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Jewish Alliance for Women in Science

Helping Women Enter Careers Related to Science and Medicine

JAWS Highlighted Feature

Visit Mentors' Round Table to read our interviews of women in the fields of science and health. These are women of varying levels of experience and backgrounds, brought to the table to answer your questions about everything from work-life balance to financial management. Read on, be inspired, and leave them (and us!) a comment!

Newest Interviews: Ecologist, MD Student 1 (2nd year) , MD Student 2 (2nd year) , Optometry Student and Speech Pathologist

Check back soon! More to come!

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Below is our interview with an M.D. Student in her second year of training. To learn more about medical school admissions, training and career options, visit our career page on Medicine.

Interview with a 2nd Year Medical Student at Upstate

What is your career?

I'm a second year Medical student at SUNY Upstate Medical University in Syracuse.

How did you choose your career?

I've always wanted to be a doc, since I was a kid. When I was growing up, science, medicine, and the body fascinated me. As I got older I realized it's a great choice of work because it combines the best of everything--it's interesting, you're always learning, and most importantly, you're given the opportunity to help others out.

Were there any obstacles you had to face in your training or later career?

There was a period of time, when a teacher of mine (limudei kodesh-Jewish studies), tried to dissuade me when he found out. After that, I was kind of hesitant the next few years about career choice, and researched other health provider job options. There were others who also tried telling me it's not the right choice for a Jewish woman.

Have there been any problems in your work life or training that have arisen because of your religion?

B"H (acronym for thank G-d), people at Upstate--for the most part--are very respectful of my religion, and I almost never have problems with missing mandatory classes or making up tests. There was one course administrator who told me that Passover is not one of those holidays they'll excuse me for if I'm absent. (For some holiday-like Pesach (Passover), they leave it up to you to deal with the lecturer directly. Others such as Rosh Hashana (Jewish New Year)- though only first day- and Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement)-are automatically school-wide holidays.) Also, when review classes are scheduled Friday afternoon in the winter, they're really accommodating and video-tape them for me (due to Shabbat).

There was another time where we had a memorial ceremony for the people who donated their bodies to our anatomy department. After finishing the course, this memorial is held for the families of those who gave us this ultimate gift. Unfortunately, it was held in a chapel. Even though the chapel was non-denominational, my Rabbi said I couldn't go. This was disappointing, and it was hard explaining it to my non-Jewish friends at school. They were pretty respectful, though.

What do you like best about your career? What do you like least?

I'm still a student, but I love what I'm learning--for the most part! However, it's still really intense!

Are you married?

Not yet.

How do you balance family and work life?

It's hard to balance a personal life with med school. You do the best you can. Family and friends understand.

What does your family think about your career?

B"h they are supportive and have always wanted my siblings and I to do what makes us happy.

How do/did you handle the financial stress of training?

It's a big burden, but many people take out loans or apply for scholarships. Some students opt for an MD/PHD program which pays your tuition and grants you an annual stipend as well. However, it's a longer training-about 7-8 years as opposed to the traditional 4.

Are things turning out the way you planned or are they different?

I have to say, it's a lot more intense than I thought it would be. (and I knew it was gonna be really hard) You don't really know till you actually start school...

Do you have any advice for students aspiring to be where you are?

When I was still debating about med school while I was in college, I spoke to many doctors, especially frum (religious) female ones. I wanted to know how they feel about medicine, get advice, find out what their challenges were etc. That was really helpful. Also, get advice from your premed adviser at school, talk to friends' moms who are physicians and talk to your own. Be organized and make a plan for completing pre-requisites, taking necessary entrance exams like the MCAT, and filling out applications. The best thing you could do is make sure you're on time or early for application submission, asking for recommendation letters etc.

If you could do this over again would you? Is there anything you would change?

That's an interesting question. (I probably shouldn't answer this the day of my test!) It's hard to know what it's going to be like before you actually begin. I feel really lucky that I'm a med student, however, on days where it's intense- it can be overwhelming. I'm still in the preclinical years, but people say that once you get to the wards, it's a whole lot better! So, It's probably better to answer this question in a few years!

Do you have any role models you look up to?

There are some people who excel at everything they do. I know a med student who is also a wife, mom, incredible baalat chessed (person who does good deeds) and person, She's really an inspiration for me!

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