A Driven Mission

May 30, 2024

The man behind RCCS’s medical mind

Ruchama Schnaidman

You’d think you entered a medical vault, a think tank, or a meeting of sharp, MD minds. Rare diagnoses, complicated tests, and clinical trials are mentioned as complex medical cases are raised and discussed. You’re clearly in the presence of brilliance.

Then you encounter the humility. The soft tone, the words siyata d’Shmaya, baruch Hashem, hishtadlus, and achrayus sprinkled throughout every sentence, and you wonder—just whom are you speaking with?

Who is this man who bridges worlds, the man at the forefront of the latest in cancer treatment who also answers calls from panicked patients?

Meet Zishe Lowy, Global Director of Patient Services at RCCS and the man behind their incredible medical referral team. But don’t get fooled by the word referral. Giving advice and connecting doctors and patients is a small portion of the multi-layered operation run by the team of researchers and medical care coordinators at RCCS.

It’s a team comprised of Yiddishe men and women who are not only able to discuss intricate and complicated medical details with top oncologists worldwide but are also valued and respected by them.

In fact, as we’re speaking, an email comes in, and Zishe chuckles as he reads the words of a respected doctor in Wisconsin, referring to a case coordinator in Eretz Yisrael with the title Doctor.

“He’s not a doctor,” Zishe Lowy says. “While we do have an RN and MD on staff as well as members with strong healthcare backgrounds, most of us in this department don’t have medical degrees.”

But when speaking to Mr. Lowy or any of the brilliant and well-educated members of his team, you’d be hard-pressed to remember that.

How it all began

Mr. Lowy is animated as he describes the phone call that first brought him to RCCS.

“I had been working at Hamaspik for a decade. From my first moment there, when I received my position as service coordinator, I found myself drawn to the medical aspect and needs of the families I worked with. I encountered families facing serious medical issues who required care on various levels, and I wanted to help them.

Then, in 2008, my mother was diagnosed with an aggressive form of lymphoma. The first doctor she saw, the top lymphoma expert in the city, didn’t give her much hope. ‘We can give you 18 months, and then it will come back,’ he said.

His words lit a fire beneath me, and I began to research. Eventually, we found a doctor in a different hospital who agreed to see my mother. He took one look at her and said, ‘It looks like you plan to beat this thing.’ When my mother nodded in agreement, he said, ‘Then 50 percent of our job is done.’ He proceeded to treat my mother, who b’chasdei Hashem was healed. Fifteen years later, she’s fully living her life.”

That experience taught Zishe never to settle. “I saw that we have an achrayus to do our absolute best hishtadlus, to search for every possible solution.”

He further learned about the world of oncology when his brother was diagnosed with cancer a short time later. The workings of the medical world and the part non-doctors can play in research fascinated Zishe.

When the call came from Mrs. Raizy Weiss of RCCS, inviting him to join what was then a mom-and-pop operation, he jumped at the opportunity.

“In those days, there were no divisions; there were just a few people trying to help patients navigate the world of cancer. On my first day on the job, I started asking questions. Like, ‘How does a patient know what to do when three different doctors offer three opinions?’ I quickly realized that if we don’t fully understand what’s behind their advice, we can’t make informed decisions.”

And so the quest began to build a referral program that included the highest level of research and access to the latest treatments and trials.

A sense of achrayus

It was a journey of small steps with tremendous goals.

Cancer. Mere suspicion of the disease is enough to send a person into a state of absolute turmoil. When patients reach out to RCCS, the referral team’s first goal is to get their complete history. Then they explain everything in terms the patient can understand to calm them and turn them into educated consumers.

Then RCCS gets to work, researching the best options and making connections. Sometimes the typical standard of care will be enough. But complications or rare forms of disease require more thought. That’s where the brilliant researchers of RCCS come into the picture.

“They’re not doctors, and they don’t pretend to be doctors,” Zishe says. “In every case, we make suggestions, but there’s always an oncologist acting as the pilot. What we excel in is our non-stop targeted research and our sense of achrayus to make sure that every possible option is considered. Often, doctors are so focused on their work, they don’t have time to follow up on clinical trials in a far-flung state. Some doctors aren’t even aware of what’s happening in their own institutions. With all the latest information at our fingertips, we can make suggestions that astound top doctors working in the best hospitals.”

Zishe shares how recently a member of RCCS’s research team attended a very advanced research conference in San Diego. There, one of the biggest cancer researchers introduced a novel concept that could possibly work in specific cases. While the idea itself fascinated researchers and doctors, RCCS already has a patient using that exact protocol.

“Many of the treatments we suggest become standard care within a few years. But when we’re dealing with nefashos, we don’t have a few years to wait. The time to start researching a cure is not after the doctors have given up. Our goal is to offer patients their best chances of care from the very start.”

