From an early age, Chaim Janani understood the importance of education. His parents immigrated from Syria before he was born, carrying with them a single suitcase. Having had their own educations cut short by the need to work at a young age, they wanted their children to have the educational opportunities they did not.  

Mindful of the sacrifices his parents made to achieve this goal, Janani has never taken his educational opportunities for granted. He has thrown himself into his learning with both discipline and energy. Selected for the Brooklyn College Scholars Program, Janani has been on the Dean’s List every semester he has attended the college.  

Graduating with honors as a chemistry major, Janani chose to immerse himself in scientific research during his time at the college. Since 2021, he has studied the connection between epigenetics and neurodegenerative disease as a researcher in Assistant Professor Mariana Torrente’s lab. Praising Janani’s commitment to his research, Torrente says, “He has done a really beautiful job.”  

Janani co-authored a paper based on this research, published last year in the journal Pathogens. Selected as a fellow in the Brooklyn College Tow Mentoring and Research Program, Janani also presented his work at the Tow Research Mentoring Symposium and has had work accepted for presentation at the American Society for Cell Biology and the National Conference on Undergraduate Research.  

Janani expresses appreciation for the generosity of his professors in providing mentorship opportunities to students. “The mentorship from the professors is very warm,” he says. “They are very open to giving you opportunities and allowing you to pursue your interests.” 

After exploring many fields, Janani decided medicine was his passion. He has been shadowing a pediatrician every summer since he was in high school, and he has shadowed other primary care doctors as well. He is drawn to primary care medicine because of the enormous impact that he saw such physicians have on patients, especially those with low income. Observing “that special bond between a primary care physician and a patient,” Janani says that fostering such a bond is “something that I always wanted to have the opportunity to do.” 

Janani has taken a circumspect approach to medicine. In addition to time spent with practitioners and in the research lab, he has considered the structures of thought that underlie practice. Graduating with a philosophy minor, Janani credits Associate Professor Anna Gotlib with helping him to think deeply about the physician-patient relationship, in a way that will enrich the care he one day provides.  

Accepted to multiple medical schools, Janani plans to attend Renaissance School of Medicine at Stony Brook University in the fall. He has been selected as a City University of New York Jonas E. Salk Scholar, one of CUNY’s most prestigious awards, which includes an $8,000 scholarship that Janani will put toward medical school.  

This is his third time as valedictorian. He received that honor from his elementary and high schools as well. One of the things Janani remembers most about those occasions is his parents’ smiles.