Haifa and Baltimore lie on opposite sides of the ocean. While Baltimore’s harbor shops draw residents on a lazy Sunday afternoon, it is Haifa’s miles of beaches and coastline that bring in the warm-weather crowds. And while Baltimore is home to a generally flat topography, Haifa sits on the edge of the Carmel mountain range and nature reserve.
But it is neither the stunning views nor the vibrant culture that cause a handful of Baltimoreans to make the 16-hour plane ride to Haifa. It is Israel’s oldest university and a world leader in technological innovation, the Technion — Israel Institute of Technology — and the adjacent Rambam Hospital that entices them.
For Tali Bauman, the Technion American Medical School (TeAMS) offers her the chance to fulfill both her dream of living in Israel and her desire to study medicine in English at an American medical school.
In 2006, Bauman graduated from Baltimore’s Yeshivat Rambam with the goal of becoming a physician. She spent a summer volunteering at St. Joseph’s Medical Center as a patient transporter and reveled in the one-on-one time she was able to spend with patients, conversing and comforting them during their time of distress.
“One time I was wheeling an Israeli woman from the emergency room and I was able to comfort her in Hebrew and explain what was happening,” said Bauman. “I was able to make her introduction to the hospital a bit easier, and it was a very formative experience for me, solidifying my desire to study medicine.”
A highlight of the TeAMS program is the close contact students have with patients, because this strengthens the theoretical learning, Bauman explained.
“As a medical student, it is a real honor to be receiving lectures from such outstanding faculty and then be guided through the wards by such knowledgeable attending physicians, who help us convert this knowledge into practice,” she said.
Bauman believes the informal culture in Israel allows her and her fellow students to build closer relationships with leading physicians and lecturers.
“We can email, visit and shadow faculty, and there are ample opportunities to get answers to any questions,” Bauman said.
One such faculty member is fellow Baltimorean and Johns Hopkins associate professor Dr. Beth Murinson, a renowned neurologist and author of numerous research papers and a book on pain. Having made aliyah in 2010, she serves as a curriculum coordinator and student adviser for the TeAMS program.
“Although I was born in Baltimore, my family moved a lot, but with frequent visits to my home town, I became very focused on my dream to study at Johns Hopkins,” said Dr. Murinson. “That dream was realized for my undergraduate studies in mathematics, and while I went to UCLA for graduate school and eventually the University of Maryland for my medical degree, Baltimore beckoned yet again, and I returned to Johns Hopkins for my fellowship.”
She worked as a senior lecturer at University College London, which she attributes to exposing her to new methods of teaching. Since then, Dr. Murinson has published seven articles on teaching medicine and continues to develop new methods of teaching to promote long-term retention, active learning and conceptualization. Dr. Murinson is a highly sought-after pain expert and now manages a busy schedule teaching medical students and residents, practicing neurology and pain medicine and researching new treatments.
When asked about the differences between teaching in Baltimore and in Haifa, Dr. Murinson quickly replied: “I love the smaller classes here. I hope the program doesn’t become a victim of its own success and that the student-teacher ratio is maintained. It is phenomenal to really get to know each and every student and follow his/her development.”
Following a gap year at seminary in Israel, Bauman’s medical aspirations took hold. She began her
undergraduate degree in biochemistry at the Yeshiva University Stern College for Women and was an active president of the medical ethics society. Bauman both succeeded and relished in taking part in medical research in New York and a humanitarian mission to Nicaragua.
Fellow Baltimorean and TeAMS student Daniel Perlow similarly racked up international experience prior to his medical studies. During a summer vacation from studying at Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School, Perlow traveled to Ghana on a peace mission with a group of eager teenagers. He has returned six times.
“I recently became godparent to one of my Ghanaian friend’s children, and all the families that I am close to are very excited at the prospect of me becoming a doctor — so much so that the village chief wants me to become the village physician and to present me with my own clinic,” he said.
Following Perlow’s undergraduate degree in chemistry and physics at Muhlenberg College, he spent a year researching diagnostic radiology at the University of Maryland. Most notably, he recalled performing a CT scan on an Egyptian mummy from the Walters Art Museum.
During this period, Perlow’s father, an active member of the Baltimore chapter of the American Technion Society, suggested that his son consider studying medicine at the Technion.nThough he was initially reluctant to travel abroad for medical school, his doubts were soon allayed, given the school’s reputation.
For Perlow, there was an initial culture shock upon arriving in Haifa, but for Bauman, it was this culture that beckoned her to the Technion.
“I knew that in addition to studying medicine, I wanted to be in Israel and study in a very different environment,” explained Bauman. “Here in Haifa you have a heavy immigrant community; it is an incredibly culturally diverse city offering a unique patient population.”
Bauman, like Perlow, was drawn to the Technion’s strong emphasis on research and plans to begin neurology research. She is now close to completing her second year of medical studies and has begun her clinical classes. Explaining how this reaffirms her decision to study medicine, Bauman said, “I love studying medicine and science and incorporating what I have learned into my clinical practice. It makes me realize that this is the profession for me and, more so, that this is the lifestyle I want.”
All three Baltimoreans enhance Baltimore’s and Haifa’s ties, which continue to take root. For many years, there has been a strong connection between the Technion medical school and Johns Hopkins.
Dr. Rafael Beyar, director of Rambam Hospital and former dean of the Technion faculty of medicine, completed part of his training — his cardiology fellowship — and acted as a visiting professor at Johns Hopkins. Additionally, professor Andy Levy, director of the Technion American Medical School, was a Johns Hopkins graduate for both medical school and his residency. Given these ties, new collaborations and research programs are frequently occurring. Just last year, the Baltimore Jewish Times reported on the promising developments of Hopkins-Technion medical research.
With the growing popularity of the Technion American Medical School and the ever-competitive
nature of medical schools on American soil, the number of Baltimoreans choosing to study medicine overseas will continue to rise. Additionally, the number of American physicians joining the Technion as faculty has multiplied over the past decade, and the trend will continue with new appointments to be announced over the summer.
Anna Harwood writes for IMP Media Group.