Yeshiva University News » 2006 » September » 20

Sep 20, 2006 — Representatives of the families of the Israeli soldiers kidnapped by Hezbollah spoke to an overflow crowd of Yeshiva University students and staff on Sept. 19 at the Schottenstein Cultural Center on the Beren Campus.

Karnit Goldwasser, wife of Ehud Goldwasser, and his father, Shlomo Goldwasser, spoke to the more than 350 students and gave a multimedia presentation about their family member as well as Eldad Regev who was kidnapped at the same time, and Gilad Shalit, a soldier kidnapped by militants in Gaza on June 25. Students sat on the floor in the front of the auditorium and some were forced to stand in the lobby of the building because the room was filled to capacity. Many in the audience were visibly moved and shaken by the speakers’ talk.

The program was organized by the Israel Club, YU’s Center for the Jewish Future and the Office of Student Affairs.

Students had an opportunity to sign a petition urging Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to make the release of the soldiers a priority. Communal prayers were said for the soldiers’ safe return.

Mrs. Goldwasser urged the students to attend the Rally for Israel at 47th Street and Second Avenue at noon on Wednesday. The family members said that the assurances of Kofi Annan and the Israeli Prime Minister were encouraging, but meaningless without action to back them.

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Stern student Shoshana Fruchter, president of TAC, and Ariel Fisher, a Sy Syms School of Business student, hold signs at the Darfur rally in Central Park.

Sep 20, 2006 — More than 200 Yeshiva University students were among the more than 20,000 people who attended a rally in New York City’s Central Park on Sept. 17 to protest the genocide taking place in Darfur, Sudan.

For photos of the rally click here.

The student YU Society for Social Justice cooperated with the Yeshiva Student Union, the Stern Student Council, the Department of Student Affairs and the Office of University Life to promote the event and provide transportation for students.

During the week prior to the rally, students set up tables on the Beren and Wilf Campuses, emailed the student body, and held a teach-in on Sept. 13 where students in every undergraduate course in YU educated their peers about the genocide in Darfur and the importance of attending the rally.

“The Darfur Rally Against Genocide marks the second year in a row in which the YU student body has taken stand as Jews and as global citizens,” said Sammy Shapiro, co-president of the YU Society for Social Justice. “I hope that our momentum will not dissipate as the semester continues, but instead snowball into a vibrant, compassionate, cogitative student body.”

In addition to organizing participation in the Darfur rally, the YU Society for Social Justice is planning a literacy program in local public schools and volunteers at The Manhattan Center for Domestic Violence.

A diverse mix of activists, students, concerned citizens, and communities of faith assembled at the rally to support action for Sudan. Activists came from across the Northeast to make their voices heard.

“The world has to act, and it has to do so now,” said former U.S. Secretary of State Madeline Albright, who kicked off the rally. “This is not about politics. This is about people. We need to get the U.N. in there. President Bush at the U.N. General Assembly has to make clear that the U.N. has to go inside.”

Others at the rally included Ethan Rafal, a journalist who recently returned from a trip to Darfur and Eastern Chad where he was detained and jailed; actress Mira Sorvino; Simon Deng, a Sudanese man who was enslaved in Sudan while still a child; and musical performances by Suzanne Vega, Big & Rich, and O.A.R.

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Sep 20, 2006 — Growing up in Ghana, malaria was as common an occurrence as getting a cold is here in the northeastern United States, recalls Louis Nkrumah, an M.D.-Ph.D. student at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University.

“Malaria is something you see all the time,” he says, describing the throbbing headache, fever, aches and pains that accompany each outbreak. “If you survive the first five years of life, then usually you become semi-immune to its worst effects.” Yet, this deadly disease continues to claim up to 3 million lives each year, mostly children.

Having had the disease frequently from the time he was a small child, malaria was very much on his mind when it came time to select a Ph.D. research project. (He earned his Ph.D. earlier this year.) “I wanted to do research that would allow me to give something back,” he says.

In August, Dr. Nkrumah had that opportunity, publishing the cover story in Nature Methods, about his findings concerning the use of a bacterial phage (virus that infects bacteria) to perform a genetic manipulation that could help develop therapeutic targets for treating drug-resistant malaria. The paper was part of his research thesis.

In many ways, malaria is an inescapable topic for Dr. Nkrumah. When he arrived in the United States 10 years ago as a freshman at Yale University, he was sick with the disease. “I was shivering with fever and had blisters on my lips,” he recalls. “I arrived a month before classes started and stayed with a fellow countryman who was a senior. I used the time to take the medicine I had brought with me and get well.”

At Yale, Dr. Nkrumah studied biology while fulfilling pre-med requirements, despite advice that it is difficult for foreign students to gain entry into American medical schools. During his four years there, with support from a full scholarship, he earned dual degrees (B.S. and M.S.) in molecular, cellular and developmental biology. He then applied to leading medical schools including Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Yale, Cornell, and Johns Hopkins, among others.

