This week we are thrilled to shine a spotlight on Dr. Yaakov Fried. Yaakov is a third year ENT resident at Erie County Medical Center (ECMC), part of a five-year medical residency, that Yaakov hopes to extend for an additional year to specialize in facial plastics.
Like many Jewish physicians, Yaakov will be working this week covering for other residents so that they are able to take time to be with their families for the Christmas holiday. “I’ve always offered to cover Christmas, since I started as a second-year resident. I am the only Jewish person in program, so I am happy to so this and don’t mind working; I love being a doctor and appreciate the coverage provided for me on Jewish holidays.”
A native of Westchester, New York Yaakov grew up in a loving, bustling and intellectual Orthodox family in the town of Scarsdale. Since he was young, Yaakov recalls always wanting to be a doctor. Observing his father, who is a dermatologist, was inspiring, as was the culture of being a part of a family of docs (both of his uncles are physicians as well.) “Dad kind of always wanted one of us to be a doctor. For me, medicine was just where I wanted to hang my hat.”
College years took Yaakov to Yeshiva University where he met his wife, Zahava. Post college Yaakov wanted to take a year before entering Medical School to explore his other great passion, cooking. Medicine was always on his horizon but as a teen, Yaakov needed a job and found a fantastic one, working as a part-time mashgiach (kosher food supervisor) at a local Country Club. Working the grill on Sundays as a teen inspired a love of food and before long, he taught himself to forage, exploring nooks and crannies of Westchester for all types of food items, particularly mushrooms. So, in the year between college and medical school, Yaakov took these skills to the Moss Café a Kosher Farm to Table restaurant in Riverdale, NY. Of note, he landed that job after impressing the chef/owner a massive 40lb chicken of the woods mushroom he had foraged, which was ultimately turned into ‘chicken’ pot pies on the restaurant’s fall menu.
Food was fun, but medicine still called, bringing Yaakov to the University of Buffalo for Medical School, which was life-changing. Yaakov loved the UB Medical School program., but perhaps more importantly, Yaakov and Zahava loved Buffalo’s Jewish Community, connecting with individuals and congregations, and becoming actively involved in Nickel City Jews.
Two of the individuals whom Yaakov connected with greatly shaped where he is as a professional today. While exploring different specialty areas, Yaakov was invited to spend a month shadowing otolaryngologist (ENT) Dr. Pinny Young. Yaakov describes falling in love with ENT during those few weeks saying the work was “fascinating, I really enjoyed diagnosing interesting pathologies then performing surgery” relishing the “chance to use both my brain and my hands.” Then, good friend Rabbi Sara Rich introduced him to another well know Jewish Buffalo otolaryngologist, Dr. Iris Danziger. Yaakov describes Iris as an extraordinary mentor and friend, who helped facilitate his growth and his residency match here in Buffalo.
When he was younger, Yaakov toyed with the idea of being a plastic surgeon and he talks about how fortuitous it was that he ended up as an ENT, in Buffalo. “Life never goes at expected” Yaakov shared as he expressed a deep love for Jewish Buffalo and the community he, Zahava (Cantorial Soloist at Temple Beth Tzedek and Engagement Manager at the Buffalo Jewish Federation) and their two young daughters, Lilah and Serafina have built here.