The opening today of Bar-Ilan University’s new medical school in Safed is a
milestone event in the history of the State of Israel and the Jewish people.
Tomorrow, 124 students will begin their studies at this groundbreaking
institution, including 54 Israelis returning to their homeland – and to the
Galilee – from foreign universities where they have already completed three
years of pre-clinical study.
Israel’s highest-ranking government,
educational and medical leadership will be present at the school’s dedication,
the realization of a national and Zionist project of the highest
How will this medical school differ from Israel’s others?
First, in its location.The new school reflects, more than anything else, a state
commitment to developing Israel’s periphery – in this case, its northern
periphery – and to enhancing the health and welfare of those who reside there.
It is no secret that disparities exist between northern and central Israel
regarding the level, availability and accessibility of healthcare. The new
medical school, whose establishment will provide a framework for upgrading local
hospitals and for attracting outstanding physicians to them, will aid greatly in
closing these gaps.
Second, in its innovative character.
school’s academic leadership, under the leadership of its dean, Prof.
Tur-Kaspa, has succeeded in developing a unique and innovative curriculum based
on careful study of the curricula currently in place at Israeli and top-echelon
foreign medical schools. This was done in cooperation with leading American
institutions such as Harvard Medical School, the Albert Einstein College of
Medicine, the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, the Miller School of Medicine at
the University of Miami, and others.
The groundbreaking new curriculum
will feature an integrative teaching approach, one that links core science and
clinical studies while imparting to students an orientation toward health
promotion and disease prevention.
In accordance with this innovative
approach, the medical school will house research centers devoted to the study of
disease processes; the activity at these centers will be informed by a
translational-research approach and will address population health and morbidity
from a unique perspective.
The Council for Higher Education’s expert
panel had good reason to characterize the Bar-Ilan University Faculty of
Medicine in the Galilee as pioneering and inventive.
Third, in its degree
of social involvement.The medical school will place special emphasis on
ambulatory medicine as a crucial means of upgrading the healthcare available to
Galilee residents, and making it more accessible. Thirty percent of students’
time during the clinical study years will be devoted to hands-on activity in
community-based ambulatory clinics, which in turn will foster the development of
academic medicine in the community, and promote the development of research
suited to this approach. The school will also engage in activity aimed at
encouraging science education for youth, and the university will assist
disadvantaged populations through its social involvement departments and
Fourth, in its people-oriented approach.Alongside knowledge
acquisition, a grounding in medicine’s scientific underpinnings, and the
development of clinical skills, the Bar-Ilan University Faculty of Medicine in
the Galilee regards the personal character of its future graduates as a key
component of the medical school experience.
BIU medical students will be
trained to relate to patients, to empathize with them and to interact with them
and their families in a respectful manner.
Coursework in medical ethics
and in halachic approaches to medicine will play an important role in this
regard. Physicians trained at the Bar-Ilan University medical school will adhere
loyally to the Oath of the Hebrew Physician, which admonishes young physicians
to “have the wisdom to understand the soul of the sick, to lift their spirits
with perspicacity and love of man.”
The first-rate scientific caliber of
Bar Ilan University and of its research cadre has been eminently reflected over
recent years in the development of leading centers for the study of
neuroscience, nanotechnology and nanomedicine, engineering, and the life
This, in turn, has enabled Bar Ilan to meet the formidable
challenge of launching a pioneering medical school where, within a few years’
time, some 1,000 students will be studying in three-year, four-year and six-year
study tracks. The school will absorb outstanding students and scientists
returning from abroad, which will change the face of the Galilee, and serve as a
magnet for doctors, researchers and businesspeople; it will be a driving force
behind the establishment of a pharmaceutical industry, high-tech enterprises,
and a business development center.
Could anything more exciting be
happening in the Galilee today? We of Bar-Ilan University, who planted the first
seeds of academic education in the Galilee by establishing regional colleges in
Israel’s peripheries as far back as the early 1960s, are proud and elated to see
our Zionist, social and national mission come to fruition in the founding of a
medical school, one that will bring honor to the Galilee and to the State of
The writer is the president of Bar-Ilan University.