June 12, 2024
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Technology and Tikkun Olam: Israel Paves the Way

Decades have passed since Israelis invented a modernized drip irrigation to make the desert bloom, yet Israeli ingenuity toward excellence continues to thrive under the determination to solve the most pressing humanitarian challenges. Working on the precepts of tikkun olam, Israel persists at the forefront of innovation, seeking to make life better for all. Just one avenue where Israel excels is health and medicine.

Upwards of six billion people in the developing world simply lack access to any sort of emergence response. In major cities, ambulances typically get stuck in traffic and cannot arrive fast enough.

With its unfortunate and long history of facing terror attacks, Israel has honed in on effective emergency response techniques to save lives quicker. Following the Second Intifada, a group of young ambulance medics watched too many people die because aid was unavailable. They envisioned a solution, where medics could be notified according to their proximity to a reported incident. Equipped with medical supplies, they could rush over and stabilize victims within the minutes before the ambulance arrives. This model, now called United Hatzalah, dropped response times to under three minutes.

“We took chutzpah and ran with it,” said Eli Beer, founder of United Hatzalah of Israel. Since officially formalized in 2006, United Hatzalah has recruited over 2,500 trained volunteer medics to join the movement of community-based lifesaving. To fuel the program, the organization worked with Israeli startup NowForce to develop the LifeCompass app, an integrated GPS-powered system that records incidents, alerts nearby medics and guides them to the scene quickly.

In addition to the app, United Hatzalah has crafted and deployed customized ambulance motorcycles to weave through traffic. This “ambucycle” is stocked with medical equipment and works in tandem with LifeCompass. By way of practical ingenuity, United Hatzalah’s community-based emergency response model has excelled in cutting response time and attending to more people who need critical care. United Hatzalah dispatchers received 245,000 calls last year, nearly a quarter of which are considered life-threatening situations.

Hooked on their effective program, United Hatzalah representatives have traveled the globe, sharing their knowledge and experience. “We have taken what we have learned in Israel and begun sharing it with others, because we know that we can help solve this worldwide challenge,” said Beer.

In July, Beer traveled to Dubai to present the model to delegates from several developing countries. This model has been deployed in countries including India, Lithuania and Panama, and recently made its debut in the United States, with Jersey City’s United Rescue.

While sharing tools has huge merit, teaching and inspiring others to better themselves is even more valuable, explain Jewish proverbs. Israeli institutions are famed as major research centers and engaged in Israel’s leading role. At Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, innumerable cutting-edge research and innovation has been born in the halls of the Rappaport Faculty of Medicine.

“Ask any researcher or academic in medicine anywhere in the world; they will tell you that Israelis are world-class, first-class innovators,” said Dr. Debra Kiez, an emergency medicine clinician in Toronto. Kiez lectures at Technion’s American Medical School (TEAMS) on how to bridge Israeli and American medical systems. “Israel is doing a large amount in medicine and science with very little; as a small yet impressive country, Israelis have a huge ability to discover, learn, innovate, research and teach,” said Kiez, who has worked in Canada, the U.S. and Israel.

“People in Israel have learned how to maximize what they can do with very little,” she said.

TEAMS educates America’s future doctors, giving them hands-on experience in a rigorous clinical setting while studying under top Israeli physicians and researchers. Graduates land residencies at top programs across North America and go on to impactful careers as physicians, educators and researchers.

Like most American alumni from Technion, Dr. Samantha Jagger, now a cardiologist in Brooklyn, studied under Nobel Prize winners and stays connected to Israel by following all the published medical research.

“When I was a student at Technion, I saw the first PillCam being tested during my rotations,” said Jagger. “Now it’s a routine practice everywhere!” Jagger added that there is a special procedure used to solve rhythmic problems in the heart developed in Israel that she and her colleagues use frequently.

Dr. Jason Brookman, a 2004 graduate of TEAMS currently working as a fellowship program director and assistant professor at John Hopkins University, said his experience in medical school was “a stepping stone for the rest of his career.”

“Medical school is the foundation, like a background in a good painting… The nitty gritty details of medical practice rely on a solid foundation in medical school,” he explained.

The benefit of studying in Israel is getting to learn from world-class experts in a diverse setting. As a small country with an extremely diverse population, Israeli doctors serve a wide range of people, with each population bringing unique diseases and cultural trends into the fold, said Kiez.

“My time at Technion and in Israel gave me a really deep cultural experience,” said Jagger. “I got a good understanding of how to deal with patients cross culturally, especially when you can’t necessarily communicate in their language.” Now working with Asian and Hispanic patients, she implements the skills and tools from working in Israeli hospitals treating Jewish, Russian, Arab and Ethiopian patients.

By combining top-class education and rich life experiences, Israeli medical-school students are bridging the world, serving also as a light, bringing positive healing into the world.

By Daniela Berkowitz

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