“Look for the helpers.” – Mr.(Fred) Rogers quoting his mother
It’s gratifying to see our students staff our local Dollar Tree and supermarket. These students are going to secure incredible internships for summer 2022 because they’ve demonstrated that they aren’t afraid of rolling up their sleeves, and will likely gain exceptional customer service skills. I’m also immensely proud of the students that rushed to help the chaplains and rescue/medical personnel in Surfside. Sadly, tragedy provides many opportunities to help the individuals and communities that are hardest hit.
Unsurprisingly, it appears that the pandemic has generated an uptick in the already large numbers of students applying to the health professions. Lately, I’ve been advising on applications and essays for many more pre-med and pre-health students than ever before. While plans for YU’s new Physician Assistant program were already underway long before Covid, this program, like so many others, will certainly be in high demand. Note to anyone applying to healthcare programs anywhere – especially those that have rolling admissions – don’t be surprised if they fill up a lot earlier than usual this year and close their application window much sooner than expected. It pays to be an early bird.
A few months into the pandemic, I wanted to play my small part in the essential work that takes place behind the scenes every day to help save and improve lives. Many of the initial Covid studies in the tri-state area were already in progress, and instead I started exploring how to participate in general clinical research studies.Some innovative companies are even offering discounts off their healthcare plans for employees that volunteer for research studies, in addition to paid time off (PTO) to offset participation. I have a feeling we’ll be seeing more companies follow suit in the coming year(s).
After a time, I found my niche volunteering for the Internal Review Board (IRB) of New York’s largest health system, periodically reviewing the protocols for planned research studies and recommending amendments as needed. These protocols are designed by the heroes behind the scenes that advance medicine through research, innovation, and publication. Our board, like all others around the country, are tasked with ensuring that the protocols and proposed informed consent forms are clearly worded and adhere to Federal and State guidelines. Interestingly, these guidelines originated in the aftermath of one of the greatest tragedies of modern history: the Holocaust.* Significant numbers of Germany’s medical community had been complicit with the SS, all too eager to advance their scientific prowess by using the virtually unlimited supply of Jews for their experiments without needing to concern themselves with side effects or consent. To this day it pains me that some of my neighbors and fellow shul members were among those experimented on, with lasting effects.
I love learning about fascinating studies at the cutting edge of science long before the studies become public, and I appreciate being able to do this without having to leave my home. I’m powerless to restore what was lost in the Holocaust, but I’m grateful for a chance to apply my skills to protecting others from harm and ensuring their dignity.
This motzei Shabbos, since the Nine Days have already begun, my son will be engaging in his favorite activity of the year: volunteering to drink the havdalah wine for neighbors who don’t have a household member below bar mitzvah. Appraise your own talents with the help of a trusted friend, family member, or coach. Drink (responsibly) or cook for a cause, grow your hair for charity, consider where your help and skills are needed. More than building your resume, you are helping to rebuild society and strengthen community.
*The first trial conducted under the Nuremberg Military Tribunals in 1947 became known as The Doctors’ Trial: 23 physicians from the Nazi Party were tried for crimes against humanity. The verdict resulted in the creation of the Nuremberg Code, a set of ten ethical principles for human experimentation and one of the most influential documents in the history of clinical research.