A multidisciplinary, holistic approach to patient care, combined with a large number of physician/scientists who take care of patients and conduct their own research are hallmarks of the Hadassah Medical Center's Internal Medicine department.
Its chair is Prof. Yaakov Naparstek, who was recently named Executive Deputy Director General of Research and Academics. As he notes, Internal Medicine is his professional project of which he is very proud. Hadassah's physician/scientists, he brings out, understand both the natural processes of the human body as a scientist would, as well as the disease as it clinically manifests itself--the way a physician would. Physician/scientists translate research they conduct in the laboratory into treatments for their patients. Therefore, he relates, they have a "unique role in developing new therapies." Personally, Prof. Naparstek notes, he believes that being a scientist makes him a better physician and being a physician makes him a better scientist.
Prof. Naparstek has always been particularly drawn to examine the functioning of the immune system and what causes it to become pathological--what causes autoimmune diseases. "I wanted to understand it; I wanted to solve it," he says. Prof. Naparstek is currently investigating lupus, which frequently affects young women. The inflammation that results from this autoimmune disease, he explains, is typically treated with drugs like corticosteroids, which suppress the immune system. His research revolves around investigating the "bad antibodies" that cause the disesase and how to remove just those antibodies and leave the good ones intact.
"While many people in the medical world ask why some people develop rheumatoid arthritis, at Hadassah," Prof. Naparstek says, "we ask why most people do not get the disease." Following this line of thinking, Hadassah looks into treatment which will replicate natural processes that keep people healthy.
Using animal models, Hadassah's physician/scientists study the protective antibodies that prevent the animal from getting arthritis. They are now performing clinical trials using protective antibodies they have created through genetic engineering and various sophisticated molecular techniques, not only with patients who have rheumatoid arthritis, but also with individuals who have other inflammatory diseases such as Crohn's and ulcerative colitis.
Plans are for the Internal Medicine Department to move into the Sarah Wetsman Davidson Hospital Tower in the spring of 2014. The new structure of the intensive care units—three intermediate ones for each of the three inpatient care departments and a fourth medical intensive care unit for more critically ill patients all in one suite--will enable the staff to work more in tandem and help one another. In addition, Prof. Naparstek says, the spacious new two-patient rooms, with privacy for each patient, will make doctor visits more comfortable for both the patient and the family and allow for more procedures to be performed at the patient's bedside.
The first member of his family to become a physician, Prof. Naparstek has been at Hadassah for 40 years. He met his wife, a hematologist, while they were both medical students at the Hadassah-Hebrew University School of Medicine. Together, when they were young physicians, they performed the first bone marrow transplantation in Israel. Prof. Naparstek, who served as a visiting professor and research fellow at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda (Maryland), Tufts University (Massachusetts), and Stanford University (California), views donors around the world as part of his family--a family that has the same vision he has: to have the best medical treatment possible for Hadassah's patients and the best modern medical research.