International Women's Day: The female doctors of Soroka

Brief profiles of five top physicians at Soroka Medical Center, part of Clalit Health Services

Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba (photo credit: DR. AVISHAI TEICHER/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)
Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba
 In observance of International Women's Day, we present brief profiles of five top physicians at Soroka Medical Center, part of Clalit Health Services, who discuss their vision, their work at Soroka, medical treatment during corona, and their thoughts about International Women's Day.
Dr. Keren Rouvinov, Acting Head of Oncology Department, Legacy Heritage Oncology Center and Doctor Larry Norton Institute
“My vision as a physician,” says Dr. Keren Rouvinov, acting head of the Oncology Department at Soroka Medical Center, “is to provide the very best care for my patients and to be there for them. I want to continue my progress in my research and my profession.”  
Dr. Rouvinov, a medical oncologist specializing in urogenital tract malignancies, has been associated  with  Soroka for  18 years and notes that the hospital combines groundbreaking treatment with personal care. “We are being equipped with the newest technologies for radiotherapy to provide innovative treatment.” 
She adds that Soroka places great emphasis on research and notes that “Research is an important part of oncology. The oncology department’s research unit is advanced and provides opportunities and possibilities for innovative research and treatment.”
Dr. Rouvinov says that the oncology department at Soroka continued its full range of treatments for oncology patients during the corona pandemic. International Women’s Day is a signficant day for Dr. Rouvinov. “Every year,  on International Women’s Day, I look at myself and those around me and see that women can and are able to advance, reach influential positions, and become leaders.”
Dr. Keren RouvinovDr. Keren Rouvinov
Dr. Tehila Kaisman-Elbaz, Senior Neurosurgeon
Dr. Tehila Kaisman-Elbaz, a senior neurosurgeon at Soroka Medical Center, intends to specialize in neurosurgical oncology and is dedicated to providing individualized treatment for all of her patients. “I want to promote treatment that is tailored for each patient so that I can differentiate each brain tumor by its specific characteristics and adjust the treatment for the individual patient.” 
She speaks highly of the close relationship between Soroka Medical Center and the faculty of health sciences at nearby Ben-Gurion  University and suggests that this relationship will lead to advancements in treating neuro-oncological  diseases. “One of the things that is special here,” she says, “is the excellent relationship between clinicians and researchers in hubs and forums. The connection between clinic and research and technology will lead to the advancement of treatment for illnesses.”
This summer, Dr. Kaisman-Elbaz will be beginning a two-year fellowship at the renowned Cleveland Clinic, where she will study new techniques in the treatment of brain tumors. “They have many innovative techniques, including focused radiation for brain tumors. In addition, an essential part of  my work is research, and I will study the genetics of brain tumors, their classification, and advanced molecular methods.”  
Dr. Kaisman-Elbaz is looking forward to returning to Israel when her fellowship ends to apply the new technologies to her work at Soroka. She says that her department was less directly affected than others by the corona pandemic but has  been treating corona patients from time to time and is committed to providing the best neurosurgical treatment for their diseases. “Our work routine has changed since the pandemic. In some ways and although there have been numerous  difficulties,” she adds, “corona made us more effective. Meetings on Zoom, for example, were more efficient and allowed us to focus more on advancing patient treatment.”
Dr. Kaisman-Elbaz says that Soroka Medical Center’s flexibility regarding her work as a neurosurgeon, research, and family was ideal. “It was an important consideration in terms of choosing a place to work. Women can practice medicine, conduct research, and can combine the two with raising a family. “She lists Prof. Rivka Carmi, the former Ben-Gurion University president, as a distinguished role model. “Prof. Carmi has supported me through my medical career, for which I am very grateful. Soroka Medical Center, and specifically  my  department  heads,  Dr. Avi Cohen and Dr. Israel Melamed, gave me a great deal of support and enabled me to do all of these  things with a great deal of consideration and flexibility.”
Dr. Tehila Kaisman-ElbazDr. Tehila Kaisman-Elbaz
Prof. Yael Refaely Allal, Director of Thoracic Surgery, Soroka Medical Center
Chairperson of The Israeli Society of Thoracic Surgery 
Prof. Yael Refaely, head of thoracic surgery at Soroka Medical Center, has witnessed a revolution in her specialty during her 27-year medical career. 
“Thoracic surgery has received a great deal of momentum through technology,” she says, “and has transitioned from major, open-chest surgery to video-assisted  thorascopic  surgery  and  robotic  surgery.” 
Prof. Refaely, who has been at Soroka for ten years, says that a great deal of innovation is  occurring  in  the  world  of  medicine  in  many different areas. She says that online and digital medicine, which have become popular during the pandemic, will continue to make an impact in the coming years. While she notes that nothing can replace the face-to-face encounter between a doctor and a patient, many medical issues can be alleviated through online treatment.
