Teekz Yenpasook, a third-year osteopathic medical student at Touro University California- Vallejo, was recently named the 2021 National Student Doctor of the Year by the Council of Osteopathic Student Government Presidents’ (COSGP). Yenpasook was chosen of thousands of student doctors nominated based on his leadership skills, efforts to increase diversity in the medical field, and be the voice of underrepresented communities in healthcare and Solano County. In addition to this great accomplishment, he directs Touro University’s Biotech Academy Summer Internship for high school students, as well as developed courses in LGBTQIA+ Considerations in Healthcare, Structural Incompetency, and Culture Humility within the medical community. While his life may sound ideal on paper now, that wasn’t always the case.
Yenpasook was raised in Oakland by a single-income family household in a lower socioeconomic neighborhood. After having a bumpy upbringing, he was finally on a path that many young adults take part in. He was attending community college, meeting new people, and climbing his way up the Starbucks Coffee business ladder. Then at the young age of 21, his world stopped. He was diagnosed with lymphoma, a blood cancer that affects lymphocytes, a type of white blood cells. The diagnosis led Yenpasook to leave school and his full-time job. He described himself as being both financially and emotionally unstable.
He was enduring chemo treatments every two weeks, which eventually transitioned to intense daily radiation therapy. “I remember always being the youngest person in the chemo clinic,” Yenpasook said. “It gave me a huge perspective on how cancer doesn’t discriminate.”
While receiving his treatments, he was attending support groups. He did cancer walks even though the chemo was making his body weak. “That community is where I found compassion for others with illnesses.” And that is how his interest in the medical field began.
Fortunately, a time came when his treatments were over. He reenrolled in school and transferred to the University of California San Diego’s Physiology and Neuroscience baccalaureate program. He was able to set up a free health clinic in Tijuana, Mexico while still working full-time. Saying he was busy would be an understatement.
“When it came time to transfer to a medical school, I was still working full-time and my grades weren’t great.” He received below satisfactory scores on his Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). He was turning in his applications to medical schools and getting rejection letters in return.
Yenpasook finally had a shot with Touro University’s Master of Science in Medical Health Sciences program in Vallejo. The one-year program is laborious and research-intense, but it increases student’s medical science knowledge base. Students who complete the program with certain benchmarks are guaranteed an interview for admission into the TUC Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine.
“I was lucky to get an interview with the College of Medicine. They heard my story and saw the passion in me. I promised to be an exemplary student and I did not go back on my word.”
Yenpasook found mentorship on campus, through volunteering, and advocacy work. At his time at TUC, he’s helped increased the diversity of the student body and promoted inclusion throughout all aspects of healthcare– including gender, ethnicity, and financial status. During his preclinical years, he served as the Vice President of Admissions in his school’s student body, focusing his term on increasing the representation of minority communities. “I was recruiting more women, people of color, and people in the LGBTQ community to provide more representation in medicine and to Touro’s campus… I believe that doctors who can connect with their patients culturally lead to better healthcare. And I want to see more of that representation here in Solano too.”
He hopes his story will inspire the next generation of both medical students and business leaders. “No matter your upbringing and background, you need to believe in yourself. Do not give up. If you need support, reach out to your friends, mentors, your community, and keep moving forward.” Again, this is coming from a man who grew up in a single-income household, battled cancer, struggled to get into medical school, then went on to win a National Student Doctor of the Year award.
“Teekz Yenpasook exemplifies the values of Touro University – he has demonstrated time and time again his commitment to equality, the practice of osteopathy, and to his fellow man,” said Sarah Sweitzer, TUC CAO and Provost in a press release. “I can’t think of a more worthy recipient of this honor and I look forward to watching Teekz continue to do great things. I know that as a physician, he will be a fierce advocate for his patients and the communities he will work in.”
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