In February, Touro College — the largest Jewish-sponsored educational institution in the United States — kicked off its yearlong 50th anniversary celebration with a special gift: The school was granted university status by the New York State Board of Regents.
Touro has 35 schools in five states and four countries — including a School of Dental Medicine at New York Medical College in Valhalla — serving nearly 19,000 students. It had already achieved university status at its California and Nevada schools, but with the New York designation, the institution will undergo university-wide rebranding to unify all of its programs and schools under one Touro University umbrella.
Overseeing this transformation at a time when geopolitics (Touro has schools in Moscow and Jerusalem) has dovetailed with heath care is Alan Kadish, M.D. — president of the Touro College and University System, a man whose entrepreneurial skills have been as crucial to his personal and professional success as his medical gifts and Jewish faith.
Born in Brooklyn, raised in Queens and educated in yeshivas, Kadish graduated from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine at Yeshiva University. He did his postdoctoral training at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital, an affiliate of Harvard Medical School, and at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, where he was a fellow in cardiology. He is board-certified in internal medicine, cardiovascular disease and cardiac electrophysiology.
Before joining Touro in 2009 as senior provost and chief operating officer, Kadish taught at the University of Michigan and had a 19-year tenure at Northwestern University, where he held several posts.
His medical accomplishments extend to the research field, where he has published more than 250 peer-reviewed papers and received many grants, including from the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation, and contributed to several textbooks.
Kadish is a past chair of the Clinical Cardiology Program Committee of the American Heart Association and has been elected to scientific research and education societies, including the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), the American Society for Clinical Investigation (ASCI) and the American Society of Physicians (ASP).
Recently, Kadish — who is married with four children — spoke with WAG about the new chapter in Touro’s story at a time of war and lingering pandemic:
First, congratulations on the college being granted university status by the New York State Board of Regents. Why was it important for the school to get the university status?
“We really function as a university. We’ve got graduate schools and doctoral programs, and the titles simply reflect the reality of what we do as an institution.
“Sometimes, when there’s a dissociation between what’s real and the title, people don’t get to see what’s real. So, the university designation was simply an affirmation of the work we’ve been doing as a university. And it’s a reputational thing that matches our name with the reality of what’s going on.”
In this process, what goes into the rebranding from college to university?
“From a regulatory standpoint, it has to be approved by the New York State Board of Regents — and the board recently changed some of its rules, although Touro was close to qualifying under the old rules.
“The rules still require graduate programs in three different disciplines. But New York state has 10 different disciplines in which they organize university studies, so you need graduate programs in three of those. It used to be that you needed Ph.D. programs… in three of those, but they changed the rules to be any graduate program in each of those three areas.”
The school recently announced it is planning to build a new 243,000-square-foot main campus at Times Square in New York City. What is that project going to entail?
‘We currently own a lot of our facilities. Unfortunately, we don’t own facilities (in midtown) Manhattan, so we are taking several current places in Manhattan and combining them into one facility. What that will allow us to do is have more collaboration among different schools, better student services, outcomes and more efficiency in operations. But the most important thing is that it’s going to be a state-of-the-art, brand-new facility. And we think that will improve the quality of what we’re able to do for our students.”
In your opinion, what goes into creating high-quality education? What are the key elements that are needed to make a school the finest seat of learning?
“A great question. I would say, first, a faculty that is skilled and caring is by far the most important thing; and education that’s focused on developing core skills, but also on preparing people for the job market. I think those are the two most important things.”
We are, we hope, finally emerging from paralyzing impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic. In regard to your medical school, are you finding a lot of young people are eager to pursue medical careers today?
“In most cases, applications shoot through the roof, but the exception is the nursing school where we have not seen a spike in applications. I think the whole Covid experience created a lot of concern for nurses who, in many cases, were overworked and left on the frontlines — not because anyone wanted to do anything bad, but because the situation was just unprecedented.”
What percentage of your students are coming from outside of the United States?
“It’s a very small percentage for us, probably on the order of 2% — other than the students who are on our campuses that are abroad, obviously, where the numbers are very different. We have a campus in Jerusalem and a campus in Moscow.”
What are the college’s operations like today in Russia? Have they been suspended because of the war?
“They haven’t been suspended. But we’ve tried to be responsible to our students but also understanding of the geopolitical complexity. We continue to operate, but we’re carefully evaluating what’s going to happen in the future. We can’t suspend operations regardless of what we think about the political situation, because we have an obligation to our students. Most of our students in Moscow are in two programs — that is, they get a Russian degree and an American degree.”
How are the students in Moscow? What are you hearing from them in terms of the conditions on the ground there?
“In Moscow, other than the anti-American sentiment — which I think is going to impact our plans for the future — conditions on the ground are fine.”
You also mentioned the Jerusalem campus. (Touro is, of course, known for expanding its offerings to Jewish and underserved communities.) Israel has been deepening its relationships with countries in the Persian Gulf. Do you have any plans to create campuses or new relations in countries like the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain or any of the other Gulf States?
“We are not planning a campus, but we are working on several possible collaborations. It’s too early for me to talk about those in detail, but we are working on several collaborations. We also recently announced a possible collaboration in Turkey.”
For more, visit touro.edu.