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The Hadassah Model

Diary of A Director General
By Prof. Ehud Kokia
Director General, Hadassah Medical Organization

Dear Family and Friends of Hadassah,

You may have seen the article called "The Hadassah Model" that caused quite a stir when it appeared a couple of weeks ago in Yedioth Achronoth, a popular Hebrew daily. When it was translated, printed and reprinted in many media outlets, the person who wrote it attracted more attention than what was written. Kamel Husseini, the founder and managing director of a Palestinian public relations and communications company, reiterated what most of the world has known for a very long time.

".. In my opinion, there is only one hope to cure the situation in Jerusalem: Israeli Cabinet ministers, and the entire Israeli society, who are not sensitive to their neighbors, will go to visit Hadassah hospital in Jerusalem. There, Palestinian and Israeli cancer patients relate to each other in a human way, and respect each other in spite of the differences and conflicts between them.

"During the past 12 years I used to take my mother from time to time to Hadassah for cancer treatment. I used to spend full days there with Jewish doctors and nurses, who protected their Jewish ideals and treated every patient with a sense of humanity. Often I felt that as Arabs and Palestinians we received special treatment. The Jewish doctors and nurses never gave me a feeling of being different or discriminated. At Hadassah, it doesn't matter who you are. They encourage you to fight the disease and other dangers which are much more important than all our wars. There, in the treatment rooms, Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs unite in searching for a cure, in praying to their god. They all rise above the conflict and hate and become humans. I salute to the Jewish model of Hadassah and hope that this model will affect all of Israel.

"Israel has to think on the long run, and this Jewish model is the one which should rule .."

The political situation is complex. We can debate whether the Palestinians are our enemies, our neighbors or fall into a category somewhere in between, as many of us do. But at Hadassah the issue is quite simple. We treat people according to the nature of their illness not according to their ethnic identity, political opinions or personalities. Our staff, which encompasses the same spectrum of ethnicities, is chosen for how well they fit the position. For us, disease is the enemy, not the person in whose body it resides, not the doctor or nurse. As an African-American woman noted, "anyone who believes Israel is an apartheid state, only has to walk through Hadassah to see that isn't true."

The day she visited our Medical Center, a Moslem child from Iran was being treated in the department. Even in countries where the leaders issue hateful statements, their people understand the Hadassah Model.

Recently, many of our doctors were involved in treating and curing an 11-year-old Palestinian girl I'll call Aya. She was born with Thalassemia Major, an inherited blood disease whose long-term effects are debilitating and often fatal. The condition can be treated with a bone marrow transplant, which is complicated and risky, but her parents chose this path with the hope of giving her a better future.

Complicated is a mild description of her medical experience at Hadassah. After a suitable donor was found and a successful transplant performed, Aya developed a rare severe complication of Guillain-Barré syndrome, a disorder that causes paralysis within the peripheral nervous system. With prompt and proper treatment, it too can be cured. After several weeks in our Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, she recovered and went home, healthy and happy.

Aya began her Hadassah journey in the Department of Pediatric Hematology and Oncology where Fatma Hussein has served as Outpatient Head Nurse for nearly three decades. She is always happy to explain the department's diverse patient population and staff of Israelis, Palestinians, Christians, Moslems and children from around the world to our visitors. And she always concludes with the statement that "if the whole world got along as well as our department, the world would be a better place." As Kamel Husseini wrote, this is the Hadassah Model.

Organ transplants are not unusual at Hadassah, even organ transplants where the recipient is a Palestinian and the donor an Israeli, or vice-versa. A few weeks ago, a 41-year-old Palestinian man from Bethlehem received a kidney of a 38-year-old Israeli who suffered a fatal stroke. When the Israeli National Center for Organ Transplantation found no suitable candidate in the Israeli registry, they turned to the Palestinian Authority and the cross-border cooperation began. The Palestinian patient is recovering nicely and will soon go home. The Israeli family chose not to speak to the media, but they told us they felt privileged to participate in "creating the mosaic of peace."

This too, is the Hadassah Model, as is the story of the sophisticated laser surgery that was performed in the uterus on identical Palestinian twins to separate their intertwined blood vessels so each would be born healthy.

Our files are full of stories like these, stories that are often not publicized, stories that remind us of who we are as people and how we at Hadassah have practiced medicine from our earliest days.

This week we celebrated Chanukah throughout our hospitals and even in the Sarah Wetsman Davidson Hospital Tower. As they do every year, members of the Hapoel Yerushalayim basketball team came to celebrate with the children in the Charlotte R. Bloomberg Mother and Child Center and visit with those who could not leave their beds. Looking around the packed room where the party was held, I saw secular and religious Jewish children jostling with Christian and Moslem Arab children for a position near the players. For us, the parties we hold, the people we treat and the medicine we practice adhere to the same principle. It's the Hadassah Model.

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