Making Connections

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Israeli med students at OUWB medical school learn medicine and more.

Four Israeli exchange students from Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem now have homes away from home as three local Jewish families have “adopted” them during their stay through the end of the year as students at Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine (OUWB).

Hosting families include Drs. Barbara and Irvin Kappy of Orchard Lake, Michal and Dr. Howard Korman of Southfield, and Elaine and Dr. Robert Robins of West Bloomfield.

Since they arrived on Oct. 7, the Israeli students, who are on their three-month senior clinical elective, have been getting to know Jewish and secular Detroit.

“I want everyone to know how much we all appreciate the efforts to make us feel comfortable in Detroit,” says Lori Plonski, who grew up in Ramat Gan, just east of Tel Aviv. “Here we are, a group of complete strangers, yet we’ve been invited to homes for Friday night dinners, for Thanksgiving and Chanukah celebrations, and attended a college football game and concerts.”

JN storyThe goal of the host families is to make sure the students feel welcomed and to help them to be as comfortable as possible. For example, after the students arrived from Israel, the host families met them at the airport, made sure their cell phones were USA-activated, took them to grocery stores to stock their kitchens, and made sure they were settled in their apartments across from Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak that first day. The students also were given a JCC membership to use until Dec. 24 when they return to Israel.

The three host couples are available to each exchange student.

“We wanted to provide a home away from home,” said Barbara Kappy. “I loved being their tour guide, showing them parts of Detroit. When we had them over for dinner with our cousins who are the same age, they were a fun group. They fit in so well with our family and are always so grateful for the things we do for them.”

Elaine Robins said, “Rob and I enjoy being hosts for Israeli exchanges. We’ve hosted for the Tamarack program and for Israeli soldiers.

“These medical students are truly enjoyable people. They are independent, bright young adults who each have their own story and are doing their best to get the most out of these few months of training at OUWB medical school. They joined us for Thanksgiving, and it was wonderful.”

The host families also help out when the students needed anything special.

“I wish I could have done more for Daniel [Even-Zohar], but he and the others are a very independent group,” said Michal Korman. “We did get Daniel and one of the others a bike as requested because they had no transportation. I thought it was a crazy idea riding around on a bike given the cold weather, but that’s what they wanted and it worked.”

Netta Sternbach of Tel Aviv said, “I’m amazed and impressed with the huge amount of support the Detroit Jewish community has shown us. That support continues at Beaumont Hospital, where the medical professionals, staff and other students are all very friendly and helpful.”

Robert Folberg, M.D., founding dean, OUWB School of Medicine, and chief academic officer, explained how this exchange program came about in 2012.

“I have a long history with Hadassah Hospital so that establishing a medical student exchange program with them was a natural choice for me,” he said. “I’ve collaborated in research projects with Hadassah physicians for many years and taught at the hospital a few times.

“Hadassah Hospital offers world-class health care in Jerusalem,” he said. “Even so, there are slight differences in our schools’ medical training. At Hadassah, the students already have completed their two years of military service. In addition, medical school requirements in Israel are usually five or six years as compared to our four-year requirement for most programs.”

OUWB also expects its students to participate in community projects, ranging from teaching about health and wellness to Detroit fifth-graders to partnering with the Downtown Youth Boxing Gym, to mentor students who want to become scientists and physicians.

“Additionally, our teaching staff includes both physicians in private practice and physicians employed by the hospital,” Folberg said. “Medical student exchanges are part of our medical school fabric.

“This is the second year a group of students from Hadassah Hospital have spent time at OUWB medical school. Our first medical school class will reach their fourth year of studies in September 2014. Our plan is to send our students to Hadassah during the 2014-2015 school year.”

As part of its mission to promote diversity, OUWB also has partnerships with Emek Medical Center at Afula, Israel; Yonsei University College of Medicine, Seoul, South Korea; and the University of West Indies at St. Augustine, Trinidad and Tobago.

Training Differences

To be accepted for the exchange program, Israeli students must be in good academic standing, complete a formal application to enter the program, and be interested in doing part of their rotations at a medical school outside of Israel.

“This has been a great experience for me professionally and personally,” said Plonski. “It is very interesting to experience the difference in training.

“For example, OUWB is very good at making sure medical students have good communication and social skills. I was also more involved in a surgical procedure here than I have been in Israel. After spending a week in the operating room with a hand surgeon at Beaumont Hospital, I was able to participate in a surgical treatment for carpel tunnel. Training is more hands-on here then it is in Israel.”

Daniel Even-Zohar of Jerusalem is a sixth-year senior at Hadassah who is thinking about specializing in pediatrics or internal medicine.

“It’s interesting to see how the American medical system works and how our medical cultures differ,” he said. “I was surprised that everyone was so nice — the doctors, nurses and the patients. Everyone seemed to be smiling, and I felt we were respected. I also learned that the professional medical staff at OUWB is very diverse; many weren’t born in the U.S.

“Our medical equipment at Hadassah is similar to the material here. One of the differences is that American physicians are more aware of the economic impact of what they do. They pay attention to treatment costs, insurance costs and whether the treatment is cost effective.”

Rachel Yoskowitz, OUWB’s community liaison for medical exchange programs, said, “Although OUWB is a new medical school, it is one of only five listed outside of Israel that Hadassah Hospital will send its students to for an exchange.

“Hadassah students work with and learn from highly skilled faculty, have opportunities to be more involved in patient care and get a glimpse of how Beaumont’s six Centers of Excellence focus on patient care.

“Our students are enriched professionally and personally working with medical students who are trained differently,” said Yoskowitz, BSN, MPH, assistant professor of biomedical science and community and global health.

“I was placed with Daniel in my gastroenterology rotation at Beaumont Hospital,” says Rimma Polevoy of Oak Park, a fourth-year Wayne State University (WSU) medical student. “I’ve been to Israel before so it was easy for us to find things in common. I was able to help him get accustomed to Beaumont’s computer system and showed him around the hospital.

“He told me Hadassah Hospital was large, but Beaumont Hospital was much bigger than he expected and that some things were easier to do here because there are more resources. For instance, if he needed an MRI machine for a project he didn’t have to wait a week or so to get one. He also told me he saw many patients here that were addicted to pain medication, which he seldom observed in Israel.

“I’m glad I was able to help. I’m going to Israel next year to a different hospital during my rotations at WSU Medical School.”

Annette Meskin of Sylvan Lake, former national Hadassah vice president, said, “This is a wonderful partnership for Israel. Students are exposed to a large medical center different from Hadassah Hospital.

“They get to make their own perceptions about Detroit, about our health system and about America. And it’s good for the U.S. students to see how Israeli students work and communicate with patients.”

And it’s been a win-win for the already-strong connection between Detroit and Israel.

Joan Epstein, outgoing president of Greater Detroit Chapter of Hadassah, sat next to Israeli medical student, Noa Gross of Jerusalem, who came to OUWB for a one-month stint in endocrinology on her own, at the recent local Hadassah officer installation.

“Noa told me that it was wonderful to see a room filled with people who have cared so much for Israel and Hadassah. Her words to me were, ‘We are worlds apart and yet so connected.’ I felt wonderful that entire evening.”

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