The Paideia School

An interview with Julia Schiff ’06 and Zoe Ruhl (nee Taylor) ‘13, Resident and Med Student at Penn Medicine

First off, tell us a little bit about your background. What have you both been doing since you graduated from Paideia, and where are you now?

picture of Julia Schiff '06 and Zoe Ruhl Taylor '13 i medical garb

Z: After Paideia I went to Williams College where I was pre-med and majored in Art History, inspired by Donna’s Art and Society class. During college I was very involved in sexual assault advocacy, prevention, and education. I worked one summer in Joe Biden’s Office of the Vice President with the White House Advisor on Violence Against Women. After graduating from Williams I created a fellowship where I partnered with Planned Parenthood Southeast and traveled to 5 different countries studying women’s health through photography. In the summer of 2019 I got married and started medical school at Penn. I am currently a 3rd year, finishing up my Clerkship year, and I am planning on going into Family Medicine. 

J: I went to Tufts University where I studied Anthropology and Dance. After college, given an interest in medicine, I completed a post-bacc premed program. I interned in a refugee health clinic and performed in some Latin dance companies prior to starting at Emory Medical School. There, I also got an MPH in global health. I recently completed my Internal Medicine residency at Emory and have been involved in activities related to HIV medicine, impacts of climate change, gender equity, and due to an interest in learning a broader skill set in global health decided to pursue a second residency in Emergency Medicine. I started at Penn in July and joined the second year EM residency class.

With regards to your work at Penn Medicine, tell us about how you crossed paths.

Z: As a clerkship student I have spent the last year rotating through a host of different services to learn all aspects of medicine and try out different fields. My very last rotation is Emergency Medicine and during an overnight shift Julia and I were chatting about where we were from and made the Paideia connection. 

J: I always look forward to rotating students like Zoe, as it offers the chance to get to know new people and hopefully impart a few pearls of medical knowledge. It was clear from the start of our shift that we had a few things in common, so it was funny to find out that we grew up so close to each other and went to the same school! As I am learning more about Zoe, I can see we have a bit more in common too - including arts backgrounds, interests in photography, global work, and social advocacy.

What do you most enjoy about your time there?

Z: Penn Med School really provides unparalleled clinical training. I am learning how to be the best physician for my patients from incredible other med students, nurses, techs, residents, and attendings. I get to see things I would never see elsewhere and learn from some of the best physicians in the world. I also really love Penn’s emphasis on addressing the social determinants of health, how people’s identities, social contexts, and backgrounds influence their health in multifactorial ways. 

J: I am newer to Penn Medicine than Zoe, but I also like working in a supportive environment with great colleagues and team members. I also enjoy the Emergency Department’s emphasis on social determinants of health and diversity and am looking forward to getting more engaged in the department. Philadelphia is also a great city and its nice living walking distance from everything.   

If you could go back in time and give the high-school version of yourself advice, what would it be?

Z: Explore more. Take classes that challenge you, go places that expand your views of the world, spend time with people very different from yourself. Also, as someone once told me, “the most important decision you make is not where you choose to go to school, it’s who you choose to [spend your time with]” 

J: I would tell myself it’s more about the journey than the destination and to seize any opportunity to do things that excite you and make you happy. Travel as much as you can and try to take in and experience every moment fully. And spending time with the people you love is the most important thing. I would also tell my HS self not to worry, that your closest friends from childhood will still be with you many years from now. 

Any favorite teacher(s) you want to give a thank you or shout out to?

Z: Donna Ellwood, always and forever. The year after I graduated college I got to come back and present my thesis on Frida Kahlo, which was inspired by her, to her art and society class and it was one of my proudest moments. I wouldn’t be here without her. 

J: I am a lifer, so too many to name! Many teachers and classmates made an impact on me and helped shape me, my values, and the way I interact with the world.