Dr. Benjamin Sachs, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Harvard Medical School, was one of the 70 US professionals who learned about Israeli emergency procedures. (Photo: Avi Hayoun) “American medical professionals have a lot to learn from Israelis,” according to Jordan Cohen, head of the Association of American Medical Colleges, one of seventy U.S academics who joined a medical solidarity conference in Jerusalem on November 24th and 25th.
“We learn the importance of solidarity because medicine is a non-political enterprise without borders. We also learn how to prepare for and handle terrorism with mass casualties. Unfortunately, Israelis are leaders in this field and we look to them for guidance.
“Wars are good schools for disaster,” said Shmuel Shapira, Deputy Director General of Hadassah University Hospital in Jerusalem. “But the most important message is to be prepared.”
He urged his American peers to drill medical teams under simulated war circumstances and to create operating rules for potential terror attacks.
Tens of other Israeli medical leaders also described new tools and systems created during the course of the violent uprising. After being troubled by the uncontrollable internal and external bleeding in terror victims Israeli doctors adapted a medicine used traditionally for hemophiliacs.
“Novo 7 can be used with excellent results. It’s not approved by the FDA, but we have been using it extensively. We adapted it and now there are international studies to examine it,” said Dr. Avi Rifkind, Hadassah’s head of emergency medicine.
Orthopedic surgeon Dr. Meir Liebergal showed slides of terror attack victims, including a fifteen-year-old girl with 50-plus metal bolts lodged in the tissue and bones of her legs, and another teen with watch parts embedded in her neck.
“Computer assisted surgery takes a lot of time. And to remove one nut we need to take 10-15 x-rays, so we developed a new method to remove shrapnel from complicated places in the body without exposing the patient to a lot of radiation,” he said.
In addition to warfare protocols, the academics also exchanged medical advances in trauma, oncology, fertility and obstetrics.
The American physicians planned the solidarity conference as a response to anti-Israel boycotts and divestiture campaigns. The Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Boston, Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America, and the Hadassah Medical Organization in Israel sponsored the event.
Twelve Harvard-affiliated academics signed-on, as did leaders from the National Institutes of Health, and medical schools affiliated with such universities as MIT, Cornell and Columbia.
“We want to make it clear to our European and American colleagues that there are a large number of Americans who not only oppose such boycotts, but who support Israel,” says Dr. Benjamin Sachs, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Harvard Medical School.
“I don’t think there has been another medical conference here in two years, so it was important that we come to show solidarity,” he says.
The American delegates boarded their flights to Israel less than 24 hours after a deadly bus bombing in Jerusalem. There were no cancellations following news of the attack.