Bar-Ilan University President Prof. Moshe Kaveh has been traveling overseas recently to raise funds for a new medical school the university hopes to create in the Galilee.
One of the chief problems with opening the new school will be the upgrading of medical infrastructure in the North, where hundreds of millions of dollars must be invested in hospitals in order to enable them to become teaching hospitals for medical students.
"There is dramatic emigration each year from the Galilee, and medical care is a big part of that," said Kaveh. "The chances of survival for a person with heart attack complications is 50 percent lower in the Galilee than in the country's center."
In response to the need, and after establishing three colleges in the Galilee over the past two decades - "we already know the Galilee and its diverse population," says Kaveh - the university plans on founding "an entire academic city based on culture, art, and the medical school."
While he won't name a sum, Kaveh claims donors were responsive to this idea.
"We'll stand behind our commitment," he promises. "You can't establish a medical school in the Galilee without creating a serious degree program together with the local hospitals, and this will cost hundreds of millions of dollars. We will provide that if we're given the chance."
The opening of the school was approved in June by the Council for Higher Education, but a decision is pending on which university will be given the task of building it. The new school will be Israel's fifth, with the four existing medical schools belonging to the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv University, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Beersheba and the Technion, Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa.
The universities which do not have affiliated medical schools are Bar-Ilan, the University of Haifa and the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot. The main competition for the license to establish the new school is reportedly between Bar-Ilan and Haifa.
While Kaveh says "we see ourselves as the natural choice" of the academic committee that is debating which university will receive the license, "there could be cooperation between us and the University of Haifa."
Israeli medical faculties currently train fewer than 400 doctors each year, while experts have been warning for years that the country needs to train some 600. Since it takes seven years to train a doctor, the Israel Medical Association has warned that the next ten years could be marked by a growing shortage of qualified doctors. Many Israelis who can't get into Israeli faculties go overseas to countries such as Italy and Romania for their educations, and return to Israel to work.
Judy Siegel contributed to this report.
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