Changing Course: From Rabbi School to Medical School

Mendy Loewenthal is heading to medical school at the University of Toronto next year. (Justin Tang Photo)

Had you asked Mendy Loewenthal five years ago what he wanted to study in graduate school, he would never have suggested medicine. But when he took a job as a hospital chaplain, the 31-year-old rabbi from the U.K. says something just “clicked.”

With new ambitions to become a doctor but no experience in the sciences, Loewenthal decided to trade everything in to study at Carleton. After three years of hard work, he’s graduating with his Bachelor of Science in biology with high distinction and embarking on the next step of his journey to become a doctor: medical school at the University of Toronto.

“You know you want to help people, but then how do you want to help people?” Loewenthal says of his motivation. “There’s something inside me that said, actually, I want to help people physiologically, as well as with the emotional.”

While it may seem like a step away from everything he knows, Loewenthal says his five years of rabbi school and the intensity of his final year of ordination have prepared him for the busy lifestyle of medical school.

“In our community, being a rabbi is the hardest thing to do. Out of a class of 20, maybe three or four may be successful,” Loewenthal says. “Every second you had to be completely there, completely focused, completely in the subject.”

He’s not naïve about the job either. He’s spent countless hours working with hospital patients as a chaplain and has seen the long hours his father-in-law works as an emergency doctor at the Ottawa Hospital.

But immersing himself in a new subject hasn’t always been easy. After being accepted to the Bachelor of Science program despite not having a background in science, Loewenthal found the material challenging.

“In the first year when it was a review of everything, I was like ‘Oh my God, I don’t know what’s going on,’” he says.

But he didn’t give up. Since then, he’s earned top marks in his classes, become a TA for a number of courses in his program and is currently researching the immune system as part of a project funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC).

All this plus an offer to medical school in just three years of study – rare for someone relatively new to the field, given that it’s more common for students to be accepted to medical school in their fourth year of undergraduate studies.

Through all the ups and downs and the uncertainty of getting into medical school, Loewenthal’s family has been his biggest support. The journey is truly a partnership with his wife and four kids, he says.

“It’s time and a half. It’s a lot of work,” Loewenthal says of medical school.

So, is he ready?

“Absolutely!” he says, bringing a fist down on the table in certainty.

“It’s going to be a lot of work there too but I’m excited. I love studying.”

This entry was written by Kirsten Fenn and posted in the issue. Bookmark the permalink or share the following short URL for this article via social media:

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