|The Last Friday Story|
I was born at Hadassah, I studied at Hadassah, my children and grandchildren were born at Hadassah, my family receives medical treatment at Hadassah, my daughter, Irit, is a nephrologist at Hadassah. Hadassah has been my home for the last 38 years – from my first year of medical school until now – with just a few brief exceptions. In 1997, moved by the Negev's pioneering spirit, I agreed to head the Soroka Medical Center in Beersheva. For the last 11 years I have proudly headed Hadassah.
I have been at Hadassah nearly my entire adult life. I have loved every task I have undertaken, every position I have held. As I complete my tenure as Director General of the Hadassah Medical Organization, I would like to give you a summary of what has been accomplished, from a personal perspective.
As you know, Hadassah is like a magnet. Once you have been involved, it keeps drawing you back. This was certainly the case for me when I was asked to return to Hadassah in 2001 to serve as Director General. Coming home to Hadassah and to Jerusalem to assume this prestigious position filled me with a very special feeling.
My years as Director General of the Hadassah Medical Organization have been the most significant and satisfying in my professional life. For little more than a decade, I have been privileged to lead Israel's foremost medical institution. I have also been privileged to be part of Hadassah Women's Zionist Organization of America (HWZOA) – working together to help fulfill our enduring vision of strengthening Jerusalem, strengthening the State of Israel and strengthening the Jewish people by providing superlative medical care and research.
For the past 100 years, HWZOA has pioneered the advancement of medicine in the State of Israel, encompassing the entire spectrum of our society's needs. From the establishment of public health services and Tipat Chalav, well baby clinics, to promoting advanced academic medicine, HWZOA has sustained and supported the most modern, sophisticated medical treatment, technology, research and education in the Middle East.
The great privilege of serving as Director General carries with it great responsibilities – responsibility to Israel's healthcare system, responsibility to HWZOA, responsibility to the City of Jerusalem and responsibility to our thousands of employees; responsibilities that entailed years when creativity and coping went hand in hand.
We coped with uprisings and terror. We coped with financial crises that the world had never experienced. We coped with strong competition within the Israeli healthcare system and we coped with a significant number of essential and expensive needs that would allow us to remain in the forefront of international medicine.
These challenges required us to create and be creative. Indeed, these 11 years have been rich in creative achievement – so much so that today the Hadassah Medical Organization is known throughout the world; a symbol of inspired excellence, innovation, research and medical care.
The beginning of the decade brought the Intifada and its thousands of victims. It also brought HMO further acclaim as we gave the world new approaches to dealing with trauma in orthopedics, neurosurgery – actually, in all fields of medicine. Despite their serious and life-threatening injuries, we saved most of those patients, proving that our treatments and our methodology were superb. The Intifada also brought with it an ethical dilemma as we coped with the quandary of treating terrorists as well as their victims. Our instinctive response – and subsequent actions – earned us world respect, massive media coverage and a nomination for a Nobel Peace Prize.
While we coped with the daily influx of terror victims, we also created, planned and built a state-of-the-art facility for emergency medicine. The Judy and Sidney Swartz Center for Emergency Medicine is one of the most modern in the world. It enables us to efficiently and effectively handle any mass casualty event, any type of war – and the ever-increasing stream of patients who arrive with ordinary and extraordinary medical problems.
At the same time, our concern for children was also paramount. At Ein Kerem, we added three floors to our Charlotte R. Bloomberg Mother and Child Center; at Mt. Scopus, we built a new Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and created a Center for Children with Chronic Diseases. We filled our pediatric departments with special services for children and their families, while enhancing medical treatment and research.
Creativity flourished throughout our Medical Center. In the operating rooms, we married the latest technology with medical ingenuity. Introducing computers and robots allowed our surgeons to perform Computer-Assisted Surgery and conduct the most modern minimally invasive surgery; it enabled them to insert a pacemaker into the brain to treat movement disorders and to employ miniscule endovascular instruments to treat strokes and other complications in the brain.
We sent our doctors on fellowships to the best medical centers in the world. When they came back to Hadassah, they contributed their newly-acquired knowledge and experience, engendering new methodologies, protocols and devices so that Hadassah would continue to be the shining star of Israeli medicine.
We developed new types of treatment in many areas, such as oncology, diabetes, rheumatology and dermatology. We advanced psychological therapies for trauma victims, both adults and children. We showed the world how to use stem cells to treat patients with Multiple Sclerosis and ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease. Hadassah's initiatives and innovations energized and excited the global medical community. These achievements – and many more – brought people to Jerusalem from around the world; people anxious to be treated by and at Hadassah.
During the past decade we made a substantial investment in Nursing Services. Today, I am proud to tell you, that investment has reaped outstanding results. Evaluated by independent surveys, Hadassah received the highest grades in nursing professionalism, professional independence and of course, concern and care for the patients and their families.
Every great medical institution is measured by the quality of its research as well as by the quality of care it provides. By this yardstick, Hadassah most deservedly merits its outstanding reputation.
