Ice Network

Galler Rabinowitz tackles Columbia medical school

Former U.S. junior ice dance champion to embark on three-year residency
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Loren Galler Rabinowitz is on her way to a fulfilling career after graduating from Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. -Courtesy of Loren Galler Rabinowitz

During Loren Galler Rabinowitz' major clinical year at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, her first rotation was surgery. When she walked into an operating room for the first time, the pressure was on.

"The room is kept cold, and it involves blades. I thought, 'OK, I've been here before. This feels kind of natural,'" said Galler Rabinowitz, a former U.S. novice and junior ice dance champion with David Mitchell.

Galler Rabinowitz graduated from medical school earlier this month, and in mid-June she will begin a three-year residency in internal medicine. Although her competitive skating days ended in 2006, she said her background in the sport prepared her for the intense demands of medical school.

"Getting up at 4:30 in the morning and needing to be on by five isn't new; it's something many of us experienced when we were training," said Galler Rabinowitz, who also won U.S. senior pewter and bronze medals.

"The work ethic and having a really meticulous attention to detail and being willing to repeat the same things over and over until you really understand how to do them -- all of those things felt so comfortable and familiar," she added. "As soon as I got into the major clinical year, which is the year where you go through six-week [rotations in different areas of medicine], I felt like maybe this is what I was training for my whole life."

In addition to her pre-med curriculum, Galler Rabinowitz, 29, graduated from Harvard in 2010 with a major in English. She chose Columbia for medical school because she saw an environment that appreciated creativity. An accomplished pianist and poet, she has continued her writing.

During her first year of medical school, she developed an interest in medical journalism. She met Dr. Jonathan LaPook, chief medical correspondent for the CBS Evening News, and worked with him the summer after her first year.

"I studied English and I love to write," said Galler Rabinowitz, who won Le Baron Briggs and David McCord prizes while at Harvard. "I love to think about the ways that we can touch more people than you can in just the clinical setting."

As a fourth-year medical student, she completed a scholarly project (thesis) at the Columbia Journalism School, working with Jonathan Weiner, a professor of medical and scientific journalism.

A narrative medicine course allowed her to study poetry and spend a semester being creative and writing, which she described as an unanticipated pleasure.

"I had two of the poems that I wrote during that period published," she said. "I was able to complete this pretty extensive thesis over the past year at the journalism school, which I'm now getting ready to submit for publication."

The subject of the thesis is the ethical dilemma physician journalists face with regard to how difficult it is to simultaneously wear two hats. As someone who skated and was committed to academic excellence, she well understands that struggle. She coached throughout college, rising before dawn each morning to get to the rink before going to classes.

Galler Rabinowitz spent the year between college graduation and medical school as Miss Massachusetts and competed at the Miss America pageant. She has always been passionate about Holocaust education -- her maternal grandparents were the sole survivors from their respective families -- and she has become a sought-after speaker on the topic.

Although she is no longer connected to skating as closely as she was during college, Galler Rabinowitz said she misses the sport. She puts on her skates and gets on the ice whenever the opportunity presents itself.

She graduated from medical school AOA (Alpha Omega Alpha), the national medical honors society. She also won the Michael H. Aranow Memorial Prize, which goes to the physician who best exemplifies the caring and humane qualities of the practicing doctor.

"I remember after skating, this moment where you would catch your mom's eye," Galler Rabinowitz said. "It was that moment that was more special than sitting in a kiss and cry and watching results come up. I saw my mother in the bleachers right before they handed me a diploma. I was lucky enough to win a novice national title and a junior national title. This was right up there with feeling really special."