On November 11, members of the College of Osteopathic Medicine (NYITCOM) community gathered in the Riland Auditorium on the Long Island campus to pay tribute to all who serve in the United States armed forces and reflect on the tremendous sacrifice made by these individuals and their families.
The event, hosted by the NYITCOM Office of Academic Affairs, also celebrated distinguished medical school alumni who have served as military physicians and those who treat the mental health challenges that veterans often face, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
NYITCOM’s military student organization AMOPS (the school’s chapter of the Association of Military Osteopathic Physicians and Surgeons), actively participated in the event, with several members who spoke and presented the missing man table, a small table set for one, symbolizing the isolation of the absent service member. The practice traditionally honors fallen, missing, or imprisoned military service members.
Many of the students in attendance have already committed to military service through the military’s Health Professions Scholarship Program (HPSP). The Army, Navy, and Air Force all offer HPSP scholarships, which pay tuition and stipends for medical students who agree to serve after graduation.
NYITCOM Dean Nicole Wadsworth, D.O., addressed the attendees and noted that the celebration would not have been possible without the dedicated members of the medical school community, including NYITCOM staff member Edwin Pagan, a retired U.S. Army master sergeant, who brought forward the idea for the event.
“As we reflect on Veterans Day, I ask that you consider the sacrifice and risk these men and women have taken to serve our country. Their willingness to serve is inspiring and humble,” said Wadsworth.
Students then heard from some of NYITCOM’s most illustrious alumni, including White House Physician Kevin O’Connor (D.O. ’92), who enrolled in NYITCOM after attending college on an Army ROTC scholarship. He served numerous tours of duty with the 82nd Airborne Division, 75th Ranger Regiment, and U.S. Army Special Operations Command. He deployed on combat rotations to support classified missions in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Bosnia. As a charter member of the Committee on Tactical Combat Casualty Care, O’Connor helped rewrite the book on battlefield trauma care, with an emphasis on “point of wounding” care.
Although he planned to attend the November 11 NYITCOM event in person, O’Connor’s White House physician duties required him to accompany President Joe Biden on an eight-day trip to Egypt, Cambodia, and Indonesia. Instead, he provided written remarks, which acknowledged that the change of plans was quite fitting for a Veterans Day celebration, noting that a life of service means a life of unparalleled sacrifice and answering the call, however unexpected, when others cannot. His remarks were read aloud by William Blazey, D.O., NYITCOM associate dean of academic affairs.
“While this is personally disappointing to me, it is actually perfectly implemented of why we hold Veterans Day and their families in high regard,” wrote O’Connor. “Throughout my career, I’ve reflected to fellow service members that we don’t so much get paid for what we do but rather more consistently for what we miss. You see, when it comes down to it, I think that in the end, we humans tend to admire people who do the stuff we’d rather not actually have to do, but that we know needs to be done.”
From left: NYITCOM alumni Sergio Lombardo (D.O. ’04), Brian Lee (D.O. ’14), and Marsha Alexander (D.O. ’02)
Other participating alumni included:
- Marsha Alexander (D.O. ’02) is a clinical psychiatrist with PTSD expertise and vast experience serving veterans and victims of 9/11. Alexander was an NYITCOM student when the World Trade Center was attacked. After finishing her psychiatry residency at North Shore University Hospital, she completed a fellowship in child and adolescent psychiatry at Long Island Jewish Hospital. Over the course of her career, she has had the honor of working with veterans at the Northport Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center for more than 13 years. She has also served as a consultant to the Stony Brook World Trade Center Health and Wellness Program, among many other mental health initiatives.
- Brian Lee (D.O. ’14) is a U.S. Corps of Cadets brigade surgeon at the U.S. Military Academy West Point. Lee completed his family medicine residency at Fort Belvoir in Fairfax County, Va., before serving three years at Camp Humphreys in South Korea, home to the Army’s busiest airfield in Asia. On November 8, 2022, just days before NYITCOM’s event, Lee was awarded the Army Commendation Medal for exceptional achievement as the U.S. Corps of Cadets Surgeon. As a leader, he ensured more than 1,100 cadets received an electrocardiogram with proper medical documentation.
- Sergio Lombardo (D.O. ’04) is a physiatrist, active-duty Navy veteran, and current commander for the U.S. Naval Reserve. He is also the site director for the Northport VA Medical Center. Following his internship at the Naval Medical Center in Portsmouth, Va., Lombardo served as a medical officer for the Navy. He completed a physical medicine and rehabilitation residency at Rusk Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine (New York University) and was an attending and team physician at the Orthopedic and Sports Medicine Clinic for the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md.
- Monica Ormeno (D.O. ’07) is a psychiatrist and commander of the medical corps for the U.S. Navy (participated via pre-recorded message). Following her psychiatric residency, Ormeno deployed to Afghanistan, where she served as the department head for mental health at the NATO Role 3 Multinational Medical Unit in Kandahar, Afghanistan, and as a senior psychiatrist for the South Helmand Province, also in Afghanistan. She was hand selected for the inaugural fleet surgical team psychiatry billet and has completed numerous deployments, serving more than 5,000 sailors and marines and embarking on three different amphibious ships. As an expert in LGBTQ+ and women’s mental health, Ormeno has served as the chair of the Navy Medicine West Transgender Care Team, and the vice chair of the Female Force Readiness Advisory Board. Currently, she serves as the regional mental health senior executive for Naval Medical Forces Pacific and Navy psychiatric specialty leader.
At the event, NYITCOM presented Alexander, Lee, and Lombardo—the three alumni who were able to attend in person—with trophies commemorating their participation in the day’s panel.