Beyond book smarts: What this international medical school gives future doctors
For most pursuing a career in medicine, the long-haul investment in studying, training and preparing to become a physician is the fulfillment of a lifelong dream. Others have personal goals too, whether it’s to explore their Jewish backgrounds or spend time in a new location. Some choose to make the challenge a little more exciting by engaging in a new environment, being immersed in a different culture and picking up a new language.
The benefits of studying medicine in Israel are numerous, especially at the world-renowned Technion-Israel Institute of Technology. Situated upon the Rambam Health Care Campus on the Haifa shores, Technion American Medical School (TeAMS) provides a top-notch medical education and extensive training at several of Israel’s best hospitals. At this prestigious medical school program, students get one-on-one time with leading faculty members, including two Nobel Prize winners and numerous researchers who have contributed to several medical breakthroughs and innovations. All students complete a thesis. Graduates can continue to residency programs in the U.S.
The acclaimed academic and research repertoire attracts top students, but the students who actually enroll in TeAMS bring an extra uniqueness to the program. They are attracted to the school for unique reasons, hoping to get a more well-rounded education that will make them more compassionate and focused doctors. Let’s meet some of the students beginning their medical careers at TeAMS this October.
Balancing Judaism and Medicine
For many observant Jews, there is a dilemma of maintaining a certain lifestyle while seeking a high level of professional training. While Technion is not a religious institution, its location in Israel makes key issues like Shabbat, the Jewish holidays and kashrut much easier to address.
Josh Simons, an incoming student from Monsey, NY, said one of the things he liked most about TeAMS is the schedule. “It fits around the High Holidays and works perfectly for an observant student,” said Simons, who is starting medical school only one month after his release from a 14-month volunteer service in the Israel Defense Forces in the Netzach Yehuda battalion in the Kfir Brigade. Simons, who earned his bachelor’s degree in biology from Touro College in Jan. 2013, served as a machine gunner in a religious unit.
“This is unparalleled for medical schools in general and even in Israel,” described Chris Thomas, an incoming student from Syracuse, NY. “Studying at TeAMS is both a good place to keep up my religious observance and learning, and a solution for staying in Israel long term.”
Thomas chose medicine after shadowing and admiring his father, an emergency room physician in New York. “Medicine seemed like the most selfless profession in the world,” Thomas said, thoughtfully reflecting upon how he used to visit patients on Shabbat at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital. “This was a really profound experience – seeing the way people grappled with the experience of sickness and what a challenge that is… They meet the challenge and show incredible inner strength, bringing out faith and hope. But also at the hospital, I saw people devastated and crushed by illness. Overall, I was amazed at how much of a difference I could make by just visiting.”
“Medicine is a sacred profession; as a healer, I can fill the charge of implementing G-d’s will in profound and meaningful ways,” Thomas said. “I am very happy to begin studying at Technion because I’ve only heard positive things, that everyone is so friendly and it sounds like a very positive environment,” he added.
Simons noted a similar thought, “It was by far the nicest program because people were so friendly and the staff is really impressive.” He recalled a “simple, pleasant and inviting” interview experience. “Plus the campus is beautiful and right by the beach,” he said with a smile.
The Diversity of Israel
Both Simons and Thomas plan to stay in Israel following graduation, like their classmate Ilana Barta, who made aliyah to Israel this past August from Teaneck, NJ. “It was good to know that I didn’t have to choose between my want to be in Israel and to be a doctor,” she said. “I was brought up in a home that emphasizes Israel as the homeland, and at the age of 8, I decided wanted to be a doctor.”
“I liked that TeAMS was a smaller program, with fewer students per class,” she explained. “My initial thought after speaking to students is that there is a more attention for each student, individual guidance and more interaction in the classroom. As a whole, the university is a really amazing, innovative place to be.”
Moreover, what attracted Barta was being at one of the most diverse campuses in Israel. Having studied foreign languages at Queens College, Barta knows Arabic, in addition to Hebrew. Barta and fellow TeAMS students participate in rotations at many of Northern Israel’s hospitals, which service Jews, Arabs, Christians, Druze, African refugees and others.
TeAMS also caught the eye of incoming student Lydia Daniels, from the suburbs of Pittsburg, PA, because of its diversity. Daniels, who graduated with a bachelor’s in pre-med from Bob Jones University in South Carolina, was fascinated after studying about the Middle East region.
“After my bachelor’s degree, I wanted to travel and study abroad. Because of the classes I took, I thought maybe to study in Israel,” she said. “I looked at all the different medical schools in Israel and was attracted to the family atmosphere here. I feel that we are all in this together and it not a competition.”
Daniels arrived in Israel six weeks before classes started to move into the dorms, take a Hebrew course and explore. “So far, it’s been a very good atmosphere,” she said.
After medical school, Daniels hopes to work in the developing world, to serve a community and be immersed in the health and the culture to people around the world. “The human body is just amazing and the more I learn about it, the more it amazes me, and I want to bring my knowledge to the different areas of the world that need a whole lot of help.”
Such experiences make doctors more balanced and equipped to treat patients; they excel in the academics, have a grasp of research and technology, develop into more open-minded and compassionate people and gain hands-on experience.