Tuesday, May 18, 2021

In 2013, two Yeshiva University students, under the guidance, mentorship and personal underwriting of Dr. Edward Burns, dean of Albert Einstein College of Medicine, created TEACH (Together Educating All Children in Hospitals). This initiative initially was implemented at the local Bronx Children’s Hospital at Montefiore with a handful of Yeshiva University students visiting the pediatric wards once monthly with only two captivating science experiments in their bag of tricks. Today, TEACH has grown into an international non-profit organization that brings hands-on educational activities to pediatric patients in over 22 hospitals across the U.S. and Israel.

TEACH’s roster of volunteers, exceeding 500 to date, hail from a growing number of colleges and medical schools including Yeshiva University, University of Michigan, Bar- Ilan University, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine, SUNY Downstate School of Medicine and Sackler School of Medicine at Tel Aviv University. The student volunteers include hospital leaders, volunteer coordinators and participants who visit pediatric patients aged 3-21 several times a month. Now their bag of tricks, referred to as modules, numbers over 30. Brightening the often painful and monotonous stays in hospitals, these interactive experiments treat pediatric patients to the wonders of science. Enthusiastic patients construct an egg-drop contraption to learn basic physics concepts and delight in the creation of silly-putty as they are taught about polymers. They observe the science of physiological respiration using yeast and balloons and they discover density by creating their very own lava lamps. The volunteers, who come dressed in bright orange T-shirts, entertain and teach the patients, helping them explore a world which for many was previously outside of their reach.

Currently serving as president and executive director of TEACH, Isaac Snyder of Staten Island, a YU graduate, is busy coordinating the hospital leaders and volunteers for TEACH as he awaits entrance to medical school. Additionally, he is in charge of fundraising for the program, which was initially funded by Einstein’s Community-Based Service Learning Department and a grant from the Neal’s Fund in its second year. Only 80-90 percent of the program’s budget is covered by grants. The rest, according to Snyder, must be raised from private donors through fundraising and social media campaigns. “Many YU and Stern graduates serve as coordinators and volunteers during their medical school years, which makes us very proud.”

Amanda Rubin of Englewood, a May 2017 graduate of Stern College, will be attending medical school next year. During this gap year, she is involved in breast cancer research at Stern College under the tutelage of Dr. Marina Holtz. Concurrently, she is serving on the board of directors of TEACH as director of business development, grants and expansions. She helped facilitate the securing of an Atran Foundation Grant for TEACH. Having served as a volunteer for TEACH as an undergraduate, she understands the special and unique mission of the organization and is committed to enabling its continuity and expansion.

TEACH was the brainchild of Yosefa Silber Schoor, at the time a sophomore at Stern College, and Yair Saperstein, then a senior at Yeshiva College. They had both witnessed, through personal family experience as well as volunteer experience, the major deficit in stimulation from which hospitalized youngsters suffered. According to Saperstein, “The idea of working in inpatient playrooms was Yosefa’s brainchild. I thought of the science modules and, together, TEACH was born.”

Saperstein continued, “Having founded TEACH and shortly thereafter entering medical school, I had the ability to work in the hospital delivering both medical care, entertainment and warmth to the patients. This has impacted me even now, as a resident. I chair the Wellness Committee at Downstate and often bring my ukulele to work, bringing both care and fun to my patients.”

Schoor shared, “Now as a third-year medical student at Einstein Medical School, I constantly find myself utilizing the skills, the understanding and the experience that I gained through my years of involvement with TEACH. I believe they have made me a better medical student and, hopefully, a better physician in the future.”

Teaneck participants in TEACH include Yonatan Schwartz, who serves as a volunteer coordinator, as well as hospital leaders Ariel Hochman at Mount Sinai and Batsheva Reich at Beth Israel.

TEACH is credited with serving over 1,700 children in 22 hospitals over the course of four years. The TEACH team hopes to expand these numbers in the coming years. To support this endeavor, a campaign has been launched to spread TEACH’s mission and to secure the financial support necessary to bring educational and entertaining activities to hospitalized youngsters. To help make this mission a reality, please visit their website TEACH4kids.org and follow TEACH on Facebook at www.facebook.com/studentsTEACH. To volunteer as a hospital leader or volunteer, to bring TEACH to a hospital near you, or to offer an organization with which TEACH can collaborate, please contact Isaac Snyder, president, at  [email protected].

By Pearl Markovitz