“I make my own life for myself”.

On 17 October 2019 Mandelbaum House welcomed Dr. Rob Silberstein as a guest lecturer to our monthly formal dinner. Dr. Silberstein has faced many obstacles that the majority of us have not even considered when embarking on our anticipated careers. As he shared the challenges he had faced, he told us that one of the biggest obstacles were the attitudes of those people who put limits on what they believed he was capable of achieving.

The evening began with a captivating piano performance by Daniel, a Mandelbaum resident from Mexico studying abroad in Australia. The microphone was then handed to one of the Mandelbaum residents Lily, who is from London. She introduced Dr. Silberstein and warmly welcomed him into our home.

Dr. Silberstein holds many degrees including, Bachelor of Medicine (MB, Bachelor of Surgery (BS), Bachelor of Laws (LLB Hons I), Master of Health Law (MHL), Master of Industrial Property (MIP), Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice (Grad Dip (Legal Practice). He is a Fellow of the Institute of Patent Trade Marks Attorney, a Registered Australian Patent Attorney, a Registered New Zealand Patent Attorney, a Registered Australian Trade Marks Attorney, a Registered non practising Medical Practitioner and a Registered Solicitor NSW. Undoubtedly, Dr. Silberstein is a well rounded, successful, and an inspirational individual. But his success did not come easy.

Born with Arthrogryposis multiplex congenital (a joint and muscular) disability, Dr. Silberstein has had to overcome many obstacles that most people never had to face. Dr. Silberstein took us on his path to success by starting from the beginning. It was a time when children with disabilities were segregated from mainstream schooling. His mother, who understood that he was a gifted child, had an extremely tough time trying to find a normal school that would accept him. He distinctly remembers countless school administrations telling his mother, in more acceptable terms ‘you are insane and should have your head examined’. Dr. Silberstein was five-years-old at the time, and in his words, “very impressionable”. He did not let these impressions dictate his life, even when he described them as trying to determine his fate.

Dr. Silberstein went on to talk about his journey in the medical field. An academic advisor at one of the universities he applied to called Dr. Silberstein to his office and spent two hours trying to deter him away from studying medicine. Despite his academic success in medical school, the medical board did everything in their power to prohibit Dr. Silberstein from practising medicine. While he has full sensation in his limbs, Dr. Silberstein does not have much anti-gravity movement of his hands. In Medical school, his fascilitator, a registered nurse, raised his hand to the required spot in order to make diagnoses which (for a student), were extremely good. Yet, in the final analysis, the Medical Board used his disability against him, not wanting to accept his achievement of being the very first person to complete Medicine with a disability.

After many attempts of trying to obtain permission to become an Intern in a hospital, Dr. Silberstein ultimately decided to go to law school. From there, he has successfully worked as a law practitioner and continues to defy the odds he was given. In 2014 Silberstein & Associates boutique law firm was established and for the third consecutive year is a finalist in the Boutique Firm of Year and Managing Partner of the Year categories. This year they also received a nomination for Wellness Initiative of the Year.

Dr. Silberstein closed his lecture with the line “I make my own life for myself,” and I think this is a line we can all take with us, whoever we are, wherever we go.

By Haley Sousa (Mandelbaum House resident)

Photographer: Joshua Riesel