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March 28, 2015 / 8 Nisan, 5775
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North American Medical Students Thrive in Diverse Region

The 2014 TeAMS (Technion American Medical School) class, reciting their Doctors' Oath.

The 2014 TeAMS (Technion American Medical School) class, reciting their Doctors' Oath.
Photo Credit: author supplied

The sunny shore of Haifa’s bay usually imbues images of ships, sand and thoughts of carefree days. Yet gowns of black and green dotted the periphery, as many new physicians received their coveted diplomas and entered the medical profession.  The unique location of these rigorous studies aided to the nature of the student body, captured in the commencement ceremony.

Students, parents and friends filled the auditorium in the main campus of Technion, Israel’s leading technical university often dubbed the MIT of the Middle East, for the TeAMS class of 2014’s culminating ceremony. Dr. Andy Levy, dean of the overseas medical program reflected on this year’s graduating class. “The class has excelled in maintaining an environment at the medical school where students achieved academic strides in every measurable parameter,” Levy stated. Rooted in an atmosphere of professionalism, the students maintained a sense of camaraderie throughout the stressful years of medical school, often burning the midnight oil in group study sessions and communal meals.

The class of 2014 scored impeccably well in their match results, setting a very high standard for the program. Students placed in conventionally difficult specialties in residencies affiliated with the most prestigious programs in the United States; including Harvard University’s Mount Auburn Hospital, New York Presbyterian Hospital of Cornell University, University of Pittsburgh, Mount Sinai Medical Center, Mayo Clinic and Cleveland Clinic, among numerous others.

Aside from high test scores and impressive placements, the graduates at TeAMS had the unique opportunity to engage in their first practical medical encounters with varied and diverse populations. TeAMS’ students receive their initial exposures to rounds and medicine “on the job” at Rambam Health Care Campus, which has more than 2,130,000 people in their regional span. At least 1,175,000 of these people are Jewish, while 655,000 are Muslim, 123,000 are Christian, 123,000 are Druze and another 75,000 are not affiliated with a religion.

Students at TeAMS gained exposure to diverse sectarian groups first hand, as they practiced on patients from differing backgrounds, an experience which has affected many.

As Olivia Diamond New York native and class of 2014 graduate explained, “We were immersed almost immediately into the goings-on of hospital life. We got to watch procedures and shadow doctors on their rounds.” Diamond waves farewell to Haifa as she departs for Harvard University’s Mount Auburn Hospital to begin her residency in internal medicine.

Josh Gelleris, class of 2014 and California native, explained that coming to a different region affected him on a personal level. “One of the reasons I chose to study in Israel was so that I could experience a new culture,” Gelleris said. “I believed that studying in a new place would give me the opportunity to add a dimension to my educational experience that I thought would be important to my personal development.” Gelleris leaves Israel to begin his residency in internal medicine at New York Presbyterian Hospital of Cornell University.

At the commencement ceremony, Dr.Levy mirrored these sentiments by stressing the importance of treating each patient compassionately, no matter what their background. As Dr. Levy said, “I would like to bless each of you with a peace within yourselves, strive always to work to increase hope and strengthen your patients, not only physically through the knowledge you have accumulated but also by caring for them with empathy.”

Alexis Steinberg, originating from Canada and valedictorian for TeAMS class of 2014, described how exposure to this multicultural experience has influenced her outlook. “As physicians, our job entails more than just prescribing medications, especially since many diseases cannot be cured. In chronic diseases like, Alzheimer’s, ischemic heart disease, and diabetes mellitus, we are either just improving symptoms or increasing the quality of life for a patient. So, we need to really understand who the patient is in order to perform the art of healing, something that was conveyed to us while living in a foreign land.”

As Steinberg departs Israel for the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center to begin her residency in neurology, she takes with her more than a diploma, but, thanks to her experiences, a unique sensitivity toward each patient.

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