Rachelle Bleck is Pursuing Her Dream at Touro

By Jennifer L. Warren

MIDDLETOWN – More than anything, Rachelle Bleck wants to positively impact people’s lives.

A first generation child of Haitian immigrants, Bleck – ever since her youth – was “keenly cognizant of the disparities” that existed in the world, so she wanted to do her part to produce more parity. Initially, thoughts of becoming a lawyer entered her mind. However, the “delayed difference” she could make from a hefty paperwork load that accompanied a legal career, put a damper on that vision.

Then, one day, while watching television as a child, it all clicked. While viewing commercials of “sick children” facing numerous challenges, Bleck was deeply affected by their (families’) inability to access critical health care and heal due to financial constraints. At that time, the young Bleck became consumed by the notion that help could come in the form of a simple shot or pill, a “band-aid” of sorts that would solve the problem. There was a field out there where she could work with her hands and get visible results. Medicine could allow her to see that “difference” she was seeking to make, and it could do this powerfully as well as in real time.

“I knew then I wanted to become a doctor; with medicine I knew I could make a tangible difference, recalled Bleck, who resides in Rockland County. “I could touch and see people, and I was able to do something quickly to help them get better.”

Despite Bleck having it in her mind-and heart early on- exactly the career path she wanted to pursue, her journey there has not been completely linear, laden with some challenges.

After majoring in Biology at Stony Brook University, she worked at two long-term positions: as a Medical Records Supervisor for the Columbia Doctors of the Hudson Valley as well as for the Town of Haverstraw Municipal Office. Although both jobs held a level of satisfaction, there was something “more” missing in Bleck’s work life. Deep down, that desire to become a doctor was still alive at age 30; it simply needed a catalyst to set it free. Never having seen an African-American doctor as a child, there were no role models. Compounding matters was some lingering self doubt about pursuing such an intense academic work load as well as being a female, a gender most people assume are best qualified to be nurses. However, all of those fears and doubts were dispelled, thanks to her exposure at Columbia Doctors.

“The doctors there really made me realize that the world is a much bigger place than what we see,” said Bleck. “There was such a diverse population there, and they really let you see how it is possible to pursue medicine no matter your ethnicity or gender.”

It was that very support for and confidence in her journey that was to be the turning point for Bleck. After researching and visiting some medical schools, she very early on knew where she wanted to study medicine: Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine in Middletown, a new campus, opening its doors in July, 2014. Once Bleck visited the school, she instantly felt a sense of belonging, a comfort level that has been strengthened each day of her first month as a student. From the faculty, to the students, to the overall aura of the campus, Touro feels like home.

“I got such a warm, welcoming, and good vibe from Frank Rose, the Director of Admissions, and I will never forget how my student guide ‘Tyler,’ said he didn’t think he would be as successful at any other medical school the way he was here at Touro,” relayed Bleck. “Everyone here is so devoted to helping you, you can ask them anything; I wanted a small environment, people invested in my journey, and so far it has been amazing.”

Intent on specializing in pediatric medicine, Bleck has always enjoyed the energy of younger people. However, her goals in medicine encompass much more than catering to one select group of clients. Intending to invest her passion into traveling abroad, community outreach as well as affordable health care for all people, Bleck further wants that “impact” dream she has had alit since childhood to extend beyond the medical office her patients one day frequent.

“I hope to have the effect of ‘wow’ I’m so happy to have met this person when my patients see me,” said Bleck, who now as a grown-up has come to appreciate there is no panacea for many illnesses, especially chronic ones like high blood pressure and diabetes, but there is something else: empowerment. “Even more, I want to close the gap of there being such a separation between us-doctor and patient; rather, I want to empower patients to take control of their healthcare and to leave my office with a clear understanding of what is going on with their bodies as well as with a plan of how to take care of any issues they may be experiencing.”

Bleck, who has also now learned to tune out the negativity of those who don’t support her medical school path through an even greater force: a genuine belief in herself as well as her purpose, also wants to serve as a bright light-inspiration to others like her who might not think a medical career is conceivable based on distorted, societal perceptions. Looking back at those Columbia Doctors as well as others who inspired her to take that leap of faith, she aspires to now “pay it forward,” hoping to some day create a forum for accessing pivotal information for people interested in a career in medicine. With aspirations of becoming a “great doctor,” Bleck further wants her story to serve as a model to anyone who thinks dreams come with limitations.

“I would tell any African-American, “older” female student like myself, who wanted to become a doctor, to 1000 percent pursue it; don’t let your insecurities or anyone else’s stuff stop you,” affirmed Bleck. “You can make a huge impact on people’s lives, and believe me: you will find amazing, incredibly supportive people out there to help you get there.”

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