By: Golda Aharon and MIchael Auerbach  | 

Medical Ethics Society Hosts Conference on Pediatric Health

On Sunday, October 25th, the Yeshiva University Student Medical Ethics Society and the Center for the Jewish Future held their Ninth Annual Fuld Family Medical Ethics Conference on the Wilf Campus. The Yeshiva University Student Medical Ethics Society is a student-run organization that aims to raise awareness about ethical issues in medicine that relate to both the global and Jewish communities. This year’s programming focused on the important and powerful topics of pediatric mental and physical health.

The first session addressed a sensitive issue: the role of family and friends in confronting adolescent suicide and depression. Dr. Barry Holzer, Director at the Center for Attention Deficit Disorders, and Dr. David Pelcovitz, holder of the Gwendolyn and Joseph Straus Chair, Psychology & Jewish Education, and professor at the Azrieli Graduate School of Jewish Education and Administration, discussed signs of depression to help attendees recognize symptoms and take action to support their loved ones.

The audience was shocked to learn of the prevalence of depression within the Jewish community. Yitzy Mayefsky, Co-president of the Medical Ethics Society, affirmed saying, “teenage depression is something that people often just label as stereotypical teen ‘moodiness’ and especially in our Jewish communities, teenage suicide is a topic that is hardly ever acknowledged, let alone discussed.”

The second plenary discussed the divergent effects of vaccination and alcohol on pediatric health. Rabbi Yaakov Neuberger, Rosh Yeshiva at RIETS and holder of the I. Meier and Henrietta Segal’s Chair in Talmud, presented the halachic views on vaccination and alcohol consumption. Dr. Jay Mayefsky, MD, MPH, FAAP, and Associate Medical Director for Heartland Health Centers, discussed teenage alcohol consumption in the Jewish community and general society. Finally, Susan K. Schulman, MD, FAAP, at the Maimonides Infants and Children’s Hospital, discussed the importance of vaccination. As Mayefsky related, “Attendees were left with a newfound sense of understanding and urgency as to how we need to strive more to keep our children safe and healthy.”

[caption id="attachment_4583" align="aligncenter" width="250"]Board of the Medical Ethics Society Board of the Medical Ethics Society[/caption]

The third plenary was a joint presentation on ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) by Dr. Glen Hirsch, MD, Medical Director at NYU Child Study Center, and Dr. Yoni Schwab, PhD, Assistant Head of School at the Shefa School. Together, Dr. Hirsch and Dr. Schwab explained the fundamental basis of ADHD, described different approaches to its treatment, and discussed the ethical dilemmas that come with diagnosis. Listeners were appreciative of the plenary’s relevance and the openness with which ADHD was discussed. “Our main goal was to find something that both our fellow students and our community members could relate to and find interesting,” said Rebecca Garber, Co-president of the Medical Ethics Society. “Once we decided on pediatrics, we tried to focus on the taboo topics that are usually ignored or, more often, incorrectly understood.”

The audience’s response to the conference was overwhelmingly positive. “Many people have come up to me and told me how great they thought this year’s conference was,” said Garber. “Many applauded us for having the courage to openly discuss these topics.” Though the attendees came with all levels of familiarity with pediatric health, it appears the conference had something for everybody; students and adults alike felt they learned valuable lessons. “After hearing all the speakers,” Garber continued. “The main take away I received was that most things, whether it’s ADHD, suicide and depression, or preventative medicine, can be either avoided altogether or minimized if properly dealt with.”

As for future events, it seems that the conference was just a taste of what the Medical Ethics Society has in store for the student body. “We have many events planned for the Fall and Spring semesters” Garber added. “In particular, we are working on bringing genetic testing to campus. As for next conference, we can guarantee that whatever topic we decide to present will explore current medical ethics issues, while being both informative and interesting.”