Mission District activist awarded med school funds

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Speaking in Spanish, she counsels a mostly teenage Hispanic clientele on a range of issues, from "having safe sex" to "preventing gang violence."

While Latin-born Rosenthal is sad to leave the troubled teens she's worked so hard to help, she is clearly excited over the reason for her departure.

As winner of this year's Haas Koshland Memorial Award, a grant initiated and administered by the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation's Endowment Fund, 26-year-old Rosenthal will be attending medical school in Israel this August.

"The award could not have come at a better time," she said.

"Through my work at the center I have come to realize that in order to practice preventative health more responsibly, I need a more clinical training."

Rosenthal will be applying the grant, a merit award with no strings attached, toward her first year at the Sackler School of Medicine at Tel Aviv University. She will complete her medical degree there.

Established in 1982 in memory of Daniel E. Koshland and Walter A. Haas, the Haas Koshland Award provides outstanding students like Rosenthal funds for a year of study and enrichment in Israel.

According to Frances Geballe, chair of the Haas Koshland Award committee and a daughter of Daniel E. Koshland, the award has, for the past 12 years, been funded with unrestricted grants from the JCEF.

Last year, however, in an effort to ensure it continues in perpetuity, Geballe and her family established a permanent Haas Koshland Endowment Fund, now totaling some $188,783.

One of the best things about the award, said Rosenthal, is the chance it affords young people like herself to study while exploring their Jewish heritage in Israel.

Rosenthal, who was born in Guatemala and has never been to Israel, said that despite her family's synagogue affiliation, she established such a strong sense of identity with Latin culture that "somewhere in the shuffle my sense of Jewish identity was never fully explored."

When Rosenthal was 4, other family moved from Guatemala to Mexico City. It was there, she said, that she "witnessed the poverty of a developing nation firsthand" and, during her years in middle school, began tutoring underprivileged children in a "school" her older sister had created out of a tin shack on a sidewalk.

Years later, as an undergraduate at Emory University in Atlanta, Rosenthal went on to create a peer counseling organization on campus, which remains in operation today.

After completing internships at CNN's World News Report and the Carter Presidential Center in the Divisions of Latin American Affairs and Health, she moved to New Orleans to begin graduate work at Tulane University's School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine. While there, Rosenthal created a pregnancy prevention and contraceptive workshop for the Tulane Student Health Center.

Upon graduating with a master's degree in health education and health promotion, Rosenthal returned to the Mexico City of her childhood for an eight-month internship at the PanAmerican Health Organization. During that internship she helped launch a worksite health promotion project and developed a system of evaluation for a tobacco-free workplace campaign.

"Susan is a remarkably accomplished young woman and very deserving of this award," said Geballe. "She is an ideal winner."