Russell Berrie Foundation Supports Azrieli Students in the Fight Against Corona

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The novel Coronavirus, Covid-19, took us all by surprise. At the Azrieli Faculty of Medicine especially, we had to act fast. The Galilee, with its noticeable health disparities, was a source of major concern for the Covid-19 outbreak. We quickly created a roundtable with our community partners and affiliated hospitals and HMOS, and luckily, with the generous support of the Russell Berrie Foundation and the enthusiastic dedication of our medical students and staff, we were able to make a noticeable change in the Galilee and north of the country.

“What started as an emergency has actually morphed into a chronic situation,” explained Dr. Sivan Spitzer-Shohat who spearheaded the endeavor. “At the Faculty we have always dedicated ourselves to being socially accountable to our community, and this is a perfect example. It has also proven to be an excellent teaching and learning opportunity.” Under the new project, medical students are sent to the field – primary care clinics across the Galilee community – to reinforce the medical establishment in the north during this crisis. So far, 60 medical students have been placed in clinics. Among other tasks, they follow-up on chronic patients via telephone calls and home visits, filling a crucial void. About 20 more students will be added in the second phase.

In the past, medical students have expressed difficulties emanating from cultural differences with the local population, and lack of understanding; this project opens up the lines of communication for not only the patient, but also the practitioner. By stepping out of their comfort zones, it is proving to be a learning experience for all involved, bridging gaps while also offering critically necessary and urgent medical services. The students are learning alongside chronic care management, cultural competence practice, and the population is gaining from the increased presence of medical personnel who are there to treat as well as educate.

Prof. Skorecki, the Dean of the Faculty, also expressed his enthusiasm for this endeavor, adding, “This has proven to be an excellent opportunity to create a long-term platform with our community partners to improve the health of the Galilee.”

Thanks to the Russell Berrie Foundation, we can see some positive outcomes of Covid-19! This new project, born out of an acute immediate need, will ultimately serve the long-term chronic medical needs of the Galilee and north of the country.