“Kindle Your Imagination” Lecture Series
In conjunction with the Congregation Shaar Hashomayim Men’s Association, Presented:
Dr. A. Mark Clarfield
Director, Medical School for International Health (MSIH) at Ben-Gurion University;
Sidonie Hecht Chair of Geriatrics; Adjunct Professor, McGill University
“Are you committed to being the kind of doctor who works with diverse populations around the globe?”
There is no doubt that the typical applicant to Ben-Gurion University’s Medical School for International Health (MSIH) would answer: “Yes”. Dr. A. Mark Clarfield, Director of this remarkable institution, described with passion and humour, at a lecture held at the Shaar Hashomayim Synagogue in Montreal on November 7, the special four-year course of study that ensures that the doctors who graduate have the capabilities to meet this commitment. Sponsored jointly by the Canadian Associates of Ben-Gurion University and the Men’s Association of Congregation Shaar Hashomayim, this event was part of CABGU’s Kindle Your Imagination Lecture Series.
The MSIH, Established in 1996, is an innovative collaboration between BGU and Columbia University Medical Center. It combines the resources of two world-class universities to prepare doctors in all areas of global medicine, including disaster relief. While its curriculum, entirely in English, is modelled closely on a traditional medical school, the MSIH thinks outside of the box by sending its fourth-year students abroad to medical clinics in under-served areas of the world.
With his background as a pioneer in geriatrics at the Jewish General Hospital and McGill University, Dr. Clarfield illuminated the similarities between the Israeli and Canadian medical systems. Moving to Israel in 1992, he is now also Head of Geriatrics at the Soroka Hospital in Beer-sheva, and holds the Sidonie Hecht Chair in Geriatrics at BGU. Dr. Clarfield was introduced to his audience by community leader, Thomas O. Hecht, donor of this Chair named in memory of his mother.
Dr. Clarfield described how the first task for MSIH students, who hail from all parts of the world, is learning how to interview a patient - how to really listen. Given the enormous cultural diversity of the Israeli population, this is a challenge and a template for providing sensitive medical care to patients around the globe. He talked about additional challenges faced by the students in their first year - learning some Hebrew to communicate with patients, adjusting to the climate in Beer-sheva, and understanding the national health system - good practice in learning how to adapt to the environments where their global clerkships will take them.
And what a fascinating list it is! MSIH students have worked in under-served areas in Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia, India, Nepal, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Peru and in aboriginal areas of the United States and Northern Ontario. Dr. Clarfield emphasized that their safety is taken seriously; if unrest occurs in the area of their placement they are rapidly relocated.
When he thanked the speaker, Richard Levy, Chair of the Speakers Committee, noted how Dr. Clarfield held the audience in his thrall with wit and enthusiasm. Dr. Mark Clarfield proved to be a compelling ambassador for the Medical School for International Health at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.