Sheba International: Presenting Sheba to the nations

"Sheba today is an equal player on the playing field of outstanding health care, medical innovation, clinical research, and humanitarian aid"

Sheba International signs agreement with APEX in Abu Dhabi. (photo credit: SHEBA'S COURTESY)
Sheba International signs agreement with APEX in Abu Dhabi.
(photo credit: SHEBA'S COURTESY)
They say it's lonely at the top, but Sheba Medical Center, which has earned a Top Ten ranking from Newsweek magazine for the second year in a row, is in excellent company. Now in 9th place, Sheba stands shoulder to shoulder with medical trailblazers such as the Mayo Clinic, the Cleveland Clinic, Massachusetts General Hospital, Toronto General Hospital and more.

"Making it to the Top Ten reflects the recognition on the part of the global medical community that Sheba today is an equal player on the playing field of outstanding health care, medical innovation, clinical research, and humanitarian aid," says Yoel Har-Even, the Director of the International Division & Resource Development at Sheba.

A Global Leader

It was at the height of the COVID-19 crisis, in March-April 2020, that Sheba was seen not only as an equal, but a leader, both at home and globally. Har-Even attributes Sheba's military culture of preparedness, flexibility, and cooperation to its ability to continually adapt itself to the changing conditions of the pandemic.

"When most of the other hospitals had closed their gates and were barely dealing with COVID, we understood that life goes on — women will still need to deliver; there will be myocardial infarctions, strokes, psychiatric episodes, the need for emergency surgeries," notes Ofra Gordon, the Director of

Sheba’s international division. And it was with this understanding that Sheba continued to operate all its regular wards, while taking all the necessary precautions to contain coronavirus infection. At the same time, it was the first hospital in Israel to establish a dedicated corona maternity ward and corona psychiatric ward.

Sheba was eager to share all the knowledge and experience accrued. "We made ourselves available to all other facilities worldwide, whether they wanted information on how to build a COVID ICU, needed to discuss cases and treatment, etc. We couldn't send doctors, so we held webinars and meetings via Zoom," says Gordon.

Decades of Hard Work

Yoel Har-Even clarifies that the Newsweek ranking did not come about by chance or by miracle. "It's the culmination of 70 years of effort, started by the hospital's founder, Professor Chaim Sheba and his successor, Professor Mordechai Shani. The credit goes to these two giants who built up this hospital, brick by brick, with the goal of building the best possible facility and providing Israelis with a world-class standard of medical care."

Gordon notes one of the most important achievements of Newsweek's recognition, "It changed the way we at Sheba view ourselves. If we once looked upon the collaboration with top medical institutions around the world as a way to benefit our own patients, and our own community within Israel, we now appreciate our role as an international facility, with all the responsibility that comes with that. We call this, ‘Sheba Global Impact.’ Whatever activities we choose to invest in, whether its collaboration, innovation, simulation or research and development, our purpose is to serve the international community, not only the local one.  By the same token, all our activities are built on collaboration and partnerships with international giants. When we work together, we understand that we can do much more."

Four-Pronged Strategy

Sheba International has developed various tools to present Sheba to the world through four chief areas of activity: business, philanthropy, humanitarian and foreign affairs.

"Those four categories comprise within them different endeavors including medical tourism, clinical collaboration, collaboration with startups, fellowships around the world, field hospitals in areas struck by disaster and more," says Har-Even. All these multifaceted operations have one goal: to maximize Sheba's global impact.

Sheba International is fully cognizant of the fact that in all its dealings, it is representing Sheba Medical Center, but also, the State of Israel, with all the diplomacy and sensitivity that this entails.

"I could be meeting with the ambassador of an African country, with the objective to provide humanitarian aid. But in the course of our discussion, it comes out that what they really want is medical training for their staff. Alternately, I could be meeting with someone to discuss a philanthropic option, but then I realize that what they really want is to be a business partner in one of the startup innovations at the ARC Center."

Sheba International webinar with China.

(photo credit: SHEBA'S COURTESY)
The Vision

The policy at Sheba, spearheaded by Director Professor Yitshak Kreiss, is that collaboration is not an option, it's a necessity. "No nation today can depend only on itself; the medical community depends on mutual knowledge-sharing and collaboration, and in that arena, Israel has much to contribute. We may be poor in natural resources but we have our people, our wisdom," says Har-Even. He points out that the startup ecosystem, of which ARC is a prototype, is the direction of the future.

"We're going to be seeing more and more how innovation takes over traditional techniques in medicine, and COVID was the watershed," he says. "Prior to COVID, telemedicine had been an experimented with as a supplementary medical service, but physicians felt threatened by the technology that went against all methods of good practice that they'd been taught. Yet in today's post-COVID world, technology is no longer perceived as a constraint, but an enabler."

Goal oriented and primed for success, both Har-Even and Gordon are aiming to continue climbing the list to reach the coveted first place. "When Sheba first made it to the Top Ten, in March 2019, Sheba's director, Professor Yitshak Kreiss, received a phone call from his mother. A veteran Sheba employee, who had worked for 40 years as a nursing assistant, she was bursting with pride, so overcome with emotion she was unable to speak. Kreiss's father, a Holocaust survivor, took the phone. "Yitshak," he said. "Next year, I want you pass the Germans, you hear me?"

Har-Even pauses, indicating the hospital in Berlin which was ranked in fifth place. "I think it's in the DNA of this organization, to always strive for more, for better. Professor Kreiss told us that in its first 70 years, Sheba had established itself within Israel. Now, for the next 70 years, we'll work to establish Sheba globally."

Sheba is doing just that, through careful planning and directed activities. "It's not that we're abandoning Israel; we're shifting our view. We call ourselves, the City of Health. That's wonderful, but we can do so much more – and that is reflected in our new slogan and logo, Hope Without Boundaries.

Prof. Elhanan Bar-On on a humanitarian mission to assist refugees on the island of Lesbos.
(photo credit: SHEBA'S COURTESY)
This article was written in cooperation with Sheba Medical Center.