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Social Networking of Another Kind

As the barrage of rockets fell on southern Israel over the weekend, my thoughts constantly turned to the people under attack. My family and I live on the edge of the zone under attack. We heard the sirens and from within our shelter, could hear the rockets hitting Ashdod. While we sat there and listened to the destruction raining down just three or four kilometers – or a couple of miles – south of us, I imagined what the people huddled in the shelters there were experiencing. I thought especially how the 200,000 children were spending their time and how their families were helping them cope during those endless hours waiting for the "all clear." As I write this from Jerusalem, the rockets continue to fall on those cities in the south. To give you some idea of what those children are experiencing, on the right is a picture from the front page of today's newspaper.

Here in Israel, it does not take a great leap of imagination for most people to picture themselves and their families in those circumstances. Many of us have experienced those situations in the past.

While not exactly analogous, I thought of the people near the Negev border again as I reviewed my recent meeting with Rita Avramov, Head of HMO's Department of Social Services, and heard her description of the principles that inspire all their activities. Hadassah's social workers have a significant presence in both our hospitals. They are there to help people absorb difficult news and assist them and their families in adjusting to new circumstances. I hope there were some trained social workers among those in the shelters. I know they could make a difference.

In the Cancer Center, the Mother and Child Center and the Internal Medicine and Psychology Departments, our social workers serve as team leaders, helping provide psychosocial assistance. Their activities are many and varied. They counsel patients in the hospital, advising them of their rights and helping them make the necessary arrangements for continued care in the community. They provide support for patients' spouses and children, sometimes dealing with the aftermath of disability and death. Sometimes they deal with placing babies in foster homes, sometimes they serve by just being there. They are warm and caring professionals who act as liaisons between our patients and the outside world, battling bureaucratic problems with the ease of experience.

The term Social Networking has become very much a part of our vocabulary in recent years, and its use equally prevalent on the Internet. After my meeting, Social Networking acquired a completely different meaning. For me, it really applies to how our social workers interact with others in the Medical Center and with their equally broad network of partners in the community. Yesterday, I gained an even greater insight during a meeting with Miri Ziv, Director General of the Israel Cancer Association (ICA), Prof. Tamar Peretz, Head of the Sharett Institute of Oncology, Dr. Marc Wygoda, Chief of the Radiotherapy Unit in the Department of Oncology and Ms. Avramov.

As we discussed the projects the Israel Cancer Association supports at Hadassah, it was clear that the Department of Social Work Services is instrumental in keeping every one updated and suggesting new areas of cooperation. The ICA works with our physicians and scientists on research projects and helps us determine and acquire new and essential equipment; they had a major role in the establishment of the Social Work Department's extensive translation services, which helps patients personally or by telephone in Arabic, Russian and Amharic – and continue to help support it.

Along with their involvement with the ICA and other public and private agencies, Hadassah's social workers have an extensive and demanding roster of responsibilities. In addition to intervening in crises and providing support services during mass casualty events, they are always on hand to listen and offer advice. Using their Social Network, they are there to work with community welfare and health services to help plan long-term care. They are there to facilitate support groups, administer Kivunim, Hadassah's Patient Information Center, train student social workers; conduct and publish research and teach in the Hebrew University-Hadassah School of Medicine. Despite their heavy load, the 64 academically trained staff members cope with it all with concern and compassion.

Just entering their office, immediately puts you at ease. Its open and friendly atmosphere helps you understand how our social workers relate to our patients – and just a short conversation reveals that Social Networking within the Medical Center and in the community was part of their lives long before it became fashionable.

Most sincerely,

Prof. Ehud Kokia
Director General

Date: 3/13/2012 12:00:00 AM

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