Continued Connection

Easing the Burden of Medical Debt

Easing the Burden of Medical Debt

By Rachel Eddey & Sean McMahon
A gift from the family of Dr. Rachel Katz, Class of '95, continues to help Einstein students

Many years before Rachel Katz, M.D. ’95, arrived at Einstein, she had a strong connection to the school. Dr. Katz’s mother, Monique, is a Vassar graduate and Einstein 1963 alumna, and her father, Mordecai, served on the Yeshiva University Board of Trustees. Both were—and remain—generous philanthropic supporters.

Dr. Katz’s connection to Einstein became that much stronger in 2001, six years after her graduation, when her parents created a scholarship in honor of her and her husband. For nearly two decades, the Rachel Katz and Robert Sidlow Scholarship Fund has afforded medical students the financial opportunity to study, discover, and grow at Einstein.

“When I learned that my parents planned this scholarship, I was overwhelmed with pride—but not at all surprised,” Dr. Katz says. “They are very modest and never wanted credit for it. They’d just say, ‘This is what we’re going to do.’ My parents have always served as role models for how to help others, and this scholarship joins a long list of examples they have set throughout my life.”

Monique Katz, M.D., second row, center, is surrounded by her fellow residents from Jacobi Medical Center shortly before giving birth to her daughter, Rachel.

My parents have always served as role models for how to help others, and this scholarship joins a long list of examples they have set throughout my life.
— Dr. Rachel Katz

Her parents’ motivation to support Einstein was the college’s commitment to Jewish values, including its belief in diversity and the need to provide a welcoming environment for all. On a personal level, Dr. Monique Katz had chosen to attend Einstein for the opportunity to obtain an outstanding education in an environment that facilitated her Orthodox religious observance.

Dr. Rachel Katz followed her mother’s path to Einstein after earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English and comparative literature at Columbia University. She completed her residency training in pediatrics at Einstein. She is currently the vice chair for undergraduate medical education at the Lewis M. Fraad Department of Pediatrics at Jacobi Medical Center, the site leader for Jacobi’s pediatrics clerkship, and a professor of pediatrics at Einstein. She also serves as assistant dean of Einstein at Jacobi Medical Center.

Scholarship recipient Ashley Force, second from left, meets with other members of Einstein’s chapter of Building the Next Generation of Academic Physicians, all members of the Class of 2022: Alexander Ferrera, left, Juan Pablo Forero, and Kripali Gautam.

A Shared Passion for Medicine

This year’s Rachel Katz and Robert Sidlow Scholarship recipient, Ashley Force, Class of 2022, was similarly inspired by her own mother’s path. Born and raised in St. Petersburg, Florida, Ms. Force developed a love of medicine at a young age. Her mother, Estella Martinez, emigrated to the United States from Colombia and worked as a healthcare aide to put herself through nursing school.

Ms. Force would often accompany her mother to nursing homes and assisted-living residences and would help her mother prepare for exams at the dining room table, holding a stack of flash cards and quizzing her. The study sessions launched a mother’s career in nursing and sparked a daughter’s direction in life.

“I was so enthusiastic about all the things my mother was learning,” Ms. Force says. “I found the body to be fascinating and was genuinely moved by the science.”

After graduating summa cum laude from the University of Florida, Ms. Force applied to medical schools up and down the East Coast. Her visit to Einstein made the choice easy. Not only was everyone warm and engaging, but Ms. Force also loved how passionate the professors were about teaching.

Einstein is a place where people encourage and nurture medical students of all backgrounds. Because of the Katz family, I can focus more on why I came here and less on how I’ll stay.

— Ashley Force

A Heavy Debt Load

With the cost of medical education constantly increasing, philanthropy becomes ever more important. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), the medical school class of 2019 had a four-year cost of attendance of more than $330,000 for students enrolled in private institutions and more than $250,000 for those in public medical schools. The median debt load for U.S. medical students is $200,000, as calculated by the AAMC in October 2019.

The Katz family recognizes the monetary sacrifices required for an Einstein education, and Dr. Katz says she is proud that her parents’ scholarship has already assisted several students. As with all scholarships, an internal leadership committee selects recipients each year.

When Ms. Force learned that she had received the Rachel Katz and Robert Sidlow Scholarship, she says, she “couldn’t have been happier. Einstein is a place where people encourage and nurture medical students of all backgrounds, a place where people do whatever is possible to help those students accomplish their goals. Because of the Katz family, I can focus more on why I came here and less on how I’ll stay.”

Looking Forward, Giving Back

Ms. Force has a particular interest in spinal surgery, though she doesn’t know for sure what her professional future will hold. What she does know is that she will forever appreciate the Katz family for helping her.

“I’m here because someone who came before me cared—and I mean that about my mother, who set such a strong example, as well as the Katz family,” Ms. Force says. “The power of the narrative is not lost on me, especially in the field of compassionate medicine.”

Ms. Force is passing on that generosity of spirit. She is the treasurer of the Einstein chapter of Building the Next Generation of Academic Physicians, an organization that provides medical students and residents from diverse backgrounds with the resources to start careers in academic medicine.

Adds Dr. Katz: “I believe it is our job in life to help each other—across families and across generations. I am proud of my parents, how they have lived their lives, and how they are providing for future generations.”

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