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Henrietta Szold - Health Pioneer (Part 5)

The Founder’s Role in Hadassah’s Medical Program
By Tamar de Sola Pool and Minnie W. Halpern

Research

Henrietta Szold attached superlative importance to science and scientific work in the application of the art of medicine. Without science, she stated, we have no future. Our scientific foundations are fundamental and inescapable in the development of Hadassah's health services. With that standard before her, it was natural that shortly after the organization of the Hebrew University a bond was established between its divisions of biological sciences and Hadassah. An early agreement guaranteed that in selecting its senior personnel, both the Hebrew University and Hadassah would consider their mutual needs and demand qualifications for heads of departments satisfactory to both. The cooperation between the Hebrew University's scientific men and Hadassah has gone on without interruption.

"Hadassah has become a major factor in the promotion of research ... 'Healing' in a world which made incredibly rapid advances in medical science can no longer be a matter only of the hospital and the clinic; it must also be sought in the study and the laboratory. Realizing this, Hadassah in alliance with the Hebrew University devoted more and more of its attention to research. The results have been deeply rewarding and Hadassah today finds its place in the front ranks of Israeli medical research organizations."

The above sentences are taken from a recently issued book called MEDICAL AND BIOLOGICAL RESEARCH IN ISRAEL edited by Dr. Moshe Prywes and published jointly by the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and Hadassah. Without basic and applied research, the healing and teaching aspects of the medical program could not have progressed with the pace they assumed, especially during the war and post-war periods. In Israel, with its unique variety and problems of population, climate, and social and economic hardships, the role of the research scientist is both impressive and imperative.

When the Hebrew University opened its first building on Mt. Scopus near Jerusalem in 1925, and subsequently set up its various departments, it seemed natural that Hadassah, with an established medical program in Palestine, should link its forces with the University for the furtherance of the country's health needs. In 1940 Hadassah entered into an agreement with the Hebrew University for the establishment of an undergraduate medical school and later for the erection of a Hadassah University Hospital and Medical Center to adjoin the buildings on Mt. Scopus. The medical laboratories of the Hebrew University were opened to serve the Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem and the physicians staffed both institutions alike.

Hadassah undertook the responsibility for some of the departments and made increasing allocations for research work. Over twenty experimental laboratories were established for research in different branches of medicine. Additional research of extreme importance was carried on at the Kiryat Hayovel Community Center, on the integration of preventive and curative services in a community. The Fellowship Program enabled doctors to do specialized study and research in the United States and other countries. The growth of the Medical School has given added stimulus and impetus to medical research and its 500 graduates have helped to carry on valuable basic and applied research in biology and medicine, this despite the difficult physical conditions under which the School has operated in Jerusalem.

Hadassah began its research work in the earliest days of its history and therefore had much to contribute to its partnership with the University. Let us try to get a layman's view of this work. Before World War II, Palestine's Jewish population was already heterogeneous in nature with all its attending problems. Demographic and climatic conditions made the country itself a major laboratory. It could be expected to concentrate and do arresting work in the field of tropical medicine. Parasitology became, indeed, a department where the original contributions constituted a world health service on the part of both the Hebrew University and Hadassah.

The war years 1939-1945 were marked not only by some outstanding advances in medical research in Palestine, but also served to bring Jewish Palestine to the attention of many people and countries to which it was formerly only a place on a map. Many doctors and army medical personnel were in Palestine during this period and the facilities of the hospital on Mt. Scopus were widely used by the allied military authorities for research not only in tropical diseases but also in military hygiene and medicine. Doctors and army officers attended courses on tropical diseases in the classrooms of the Rothschild-Hadassah University Hospital (RHUH) and participated in lectures and seminars set up under the auspices of the Hadassah Medical Organization.

