Jewish medical professionals catch the spirit of Detroit
If the corridors of Woodward could talk, you’d hear about a new generation of medical professionals from near and far who are training in the city and impacting Detroit’s future.
You might spot them doing medical research at Great Lakes Coffee or having long study sessions at the Detroit Institute of Arts late on Friday night or driving home after a sleepless night in the ER, having saved lives within our community. And they’re often back at it before sunrise again the next day — their relentless resolve is much like the character of the city they’ve come to love.
Michael Silverman, who grew up in New York City and graduated from U-M, began his medical studies at Wayne State University. He lives in Detroit’s Riverfront Towers. The third-year medical student has found Detroit to be a solid place to learn medically and views the clinical system as unparalleled because of the diversity and scope of the patients.
When his mother came to visit during Rosh Hashanah, she stayed at the Chabad of Greater Downtown Detroit in Midtown, which rents out some of its space on Airbnb.
Michael, who has felt safe and welcome in the city, has found it cool to live in Detroit as well. While here, he has been able to attend Tigers’ games, go for runs along the Riverfront and volunteer at the Earthworks Urban Farm. Before he began his medical studies, he did volunteer work on a farm in Detroit’s North End. Michael will be pursuing a residency around plastic surgery or general surgery.
Dr. Reut Ron Pagi
Reut Ron Pagi is in the pediatric residency program at Children’s Hospital in Detroit. She grew up mostly in California, but spent time in Israel and went to medical school in Hungary at the University of Szeged. While Reut was initially worried about Detroit’s reputation, she has been pleasantly surprised.She moved to the city two and a half years ago with her husband, Gilad, and recently had her her first child.
Like Silverman, she is an example of a rapidly growing cohort of medical professionals who not only work in the city but live in the city as well. Reut and Gilad live in Detroit’s Lafayette Park, a short commute from Children’s Hospital, and walkable to many locations they frequent, including Eastern Market, the Detroit Riverfront and the Dequindre Cut.
Dr. Elana Ackerman
At age 9, Elana Ackerman relished childhood. She dressed up as a bee for Purim and won an award for Shabbat observance at Congregation Shaarey Zedek; and she dove into hobbies from jazz to tap dance. At 11, she was diagnosed with leukemia. Her treatment — over three years — was at Children’s Hospital in Detroit.
The world changed in an instant for Elana, for her parents, Sharyl and Alan Ackerman of Bloomfield Hills, and for many connected to her. Inspired by Elana’s resolve, her Hillel Day School English teacher Barbara Acker went on a 100-mile bike ride to support leukemia research. Acker described Elana, then a young poet with her own semi-monthly magazine, as a marvelous child with a bright smile. Elana was inspired to survive, but also to become a physician herself. Her uncle, Dr. Jeffrey Taub, helped treat her and inspired her journey over the last two decades.
Elana graduated from Hillel Day School, Andover High School, Michigan State University and the MSU College of Human Medicine. Today, she is cancer-free and lives in Midtown, across from the Detroit Institute of Arts. She’s a mile from her work as a resident in pediatrics in the same hospital where she was treated herself. It’s an inspiring story to other children battling through adversity.
Elana finds deep meaning in her work and her life in Detroit. She also appreciates her proximity to family here and in Windsor. After her residency and fellowship, she’d like to end up in Detroit.
Dr. Joe Roofeh
A more recent resident to the city is Joe Roofeh, who came from Israel, where he graduated from the Technion Medical School. Joe, a medical resident in OB/GYN, is now delivering several newborns each day as a part of his rotation at Hutzel Harper Hospital. He is reaching his six-month anniversary in Detroit this month.
Joe was led to Detroit by a friend who had been a medical resident here in the same department and program a few years earlier.
“The city is fun and safe,” he said. “There are many bars and restaurants, and the Jewish community is a lot bigger than anticipated, which I’m very happy about.”
One day in the ER, Joe, who grew up in New York and is the child of Jewish immigrants from Iran, ran into a Jewish nurse who connected him with a local NEXTGen leader in the community for Shabbat. He has also been to the Chabad in Midtown and has connected with other young Jewish residents Downtown.
Dr. Lindsay Sklar
Down Woodward, at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Lindsay Sklar has been pursuing her medical residency the past three years through WSU’s dermatology program. After graduating from the University of Michigan, she took a year off to play professional basketball in Israel.
She returned for her first medical school studies at WSU — her first choice. Her parents, Brenda and Robert, both physicians, met at WSU. Sklar, who grew up in Franklin, rarely visited Detroit as a child, but now is passionate about the city, which she describes as really safe and beautiful.
Two years ago, to advance Jewish life Downtown, she became social activities chair of the Jewish Medical Student Association at WSU.
Lindsay mentions the new $8.2 million food court expansion at the Detroit Receiving Hospital — with a Bigalora Pizza and Papa Joe’s — as a destination she enjoys, and also spoke highly of the Chabad in Midtown, which she views as “transformational.” The Chabad sends gifts to medical professionals during the High Holidays and welcomes members of the medical community throughout the year for Shabbat and holidays.
After completing a specialized procedural dermatology fellowship in cosmetics and Mohs surgery, Sklar intends to return to Detroit.
Leedor Lieberman is also inspired to be a physician because of her parents, who met while her father was on a medical rotation in Israel and now live in Birmingham. Her father, Dr. Randy Lieberman, is director of electrophysiology at Detroit Medical Center. Leedor wanted to pursue bio-engineering in college because of her interest in recreating the medical devices she saw around her house as a child.Her mother, Ramona, inspired her passion of volunteerism and serving others. Leedor, who lives in Midtown’s Park Shelton Apartments, is in her fourth year of medical studies at WSU. When she started her studies, most of her friends lived in Royal Oak or Ferndale; now the majority live in Detroit.
“While my parents were nervous when I moved to Detroit, it’s been a really awesome experience,” she said. “I’ve had the chance to give back to my hometown by educating others about health literacy, and I’ve learned how taking care of a patient in a more holistic manner assists the individual beyond just the disease. I’ve also been able to do significant volunteering to give back to the broader Detroit community.”
Leedor particularly enjoys the character of the city and has had a chance to study on many Friday nights at the Detroit Institute of Arts because she lives across the street. She has also won two consecutive awards at the Henry Ford Innovation Institute and is an avid pickler.
Passionate about Jewish life in the city, Leedor recognizes Neil Cantor, director of Jewish Student Life at Hillel of Metro Detroit, and the Pinson family at Chabad in Midtown for being supportive and helpful. Lieberman is now applying for an internal medicine residency and hopes to pursue a career in cardiology or gastroenterology.
Another fourth-year medical student at WSU is Lenny Radomski, who grew up in Toronto. Lenny served as a past president of the WSU Jewish Medical Society. He says the city has gone through a drastic change from when he first moved here. He’s enjoyed watching Tigers’ games, exploring the restaurant scene and studying at Great Lakes Coffee, a popular coffee shop down the block from Orchestra Hall. He’s appreciated the chance to be here to observe how Midtown is going through many positive changes. Radomski is now pursuing an orthopedic surgery residency.
Adam Finkel Contributing Writer