But even when things aren’t looking good, RCCS never rests. They’re currently working with a woman who has Stage 4 cancer and was running out of options. “Our staff knew of a clinical trial in Virginia. It took a lot of effort and coordination, including RCCS covering insurance and other costs, but two weeks in, her tumor markers have decreased by 60 percent since starting on the trial—an incredible number!”

Zishe speaks about the multiple eyes that evaluate and stay on top of each case. He’s also proud of RCCS’s robust follow-up system. “We never wait for a patient to get back in touch; we always follow up and stay on top of their treatment. The fewer pieces that fall through the cracks, the higher the chance of success. Of course, following up also lets patients know how much we care. Along with the medical advice and hand-holding through every step, we can never underestimate the chizuk we provide.”

A measure of success

When working on such an intense level with so much at stake, how does RCCS measure hatzlachah?

Zishe’s reply sums up his values in just a few heartfelt words.

“Our ultimate goal would be to have each patient completely healed. Unfortunately, things don’t always work that way. We do our best hishtadlus, but we know that Hashem is in charge. What keeps us going is measuring our success with every small step. Today we managed to get a patient into a doctor who has a six month wait list? Success. This week we were able to calm a frantic mother as she sat crying in an emergency room at 2 a.m.? Success.

When we face difficult moments, we remind ourselves that we lived up to our mission. We were with that patient from the moment they reached out; we coordinated their care and did everything we could for them. Hashem is in charge, and we have to keep going.”

A working life

The more Zishe describes the level of research and devotion his team expends on every patient, the more one wonders: How? How does running an organization of this caliber fit into a regular person’s life? The answer lies in the introduction Zishe gives to every potential employee.

While RCCS uses cutting-edge software to ensure timely follow-ups that avoid many emergency situations, working in the medical referral department is more than a job—it’s a lifestyle. Zishe offers examples of unavoidable situations—a doctor who only replies to an email at 11 p.m., a newly diagnosed patient on Motza’ei Shabbos, a patient who finishes a consult at 7 p.m. Those cases can’t wait until the next business day at 9 a.m.

“This is the kind of life where I always sleep with one eye open. I get calls in middle of the Shabbos seudah, and I’m grateful for the chance to help every Yid. 0f course, none of us could do our jobs without the support of our families. Our youngest children know that we work to save Yidden’s lives, and they’re proud of what we do.”

The motivator

When Zishe is asked what motivates him, he answers, “Every single patient who comes my way.”

He passionately says, “Even after a decade of working in RCCS, I still feel like I just started. There’s always more to learn, more to understand, and more to do. Every patient is a whole new world, with unique medical and personal circumstances.

“When I’m asked for a good story, my response is: Every story is a good story because every patient has a story. Whether the person turning to us just had his first child or is marrying off his fourth, he has a life and a history—dreams, wishes, and a family that is now on hold. The role we play in helping that patient gives our work a sense of purpose.”

Detailed care

A medical care coordinator once reached out to Zishe with the following question: One of her patients required an at home pump for 48 hours, but the institution they were working with only had outdated, inconvenient pumps.

“Should I push the hospital to source a better pump, or will that make us look cheap?” After a day of holding high-level conversations about dosing and treatments, she didn’t want to appear petty.

Zishe replied, “On the contrary, it will show them how much we care for every tiny detail.”

His vision paid off; numerous doctors have told him, “If I or someone in my family had cancer, I’d want you guys on their team.”

And therein lies Zishe’s secret—absolute, unrelenting care. When doctors see how RCCS cares enough to chase after the most remote treatment possibilities and to educate themselves enough to conduct high-level conversations while also caring for each patient’s comfort, they’re awed.

As Zishe says, “Doctors want to hear from us because they appreciate what we do. They value our information, our research, and our ability to help them do their jobs better.”

RCCS goes above and beyond to connect patients with top doctors and treatment options while also providing solid financial backing to enable those treatments. Their dedication is evident in their various programs designed to cover insurance premiums, out-of-pocket expenses, copayments, and other treatment-related costs. With RCCS by their side, patients can focus on their health without the burden of financial worries. That’s RCCS’s mission for the hundreds of cases that cross their desks. Under Zishe’s direction, each patient is treated as an individual, and each case is a new challenge that deserves complete devotion, heart, and soul.

Achrayus to Klal Yisrael is the heartbeat of RCCS. It pushes Zishe and his team forward and doesn’t allow them to stop—if there’s a possibility to help a Yid in pain, how can that chance be ignored?


Do something today for Lakewood’s cholim. RCCS Lakewood is currently running our annual campaign to support and enable treatment for 383 patients from our community. To donate, visit or call 732-831-7285.