Physicians from all over the world train with Israeli doctors as part of a training program sponsored by the Israeli government.In Kenya, AIDS victims aren’t lacking medicine. The government is providing, but for various cultural reasons, the locals won’t take it. So says Dr. Peter Ndege, a physician from Nairobi, who came to Israel in 2006 to study western medicine with some of the world’s best.

Ndege participated in the 20-year-old International Postgraduate Training Program in Medicine at Tel Aviv University (TAU), which is sponsored by Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MASHAV).

He was invited, at no cost to himself, to study with senior physicians from the university’s Sackler Faculty of Medicine. Training was provided by the Sheba Medical Center, and Ndege was mentored by infectious disease specialist, Dr. Itzhak Levi.

While in Israel, he learnt much-needed information about AIDS resistance and patient psychology – tools which he could bring back to Kenya to help people live longer.

“In Israel, I learned how to manage the side-effects of AIDS treatment,” he says.
In Kenya, “People would rather commit suicide by stopping AIDS treatment than to let others know they have the disease,” he admits.

Doctors – like Ndege – who are accepted to the program from around the world, consider it a great honor. Israeli medical practitioners are known across the globe for their advances in research, and in some cases, doctors from Europe and North America pay their own tuition to participate.

Over the past two decades, 56 courses, consisting of about 1,200 physicians, have been completed. Doctors come from more than 100 countries: from Central and South America, Asia, Africa and Eastern Europe.

This year, the program has adopted a new course structure – one that gives all participants the same clinical focus. Says Sonia Kasher, coordinator of the School of Continuing Medical Education at TAU: “The Ministry of Foreign Affairs contacted us with an urgent request, that we train participants in one specific clinical field.”

The ministry is concerned about infant mortality in developing nations, says Kasher, and as a response, directors of the program decided to offer a two and a half month training course in that field, at TAU-affiliated medical institutions in the greater Tel Aviv area.

The next course open to international doctors is scheduled to start this April. Its focus will be on emergency medicine and disaster medicine. This course will be held in cooperation with the World Health Organization, and will be conducted in English.

Program secretary Alison Yadan says it’s a win-win situation for both the doctors and Israel. The participants take an active part in the daily routine of the departments, and also in conferences and seminars, during their stay.

The doctors are also taken on tours of Israel, and are invited out for social activities that are organaized especially for them. In order to facilitate their integration into the Israeli medical system, and for better communication with patients, the trainees are offered basic Hebrew lessons upon arrival.

The quality of training that they obtain reverberates across the planet. “There is a lot of activity surrounding the trainee doctor after he returns home,” says Prof. Ron Maymon, the coordinator of the program. “The motivation from being in Israel lives on.”