During her years at the Academy, Leah Panitch Finkel (’02) was so accustomed to juggling 12 different classes that by the time she got to college, her course load eased up tremendously. As Leah puts it, “College was a breeze compared to high school.” She believes having a dual curriculum taught her the invaluable lesson of time management, something she desperately needs now as she completes her residency at University of Chicago and manages her daily responsibilities along with her two children.
Leah values many aspects of her Academy experience—the friendships, the focus on religious growth and the phenomenal education. She notes that each of these pieces was crucial for her. The friendships she made at the Academy have proven to be some of the strongest bonds she has created among her friends. On a religious level, Leah says there were many teachers who were influential in shaping the way she understood life, which offered her a fresh perspective. The Academy and many of Leah’s role models epitomized the belief in Torah U’Madda, or incorporating aspects of the secular world into Torah living. This foundation became part of her every thought and each of her decisions going forward.
The educational component was essential in shaping her career path. Leah saw science come to life in Ms. Gleicher’s AP Biology class. She credits Ms. Gleicher for instilling a love of science within her: “Ms. Gleicher turned a mundane lesson into a lively one. She had a way of making everything more interesting.” She would frequently invite her students over to her house to review material and discuss over homemade cookies. Also responsible for Leah’s love of learning was Mrs. Strimling. She provided her students with a deeper understanding of the roots of math insisting that they see beyond the superficial problem at hand. Mrs. Strimling also imparted upon her students the ability to reason, which was instrumental in supporting Leah throughout college and graduate school. These classes appealed to her deep-seated interest in medicine and solidified her decision to pursue a career in the medical field.
After attending University of Maryland with fellow Ida Crown alum, and now husband, Etan Finkel (‘01), Leah returned to Chicago to complete her undergraduate degree and MD at The University of Illinois. She is currently completing her third year of residency at the University of Chicago (U of C), after which she will begin a three-year pediatric emergency medicine fellowship at U of C.
Leah and her husband, Etan, live in Skokie with their two children, Dovie and Nava.