For Jennifer Allison Tran, second year osteopathic medicine student at Touro University California, a red balloon helped her crusade take flight.
The idea surfaced in 2006, when Jennifer came back from a humanitarian trip to Southeast Asia. Her group of church members helped to build houses and dig wells, which she explains led to a mind-opening, heartfelt experience.
“I never appreciated the small things in life, such as water coming out of a faucet,” she says. She pauses before adding, “I came back and had a fire within me to do something, to help make a difference.”
Hence, the birth of Red Balloon, inspired by the French short film “Le Ballon Rouge” and created to provide music therapy for the youth at U.C. Davis Children’s Hospital. The program includes a music therapist who uses a variety of techniques, such as singing, listening, and moving to music, to help children improve their health.
“How amazing is it for kids who are so sick and can’t talk to be able to express themselves by beating a drum? It’s mind blowing,” Jennifer says with excitement. “I just fell in love with the idea that music and medicine could go together.”
To date, Red Balloon has raised more than $10,000 for the music therapy program at U.C. Davis Children’s Hospital, which includes proceeds from a concert fundraiser at Touro University California last November.
More than 250 people participated in the three-hour event held on campus in Lander Hall, which consisted of audience interaction and children dancing. Touro students, families, and faculty donated more than $2,100, all of which was put toward music therapy at the Hospital.
“I always appreciate it when people leave inspired and when they can go and feel they can empower themselves in the community. It’s priceless,” the U.C. Davis graduate says of the event.
But Red Balloon has done more than inspire Jennifer to help the community. As an osteopathic student, Jennifer has grown a deeper appreciation for medicine.
“I had no idea what osteopathic medicine was when I first heard of it,” she admits. “But when I started to volunteer at the clinic, I saw the philosophy of mind, body and spirit. That is when everything changed for me because it was so amazing. I could use my hands directly and that in itself makes us so unique.”
The faculty at Touro University California also adds to the experience, Jennifer asserts, because they truly cares about their students.
“This is an amazing place. I can’t articulate how much I love the faculty; they are so dedicated,” Jennifer says. “Office hours are truly an “open-door” policy and everyone here loves to teach. It’s different here, they love to pass down and share what they know.”
In addition to Red Balloon, Jennifer is an Albert Schweitzer Fellow and is working to increase minority representation in the bone marrow registry. She also volunteers weekly at TUC’s Student Run Health Clinic, a free clinic organized and staffed by students from Touro University California. The clinic offers a valuable resource for low-income residents of Vallejo and provides the students with clinical skills through increased patient contact.
“Helping at the clinic reminds me of why I’m at medical school,” Jennifer admits. “It’s nice to use what I’ve learned at Touro to help others breathe a little easier in their lives. Some don’t have a place to go; to help them in any way we can is inspiring.”
Given Jennifer’s persistence in helping the community, it’s no surprise that she is pursuing her passion through Touro’s mission – “To Serve, To Lead, To Teach.”
“I’m an optimist and I’ll do whatever I can to help the community,” she says. “Whatever it is, being at the hospital, seeing what medicine can do for us, or planting a tree, even small things can make a huge difference.”
Touro University California College of Osteopathic Medicine is the 18th college of osteopathic medicine formed n the United States. Since its inception 1996, the program has grown from its original location in San Francisco to Mare Island in Vallejo. COM is comprised of highly skilled practitioners and prides itself in the focused development of manipulative medicine skills for Touro students. To learn more about the program, click here.
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