Heritage Florida Jewish News - Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

This Jewish college offers a fast track to careers in medicine and health

 

Aaron Kattan (r) saved two years of college tuition by going directly to physical therapy school without having to first receive an undergraduate degree.

Eitan Glucksman often wakes up at 4:30 a.m., putting in 15-hour days as a first-year urology resident at Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla, New York.

The father of two has a grueling schedule but says he feels lucky: He's one of only two urology residents admitted per year to the hospital, which is affiliated with New York Medical College, part of the Touro College and University System.

"This is a field where you can really make a difference," said Glucksman, 27, an Orthodox native of Clifton, New Jersey, who spends his days treating everything from prostate cancer and bladder problems to kidney stones and urinary tract infections.

"My pre-med coursework at Touro was very hard and intense, and I was a lot more prepared for med school than others in my class," he said.

Aaron Kattan, 26, of Great Neck, New York, enrolled in Touro's Lander College for Men after studying for a time at a yeshiva in Israel. It was at Touro that he decided he wanted to work in physical therapy. Touro connected Kattan, then a science major, to two alumni who were physical therapists.

"I started working with them, loved the work they were doing and knew it was for me," he said.

Staying within the Touro system, Kattan fast-tracked his career.

"I just took all my prerequisites while at Lander, and went directly to PT school without having to first receive an undergraduate degree," he said. "That saved me two years."

After graduating last year with two degrees - a bachelor of science and a doctor of physical therapy - Kattan now works at the Hebrew Academy for Special Children in Brooklyn's Borough Park neighborhood helping kids with cerebral palsy, autism, Down syndrome and other genetic disorders. He also works at Forward PT, an outpatient clinic in Brooklyn's Flatbush neighborhood.

Glucksman and Kattan are among countless current and former Touro students who have taken advantage of the educational ecosystem Touro offers to fast-track their path from high school to a degree in medicine or other health sciences. In many cases, students are able to fulfill their bachelor's degree requirements while simultaneously doing graduate programs, saving years and thousands of dollars in educational costs.

There are 34 schools in the Touro network, including 10 in medicine and health care, in New York, California and Nevada. More than 7,000 of Touro's 18,000 students worldwide are pursuing careers in medicine, dentistry, pharmacy and other health fields, and many of them reached their careers as physician assistants, doctors, nurses, speech pathologists or physical and occupational therapists faster than possible through traditional routes at other schools.

"We provide something unique that's not available elsewhere," said Dr. Alan Kadish, president of Touro and a cardiologist by training. "We offer our undergraduates a liberal arts core, but we also make sure people are prepared for the job market. That heavy emphasis on health sciences was part of Touro's strategy when they hired me. You can start your undergraduate studies with us and end up with an exciting professional career."

Touro, which was founded in 1970 by the late Bernard Lander, is the largest university system under Jewish auspices. Although only about one-third of Touro's students are Jewish, its campuses offer kosher food, daily prayers are available, and its schools are closed on the Sabbath and Jewish holidays.

"Dr. Lander envisioned a Jewish college that would be open to all," said Rabbi Moshe Krupka, Touro's executive vice president, "but also ensured that anyone coming from an observant background would receive a superior education - without ever having to choose between religious observance and their pursuit of a career. We have divisions that are specifically geared for the observant Jewish community, but all of our divisions provide a warm and nurturing environment for our observant students."

Yosef Buchen, 26, of Passaic, New Jersey, was inspired to become a doctor when he fell off a ski lift at age 7 and fractured his hip. Buchen attended Lander College for Men - "I liked that I could study Torah and take college classes at the same time," he said - then New York Medical College, where he just finished his second year.

He noted the advantages that Touro students have in being accepted to medical, dental and other professional health schools, which are very competitive.

"They actually help set up interview prep, research and ongoing coaching," Buchen said of Touro. "That's an example of them going the extra step for you. The fact that Touro has so many schools in medicine and the health fields, and has those professors work with us, gives a Touro student an edge that no one else provides."

Sarah Laks, 24, a first-year dental student from North Miami Beach, Florida, also stayed with Touro from college through her professional training.

"I knew going into college that I wanted to do something with the medical field," Laks said, "and continuing with Touro for dental school was the right decision for me."

Laks has a special connection to Touro: Her father, Arthur, was part of Touro College's first graduating class 46 years ago. All four of her older siblings went there, too.

At Lander College for Women, Laks began shadowing dentists in various specialties. She graduated with an honors biology degree, worked for her alma mater's dean for a year and then started at Touro College of Dental Medicine, which just graduated its inaugural class. Located at the Westchester County campus of New York Medical School, it's the first new dental school in New York to open in 40 years.

Amid the pandemic this spring, the dentistry program along with all of Touro's other programs went online.

Sarah Laks, a dental student from Florida, is one of five siblings to attend Touro.

"Since the advent of COVID-19, we have not missed one class," Kadish said. "We have successfully transitioned nearly 3,000 classes, including labs, to an online environment."

Despite the economic downturn that has accompanied the pandemic, health care remains one of the nation's fastest-growing and most employable professions.

"Our med school graduates are receiving outstanding residencies, and our health science students are experiencing 100% employment," Kadish said. "Providers look for Touro grads because they are highly trained and represent quality and integrity. We are so proud that our system is set up to make the dreams of so many for medical and healthcare careers a successful reality."

This story was sponsored by the Touro College and University System, which supports Jewish continuity and community while serving a diverse population of over 19,000 students across 30 schools.

 

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