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A Course Worth Flying For
August 25, 2011
GW launches health care study abroad program in Israel.
By Anna Miller
According to Arthur Shorr, M.B.A. ’70, the George Washington University’s new short-term study abroad program, Health Services Delivery in Israel, will be an unforgettable trip.
“Anytime you experience another country’s culture and health care system up close and personal, it really opens your eyes,” said Mr. Shorr, assistant professorial lecturer and executive in residence in the GW School of Public Health and Health Services’ Department of Health Services Management and Leadership.
Set to launch in December, the 12-day, two-credit study abroad program is built on a long-standing relationship between SPHHS and the Braun International School of Public Health at Hebrew University-Jerusalem. The program is the first in the nation through which graduate-level public health students can travel to Israel for the purpose of studying its integrated health care system.
Mr. Shorr, a nationally recognized expert in hospital operations and founder and president of the health care management consulting firm, Arthur S. Shorr & Associates, Inc., initiated the program several years ago after a trip to Hebrew University. He has maintained close ties with Hebrew University since 1997 when he directed $350,000 to a collaborative project between it and SPHHS that trains international physicians in the Israeli methodology of primary care.
“On my last visit, it dawned on me,” Mr. Shorr said. “Wouldn’t it be fantastic and mutually beneficial to develop a joint study abroad program between the two universities with the goal of orienting American students to the Israeli health care system, and Israeli students to the American health care system? It took three years to come to fruition, but now it’s ready to take off.”
This year, the program will give American students the chance to learn firsthand from professors at Hebrew University and to visit various health care facilities, including community and tertiary care teaching hospitals, primary care clinics and nursing homes. Participants will also embark on an expansive holy land tour encompassing Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Haifa, the Dead Sea and the Galilee — venues Mr. Shorr considers “mandatory” when visiting a nation so rich in archaeological, cultural and religious history that is foundational to Western civilization.
“Students will engage in six days of intensive touring and six days of intensive academics, as well as enjoy social events with their student peers in the Braun International program,” said Mr. Shorr, who along with Leonard Friedman, a professor of health services management and leadership, will staff the trip.
The Israeli health care system, which the World Health Organization rated the 28th best in the world in 2000, contrasts with the United States’ system in three main ways, said Mr. Shorr. First, health care is universal, with both government and private sponsored components.
Next, clinics in Israel are structured to focus upon the specific health needs of particular ethnic subgroups. The nation, which is only 63 years old, is home to several distinct immigrant populations, including Ethiopian, French and Russian. In Ethiopian communities, for example, clinics specialize in caring for tropical diseases and pediatrics whereas in the Russian community, there is a greater focus on dentistry, said Mr. Shorr.
“What’s interesting is that in Israel, while social policy is designed to homogenize everybody — that is, everybody learns Hebrew and everybody enrolls in the army when they turn 18 — the health care system is just the opposite,” he said. “Ethnic subgroup clinical needs are unique, so each population is treated uniquely.”
Israel also provides an interesting case study of a health care system that can quickly adapt to war. When the country mobilizes, the system seamlessly converts from a civilian to a military delivery system, he said.
One particularly fascinating component of the Israeli health care system is the Israel Defense Forces’ forward deployed medical trauma units, one of which will be a site visit destination for students. The units, comparable to the U.S. Army’s MASH units, house fully equipped underground tertiary care surgical facilities capable of handling multiple multi-systemic trauma cases.
“When a soldier gets injured on the battlefield, he’s minutes away from a GW Hospital tertiary care caliber environment,” said Mr. Shorr. “My jaw dropped the first time I saw it.”
All in all, the point of the trip is not to suggest that one country’s system is better than another but rather to understand what works where and why and to extract value from that experience, he said.
“I think the trip will ultimately have an influence on shaping the personal health care philosophy that every hospital executive and health care leader must develop,” said Mr. Shorr. “The Israeli health care system is not right or wrong, but if you can identify elements that you feel are important, you will find a way to incorporate the value of that experience into your own philosophy and practice.”
For more information on the Healthcare Services Delivery in Israel, click here.