Israeli university sends American medical students back home as doctors

Medical students at the Tel Aviv University, Sackler School of Medicine – New York State/ American Program. It was a proud moment and the culmination of an important journey, when sixty students from across the United States and Canada received …

Medical students at the Tel Aviv University, Sackler School of Medicine – New York State/ American Program. It was a proud moment and the culmination of an important journey, when sixty students from across the United States and Canada received their MD degrees last month from Tel Aviv University, Sackler School of Medicine – New York State/ American Program.

Sackler is the choice for many students looking for a top-grade medical school that provides intensive clinical as well as pre-clinical training.

“The medical education I received at Sackler is first-rate, especially the third and fourth year clinical experiences,” said Jonathan Mintzer, a 2003 graduate. “Sackler is one of the few schools in the world which brings its students in direct contact with professors and attending physicians in the hospitals. We were given daily lectures from professors on diagnostic decision-making and treatment protocols.”

Students like Mintzer get more out of the program than just medical training. Many North American students also like the fact that the medical school is in a cosmopolitan city which gives them a chance to meet people from many different cultures that they wouldn?t have had with a domestic medical education.

Mintzer flew to Israel for the first time in August 1999, after he was accepted to the Program. This year, Mintzer, like many graduates nurtured in Sackler’s family-like atmosphere, jumped at the chance of visiting during his spring vacation. He was invited to talk about his ‘on-the-job’ experiences in general surgery at Montefiore Medical Center, affiliated with the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, where he is doing a 5-year residency.

More than 1200 men and women have graduated from the four-year New York State/American Program which was established in 1977 in response to a need in New York State to train more doctors. Since the 80?s, it has been expanded to accept candidates from all over the US and Canada. A large number of students in the 4-year medical program are from NY state. For the past several years, about 50 percent have been women. The entire program is taught in English. Another perk: U.S./Canadian students save between 20 to 30 percent of the cost of attending medical school in North America.

Sackler also has a six-year Israeli medical program, a Dental School, a School of Health Professions, including departments for Nursing, Communication Disorders, Physical Therapy, and Occupational Therapy. It also offers a BSc program in Basic Biomedical Sciences, and has a Graduate School that grants MSc degrees and PhDs in all fields of medical and health science.

“Even during the first year of basic science on the Tel Aviv University campus, students are divided in groups of five and assigned to senior physicians whom they meet eight times a year. During the second year, they spend one day a week gaining clinical exposure at a major hospital. They find it very stimulating,” said Esti Landau, Program Coordinator and Registrar in Israel.

In the third year, Sackler students gain hands-on skills and experience during five clerkships in 16 affiliated hospitals, including Sheba Medical Center, the largest medical center in the Middle East.

“Third year students in the U.S. usually spend most of their time carrying out intern-level tasks (blood drawing, note writing, patient transport, etc.) and are only occasionally lectured by attending physicians,” said Mintzer. “In Israel, we experienced many clinical scenarios.”

During their fourth year, students in the New York/American Program spend 16 weeks of elective time in the U.S., rotating in four different fields. The experience helps them decide which residency to apply for and where. To the Program’s credit, at least 50 percent of Sackler students get their first or second choice for residency during the famous ‘Match’ by which medical centers rank applicants and accept them according to the number of open positions.

“Sackler graduates secure excellent positions, at top medical institutions throughout the United States and Canada,” said Landau.

During an interview for a residency in the US, one graduate said that his interviewer was surprised that he could answer a complex question as if he were an experienced physician. “How do you know that?” the interviewer asked. “I thought that everyone would know the answer,” replied the Sackler graduate.

Doron Kahana, currently completing a competitive, sought after pediatrics residency at the University of Minnesota, has already been accepted for a prized fellowship in Pediatric Gastroenterology at UCLA. Many Sackler graduates go on to prestigious academic positions in the U.S. during their careers.

On a recent visit to Israel, Doron, who earned an undergraduate degree from the University of Chicago, spoke euphorically about Sackler. “We were made to feel special. We were given great professional preparation, a great education, but even though I worked hard, it was a wonderful experience. It was the best four years of my life.”

People of all faiths are accepted into the program. Doron is eager to make the point that “Sackler offers a special opportunity for American Jews to fullfil the mitzvah of living in Israel, to enjoy the sunny days, to see the diversity of the population, and enjoy different cultures and learn about the country’s history -all while pursuing a professional goal.”

Jonathan Mintzer echoed these feelings: “Israel is the most vibrant country I could have ever imagined. Aside from being a magnificently beautiful nation, its people possess a ‘joie de vivre’ like nothing I’ve ever seen before…In all honesty, Israel has changed me, and I know that I will be coming back to visit often over the years.”

Professor Louis Shenkman, Vice Dean and Director of the New York/American program takes pride in the Sackler graduates: “We are proud that our graduates have consistently joined the ranks of the medical profession ready to deliver scientific medicine of the highest calibre, coupled with humanity and compassion.”