Growing up in Bucharest, Romania under Communist rule, Dr. Cristina Belanger didn’t watch much television as a child; she read books instead.
Her early exposure to books and a solid education in Eastern Europe helped put her on the path to medical school after she graduated from high school; so did helping take care of her grandparents as a child.
“I thought it was very useful and rewarding,” she said. “I wasn’t good at math, so that eliminated engineering and architecture. I decided to go to medical school instead.”
Shortly after beginning medical school in Romania in 1993, Belanger and her husband relocated to New York City. Throughout the next six years, she traveled back-and-forth between New York City and Romania to complete medical school.
Upon graduating in 2000, she and her husband relocated again; this time to Las Vegas. Since her medical school training was not recognized in the U.S., Belanger worked within Sunrise Hospital with patients who needed emergency dialysis.
“That’s where I really discovered that I wanted to work in the hospital,” she said. “There weren’t many residency programs open in Las Vegas at the time and I didn’t want to move. Not long after that, Touro University Nevada opened and I decided to become a physician assistant (PA).”
Belanger graduated at the top of her class in 2008 before spending the next 11 years working as both a hospitalist and an internal medicine PA at a North Las Vegas clinic.
Two years ago, Belanger reconnected with her former classmate and current Assistant Professor Amie Duford. Belanger began precepting Touro’s PA students and quickly grew to love teaching.
“I just enjoyed it so much,” she said. “From there, I became a guest lecturer, then an adjunct, and when a fulltime position opened up a few months ago, I jumped at the opportunity.”
As one of the PA program’s newest faculty members, Dr. Belanger teaches neurology, urology, and nephrology, in addition to coordinating the physical diagnosis course.
Although it’s been more than a decade since she graduated from PA school, she said the family-oriented atmosphere remains the same.
“It is so nice to work under the same roof with people who helped me succeed, like Dr. Ronald Hedger, Mrs. Dee Anne Culmone, Prof. Pearl Forman, and Prof. Nancy Lee to mention a few.”
Shortly before graduation, Belanger asked Dr. Hedger, Associate Professor in the College of Osteopathic Medicine and Medical Director at the time, to write her a letter of recommendation.
“I still credit that letter as helping me get my first job after school. I still have it today,” she said. “I never thought I would become a faculty member, but it’s worked out so well for me. I’m just glad that Touro saw something in me.”