A pioneering program that will enable Israelis with a bachelor's degree in the sciences - and eventually, perhaps, even in philosophy, history, literature and other subjects - to become physicians in four years was announced Monday by Tel Aviv University. The idea - which TAU proposed even before a committee headed by Prof. Jonathan Halevy to recommend ways to increase the number of medical graduates reached its conclusions last year - is based on "pre-med" programs in the US and other countries. There has been no pre-med and four-year medical school curriculum in Israel; instead, after a high school graduation and (usually) army or national service, those accepted go to a seven-year medical school. Halevy told The Jerusalem Post his committee had endorsed the TAU program in its report and predicted that eventually, other Israeli universities and colleges would offer a pre-med BA curriculum, to be followed by four years at medical school. "Not every applicant admitted by medical schools turns out to be suited to the profession; this way, we may get more well-rounded and better doctors," he said. Although Israel has long had one of the highest doctor/patient ratios in the world, a shortage of doctors is predicted as early as 2012, as many physicians - especially those from the former Soviet Union who immigrated around two decades ago - begin to retire. The Halevy Committee recommended the establishment of a fifth medical school (in the Galilee) as well as a pre-med curriculum, and this was approved by the Council for Higher Education in principle. The pre-med/four-year medical school project, said Halevy, needed the appropriate infrastructure. Halevy, who is director-general of Jerusalem's Shaare Medical Center, said TAU was ready for such a program, but that the Technion's Rappaport Medical School and Ben-Gurion University's Health Sciences Faculty were probably not, while the Hebrew University was "the most conservative" medical school. TAU officials said it would consider for admission to its four-year medical program those BA graduates with grades of 80 percent and up who had taken a list of science and statistics courses and did well on an entrance exam. Students under the program would be more mature when they reached medical school, represent a wider range of academic studies and probably lead Israeli medical research, they said. Dr. Yoram Blachar, chairman of the Israel Medical Association, told the Post, "Theoretically, it is a good idea, but they didn't reinvent the wheel. It is well known in the US, for example. The problem is that increasing the number of medical students can't be done without expanding clinical departments in hospitals where they can learn." He added that the idea of accepting BA graduates whose degrees were in "philosophy, history or literature" was "ridiculous. They must be graduates in the natural sciences," Blachar asserted. TAU, he said, did not consult with the Medical Association before announcing its program.