By Masha Leon

Published May 27, 2005, issue of May 27, 2005.
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Over the past 50 years, Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University gained $100 million for research — thanks to the fund-raising magic of its National Women’s Division. At its New York chapter’s May 3 Spirit of Achievement Luncheon at The Waldorf-Astoria, among the accomplished women honored were television’s nationally syndicated, best-selling cookbook author Lidia Matticchio Bastianich; internationally acclaimed violinist Midori, known for providing thousands of underprivileged and terminally ill children with music programs; award-winning jewelry designer Judith Ripka, who attributes the inspiration for “each piece of jewelry… to my mother, who came here in the bottom of a boat without a word of English,” and Dr. Harriette Mogul, chief of the Section of Osteoporosis and Obesity Research, New York Medical College, Valhalla, N.Y. Mogul said, “When I applied in 1961 to Einstein… the professors had the same expectation of us as of the male students.” Another honoree, Nancy Lublin, is founder and executive director of “Dress for Success,” which provides suits for low-income women entering the work force. Lublin joshed, “The cost of the shoes in this room could finance a small country.” And there also was Judith Rodin, former president of University of Pennsylvania. Rudin was also provost of Yale University, and she is now president of the Rockefeller Foundation.

A gorgeous Fran Drescher launched her attack on the medical community with a joke: “A doctor tells his patient he has good news and bad news. The good news is that he has 48 hours to live. The bad news, ‘I was supposed to tell you yesterday.’” An incensed Drescher declared: “Too many patients are finding out today they have cancer when they should have been told yesterday. Early detection equals survival.” (Case in point: last week’s news that Jacobi Medical Center had not informed 307 women that they had abnormal Pap-test results. Several have now been diagnosed with active cancers!)

“We are all victimized by a medical community that is bludgeoned by big business health insurance companies to go the least expensive route of diagnostic testing,” said Drescher, who told of how she was misdiagnosed by eight doctors in a two-year period and “mistreated for a perimenopausal condition I did not have.” Drescher, now free from uterine cancer, declared: “A woman with ovarian cancer… often is misdiagnosed and mistreated for irritable bowel syndrome… time wasted often is lethal because ovarian cancer is very aggressive… 80% of all women with ovarian cancer will be diagnosed in the late stages, and 70% of them will die.… I wrote the New York Times best seller ‘Cancer Schmancer’ because I didn’t want what happened to me to happen to other women.”

* * *

“I am proud to count Safe Horizon’s work in response to child abuse as part of my political legacy,” New York Senator Chuck Schumer said to the 800 gathered at the 69th Regiment Armory for Safe Horizon’s May 10 Champion Awards luncheon, of which he was honorary chair. New York Yankees manager Joe Torre, with his wife, Ali, received the 2005 Champion Award from actress Lorraine Bracco. Torre recalled growing up in a violent home, in which his father abused his mother, and the impact it had on him and on his siblings. This situation led to the creation of the Joe Torre Safe at Home Foundation, which, in partnership with Safe Horizon, “will ensure that… every child and family will have a safe environment in which to develop and grow.”

Jennifer Goodale, vice president of contributions at Altria Corporate Services, Inc. (worldwide philanthropic programs dealing with hunger, disaster and other relief projects), spoke of the assault she experienced on the way home from Lincoln Center. She touted the importance of “speaking out and not being ostracized.” Linda Fairstein, former sex crimes prosecutor of the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, attributed the capture of the rapist to “old-fashioned police work and the stunning new technology — DNA.” Among Safe Horizon’s boosters are Thomas Marino, CEO, J.H. Cohn, LLP; Jack Rudin, chairman of Rudin Management Co.; Steven Rubenstein, president of Rubenstein Communications; New York City public advocate Betsey Gotbaum; Malaak Compton-Rock (wife of comedian Chris Rock), and Erica Reid (wife of Island Def Jam chairman Antonio “L.A.” Reid).

* * *

Members of New York University’s Pipes and Drums, which launched the May 10 NYU College of Arts and Science Baccalaureate Ceremony at Madison Square Garden, included alumnus Jason Ginsberg, who is now an acupuncturist; James Felder (son of divorce attorney Raoul Felder), and John Henderson, husband of the Museum of Jewish Heritage’s communications director, Abby Spilka.

Gerald Sigal, recipient of NYU’s Alumni Distinguished Service Award, touted this country’s “miracle of opportunity” to the nearly 3,000-strong student body, whose articulated names represent the multiethnic panorama of sons and daughters of new immigrants. Sigal, chairman of the board of Sigal Construction Corporation, located in Washington, D.C., is “a son of immigrants from Poland and Palestine.” He recounted how he spent nine years schlepping to night school on New York City’s subways. In 1977, after 17 years with New York’s Tishman Realty & Construction Co., he and his wife started their own company. His New York projects include Madison Square Garden office complexes and the World Trade Center.

Sigal, who was appointed to the Holocaust Memorial Council by President Clinton in 1998 and remained on the council until 2003, has an impressive list of affiliations and charities, called me from a limo somewhere in Virginia (“I’m never in my office”). Born in Brooklyn’s Brighton Beach, Sigal admitted to having dyslexia and Attention Deficit Disorder. “Why do you think it took me nine years of night school?” he said. “Don’t give up on your dreams!” he told the NYU graduates. One of them was my granddaughter, Michelle Cohen, who has been admitted to Albert Einstein Medical College.

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