Shock to the System
LAS Biology grad Yakov Glicksman’s humbling study of the human body
To some extent, trying to figure out how the human body works can feel like we’re chasing our own tail. How can we possibly master the inner workings and outer survival of a vessel that was magnificently created? This is partly what drives aspiring physicians like Yakov Glicksman in their studies. The recent Lander School of Arts & Sciences Biology valedictorian and current New York Medical College (NYMC) student has been drawn to better understanding anatomy since childhood, and is fast en route to an occupation in the field.
While he currently lives in Westchester near the NYMC campus, Glicksman is in fact a Beachwood, Ohio native and received his formative education at the Hebrew Academy of Cleveland. He admits to having been “taken aback at the size of the Jewish community in New York” upon moving to the region after high school, and he did initially “feel somewhat disconnected.” But with four years at Touro under his belt, not to mention volunteer service with St. John’s Episcopal Hospital in Far Rockaway and local non-profit Tomche Shabbos (which provides food to poor families for Shabbos), Glicksman has begun to find his footing. Below, the ben Torah (i.e. Glicksman abides by Torah principle) medical student shares some thoughts with us on putting community first, being humbled by science and taking things one step at a time.
Touro: How has your commitment as a ben Torah influenced your choices?
Yakov Glicksman: It means a lot. That’s my lifestyle, and pretty much what I base everything else off of. That’s really my main focus in life. It’s an explicit guide that tells you certain things you can and can’t do. And for the things that it doesn’t say, you can use it more for a philosophical guide.
You grew up the youngest of six siblings? Did that help you soak in a lot of elderly wisdom?
My siblings certainly tell me how much they helped me, but I don’t know if that’s true. [Laughs] I’m sure they did. I’m sure they paved the path for me and gave me very useful tips and their experience, so I wouldn’t make any wrong turns. They guided me along and helped me a lot.
Coming from a big family, it makes sense that you’d be so community-focused. What is your primary goal in your volunteer work?
Giving back to the community has always been important to me. We’re given more than we can possibly ask for. At least in my case I know that I wasn’t given everything I have based on my own merit. We all have a duty to help those who are less fortunate, and it only takes a small amount of time to help someone in need, even if it’s only an hour a week. Anyone who has helped someone in need knows that the person who gains the most from a helping hand is the person offering it.
In terms of medicine, do you think both doctors and the everyday person take for granted just how complex the human body is?
No doubt. When I learn certain things, I think the only word to describe it is shocking. It’s shocking, what’s going on in the body. People don’t think about it. I didn’t think about it until I started learning about it. If I’m not in my classes, I’m not necessarily thinking about what’s going on in my body, but when it comes down to it, there’s just an unbelievable amount of things happening all at once, in concert, perfectly: It’s just crazy.
How have you overcome the challenging, often-overwhelming nature of pursuing the medical field?
There were certainly times when I’ve had a particularly grueling week of exams where every fiber in my body would tell me to turn around and not look back. I’m sure those feelings are shared by most people going into medicine. But focusing on the difficulties never did anyone a favor. It’s important to stay strong and recognize that while it will be a long and difficult road, the rewards are great. With hard work, you’re not promised success, but without it, you are guaranteed to fail.
Any final advice for students who might be skeptical about whether they can make an impact on the world?
While I can think of many people way more qualified than myself to give advice, I will say one thing: No one who has made a difference in this world was born knowing they would make a difference. They were all ordinary people, just like you and me.