The dean of the Hebrew University- Hadassah Medical School – celebrating the 60th anniversary of its first graduation class – charges that the “State of Israel has neglected the area of medicine, and it is today at the bottom of the state’s order of preferences.”

Prof. Eran Leitersdorf said this will be one of the issues to be discussed by an expected 1,000 graduates at the two-day conference, which will be held on Wednesday evening and all day Thursday.

“The portion of the national expenditures on medicine from the gross domestic product has not risen in the last decade, something which is in total contradiction to the other nations in the OECD, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development [of which Israel is a member],” said Leitersdorf in an interview in his office..

The amounts spent privately on medicine have continually grown, while the public expenditures have gone down, he continued, the result of which is that “equal medical care for all, in which we took such pride in the past and in whose spirit we educated our medical students since the establishment of our medical school, has become increasingly medicine for the rich,” he stated, adding that the population’s health status is as important to the country’s future as security.

“We hope the conference at the Jerusalem International Convention Center will be a platform for academic discussion on the principal aspects and goals for medicine in our country in the coming decades and also to call attention of the government to the importance of the security of its citizens’ health and not just their political security,” said Leitersdorf, a 1975 graduate of the school.

The dean said that medical students and doctors today are just as good as they were in his time but they are different; they multitask and spend much less time searching for information and on other technical matters, thanks to computers, and they want to spend more of their time with their families and on volunteer activities.

The participants – out of 5,000 graduates of the country’s first medical school, about 3,000 of them working professionally or retired – will have not only a reunion but also debate pressing issues involving the shaping of Israeli medicine in the coming 40 years, when the school’s centenary will be observed.

“We will raise at the conference a number of urgent topics facing us today, including the shortage of specialty physicians in the periphery and the long waiting periods of patients for treatment,” said Prof. Benny Drenger, head of the medical school’s alumni association and a senior Hadassah anesthesiologist.

Some 200 Jerusalem medical students will also take part in discussions on the future of medicine, including research, medical technology, globalization and ethical issues.

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