A Medical Vision for 2020

A Medical Vision for 2020

When Bar-Ilan University was tapped last year to build Israel’s fifth medical school in the Galilee city of Safed, it needed a leader who was an academic physician, renowned researcher and proven administrator. Bar-Ilan found all three in Prof. Ran Tur-Kaspa.
 
Prof. Tur-Kaspa is an internal medicine and liver diseases specialist and currently the head of the Department of Medicine and the Liver Institute at the Rabin Medical Center in Petah Tikva. He runs a busy lab researching viruses of the liver and was, for four years, the vice dean and head of the medical school at Tel Aviv University.
 
Moreover, he is a fourth generation Israeli whose great-grandparents arrived on the first aliyah in 1882 and were among the founders of both Zichron Yaakov and Binyamina, where Tur-Kaspa grew up. That deep rootedness to Israel helps fuel his passion for building a new medical school that will positively impact not only Israel’s north, but the country as a whole which is already suffering from a shortage of doctors – a situation that is predicted to only get worse.
 
Tur-Kaspa’s vision is not just to address current problems, but to build an institute that teaches students “how to be a physician in the year 2020,” he explains. He and his staff have developed a cutting-edge curriculum that focuses on creating “disease-oriented research centers,” rather than the more traditional medical school approach of separating studies by disciplines such as biochemistry and microbiology.
 
The centers will conduct research into cancer, heart disease, aging, infectious diseases, trauma and child development and will include a variety of teaching and research specializations including bioinformatics (determining gene sequences related to diseases), preventive medicine, medical ethics and law, sociology and even medical economics. The school will look at the quality of the environment as well – “air pollution, for example; really anything that has to do with medicine,” Tur-Kaspa says.
 
The research at the Safed campus will be paired with centers in local Galilee hospitals in Afula, Nahariah, Tiberius, Nazareth, Safed, as well as the psychiatric hospital in Acre. That way, doctors can work with real patients “in the field” while at the same time having all the research benefits of being part of a larger school of medicine.
 
The new school aims to hire 40 new scientists to head the labs and teach the courses. In keeping with Bar-Ilan’s incentives to returning scientists, Tur-Kaspa’s faculty will be recruited primarily from Israeli researchers who are currently working or studying overseas. Students will be from Israel only. “We’re not planning to open a section for overseas students,” Tur-Kaspa says.
 
Tur-Kaspa himself spent time overseas as a Fullbright Fellow at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine at Yeshiva University and as a visiting scientist at the NIH in Bethesda. He received his medical degree from the Hebrew University. The 61-year-old married father of three daughters lives in the Jerusalem suburb of Mevesseret Zion.
 
The new Bar-Ilan medical school is slated to open in October 2011 in a temporary building. The permanent campus will take another five years to build on a slope “with a fantastic view,” Tur-Kaspa muses, overlooking the Sea of Galilee and the enchanting village of Rosh Pina.
 
70 students will be in the first class, with a goal to reach 1,000 in six years’ time. The school will offer a six-year program, a four-year program for science graduates, a combined nine-year program for MD-PhD students, and a program for MSc and PhD research students..
 
The ultimate goal, Tur-Kaspa says, is for graduates to “integrate a deep knowledge of the scientific basis of medicine with the best clinical skills, all the while teaching doctors to be empathetic with their patients.” If Tur-Kaspa can achieve his vision, Israeli medicine will be enriched far beyond the immediate need to train more physicians.
Last modified: 04/10/2010

 
 

Prof. Ran Tur-Kaspa