Dr. Esther Rollhaus Talks Chutzpah With Stern Honors Students

Students talking with         Dr. Rollhaus after the event
Dr. Esther Rollhaus

On November 28, The S. Daniel Abraham Honors Program at Stern College for Women welcomed Dr. Esther Rollhaus ‘10S who discussed her path to becoming a child, adolescent and adult psychiatrist, and how using “chutzpah” guided her journey. Dr. Rollhaus explained that we typically think of the term “chutzpah” as negative, yet there are also positive and important aspects to being “chutzpadik.” In this context, chutzpah does not mean rudeness, but instead, it means to know one’s worth and work hard with confidence and assertiveness.

A graduate of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, Dr. Rollhaus touched on different areas where having chutzpah is important – and how she applied chutzpah in her own life. Examples included her decisions to follow her heart and go to medical school, partner with her husband to be the campus couple at Stern College during her medical training, and teach classes at Stern and Yeshiva College in advanced biology and psychology. She also talked to the students about the need for good friends and a partner who can provide support through life’s highs and lows.

During her talk, Dr. Rollhaus also emphasized that women do not need to apologize for their ambition or ask permission to set high personal expectations. “Her lecture, which was an intimate and personal approach to an audience of young women at the beginning of their careers, was highly motivating and inspiring,” said Yuval Surpin ‘23S.

“There is nothing more gratifying as a professor than having an outstanding former student return to campus to talk to current students,” remarked Dr. Cynthia Wachtell, director of the Honors Program, who had the pleasure of teaching Dr. Rollhaus for two semesters. She recalled, “Even before I had the opportunity to evaluate Esther as a student in my English courses, I was impressed by her interpersonal skills. At orientation for the Honors Program, I have students go around the room and introduce themselves.  When it was her turn, Esther very briefly talked about her experience as a clown volunteering in hospitals. A few days later, I was asked to recommend one new Honors Program student as a public speaker. Esther was my first choice.”


Many thanks to Yuval Surpin for her help with the writing of this article.