As a child of Soviet refugees, Samuel Volkin knew from early on that there are many societal inequities that need urgent attention.
The summer following his freshman year at Cornell University, he worked in India to address stigmas associated with HIV in the local community. Volkin’s public health career progressed rapidly. After several projects abroad and a coveted White House internship with the Domestic Policy Council, he joined the U.S. State Department’s coordinating branch for PEPFAR. There, he played a pivotal role in developing a standardized monitoring system of the quality of HIV services and expanding access to life-saving treatment to HIV-infected children in sub-Saharan Africa.
Although these experiences gave him plenty of on-the-job training, Volkin says he knew that the next step would be more formalized education. He’s pursuing a combined MPH and MBA from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Carey Business School to apply the expertise and practice of the private sector to international health and development.
But for the last two years, he’s been immersed in Judaic studies in Israel. “Judaism teaches that the first ethical questions man asks in the Bible is, ‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’ Or in other words, ‘Is it my moral duty to be responsible for the welfare of another?’ The answer is yes,” Volkin says. “The highest form of giving in Judaism is helping someone become self-sufficient and a source of strength to others. I’m at Hopkins now to gain the insights and skills to give effectively to enable others to live to their full potential. The word for giving in Hebrew is natan. It can be read from either direction, teaching us that giving really is a continuous cycle.”