August 22, 2004, Updated September 12, 2012

‘We intend to build a cadre of American doctors with suitable experience and knowledge in the field of trauma’ – Dr. Boaz Tadmor.Sometimes, when a body of experts become so adept in their particular field, it becomes a natural progression to transmit that knowledge to others. Such it is that the American Physicians Fellowship for Medicine in Israel (APF) – which was originally founded to provide training and support for Israeli doctors – is now mobilizing the Israeli medical community to train and support American doctors.

In October, the APF is inaugurating a four-day Emergency and Disaster Preparedness Course in Israel, where American doctors will be able to glean vital information and techniques from their Israeli counterparts.

Course alumni will qualify to join the APF’s Medical Volunteer Program for disaster response, enabling them to volunteer in Israel in times of need and deal with similar eventualities in the U.S. – or anywhere else in the world.

“We intend to build a cadre of American doctors with suitable experience and knowledge in the field of trauma,” course director Dr. Boaz Tadmor told ISRAEL21c.

“The APF is deepening its ties with the IDF’s search and rescue team that has performed some outstanding missions at international disaster sites. We will develop an American branch – an American rescue team trained by Israelis functioning in the States, that will join IDF teams abroad,” added APF President Dr. Kel Cohen.

Cohen, from Richmond, Virginia has consulted with the IDF’s Surgeon General, Israeli hospital directors and the health ministry regarding the mobilization of American volunteers for emergency operations.

“We need to prepare Americans for any eventuality – and it’s going to happen. Frankly, the Israelis are much better at it than we are,” said Cohen, a world-renowned expert on Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery and specialist in wound healing.

“Israel has unique experience and knowledge in search and rescue medicine, blast trauma, community based preparedness, hospital preparedness and home front command preparedness,” said Tadmor, formerly Chief Medical Officer of the IDF’s Home Front Command, who drew up the curriculum for the course. “Blast trauma is a specific form of trauma, unlike that resulting from violence or traffic accidents. It demands a multi-disciplinary approach. In the US, they’re still thinking about these issues while in Israel we have set protocols. Course participants will become familiarized with the Israeli medical system and its protocols. By bringing American doctors to Israel we can pass on our experience, so that they can implement these concepts in the American environment.”

A visiting professor at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health in New York, Tadmor recently helped set up the National Center for Disaster Preparedness that oversees the New York area.

“After 9/11, I was invited to New York to assess their preparedness. Since then, New York has advanced impressively,” he said. Five Emergency and Disaster Preparedness courses are planned by November 2005, with participation limited to 25 doctors, said Tadmor.

“The aim of the APF is quality, rather than quantity,” explained APF Executive Director Mona Abramson to ISRAEL21c. “The APF’s mission is to invest in improving Israeli medical education, care and research, and use Israel’s unique know-how to upgrade American doctors’ capability to respond. We’re focusing on sharing this wealth of experience, and becoming a valuable resource for U.S. medical practitioners.”

“The goal is to teach American doctors Israeli Emergency Preparedness and to enable them to volunteer in Israel in times of need, as well as to enable them to deal with similar eventualities in the U.S. These days, one never knows where terrorists will strike, and Israel has developed its own unique response as a result of its own experience, which is applicable to the U.S.,” added Abramson.

She explained that the APF is actually building and branching out on its initial mission which has been to train medical volunteers for Israel for times of national emergency.

“Now that the nature of warfare seems to have changed from an attack by an army to attacks by terrorists, APF is adjusting its program to address current needs. Using Israeli know-how, which is the most advanced in the world, and APF’s body of American physicians who are committed to volunteering to save lives in the aftermath of attacks, we are creating our national Emergency Medicine Response Program. Our American physicians will be able to use their know-how in the U.S. or anywhere for disaster response,” she said.

The APF also plans trauma management courses in the U.S. designed for public health professionals, social workers, police officers, firemen and nurses.

“Various levels of fellowship mean we can deepen and advance the connections between the US and Israel,” said Tadmor.

The APF offers Israeli doctors some 40 scholarships in the US annually, worth about $5,000 apiece. This year, four grants were earmarked for IDF doctors. “The target is to find more US hospitals that can accept Israel doctors for training, thereby deepening the communication network at a personal level,” said Tadmor.

“More new scientific data is coming out of Israel than any similar sized country in the world,” added Cohen, noting that genetic identification techniques developed at the National Institute of Forensic Medicine at Abu Kabir in Tel Aviv were used in the aftermath of 9/11. “As one who has been involved in trauma all his professional life, I know that treating terror victims can be emotionally devastating. Even experienced physicians can become paralyzed when they reach the event.”

While visiting Israel last year, Cohen witnessed first hand the rapid response to a terror attack in Jerusalem. Within minutes, local police had cleared transportation lanes to the city’s hospitals where medical teams, social workers and psychiatrists stood by to receive wounded and traumatized victims.

“The Israelis understand crowd control in such a situation and have learned how to transport injured people. In terms of surgical management, their organization was tremendous. I was particularly impressed that the doctors made efforts to save the terrorist, a 15 year-old boy who blew open his aorta. They saved his life after he arrived at the hospital with no pulse,” recalled Cohen.

“The approach in the U.S. is based on ‘who can I salvage and who must I let go.’ In Israel, they try to save everyone. In the U.S., the police, fire and medical departments function according to their own egocentric needs. We don’t face these issues every day. There’s a lot the Israelis can teach us.”

Course participants will discuss nuclear, biological and chemical warfare medicine with senior IDF Medical Corps officers, witness a Tel Aviv hospital emergency drill, and examine various disaster scenarios at the computerized Medical Simulation Center at Tel Hashomer hospital, near Tel Aviv. Health Ministry officials will brief the American physicians on disaster preparedness for civilian emergencies and psychological treatment of a population under stress.

“Community based preparedness also depends on social resiliency: How can a society continue to function, like London did under the blitz,” asked Tadmor. For a living example of resiliency, though, the doctors coming to Israel in October won’t have to look very long or hard.

More on Life

Fighting for Israel's truth

We cover what makes life in Israel so special — it's people. A non-profit organization, ISRAEL21c's team of journalists are committed to telling stories that humanize Israelis and show their positive impact on our world. You can bring these stories to life by making a donation of $6/month. 

Jason Harris

Jason Harris

Executive Director

Read more: