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President’s Message 2023

Happy and healthy New Year to my APF friends and supporters!

Finally, after three long and trying years, Covid-19 seems to be, for the most part, in the rear-view mirror. As horrible as it’s been, it has also taught us some valuable lessons. For one, that the enduring human spirit of kindness and medical achievement will always triumph over disasters and catastrophes. We have further learned to adapt and improvise alternative methods of communication and commitment in the face of unprecedented challenges.

Despite all the trials and tribulations, APF has remained steadfast in its support of training Israeli Fellows. In the past three years, we have placed 41 doctors and 13 nurses and nurse practitioners in more than 25 hospitals and medical centers in cities throughout North America. These Israeli physicians have received topnotch training and gained experience in fields including cancer genetics, multi-organ transplantation, infectious disease, heart failure, oncology, orthopedic surgery, pediatrics, neurosurgery and advanced leukemia. When they complete their Fellowship, they will bring their new knowledge back to their home hospitals in cities including Beer Sheva, Tel-Aviv, Petah Tikva, Jerusalem and Haifa.

By providing grants to physicians who otherwise could not afford to come to the U.S. and Canada, APF directly improves healthcare delivery in Israel. This further creates a forum for international cooperation as well as dialogue to foster and advance medical technologies, many of which come from Israel.

Because of its high degree of crisis readiness, Israel is a leader in disaster preparedness—for pandemics as well as other dire threats. Israel has considerable experience with mobilization and coordination of the public and medical personnel in times of crisis. APF, along with Israel’s Ministry of Health, provides courses to improve our own disaster preparedness and our response to catastrophe, such as the recent tragic fire in Maui, Hawaii. Sadly, we learned in hindsight that the community lacked a fundamental evacuation plan for anything other than a tsunami.

The annual Emergency & Disaster Preparedness Course in Israel, which benefits Israelis and us, is open to Jews and non-Jews alike. Past participants have included professionals in the fields of emergency medicine, pediatrics, gynecology, internal medicine, podiatry, anesthesiology, family medicine, physical therapy, nursing, advanced practice nursing, emergency medical technology and public health.

These are significant accomplishments. But more than impressive numbers, the real sense of success comes from seeing how APF has made a difference in the lives of individual Fellows. Here are just a few representative examples.

Dr. Fahmi Shibli, a Fellow in neurogastroenterology and motility, has been working for the past year as a postdoctoral fellow at MetroHealth Medical Center, Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. Thanks to his cutting-edge training, he will be able to start a neurogastroenterology department at HaEmek Medical Center, providing treatment for northern Israel’s underserved population. “Right now, for this kind of diagnosis and treatment, patients must travel from all over northern Israel to Tel Aviv, a two-hour drive. It’s expensive, and compliance can be an issue,” says Dr. Shibli. “HaEmek is ready to set up a special neurogastroenterology department, of which I will be head. They will be investing a lot of money for staff and equipment. We will finally be able to offer services for about a million people.”

Dr. Noam Shohat is an APF 2020-21 clinical Fellow in pelvic and lower extremity reconstruction at Philadelphia’s famous Rothman Orthopaedic Institute, affiliated with Thomas Jefferson University Hospital. The Petah Tikvah native and resident served in IDF Special Forces for three years as a lieutenant and team leader. He remains in Special Forces reserves, having seen action in the 2006 Lebanon War and the 2007/2008 Gaza War. “Both my research in the field of joint infections and complications and my exposure also will allow me to bring something that is lacking today,” says Dr. Shohat.

Endeavors such as these require continuous support to maintain a baseline of financial stability. Please consider increasing your financial commitment to APF and encourage others to join our cause.

L’Shana Tova U’Metuka!

Richard G. Schmidt, MD