The Israel Healthcare Foundation, in conjunction with the Onward Israel Program and Clalit Health Services, has launched a one-of-a-kind internship for pre-med students at Israel’s Soroka Medical Center in the Negev. The program brought 14 students from the United States and Canada to Israel for an eight-week intensive program. The Soroka Onward Israel initiative was made possible through the generous financial assistance of lead philanthropists, and was carried out in partnership with the Jewish Agency for Israel. The project is the brainchild of Cindy Shapira, president of the Shapira Foundation and co-founder of Onward Israel, who suggested the partnership between Onward Israel and Soroka Medical Center at a meeting with Dr. Michael Sherf–director of the Clalit Hospital Division–during his visit to Pittsburgh in late 2015.

Onward Israel, now entering its sixth year, offers students and young adults experiences of 6—10 weeks in Israel, primarily during the summer. It addresses the interests and concerns of the young-adult population entering the labor force and strengthens participants’ ties to Israel, Jewish history, and Jewish identity, as well as providing résumé-building opportunities including internships, service learning, and academic courses. The Soroka Medical Center track of Onward Israel began this year.

The students were carefully screened before arriving, and all plan to study medicine or work professionally in other parts of the healthcare industry. Their two-month stay in Israel was built around spending their Sundays through Wednesdays at Soroka and, on the weekends, touring the country and experiencing the best of Israel.

“This program is a wonderful way for the students and our staff to grow and learn together. It exposes the students to the state-of-the-art healthcare that we provide to Southern Israel. We also hope that it gives them a taste of the challenges we face,” said Prof. Asher Bashiri, director of Soroka’s maternity department and the program’s director. “It is a great opportunity to build strong ties with young Jewish students in the U.S. and Canada, and enlist them as ambassadors for Soroka, the Negev, and our future development. The project is first and foremost a significant Zionist activity, and I hope it will expand in future years and allow many more young medical students to get to know the uniqueness of Soroka, Clalit, and the Israeli healthcare system.”

During the first part of the program, which lasted eight days, the participants were introduced to the diverse clinical activities at Soroka. They shadowed the medical staff involved in their different procedures in the various specialty units at the medical center such as the IVF unit, cesarean-section operating room, delivery rooms, invasive radiology, catheterizations, trauma units, general intensive care, internal medicine intensive care, and pain clinic. The students in the program participated in rounds, observed procedures in the operating theaters, and visited the different departments, thus gaining critical clinical exposure.

The second part of the program placed students in different areas of the medical center such as the research unit, the offices of the spokesperson, external relations, and the radiation safety. The students spent six weeks assisting in tasks in these departments working as employees would with work plans, tasks, and deliverables, acquiring practical experience and the opportunity to contribute and develop their skills.

“I am so grateful for the opportunities to be exposed to clinical experience at such a high level,” said Arielle Mann, one of the participants in the program. “I have found the doctors here to be amazing. I don’t think I could have made a better decision than to come to Soroka for the summer.”

Soroka Medical Center is among Israel’s largest and most advanced hospitals, and the country’s busiest, with 1,100 beds. It is the only major medical center in the entire Negev Region (Southern Israel), serving a population of more than 1 million, including 400,000 children. The region accounts for more than 60 percent of Israel’s land mass. Each year Soroka cares for more than 500,000 outpatient and clinical visits, 200,000 emergency cases, and 80,000 hospital admissions. The hospital staff performs more than 35,000 surgical procedures each year, and more than 16,000 babies are delivered each year.

The Israel Healthcare Foundation is a U.S.-based nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting the health needs of Israelis and the 14 hospitals and 1,400 clinics that represent Clalit, Israel’s largest network of medical institutions. This year, the network will care for more than 4.3 million people, see over 100 million patient visits, and perform more than 120,000 surgeries. For more information about the organization, please visit


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