Elisheva Swartz Named Valedictorian at Lander College for Women

Date: May 30, 2013
Elisheva Swartz of Silver Spring, MD., was named valedictorian of Touro’s Lander College for Women-The Anna Ruth and Mark Hasten School and spoke at the Lander College commencement.
Elisheva Swartz of Silver Spring, MD., was named valedictorian of Touro’s Lander College for Women-The Anna Ruth and Mark Hasten School and spoke at the Lander College commencement.
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New York, N.Y. – Elisheva Swartz of Silver Spring, MD., was named the 2013 valedictorian of the Lander College for Women-The Anna Ruth and Mark Hasten School (LCW) and the student speaker at the Lander College commencement at Avery Fisher Hall, which was held on May 26th. 

“Elisheva’s vibrant intelligence, superior academic performance and leadership qualities made her the committee’s unanimous choice,” said Marian Stoltz-Loike, Ph.D., dean of LCW and Touro’s vice president of online education. “Combined with her warmth, enthusiasm and commitment to Yiddishkeit, she is an ideal role model for her fellow students.”

In addition to her impressive academic record, for the past year and a half Swartz has conducted research with Dr. Zvi Loewy, professor and chair of the pharmaceutical and biomedical sciences at the Touro College of Pharmacy. In the fall she will attend the Pharmacy school and continue her research with Dr. Loewy.

After graduating from the Yeshiva of Greater Washington in 2009, Swartz spent a year and a half studying at Michlala, a seminary for women in Jerusalem. To obtain college credits for her studies, Swartz enrolled in the Touro Israel program and took a career aptitude test. She was surprised when the results indicated that the pharmaceutical industry might suit her best.

“I always loved the sciences and wanted to do something in that area, but I didn’t know what,” said Swartz. “When I got the results I thought they were interesting because I had never really considered that profession before. My only experience with pharmacy had been at the local CVS and supermarket pharmacies.”

She took a tour of the College of Pharmacy during her first semester at LCW and met with students, faculty and even Dean Stuart Feldman, who said that research opportunities were available for undergraduates. The following semester Swartz mentioned this to Sarri Singer, the assistant director of career services at LCW.

“As soon as Sarri heard this she said ‘What are you waiting for?’” Swartz said. She immediately called Dean Feldman and he introduced her to Dr. Loewy. Swartz started working with him as a research intern in January 2012, spending between two and three days a week at the Pharmacy school during the academic year and working full time in the lab last June.

She has been working on two separate studies under Dr. Loewy, both having to do with the connection between oral and systemic health, focusing on the phenomenon of bacteria from plaque in one’s mouth entering the bloodstream and causing life-threatening diseases. For the first study, Dr. Loewy’s team is examining the relationship between bacteria on dentures and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. If a positive connection between the bacteria and lung disease is established, Swartz said that nursing home administrators, among others, should be aware as proper dental care is often neglected in such settings.

For the other study, Dr. Loewy’s team is collecting used toothbrushes from members of an underserved community and also from medical students to determine if there is a difference in the bacteria on the brushes of the two groups. Should the students take better care of their teeth, as proven through the study, the team will investigate which factors lead to better habits and then disseminate that information to the larger community in an effort to improve overall health.

Dr. Loewy said that Swartz took to it from the start.

“Elisheva was fortunate to receive a top-notch education at LCW and came to us with the necessary prerequisite tools, but she’s also been blessed with intellectual capabilities that enabled her to develop rapidly as an emerging research scientist,” he said. “It’s that synthesis that has made her so special.”

One reason Swartz, a biology major in the Honors Program at LCW, is choosing to continue her education at Touro’s Pharmacy school is that the school requires two years of practical experience to instill students with a sense of professionalism and prepare them for the workplace after graduation. Her impression upon visiting the Pharmacy school was that of a caring, nurturing environment, similar to what she experienced as an undergraduate.

“When I first went to visit the dean at LCW she took the time to speak with me for an hour and I realized how personal a place this was,” said Swartz, who volunteered as a pharmacy aide at a hospital pharmacy the summer after her first semester at LCW. “I get the same feeling from the Pharmacy school.”

Swartz participated in several extracurricular activities as an undergraduate. She is president of the LCW Biology club; served as a peer tutor for several subjects, including biology, chemistry, anatomy and physiology; writes for the LCW newspaper on eating healthy; and for the past three summers she has volunteered for a program called Sinai Retreats, which aims to connect Jews to their heritage.

Dr. Loewy said that all the time Swartz has already put into her research bodes well for what she’ll be able to accomplish at the School of Pharmacy and beyond.

“When she starts school she’s going to be able to pursue aspects of the projects that are currently ongoing and do research almost in parallel with her grad work,” said Dr. Loewy. “Most students wait until their third or fourth years to get involved in projects. By getting off to such a strong start she will be able to contribute far more richness and depth to her research.”