Almost a decade ago, we devised a lifesaving protocol using genetically treated cells to treat children born without immune systems. Over the years, Hadassah's pre-eminence in stem cell research – both adult and human embryonic stem cells – has garnered international attention. At the moment, we are just a year away from clinical trials to test the effectiveness of human embryonic stem cells on treating Age-related Macular Degeneration, the major cause of blindness in the Western World. Our genetic diagnosis – the ability to identify new genes –– continues to move forward at a dizzying pace and is among the most advanced in the world.
Throughout our Medical Center – in almost every department and unit – our physician-researchers are seeking new ways to treat age-old diseases and conditions. Our research on melanoma, breast cancer, brain tumors and other cancers, on Crohn's disease, diabetes and other autoimmune diseases, holds great promise. The same is true of research in Cystic Fibrosis, pediatric neurological diseases and those that plague adults – Multiple Sclerosis, ALS, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and many other lesser-known conditions.
Our research has resulted in the development of new surgical tools for the operating and catheterization rooms; it has generated innovative technologies for treating infertility and for pre-implantation diagnosis.
Research enables us to practice translational medicine – the "translation" of basic research into real therapies for real patients. Our excellence in research makes it possible for us to translate its results into practical applications through Hadasit, Hadassah's technology transfer company. As of today, hundreds of patents have been granted and tens of companies have been established based on HMO research.
A commitment to medical education has always been part of the HMO philosophy. Throughout the years, we have helped train the next generation of medical professionals through the five schools we share with the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Recently, the Hebrew University-Hadassah School of Medicine opened a military medical program, which will greatly benefit the Israel Defense Forces. The Henrietta Szold Hadassah-Hebrew University School of Nursing created a Master's Degree program that enhanced the school's academic standing. The Hebrew University-Hadassah School of Occupational Therapy, the Hebrew University-Hadassah School of Dental Medicine and the Hebrew University-Hadassah Braun School of Public Health and Community Medicine have received outstanding grades in international assessments.
We believe preventive medicine is the way to best preclude later medical crises. Consequently, we have reached out to the community with many unique projects that demonstrate our commitment to the people beyond our Medical Center's campuses. These active and pro-active projects address many issues and assist many different audiences. For teenagers, we initiated the "Fight Motor Vehicle Accidents" program; for women, we established health centers that empower and advance their status. We stressed healthy eating and healthy living. For all of us who breathe the air and drink the water, we created Green Hadassah and other environmental projects that reflect our concern for the world we live in.
In a country whose neighbors are not always our best friends, a country whose population contains more than 100 ethnic groups, I am proud of HMO's outreach programs and collaborative medical relationships at home and abroad – but I am especially proud of the example we set by who we are and what we do.
For the past 11 years, you and I, my friends, have worked together to nourish and nurture our Medical Center so it will continue to flourish.
At the same time, we constantly looked ahead, analyzed what we saw and acted to propel HMO to even more distinguished achievements. We recruited exceptional young doctors and those with established reputations to staff our Medical Center. We developed fresh new programs for young physician-researchers and purchased the most modern medical equipment in the world – all so that we could continue to excel in patient care and research.
Above all we invested in the future. Together, we built the Sarah Wetsman Davidson Hospital Tower. Inspired by Judy and Sidney Swartz, who led the fundraising campaign, working together, you and I, HWZOA leaders and countless dear friends, created a new Ein Kerem campus.
You, my friends – and particularly you, our Hadassah physicians, nurses, researchers and personnel – and the hundreds of thousands of donors who have supported HWZOA and HMO for the last 100 years – have made Hadassah the outstanding Medical Center it is today and guaranteed an even more illustrious tomorrow. Here, I would like to acknowledge three women who have assisted me in preparing and producing these Friday stories – Osnat Moskowitz, Sarabeth Lukin and Shoshanah Kahn – three experts in creativity and coping. I am grateful to them – and each and every one of you – for your unqualified devotion, your concern and caring and especially for your love for Hadassah and the State of Israel.
As I write this, my final Friday Story, I am reminded of the words of Pirkei Avot: "It is not incumbent upon you to finish the task, but neither are you free to absolve yourself from it." I have been privileged to have been given the "task" of serving as Director General of the Hadassah Medical Organization and the great honor inherent in it. It is a "task" I could not have undertaken or accomplished without the support and partnership of my wife, Dina, and the members of my family.
Now, as I pass on the mantle to Prof. Ehud Kokia, I also pass on my heartfelt wish that he experience immense personal satisfaction and professional success as he leads this great organization. While this stage of my Hadassah life is drawing to a close, I know that all of you remain to assist him in continuing the tasks we began together and realizing the vision that will bring Hadassah to even greater heights.
I complete my tenure with great pride and love for the organization, for the Medical Center, for each and every one of you – and with profound gratitude to the Creator of the Universe who bestowed upon me the honor of serving in this position at this critical time in the life of our Medical Center, in the life of our capital, Jerusalem, and in our country.