During the war years, a department of neurosurgery was set up in the hospital on Mt. Scopus; advances were made in plastic surgery and thoracic surgery. Experiments in wound healing went on apace. Research in psychiatry took on a new impetus because of the prevalence of mental disturbances resulting from war situations and their impact on both soldiers and civilians.

After 1948, the huge immigration bringing in settlers from more than seventy different countries, from diverse backgrounds and racial strains, with varying social, economic and physical characteristics, created innumerable problems for the newly established Jewish state. How was this great mass of human material, much of it stricken almost beyond repair, to be welded into a homogeneous, physically and mentally living group? Clearly it was a tremendous challenge for the health authorities; but it also provided unprecedented opportunity for exciting research and illuminating studies along hitherto unknown lines.

The new immigration brought with it a new outbreak of trachoma, tropical diseases, some typhoid fever, much dysentery and some tuberculosis. Later came epidemics of poliomyelitis, relatively unknown in the country before. Impetus was given to studies in genetic research, infectious and non-infectious diseases, food habits, mental health and numerous other investigations. Problems of environmental sanitation, with which Hadassah had dealt many years before, were tackled afresh.

In the last five years, some notable research has taken place. Dr. Kalman Mann, Medical Director of Hadassah work in Israel, in his two annual visits to the United States, has reported these advances with great pride. Cancer research before 1948 was carried on in a laboratory set up in the Hebrew University under the direction of Hadassah's Professor Leonid Doljansky (killed in the ambush of the convoy going up to Mt. Scopus). After his death, the work was expanded in the Cancer Research Department of the Medical School where studies on different types of cancers and tumors have produced some notable results. Treatment of this disease is given in the Radium Institute of Hadassah.

The Department of Bacteriology and Hygiene was established in 1925 under the direction of the late Professor Israel Kligler. Another important department is that of Parasitology headed by Professor Saul Adler whose work has become world renowned and who holds an honored place at the Hebrew University and Hadassah. Under these two departments hundreds of students have been trained and have done notable work in theoretical and applied research in bacterial physiology, nutrition, toxins and antibodies in food and in the human body.

Other research includes metabolism studies, hematology (blood diseases, anemia, leukemia, lymph glands), hepatitis and liver diseases, hormone research, dermatology, leprosy, occupational skin diseases, venereal diseases, ophthalmology and surgery. Two surgical research laboratories were recently established in the framework of the Medical School. In a recent report we were told, "Some startling original work has been accomplished in orthopedics at Hadassah. Some of it is translated in the advances and discoveries in the surgical treatment of leprosy. Under this heading also comes the research in polio cases and the crippling and deformities resulting from it. Hadassah Medical Organization has a special Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Clinic in Jerusalem for therapy of polio victims."

So the story goes on and on. Recognition of the work has not been lacking. Hadassah doctors and research workers have become well known through large numbers of publications describing their work and achievements. They have not only written down their findings; they have read them and talked of them before audiences of professional and lay people in all parts of the world. The World Health Organization has made use of the reservoir of medical distinction available in Jerusalem and has invited Hadassah specialists to participate in international committees on many aspects of medical care. Hadassah doctors have been invited to bring their store of knowledge to many countries -Ghana, Liberia, Guatemala, Malaya, and elsewhere.

Research grants have been awarded to scientists of the Hebrew University-Hadassah Medical School. They came from the United States National Institutes of Health and from Foundation Funds for research in biochemistry, psychiatry, anemia in malaria, neurology, heart diseases and aspects of medicine, in recognition of Hadassah's accomplishments in the past.

"Is there no balm in Gilead?" asked the ancient prophet. Perhaps Hadassah has found some balm to heal a people's wounds. The Hadassah-Hebrew University Medical Center dedicated on August 3, 1960 represents one answer to the question asked by Jeremiah. For there upon a towering peak of the Judean Hills is an answer which 350,000 American Jewish women have given to Henrietta Szold who once adjured Hadassah to climb ever upward to higher peaks.

Date: 1/13/2011 12:00:00 AM

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