Reichman University to Launch Innovative Medical School

14 May

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There is perhaps no one who can tell the story of the University’s origins more touchingly than Prof. Uriel Reichman, Founder and Chairman of the Board of Directors, himself. “The story of our university is one of avant-garde commitment to Israeli society,” Prof. Reichman begins. “Our journey began in the early 1990s. At the time, thousands of potential students felt excluded from academia. The existing seven universities in Israel controlled the government allocation for higher education and they were not eager to establish additional academic institutions. As a result social mobility was denied for many people”.


After leading the Movement for a Constitution which eventually paved the way to passing the Freedom of Occupation Act 5754-1994, Prof. Reichman and fellow Reichman University founders submitted a proposal to establish a non-governmental academic institution. It was clear from the start that they would not receive funding from the Council for Higher Education. However, according to Prof. Reichman, “It seemed to me there was sufficient goodwill and readiness from the Israeli civil society to support us in establishing a private not-for-profit university. Subsequently it took us years to build a leading research institution and find our way through the academic bureaucracy to approve all academic degrees, including PhD degrees, and finally to be declared the first private university in the Israeli system of higher education. Since inception, our university has been a Zionist institution based on the principles of the Declaration of Independence of Israel. It was clear that once we received the recognition as a university, we could embark on building a medical school.”


As in the ‘90s, Israeli society is facing a similar situation with regards to medical education in Israel. Israeli universities are able to educate only 39% annually of the physicians needed in the healthcare system. The requirements for students to be accepted to medical school are extremely high, resulting in many highly-gifted Israelis leaving the country to study medicine abroad. In addition, more than 30% of physicians from the “Russian immigration” are now over 60 years old, and the demand for younger physicians has increased. The anticipated doctor shortage will directly impact the challenges of the healthcare system and its ability to care for the population.


Israel needs 2000 new physicians annually but only 40% of medical students study in Israel. For this reason, Prof. Reichman spearheaded the establishment of the Dina Recanati School of Medicine at Reichman University. The School, due to open for the academic year 2024-2025, will address these chronic issues and accept 80 students in its first intake.


In addition to the shortage of physicians, it will address another common problem: many Israelis who are not accepted to study medicine in Israel go abroad, remaining there once their studies are complete. Furthermore, students who complete their degrees at foreign universities don’t always have a guarantee that they’ll be able to take the Israeli medical licensing exams, due to lower standards in some medical schools abroad that offer minimal clinical training.


The two leading hospitals in Israel, and the two leading healthcare services, Rabin Medical Center, Sheba Medical Center, Maccabi Healthcare Services and Clalit Healthcare Community Division have been impressed with the School’s commitment and initiative, and have agreed to educate the students.


The project’s first major donor, businessman and philanthropist, Oudi Recanati, has committed an initial donation to establishing the medical school in memory of his mother, Dina Recanati z”l. While additional financial help is still needed, “We are hoping and confident that we will receive further support in this worthy cause,” Prof. Reichman adds.


The Curriculum


The Dina Recanati School of Medicine at Reichman University will change the way medicine is taught in Israel. A review of medical education in Israel was conducted by the World Federation of Medical Education and, as a result of its recommendations and those from leading medical institutions in Israel, including the Rabin Medical Center, Maccabi Healthcare Services, Clalit Healthcare Community Division and Sheba Medical Center, the program currently being formulated will combine the best qualities of modern teaching and innovative programs from around the world.

In 2022, Prof. Arnon Afek was appointed as Founding Dean of the Dina Recanati School of Medicine and Chairman of the Health Sciences Division at Reichman University. He has been tasked with building an innovative new medical school, which has included receiving approval from the Council of Higher Education. This is a core strategic mission facing Israel's healthcare system.


Prof. Afek is the Associate Director General of Sheba General Hospital and Chairman of the Department of Medical Administration at Sheba Medical Center. He assumed these positions after completing his tenure as Director General and Associate Medical Director General of the Israeli Ministry of Health (2014-2017). According to Prof. Afek, “Our mission is to educate the physicians of the future. It is important to distinguish between training and educating. Our first step in setting up the medical school was to figure out exactly who the physicians of the future will be. We consulted with the brightest young physicians, residents, seniors and interns. We charged them with the mission to build the most innovative and novel program to be taught in the medical school. Additionally, our curriculum will be guided by an international and Israeli advisory board in order to learn from the best physicians and institutions abroad and in Israel.”


The School will also be based on the values of Reichman University, which critically means that students will be at the center. According to Prof. Afek, “The student at the center means that it is not the professor, the paper or the research that takes precedence, but it is rather the student. That is why when it comes to choosing professors, it is critical that they are teachers, as we emphasize the teaching aspect of what they're doing.”




Another important aspect of the curriculum will be its humanist views. “We will emphasize the human needs and human-centric approach to the patient as well as to the whole healthcare team,” Prof. Afek explains. “This emphasis will be carried through to the healthcare workers themselves, such as nurses, technicians and other healthcare professionals.”


Creating a steady stream of physicians in the periphery


The School’s mission will also incorporate all areas of Israeli society to reflect Reichman University's Zionist values. According to Prof. Afek, “We are proposing that the state provides grants to medical students to work in the periphery of Israel. Instead of subsidizing universities, the Council of Higher Education would provide grants to students who will commit to work in Israel's periphery. Students will pay the true cost of their education without being subsidized, but peripheral areas will receive a steady supply of good physicians.”


Innovation in its methodology

“We are recruiting faculty and lecturers as well as advisory board members,” Prof. Afek shares. “We are currently working with the Maccabi Healthcare Fund and Clalit Community Division to develop a community-based approach to medicine and physical diagnosis. Hospitals nowadays are the standard for physical diagnosis, history-taking, and checkups. What we are trying to do is create an approach where the physicians are part of their community. Physicians of the future will need to be very innovative, so innovation will form an integral part of their training. They need to be comfortable with technology. The school will also boast a simulation center, a big data and virtual reality laboratory. Students will not learn traditional anatomy on corpses but will rather practice on VR technology, unlike other medical schools. It's not that we will not have this capacity in the medical school; we will have microscopes and traditional labs. We will use them but in a more limited way; it will not be our focus. Now that we have digital histology and pathology, we do not need to base our studies on traditional methodologies.”


“We want to embrace Reichman University’s interdisciplinary approach to learning so for this reason, it is not only pre-med students that will be accepted to study medicine, but also students from other faculties, such as Law and Computer Science. In June 2022, we established a Life Science program at Reichman University, which will teach the required seven courses that every student who graduates from other faculties apart from pre-medical studies or biology will take and once they pass an exam, they can become a candidate for medical school.”


The first phase of the medical school will be ready by the end of 2023. This will include the simulation centers, VR, Big Data, synthetic biology and other experimental labs that will all be housed in the Graziela Drahi Innovation Center, also due to be completed in 2023. “By the end of the year,” Prof. Afek continues, “We will have the capacity to teach medicine together with our partners, the leading medical institutions in Israel and others that may wish to join us. It is important to stress that this is not a competition with existing universities, but a proposal to collaborate”.


The next phase of the medical school will be a seven-floor building that will provide the space for research and teaching facilities as well as a ground for students.


According to Prof. Reichman, “Many regard our university as a miracle under the Israeli bureaucratic system. We are determined to continue providing a unique and leading education with a strong commitment to scientific research and the needs and development of our society.”