“I came to the United States determined to become a doctor. In Ghana, I had been enrolled in the University of Ghana Medical School, but when the school closed for eight months because of a faculty strike, I knew I needed to explore other options,” he says. “My undergraduate education provided excellent opportunities in the laboratory and the classroom.

As one of nine surviving children (there were originally 13) in his family, Dr. Nkrumah is the only among his siblings to get a college education, although the others have completed the equivalent of high school, and his only brother has completed training at a technical school. His parents recognized his brightness and ambition and encouraged him throughout his schooling.

He did not learn English until he was 13, when his family moved from their rural village, Asankrangwa -– where there was no electricity or good drinking water –- to the capital city of Accra. At the same time, he prepared for the G.C.E. Common Entrance Examination and ultimately received the highest score of any student in all of Ghana – among some 10,000 students. As a result, he received a full scholarship to cover the remaining seven years of his secondary schooling.

In August of 2000 Dr. Nkrumah started his M.D.-Ph.D.studies at Einstein. Two years later, when it came time to select the focus for his research, he knew he wanted to study malaria. “At first I began working in a laboratory studying epigenetics (identifying genetic abnormalities in cancer), but even though I loved what I was doing, I had this feeling that I should be doing something that connected more closely to my experiences back home,” he explains.

So, he sought a placement in the laboratories of Dr. David Fidock and Dr. William Jacobs, Jr. Both Dr. Fidock, who is associate professor of microbiology & immunology at Einstein and a renowned malaria researcher, and Dr. Jacobs, a Howard Hughes investigator and professor of microbiology & immunology and of molecular genetics at Einstein, as well as a world-renowned tuberculosis researcher, had been among the faculty members who interviewed Dr. Nkrumah when he was applying to the medical school. Each had encouraged him to come to Albert Einstein College of Medicine and was influential in his decision to do so.

They then served as co-mentors to Dr. Nkrumah as he conducted research for his thesis and wrote the article that would be featured as the cover story in the August 2006 issue of Nature Methods.

Using the enzyme from a bacterial phage nicknamed the “Bronx Bomber” – which had been discovered by Dr. Jacobs from a soil sample in his Bronx backyard and been used with great success in his tuberculosis research –- Dr. Nkrumah introduced genes into P. falciparum, the most deadly strain of Plasmodium (malaria) that is proving increasingly resistant to treatment. The technique proved remarkably successful.

“This method should significantly benefit genetic strategies for exploring the biology of this malarial parasite,” notes Dr. Fidock. “And it represents the first efficient technique for inserting any gene of interest into the P. falciparum genome to gain biological information that could lead to more effective treatments.”

Having fulfilled the Ph.D. portion of his M.D.-Ph.D, Dr. Nkrumah is currently rotating through various clinical wards, completing his training as a physician. For now, he is keeping an open mind as to what his future holds.

“Science has always excited me, particularly biological systems,” he says. “My research of infectious diseases certainly puts that field in the running, but surgery also is of interest so I’m going to keep an open mind and focus on the best way I can make an impact back home.”

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Sep 20, 2006 — Allan W. Wolkoff, M.D., professor of medicine and of anatomy & structural biology at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University, will receive the 2006 Distinguished Service Award presented by the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases (AASLD) at its annual meeting this October.

Presented annually, the Distinguished Service Award will honor Dr. Wolkoff for his service to AASLD while also recognizing his lifelong commitment to the field of liver disease research.

Throughout his career, Dr. Wolkoff, who is also associate director of the Marion Bessin Liver Research Center at Einstein and director of its Belfer Institute for Advanced Biomedical Studies, has been a pivotal contributor to the overall mission of AASLD in many different ways. This includes serving as an editorial board member and an associate editor of HEPATOLOGY, as an AASLD councilor-at-large, as a member of the Basic Research and the Training and Workforce Committees, and as an AASLD representative to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology. He currently chairs the Hepatobiliary Pathophysiology Study Section at the NIH. He is also a member of the Board of Directors of the American Liver Foundation, serving as Chair of Public Policy.

During his career, Dr. Wolkoff has been a major contributor to the literature that has defined the basic mechanisms contributing to liver disease. He has authored more than 150 peer reviewed research papers, review articles, and book chapters; and his work is regularly selected for presentations at AASLD meetings. His work has consistently been funded by the NIH, published in leading scientific journals, and recognized nationally and internationally by distinguished lectureships and honors.

Dr. Wolkoff received his bachelor’s degree from Dartmouth College, where he also completed his first two years of medical school. He completed his medical education at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. He has been a member of the Einstein faculty since 1976 and lives in Mamaroneck, N.Y.

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