Caring for Our Children

Medical Ethics Society Conference Spotlights Medical and Jewish Perspectives on Pediatric Healthcare

On October 25, more than 200 people gathered at Yeshiva University’s Wilf Campus for the Ninth Annual Fuld Family Medical Ethics Society (MES) Conference, presented by the Yeshiva University Student Medical Ethics Society and the YU Center for the Jewish Future. Focusing on medical and Jewish perspectives on pediatric mental and physical health, the conference covered topics that ranged from the controversy over immunizations to alcoholism and suicide rates within the adolescent Jewish community and how they differ from those of the general population.

“The Medical Ethics Society considered these important topics to address at this time,” said Rebecca Garber, co-president of MES. “For the most part, no one talks about these kinds of issues, like suicide and depression, especially not when it comes to children. But unfortunately, we cannot overlook a reality simply because it’s unpleasant—rather, we need to educate ourselves so we can deal with it.”

Featured speakers included Rabbi Dr. Edward Reichman, conference chairman, mentor of the MES program and professor of emergency medicine at the  YU-affiliated Albert Einstein College of Medicine; Dr. Glenn S. Hirsch, medical director at the NYU Child Study Center; Dr. Barry Holzer, director of the Center for Attention Deficit Disorders; Rabbi Yaakov Neuberger, I. Meier and Henrietta Segals Chair in Talmud at YU’s Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary;  Dr. David Pelcovitz, Gwendolyn and Joseph Straus Chair in Psychology and Jewish Education at YU’s Azrieli Graduate School of Jewish Education and Administration; Dr. Susan K. Schulman of Maimonides Infants and Children’s Hospital; and Dr. Yoni Schwab, assistant head of school at the Shefa School.

Audience members were eager to share their own questions and experiences with panelists. “As the conference was taking place, the feedback directed to our speakers showed how relevant and vast the subject matter was,” said student coordinator Eli Nemetz. “One of the unique aspects of the speakers’ responses was the ability to combine everyday Torah values with science, medicine, and ethics to really break it down and make it applicable to everyday life.”

“We discussed depression and ADHD as rampant yet little-understood disorders that are dramatically affected by a child’s surroundings; it incumbent on all of us to be a positive force in the lives of those affected,” said Yael Mayer, vice president of MES. “Alcohol consumption has become a normalized part of life, with adolescents being eager and vulnerable participants, so preventative and educational measures must be taken. And the recent rejection of pediatric vaccination is troubling and intolerable, considering how necessary they are to public health.”

“The Student Medical Ethics Society provides our students with a unique opportunity to better our society by being active in convening the academic and Torah resources of our community,” said Rabbi Kenneth Brander, vice president for university and community life at YU and an adviser to MES.

“Many people came up to me during the conference and applauded us for having the courage to openly discuss these topics,” added Garber.