Prof. Eitan Gross, Hadassah Pediatric Surgeon and Naval Commando

Tuesday, May 15 2012

In addition to putting in long days treating patients and doing research, a large percentage of Hadassah University Medical Center physicians are officers in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). Pediatric Surgeon Dr. Eitan Gross is an example

For six years after high school, Dr. Gross served in one of the army's most prestigious Special Forces units--Shayetet 13, the Naval Commandos. Following his army service, he attended medical school at the Hadassah-Hebrew University of School of Medicine. During those years-- and for many years later--he continued to change from his green surgeon's scrubs into his frogman's wetsuit, taking part in many daring underwater operations. He later became the commandos' physician, first continuing to serve on the sea and then as their personal doctor.

Dr. Gross' own heritage helps to explain his dual career path. As he told Barbara Sofer, Israel Director of Public Relations for Hadassah, the Women's Zionist Organization of America, during a recent interview: "My parents were both in the Shoah (Holocaust). My father was sent to Russia, and later to work camps in Siberia. My mother was sent to Auschwitz. She thought my father was dead. When she returned to her town in Slovakia, she asked who of her family had survived. 'Only your husband,' she was told. She fainted; for two and a half years, she had thought she was a widow."

Once his parents were reunited, Dr. Gross explains, they made their way to pre-state Israel. "They didn't talk much about the Shoah," he says, "but I knew that I wanted to be a combat soldier. I lived near the sea and, in high school, I got the idea that I wanted to be a Naval Commando. I managed to pass the rather difficult qualifying course. My mother told me later that she'd never slept through an entire night while I was in the Navy. On the other hand, my parents had pride that, having been helpless once, they had a son who was serving as a defender of the Jewish people. "

Upon reading about Dr. Gross in Mrs. Sofer's Jerusalem Netletter, the grandmother of one of Dr. Gross' young patients e-mailed Mrs. Sofer to convey that Dr. Gross saved the life of her grandson during 2008-2009. "For three intensive months," Elisheva Sompolinsky said, "he came daily at hours that were unbelievable to care for this child who was fighting for his life." He did so with such humility, integrity, and responsibility that it was life inspiring. Before us stood one of the most unique people I have ever seen in action."

Dr. Gross and his wife, Shalvit Landau, have three children, all of whom have served in the IDF. "We have had many challenges as a nation and face still more," he comments. "But I couldn't imagine myself or my children living anywhere else."

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