One hundred years ago (1912), six physicians and one pharmacist met in Tel Aviv and founded the Association of Jewish Physicians. This was the beginning of the Israeli Medical Association (IMA). Last week I was privileged to attend the three day World Fellowship Conference in Tel Aviv celebrating the 100-year anniversary of IMA. It was truly special event with guest physicians from around the world in attendance.
It was also a reminder of the validity today of the original goals that small group of pioneers set for the IMA to:
- Hold scientific meetings
- Deal with social problems
- Serve as a professional organization
The Opening Ceremony of the Conference was an evening gala that included speeches, vignettes and multimedia presentations celebrating the history of the IMA. I presented to Dr. Leonid Eidelman, President of the IMA, a plaque from the World Medical Association (WMA) commemorating the event. In addition I congratulated the IMA on its history of service to the people of Israel and for its leadership in the WMA.
Papers presented at the conference included subjects such as the history of medicine in Israel, the Israeli Healthcare System, medical ethics, medical research, electronic medical records, the Patient Centered Medical Home, telemedicine and undergraduate and postgraduate medical education.
Professor Avinoam Reches in a talk on the ethical dilemmas physicians have faced over the years reminded the group that “an organization that respects its past guarantees its’ future”. In the papers presented at the conference and special events we attended around Israel I saw a lot of respect for IMA’s past; energy and enthusiasm about the present, and optimism for the future of medicine in Israel.
In addition to talks relating to history there were mini symposiums on Military Medicine and Medicine and the Holocaust as well as a forum on the Politics of Medicine.
Special events included a visit to Yad Vashem, the Israel Holocaust Center, where we were reminded of man’s inhumanity to man, and of the fact that we as physicians are not immune to evil and have a special obligation to stay true to the ethics of our profession.
A visit to a Bedouin community health care center in the Negev gave an inspiring vision of how health care is being given to this population of Israel that is at the bottom of the socioeconomic ranking. The Israeli National Health Law that came into effect in 1995 now covers this Arab/Bedouin population numbering 200,000 and constituting 3.5 percent of the Israeli population. Prior to that only 50 percent were covered by insurance.
The Bedouin community in pre-state Israel was semi-nomadic, relying on simple agriculture mainly for grazing crops. Socio-cultural changes that have taken place since the sixties have put this population at the same risk of noncommunicable disease so familiar in other parts of the world – heart disease, hypertension, obesity, diabetes.
Attendees to the conference were treated to a tour of Ben Gurion University and a visit to the desert where we planted trees. The latter is a significant work in climate change mitigation instituted by the Jewish Nation Fund (JNF). Since its inception in 1901 the JNF, which now owns 13 per cent of the land in Israel, has been responsible for planting 250 million trees and building 180 dams and reservoirs. The dedication and expertise of Israeli foresters in this land where water is so scarce assures that the tree I was privileged to plant has a 90 per cent chance of surviving.
My thanks to the IMA for a truly special experience – this 100-year IMA celebration. I agree with Prof. Reches that the IMA is “an organization that respects its past” and I believe “guarantees its future.”