The NIU Long Island School of Medicine has a new dean whose mission includes ensuring that future doctors are prepared to serve a wide range of communities.
Dr. Gladys M. Ayala became dean of the medical school on Tuesday, taking over from founding dean Dr. Stephen P. Shelova, who retired. Previously, she was vice dean and professor of medicine.
Ayala joined the then fledgling medical school in 2018, overseeing curriculum development, admissions and diversity initiatives. She also led the school’s strategic planning process, focused on advancing medical education, developing a diverse workforce, and addressing disparities in access to high-quality health care.
“She’s an educator, really, at heart,” said Dr. Joseph J. Greco, senior vice president and chief of hospital operations at NIU Langone Hospital-Long Island in Mineola. Ayala, he said, “is one of these individuals who deal with ‘how do we educate future doctors’?”
The school does not charge tuition fees. It offers a three-year program that trains students in the primary care areas of family medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics, gynecology and general surgery.
The opportunity to help launch a new medical school was rare and exciting, said Ayala, 62, who grew up in Brooklyn as the youngest of three children. Her parents came to New York from Puerto Rico; her father worked as a foreman in a steel mill and her mother also worked in a factory, she said.
The medical school program, she said, “is not just accelerated, but really cultivates our students to be the types of doctors we all want to take care of our families and ourselves…. developing students who are compassionate, who are empathetic, who understand the needs of patients and the needs of communities.”
Ayala said she always knew she wanted to be a physician working in underserved communities, inspired by her love of science and desire to help people.
The Westbury resident has spent more than 25 years working in medical education, teaching primary care principles and clinical skills.
Prior to coming to NIU Long Island School of Medicine in Mineola, Ayala was provost for student affairs and interim associate dean at New York School of Medicine in Valhalla. She graduated from Mount Sinai School of Medicine and received her Masters in Public Health from Columbia University in 2007.