She expects a huge investment in health technology in the coming years that will improve the knowledge and understanding of diseases along with improving treatment and the ability to tailor the best treatment to each patient. “We have more control over the data, and we strive to improve communication between the various care providers who treat each patient in order to improve the quality of care.” While technological advances in revolutionary medicine, Prof. Refaely notes that it is equally important to maintain compassion and kindness in the care of the patient. At Soroka Medical Center, says Prof. Refaely, a special connection has been maintained between patients and the medical staff. “The  medical staff in the South is part of a community to which it feels a huge commitment and responsibility,” she says.
The triangular connection between the hospital, community medicine and the patient is special and unique in the southern region. Prof. Refaely notes that Soroka’s proximity to Ben-Gurion University is important, in light of the significant collaborations  between the hospital and the university.
Prof. Refaely says that International Women’s Day is especially significant for women in medicine: “More and more women are entering medicine and integrating into areas that were male dominant in the past, such as surgery, health  management, and others. The profession is undergoing great change as a result. Our challenge is to find a new balance and use the benefits that the change brings with it in a productive and creative way.”
Prof. Yael Refaely AllalProf. Yael Refaely Allal
Dr. Michal Maimon – Director of the Pediatric Emergency Department and Director of Suspected Child Abuse and Neglect Team, Saban Pediatric Medical Center
”As a physician, my vision is to provide professional and humane care to all of my patients while  being  attentive to every family’s unique characteristics,” says Dr. Michal Maimon, a pediatrician and head of the pediatric emergency department and the Suspected Child Abuse & Neglect Team at Soroka Medical Center in Beersheva. Dr. Maimon, a graduate of the medical school at Ben Gurion University, has spent her entire medical career at Soroka, apart from a fellowship at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto.
Dr. Maimon has introduced several innovations to the pediatric emergency department, including sedation, bedside use of ultrasound, and treatment of pediatric trauma by a team of pediatricians. She has received training in treating child abuse and sexual assault and established a hospital service for examining children who have been victims of sexual assault. Previously, children in southern Israel requiring this treatment needed  to  be  transferred to hospitals in the country’s center.
Soroka Medical Center is a tertiary medical center that provides advanced medical services for Negev residents. “One of the challenges we face  in  the  Negev,”  says  Dr.  Maimon,  “is providing quality care for children – even for  those who may be living in conditions different than what is usually found in the Western world. For example, a child with diabetes may live in an area without electricity and needs insulin that must be refrigerated“.
Dr. Maimon recalls that when the pandemic arrived in Israel, there was a great deal of concern among staff, but she says, “Thanks to the mutual support and partnership we overcame the difficulties, and today we are standing tall against the challenges of corona.”
International Women Day, says Dr. Maimon, is an opportunity to highlight women’s achievements and show girls and young women that they don’t have to choose between their careers or self-fulfillment and between being an involved and loving mother – they can have both.
Dr. Michal MaimonDr. Michal Maimon
Prof. Reli Hershkovitz–Director of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Saban Birth & Maternity Center
Vice Dean & Director of School of Medicine, Joyce and Irving Goldman Medical School, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.
“My goal is to provide the best and most innovative medical care for  women  while  maintaining their dignity and the dignity of our staff,” says Prof. Reli Hershkovitz, director of the Obstetrics and Gynecology Division at Soroka Medical Center. Hershkovitz has spent her entire medical career at Soroka since 1993, with the exception of a one-year fellowship at University College Hospital in London.
Soroka has the largest number of births of any hospital in Israel, and Prof. Hershkovitz says that the hospital had to make special arrangements to deal with the corona pandemic over the past year. “We made special birthing rooms for women infected with corona. We also prepared an operating room for women giving birth who had  corona.” In addition, says Prof. Hershkovitz, the hospital encouraged women with health issues to come to the hospital for treatment if they were not feeling well, rather than staying away due to fear of becoming infected with corona. 
As part of her responsibilities as the head of OB-GYN at Soroka, Prof. Hershkovitz encourages her staff to utilize new technologies, equipment, and techniques. She specializes in gynecological ultrasound and has introduced numerous technologies, including 3-D ultrasound, vaginal ultrasound, and hysterosalpingography, a radiologic procedure that investigates the shape of the uterine cavity and the shape and patency of the fallopian tubes.
For Prof. Hershkovitz, International Women’s Day is an opportunity to promote the outstanding abilities and talents of women and to help use their abilities to help resolve cultural imbalances in the treatment of women. She speaks with pride about her department. “The Obstetrics and Gynecology Division at Soroka is the largest tertiary division of its kind in the world. Our department is staffed with excellent, top-quality doctors, nurses, midwives, and medical support staff.”
Prof. Reli HershkovitzProf. Reli Hershkovitz