for their necessary lab work. This has helped to limit the spread of the virus and has ensured that our students still have the resources they need to complete their studies. We are educating future doctors, physician assistants, physical therapists, occupational therapists, nurses, medical health sciences professionals, and teachers. We have found new ways to adapt because, as we’ve learned during the past two years, the situation with COVID is always changing.
What’s next for Touro?
I am thrilled to say that despite the challenges brought on by the pandemic, our students continue to succeed in their studies and out in the community. They have the resources they need to learn safely and effectively. At the same time, they are getting the frontline experience that will benefit them greatly after graduation. Throughout this pandemic, our students have volunteered at numerous locations to make life easier for those most affected. COVID-19 has certainly provided us with our share of challenges, but Touro continues to show its resiliency in the face of adversity. This pandemic has reminded us all just how important healthcare providers and teachers are to our society. I am proud that this institution continues to educate the healthcare providers and teachers of the future