By Dave DeFusco
Three years ago, the Fried sisters—Miriam and Naomi—moved to the United States from Israel to pursue an education that would affirm their Jewish heritage and allow them to take advantage of opportunities afforded by a liberal arts and sciences education. Miriam aspired to a career in clinical medicine, leading her to Stern College for Women where she found a welcoming community and a challenging academic program.
“Religious girls know of Stern as an outstanding option where they can combine spiritual and academic growth,” said Miriam. “Stern was the answer—the right answer. I enjoyed every second of it.”
Naomi followed her sister to Stern College. In their senior year, both enrolled in the Katz School’s M.S. in Biotechnology Management and Entrepreneurship through Yeshiva University’s Pathways program. Miriam will graduate in August and Naomi in May 2024.
The Pathways program allows YU undergraduates to take graduate-level courses in their senior year, accelerating the time for completion of two degrees. Students also benefit from a reduction in tuition since they take graduate courses as part of their undergraduate program.
In addition to the Katz School, Pathways offers entry into graduate programs at YU’s Azrieli Graduate School of Jewish Education & Administration; Bernard Revel Graduate School of Jewish Studies; Emil A. and Jenny Fish Center for Holocaust & Genocide Studies; Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology; Sy Syms School of Business; and Wurzweiler School of Social Work.
“The Pathways program was designed to match professional ambition with meaningful impact,” said Dr. Selma Botman, provost and vice president for academic affairs at YU. “The Fried sisters embody the best of Yeshiva University—their social consciousness, entrepreneurial spirit and dedication toward careers of service reflect the goals of the Pathways initiative and our educational model as a whole.”
The Fried sisters have blossomed intellectually in their current environment. Naomi co-founded the peer-reviewed Yeshiva University Journal of Medicine and Dentistry, and Miriam, upon graduating from Stern College, joined the Icahn School of Medicine in the Mount Sinai Health System as a research associate working with scientists on influenza and COVID-19.
Naomi is passionate about the business side of healthcare. In addition to being a part-time student at the Katz School this semester, she is the head of business development at A Broad Smile Foundation, which aims to improve oral healthcare in underserved communities worldwide. She also does consulting work for startups and small companies as a member of the TAMID Group, a nonprofit that forges strong connections to Israel for aspiring business leaders.
“Biotechnology really has opened me up to the healthcare consulting field,” said Naomi. “It’s something that I’m really interested in.”
Ever since Miriam can remember, she has wanted to enter the clinical side of medicine to help people. In support of that ambition, she vaccinated New York City residents on a mobile bus for a year during the height of the pandemic and volunteered at Harlem Cardiology where she took patients’ vitals and performed echocardiograms.
Dr. Rana Kahn, director of the M.S. in Biotechnology Management and Entrepreneurship, called the Fried sisters “dream students.”
“The students from Stern college are whip-smart, go-getters and highly motivated,” said Dr. Kahn. “Every single student who has come to us through the Pathways route has gone on to hold impactful positions in the biotech industry and are doing us proud. They really personify the Katz school motto of making the world smarter, safer and healthier.”
Naomi particularly admires Dr. Stav Kemeny, an industry professor at the Katz School who teaches the courses “Foundations of Biotechnology” and “Applications of Biotechnology,” for having structured classes and for her individual attention.
“I really like the Katz School; I think it’s great,” said Naomi. “I like the fact that it’s a very diverse group of students, a lot of whom are doing this simultaneously with their full-time careers.”
Miriam pointed to her team’s first-place finish last year in the YU Innovation Challenge as a highlight of her Katz School experience. In the challenge, sponsored by the Shevet Glaubach Center, students compete to impress a panel of industry experts with their entrepreneurial ideas. She said she wouldn’t have gotten involved were it not for the biotech program, which helped nurture her interest in science and technology.
“Taking an idea and making it a reality is a skill that I learned from all the workshops we had during the innovation challenge,” said Miriam. “Winning first place would not have been possible without the mentorship of Dean Strauss who advised my team throughout every step.”
Born in America, Miriam and Naomi spent their formative years in Raanana, a city in the southern Sharon Plain of the Central District of Israel that was founded in 1922 as an American-Jewish settlement. Like other high school graduates there, they were instilled with an ethic of community service.
At Hadassah Har Hatzofim Hospital in Jerusalem, Miriam was a volunteer in the emergency room where she performed echocardiograms, assisted the nursing staff and participated in rounds with medical staff and physicians.
“I have always had an interest in learning about the human body, what’s good and bad for it, how to keep it healthy, and how to take care of it when it’s not,” said Miriam.
For her part, Naomi was a volunteer coordinator for Jerusalem-based Seeach Sod, which provides lifelong support to young adults with special needs and their families. She also taught science lessons for public school students and ran a workshop on dental hygiene at the U.S.-based nonprofit START Science.
While Miriam and Naomi are ambivalent about the frenetic pace of New York City, they’ve ensconced themselves in its cultural milieu, with visits to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Frick collection, the New York City Ballet, Lincoln Center, Ground Zero and Central Park.
“One of the unexpected joys of attending Yeshiva University is being exposed to New York City’s rich cultural heritage,” said Miriam. “It’s been a wonderful diversion from academic life.”
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