Twelve physicians and pediatricians receive Danielle award for medicine

The Danielle Prize for Medicine with a Heart was established in memory of 20-year-old Danielle Sonnenfeld who volunteered to help sick children but died in a fatal road accident.

Mr. Elio Moti Sonnenfeld who established the Danielle Sonnenfeld Foundation in memory of his daughter.  (photo credit: Courtesy)
Mr. Elio Moti Sonnenfeld who established the Danielle Sonnenfeld Foundation in memory of his daughter.
(photo credit: Courtesy)

Surgeons and other hospital specialists involved in diagnoses and live-saving treatments of patients tend to get the most attention. But general practitioners – who are the first to see patients in distress on a year-round basis and serve as “gatekeepers” to refer them to specialists if necessary – get less attention and acclaim.

The Danielle Prize for Medicine with a Heart provides GPs with such recognition. It was established in memory of 20-year-old Danielle Sonnenfeld, who volunteered to help sick children but whose plans to study medicine were dashed by a tragic and fatal road accident in 2015.

The Danielle Sonnenfeld Foundation was established by her businessman father, Motti Sonnenfeld, with the aim of promoting “Medicine with a soul; medicine with a heart.” In 2016, the first year of the prize, parents of children in pediatric cancer wards around the country were asked to recommend a doctor or nurse who in their opinion represent the most humane kind of medicine.

Since then, the effort has expanded to GPs – and this year also to pediatricians. Over 425,000 Israelis voted for 5,500 outstanding physicians they knew, and 12 of them were chosen to receive the Danielle Prize at a Jerusalem ceremony on Sunday.

“The Jewish tradition has always valued medicine and doctors, but the Jewish tradition also emphasizes that in order to be an excellent physician, it is not enough to know medical science: One must also know human science. Medicine, as advanced as it may be – but one that lacks compassion, devotion, kindness and human love – is a medicine that is lacking," Motti said. "An excellent doctor is not only an excellent professional, an excellent doctor is one who shows greatness and devotion.”

“The Jewish tradition has always valued medicine and doctors, but the Jewish tradition also emphasizes that in order to be an excellent physician it is not enough to know medical science, one must also know human science."

Motti Sonnenfeld

Born in Rio de Janeiro, Danielle immigrated to Israel with her family and lived in Ra’anana. Every place she studied, she excelled in her studies and was a favorite of teachers and friends. Doing her national service in the oncology department of Schneider Children’s Medical Center in Petah Tikva, she was able to bring a smile to the tormented faces of the sick children and their families. She decided to dedicate her second year of service to at-risk youth in the city of Acre, and also traveled from Acre to Schneider to continue volunteering in the oncology department.

Danielle made personal connections with all of the patients. When she spoke to the young children about conquering their illnesses, it was never “you.” Instead, she always said: “We are going to get over this.”

To date, more than 100 projects have been established in her name and memory in the fields of health, education, welfare and society – in Israel, Asia, Europe and Brazil.

They include helping couples from disadvantaged families; providing services for women exposed to family violence; helping young couples cover their wedding costs; an online Bible class in Hebrew open to the public; Jewish studies in her birthplace in Brazil; a Jewish library in Milan; help to couples undergoing in-vitro fertilization; support for a bone-marrow databank; encouragement of high-risk girls to perform national service; bar/bat mitzvah ceremonies in Israel for youngsters from Europe and blind Israeli youths; and social support for prisoners’ families.

These are the 12 recipients of the 2021 Danielle Prize:

  • Dr. Amin Bathish of Daliat-el-Carmel was born in Kfar Mas’adeh on the Golan Heights, studied medicine at Damascus University in Syria and returned to Israel to treat patients in Clalit Health Services’ Haifa and Western Galilee region. In 2019, he was voted “outstanding lecturer” at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology's Rappaport Faculty of Medicine.
  • Dr. Yehoram Biron of Kiryat Yam studied medicine at the University of Bologna in Italy and went on to study at Tel Aviv University’s Sackler Medical Faculty. He has worked in Ha’emek Medical Center in Afula and Bnei Zion Medical Center in Haifa, but he won the prize for his work as a health fund physician and was even chosen as one of its “Outstanding Physicians.”
  • Dr. Nino Blum of Ashdod was born in Tbilisi, Georgia, and earned her medical degree there. After her aliyah, she did her residency in internal medicine at Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center and since 2005 has been a health fund physician in Ashdod, earning the admiration of her patients.
  • Dr. Ilanit Branstein of Rishon Lezion was born in Beersheba and studied medicine in Romania. She has been a family medicine specialist since 2011 and works in two health fund clinics where she devotedly treats several generations of patient families.
  • Dr. Paul Gaon of Modi’in was born in London and specialized there in the treatment of premature infants. He wrote a book in 2014 widely read by colleagues on pediatric medicine titled Paediatric Exams: A Survival Guide. Working in health fund clinics, he was voted “Oustanding Physician” in 2006.
  • Dr. Adam Hurvitz of Tel Mond was born in Moshav Tzur Moshe near Netanya and earned his medical degree at Ben-Gurion University. Now a family medicine specialist, he treats patients with dedication in the Sharon region.
  • Dr. Jacqui Hertzlich of Bnei Brak was born in Belgium and studied medicine in Slovakia. Specializing in pediatrics and neonatology, he works in a health fund clinic and is in charge of the premature baby unit at Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center.
  • Dr. Orsan Yihye of Migdal Ha’emek and Nazareth was born in the North and studied medicine at the Technion’s medical faculty and medical administration at the University of Haifa. He runs hospice care and treats children with mental disabilities for a health fund in the North, always showing empathy and greeting patients with a smile.
  • Dr. Sofia Lavie of Herzliya was born in Russia and earned her MD at Tel Aviv University a decade ago. She treats family medicine patients in Herzliya and diabetics in Petah Tikva. In the spring, she was part of an Israeli medical delegation to treat Ukrainian refugees on the border with Moldova.
  • Dr. Vered Nahmias-Friedler of Givat Shmuel and Bnei Brak was born in Tel Aviv and studied in the city’s medical faculty, specializing in pediatrics and then in pediatric gastroenterology, liver diseases and nutrition. At her health fund clinics, she was the first to report a repeat infection of COVID-19 early in the pandemic.
  • Dr. Miki Stein of Kiryat Ata was born in Haifa and received his MD at the Technion, after which he served as a physician in the Israel Defense Forces specializing in pediatrics. He now works in a health fund clinic.
  • Dr. Hila Shmul-Katz of Yavne was born in the city and studied medicine in Romania, returning to specialize in family medicine. She runs a primary medicine clinic in Yavne where she tries to see illness through the eyes of her patients.