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Two Bi-Cultural teens accepted into prestigious Yale research program

STAMFORD – Yehudit Hochman and Joshua Marcus, both juniors at Bi-Cultural Hebrew Academy Upper School in Stamford, are among a select group of 50 high school students from across the country chosen to participate in Yale University’s prestigious 2021 Discovery to Cure Young Professionals Medical Conference. The week-long conference will be held virtually in June and takes the place of Yale’s annual in-person Discovery to Cure High School Internship Program, which was put on hold last summer owing to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The conference will provide the opportunity for rising high school seniors to meet and interact with a variety of doctors and researchers through Yale’s Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Sciences in the hope that they will consider pursuing careers in the fields of science and medicine. 

“Bi-Cultural is the only school to have had every candidate we’ve fielded be accepted into the Yale Discovery to Cure program,” notes Bi-Cultural science teacher and college counselor Meghana Fernandez.

According to Ms. Fernandez, it is also the first year that the school had two BCHA Upper School students submit applications to the summer program, instead of one. 

Prior to Yehudit Hochman and Joshua Marcus, five Bi-Cultural students have gone through the internship program in previous years, including last year’s recipient, Josh’s brother Ben Marcus, a recent BCHA Upper School graduate who will be attending Brown University after a year of study in Israel. Two of these students have had their work published; two were invited to continue their internship for the coming year; one was selected to do research at the Oceanic Research Institute; and one represented the University of Connecticut in Iceland.

Like previous Discovery to Cure recipients, Yehudit and Josh have their sights set on careers in medicine.

“I applied for this internship because it’s really an amazing opportunity to hear from medical professionals from physicians to researchers, and surgeons, and I just think it will be really beneficial in my future because I’m interested in pursuing a career in medicine,” explains Josh. “I’m not sure yet what specific field I want to go into, but from this conference, I’m hoping to learn more about specifically what some of these people do and learn more about specific professions.”

Yehudit has a similar goal in mind.

“I’m really interested in cancer research, and I thought the Yale program would be super interesting to be a part of a lab, and really get my hands in it…to be a part of learning about cancer and possibly even a cure for it. And so I thought this would be a really interesting way to get involved with the professionals,” says Yehudit. “I want to be a doctor. I’m not sure exactly what type of doctor – there are so many different types of doctors that I don’t even know about. I thought it would be a good and interesting way to meet new types of doctors.”

As impressive as the Yale program is, says Ms. Fernandez, it becomes even more so when one considers the program’s arduous application process.

“It’s a very involved, long, drawn out process that takes about six months to prepare,” she says. “We put a lot of effort into working with the student. Of course, credit goes to our students who put in the tremendous effort to complete the exhaustive application process.” 

According to Ms. Fernandez, the process begins the previous summer when students usually read two science-related books of their choice that they are then required to summarize in an essay – one of several essays they are required to write.

In fact, it was one of these required books that inspired Yehudit to pursue the Discovery to Cure program in earnest.

“One of the books that I chose to read was The Emperor of All Maladies:The Biography of Cancer by Siddhartha Mukherjee,” notes Yehudit. “As soon as I read that book, I became even more interested in the subject because it talks about the history of cancer: when cancer was first discovered and while they were discovering it, how they cured it. So many people died in the process. Now, modern medicine is changing so fast. I really was inspired by that book.” 

As part of the application process, students also must take several required science courses in their junior year, including AP Biology. Ms. Hernandez, who teaches AP Biology at BCHA, serves as an adviser to students applying for the Yale program each step of the way.

Having Mrs. Fenandez as a mentor, say the two students, was tremendously helpful.

“The application was really long. Ms. Fernandez helped me so much. It took like a week to put it all together, and it was all really thanks to her,” says Yehudit. 

Says Josh: “I made a lot revisions to the essays – a lot of going back and checking over.  In total, the essays had around five drafts before I finally submitted them. Ms. Fernandez read over all my essays after I finished them – and then again after I revised them and was finally ready to submit them. So she was extremely helpful.”

The hard work is worth it because the Discovery to Cure program has innumerable benefits, says Ms. Hernandez.

“These kids put a lot of effort into it because it is such a prestigious project. They get valuable experience that they probably would not have had the opportunity to get. This is something to put on your resume to get your first lab job at college so you can start working with someone earlier than everybody else. It’s a great experience. Plus, it looks amazing on a college application.” 

For now, Yehudit and Josh can’t wait to get started.

Says Josh: “I’m just really excited to take part in this conference and I think it’s just going to be an amazing experience for me, learning more about medical professions, particularly, and having the opportunity to meet other high school kids who have the same interests as me.”

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