Rabbi Rena Arshinoff believes that her epidemiology degree from the University of Toronto helped provide a solid foundation for her work as a rabbi.
“To me, there are very distinct parallels,” she says. “I am still asking questions, but in a different context; now they are spiritual as well as research questions.”
Arshinoff originally trained as a nurse in Montreal. When she moved to Toronto, she pursued an interest in epidemiology, earning her Master’s degree from a U of T program geared toward physicians that is now part of the Dalla Lana School of Public Health. After graduation, she spent three years working in the U of T affiliated Preventive Medicine and Biostatistics department before taking an epidemiology position at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre. From Sunnybrook, she went on to become one of the inaugural staff members at the Institute for Clinical and Evaluative Sciences, a research powerhouse founded by Dr. David Naylor, a former U of T president. She is currently pursuing a PhD in Palliative Care and teaches on the Bereavement Education certificate at U of T.
“Research became part of who I was,” Arshinoff says.
Simultaneously, religion began to assume a greater importance to Arshinoff who lost a sister to cancer and her father within a few years of each other. She became progressively more involved in the Jewish community, supporting others through the grieving process.
Enough people told Arshinoff that she would make a wonderful rabbi that she began to give it some thought. At age 49, she applied to rabbinical school and began a five-year journey that led to ordination. Today, serving as a rabbi/chaplain at Baycrest and a chaplain at Toronto Western Hospital, she points out that the World Health Organization’s definition of health includes a spiritual component to health.
As she enjoys her current career, Arshinoff says, “I owe a lot of my skills to U of T: not just theory and analytical skills, but the skill to be critical and to understand human nature.”
Posted August 11, 2017.