Prof. Mary Rudolf: Medicine in the Galilee – a Hands-On Experience

When the Bar-Ilan University’s Faculty of Medicine was established in the Galilee in 2011, its founders had great hopes for it to revolutionize the health services provided to local residents, and bring the region’s communities closer together. Today, with 440 students taking part in a variety of outreach projects, and over 150 clinical faculty members, most of whom work and teach in five of the Galilee’s hospitals, the vision is becoming a reality.

 

A strong believer in this vision, pediatrician Prof. Mary Rudolf, honorary professor of child health at the University of Leeds, moved to Israel in 2012 with husband Prof. Michael Krom to join the Faculty of Medicine, where she now serves as head of the Center for Public Health. "This initiative is ground-breaking and will have a far-reaching vision,” says Rudolf. "The medical school addresses inequities in health care in an underserved community, brings economic development to a disadvantaged region and provides cutting-edge training and education for a new generation of caring young doctors."

Joining BIU was almost coincidental for Rudolf. She happened to speak to fellow pediatrician, Dr. Anthony Luder, who told her about the position available in Safed. "I was obviously interested," Prof. Rudolf recalls. "He passed my CV to the Dean of the Faculty of Medicine and they felt my research was relevant in the area.  Prof. Michael Weingarten, a fellow Brit, is Associate-Dean of the Faulty and thanks to him I made the move. He believes the medical school's mission is achievable and inspires others around him.”

 

Prof. Rudolf, who now resides in Rosh Pinah, believes her medical experiences in Leeds, America and the Middle East in fostering a "grass roots" approach will benefit those directly working in disadvantaged communities. "We need to cultivate a generation of new style doctors who have an approach that takes taking a wider population approach,” explains Rudolf. “Interactive clinical experience will ensure that students become caring physicians with the cultural competence to work effectively with patients from differing ethnic and social backgrounds.”

In general, Rudolf’s main concern is offering local residents activities designed to improve healthcare and welfare in Northern Israel. “My objective is not to ‘study’ the community, but rather to work and improve their lives together with them,” she notes. “As educators, it is our mission to expand the traditional the doctor-patient relationship to include the recognition of the physician's role in preventing disease and promoting health within the community.”

A world renowned child-obesity specialist, Rudolf is all about direct contact and submerging into the community. As such, she is busy promoting the HENRY Project (Health, Exercise and Nutrition for the Really Young), an initiative she founded back in the UK and which is now a national organization based in Oxford. "We train community and health professionals to work more effectively with parents to change the home environment to cultivate a healthier lifestyle for the entire family and children in particular," says Rudolf. "It's about being warm and responsive to your child, but it's not always easy as TV is a great baby sitter.”

 

Rudolf makes it a point to set goals and provide tools needed to effectively measure and evaluate achieving those goals. The Faculty of Medicine in the Galilee, she feels, has a particular responsibility, in addition to providing a top-rated academic education to its students, to also cultivate and promote social and cultural integration in the northern periphery of Israel. “In the very first semester of their studies, our students are introduced to the local community, to all of its ethnicities and cultures. They meet Bedouin, Druse, Ethiopian, Muslim, and orthodox locals, and we also make it a point for them to meet people with disabilities of all ranges.” Rudolf strongly believes that this is a direct interpretation of the Faculty Founders’ vision, and that the social and humane aspects are an integral part of the curriculum. “Benchmarks will measure the impact of the medical school over time,” she concludes, “but it is clear that something great is going on here.”
For more on Prof. Rudolf click here.