Arrivals - Dedicated to caring for children


Dr. Manuel Katz is a gifted man who chose to invest his considerable talent in a lifelong mission to advance the field of community pediatrics in Israel.
His role model was his father, a respected pediatrician in Buenos Aires. 
“As a child I remember going to consultations with my father and listening at the door,” recalls Katz. “He came from a poor family and put himself through medical school by working as a barber and playing violin at night.”
Katz and his sister attended public school, but his Jewish best friend was going to the afternoon Yiddish school. At the age of eight, Katz firmly told his parents he also wanted to go. For the next nine years he deepened his love for Hebrew and Jewish studies, especially Torah and Jewish history.
“When I graduated high school, I taught Jewish studies to sixth graders at the same school, but I was a bit of a rebel teacher,” says Katz. “I asked the children about their own views on the texts and to explain their reasoning. This was unheard of at the time.” 
This experience, and the profound wisdom of the Jewish texts, accompanied Katz throughout his life. 
Katz was a brilliant student and graduated from Buenos Aires Medical School at the age of 22 with honors, alongside his wife Ana, also a doctor. He served first as resident and then as chief resident of pediatrics in the city’s hospital for two years before becoming an instructor. In 1976 he took on the role of medical director of a nonprofit foundation, Alma, which brought medical services to the poorest provinces in northern Argentina. 
“We set up our clinic on trains and traveled from one place to another to care for babies and children,” explains Katz. “We saw the most severe cases of illness, especially dehydration and malnutrition, and diagnosed some new critical diseases.”
DURING THIS time the Argentinian government was overthrown by a cruel military dictatorship – the Junta. The reign of terror lasted from 1976 to 1983. People, especially Jews, sociologists, writers and professors, were persecuted, kidnapped and tortured, and to this day there are people who went missing whose whereabouts are unknown. 
Dr Katz narrowly escaped being part of this statistic. 
“I was caring for a patient when my boss told me I had a letter at the hospital management,” says Katz. “We all knew what a letter meant, but I refused to go until I finished caring for my patient. I still remember him.
“I was removed from the hospital and my position was terminated. For three months, I was under surveillance. Everyone we knew, close family and good friends, tried to help me and my wife, who was pregnant at the time. The Junta said that I had engaged in ‘potential terrorist’ action. Although I denied this, I feared for my life.”
After three months, Katz suddenly received another letter saying that it was all a terrible mistake, that he would be reinstated to his job and given immunity for life. 
However, the seeds of change had been planted and Katz and his wife knew that Argentina was no longer for them. In 1983, after specializing in pediatric diabetology, Katz and his wife decided to make aliyah. Ironically, the day they boarded the plane for Israel in December 1983 with their three small children Ariel, Shai and Deborah, Argentina reclaimed its democracy. 
THE KATZES could have started their professional careers at Beilinson and Meir Hospitals, but their dream was to work together. Clalit’s director general at the time recommended that Katz and his wife, an obstetrician in Argentina, go to Soroka Hospital in Beersheba, where they needed pediatricians and perhaps obstetricians. 
“The country needed us, so we took up the offer to move to Beersheba. We couldn’t imagine how different living in what was then a desert city would be,” laughs Katz. “We were naïve, but it launched both of our very successful careers.” 
Katz spoke fluent Hebrew, but his wife did not. They offered her a position as an anesthesiologist, as they told her that she “did not have to speak to the patients.” 
“Both of us started to work two and half months after our aliyah. Ana retrained and became a specialist in anesthesiology and pediatric anesthesiology,” says Katz. 
Katz’s 48-year career is impressive. He was a pioneer in community and primary care pediatrics in Israel and elsewhere, creating and leading the first Center for Children’s Health in Ofakim. He then went on to develop the first new model in pediatrics for Clalit Health Services.
He served as president of the Israel Pediatric Association and two times as chair of the Israel Ambulatory Pediatric Association and was secretary general of the European Pediatric Society. Since 2010 he has held the position of President of the Global Initiative for Consensus in Pediatrics and Child Care (CIP). 
As a leading pediatrician and public health professional, Katz was deputy director of Soroka Medical Center and from 2008 until 2019 he led the Health Ministry’s Maternal and Child Health Services in the Negev. Katz chairs the National Task Force on Domestic Violence. 
He has amassed many prestigious awards in Israel and around the world, including Illustrious Member of the Israel Ambulatory Pediatric Association in 2017 and a Lifetime Achievement Award in India in 2016. Today, Katz is the Director of the Risk Management and Patient Safety Department at Meuhedet Health Services. 
KATZ WAS instrumental in bringing 40 new immigrant doctors from Argentina to Israel together with the Absorption and Health Ministries and the Jewish Agency. All found work and successfully integrated. He was also a volunteer during several catastrophic events in Honduras and Guatemala.
His love of children, including his eight grandchildren, led him to the presidency of the Goshen nonprofit organization for community child health and wellbeing. 
“I am part of a group of leading pediatricians who founded this organization 10 years ago to bring about real change in pediatric practice and provide evidence-based parenting resources to support healthy child raising,” he says enthusiastically. “We want to care for the whole child, not just treat illness. Things like development and behavior in early childhood and overall wellbeing.”
“We also work to advance public policy to change the landscape of child health and development,” he continues. “Goshen is creating a new reality in Israel, to give every child, no matter what their circumstances, the start they deserve. 
“This is a critical investment in shaping Israel’s future.”