Safed rejoices as country’s 5th medical faculty opens

North looks forward to influx of doctors, students.

Safed Medical School 311 (photo credit: Meshoolam Levy)
Safed Medical School 311
(photo credit: Meshoolam Levy)
Increasingly starved for young doctors, the country welcomed on Sunday the opening, in Safed, of its fifth medical school and the first in nearly four decades – the Faculty of Medicine in the Galilee.
It not only brings 124 students to the city but also promises to stimulate Safed’s development and raise the quality of medical care in the North.
To mark the occasion, Prime Minister (and formally health minister) Binyamin Netanyahu convened the whole cabinet at the site of the temporary medical faculty campus and greeted President Shimon Peres, who in the past, as minister for the development of the Negev and Galilee, pushed for the opening of such an institution.
His successor, Deputy Prime Minister Silvan Shalom, also attended, as did Safed Mayor Ilan Shochat and Prof. Manuel Trajtenberg, chairman of the Council for Higher Education’s Planning and Budgeting Committee.
The new medical students increased by 18 percent the number of medical students in the country. Most of the lecturers have committed themselves to living in the Galilee.
“You young people have chosen ‘brain gain’ as opposed to ‘brain drain,’” said Peres. “By coming here you have eagerly embraced the noble Zionist ideal of developing the northern part of our country. This is the beginning of unprecedented growth in the Galilee region.
When the faculty is completed, it will change the face of the State of Israel.”
Peres added that just as Ben- Gurion University and its affiliated institutions transformed Beersheba and the Negev, he was sure that the medical school would do the same for Safed and the Galilee.
“Medicine is the soul of the Jewish people. Israel excels in developing medications and medical equipment and giving advanced medical treatment.
Medicine is an excellent model for peace and coexistence between the Jews and the Arabs, he said.
Netanyahu said his government had allocated tens of millions of shekels to establish the faculty.
“The Bar-Ilan Faculty of Medicine in the Galilee is the only one in Israel that allows those who began their studies abroad to return home to complete them,” he said.
The prime minister praised BIU and the Safed Municipality for cutting through bureaucratic red tape to complete this project in time for the opening of the 2011/12 academic year.
Bar-Ilan University, whose president is Prof. Moshe Kaveh, is the sponsor of the faculty, and the dean is Prof. Ran Tur-Kaspa, a worldrenowned expert in hepatitis viruses and liver disease and the head of Internal Medicine D at the Rabin Medical Center-Beilinson Campus.
He said he was excited to open the faculty’s first year of studies, which is “a golden opportunity” to create original thinking and new ways of teaching medicine.
“The unique and innovative curriculum is modeled on that of leading American institutions, such as Harvard Medical School, featuring an integrative teaching approach, one that links core science and clinical studies while imparting to students an orientation toward health promotion and disease prevention,” he added.
Kaveh, who raised considerable money for the faculty, said it expects to grow to 1,000 students within seven years, by which time it will move to its permanent quarters overlooking Lake Kinneret.
The partnership quartet of UJIA, UIA Canada, Russell Berrie Foundation and Rashi Foundation joined forces to fund the first building of the Bar-Ilan Faculty of Medicine, in order to ensure its opening on time.
In describing its future emphasis on research as well as on clinical study, Kaveh announced that it will establish a research center for the study of autism, the first of its kind in the country.
The student body in the temporary campus includes Jews and Arabs returning from abroad, including from prestigious institutions such as Harvard, Yale and Stanford universities.
“Finally, we will see traffic jams in Safed, and not just because of the annual Klezmer Festival,” quipped Shochat. “The city of Safed and the entire surrounding area will reap the benefits of this new faculty.”