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YU to the Technion American Medical School: A natural progression

[caption id="attachment_1404" align="alignleft" width="540"] Dr. Stephen Reingold, having graduated from YU and then the TEAMS program, now is a popular pediatrician in Israel.[/caption]

Founded in 1969, the Technion American Medical School (TEAMS) offers American and Canadian students a chance to study in English at Israel’s most prestigious medical school and return to the United States ready to begin their residency programs. In addition to producing top chiefs of departments, professors and specialists working across the USA, a high number of TEAMS graduates decide to remain in Israel and make Aliya following their graduation.

[caption id="attachment_1384" align="alignright" width="260"] Allan Katz (YC '12) with Professor Andy Levy, Director of the American Program at the Technion[/caption]

Each year, around thirty students begin an arduous four years studying medicine from some of the top doctors and scientists in their fields, working night and day to receive the prized “M.D.” sewn onto their white coats. Professor Andy Levy, Director of the American Program, takes great pride in every single student that passes through his program but acknowledges that it is not an easy ride. “Medical school is very academically challenging,” says Prof. Levy. “No one here claims that it is an easy ride, but with such small class sizes we are here to support our students through their whole medical school journey.”

Monty Mazer had already travelled “overseas” when he moved from Canada to America to study for his Bachelor of Science (BSc) in Biology at Yeshiva University (Class of ’07), but travelling to Israel to begin his medical studies at the Technion was a just a little bit further. For Canadians, studying medicine overseas is a fairly normal practice due to the dearth of Canadian Medical schools. Nonetheless, Mazer says that there are compelling reasons that cause YU students across North America to choose the Technion over other medical schools; “The Technion has always had a large number of religious students, and the administration, lecturers, and hospital make it a very comfortable environment for religious students to study medicine.” Mazer says that religious life in Haifa was certainly a draw: “Rambam Hospital hosts weekly shiurim for staff members and my wife and I have settled into a wonderful English speaking, religious community in Kiryat Shmuel where olim and TEAMS students support one another.”

Now entering his fourth and final year, Monty lauds the Technion’s research and feels that he has excelled due to the TEAMS program’s equal emphasis on strong scientific teaching and clinical preparation. The Technion has collaborations with top US universities which Mazer was able to take advantage of by spending a month back in the States learning on an elective track at Johns Hopkins University. He found the opportunity to gain a different perspective on clinical problem-solving invaluable to his medical studies. As Monty Mazer has the end in sight, Allan Katz, the TEAMS’s most recent YU graduate, is just settling in to Haifa anticipating the start of his medical training.

Allan Katz was already somewhat of a celebrity even before classes have begun. Having graduated from YU in 2012 with a degree in Biology, he recently wed fellow YU student Leora Stroh. What sets him apart from the norm was that just a day after their wedding, Allan and Leora got on the airplane and made Aliya to begin their new lives in Haifa, Israel. Unsurprisingly, this was a heartwarming Aliya story that made the Israeli national papers.

Allan will be joining the latest cohort of TEAMS students (class of ’16) and says that from the moment they stepped off the plane, they were welcomed with open arms. “We have had such a warm reception,” says Allan. “I haven’t even completed orientation but the TEAMS faculty has been checking that we have had places to spend the Chagim, families to host us for Shabbat, and everything we need to set up our new home in Haifa.” In so many ways, this warm Israeli welcome was why Allan decided to come and study in Israel. Having thrived in YU’s philosophy of Torah U’Madda, combining Torah studies with his secular studies, moving to Israel was a natural progression. "YU instilled in me a love of Eretz Yisrael, religiously and culturally. Studying medicine at the Technion means that I can work in a hospital such as Rambam, which is infused with Jewish values, continue with my Torah studies in the many shuls and yeshivot in the area, and fulfill my Zionist dreams by moving to Israel.”

[caption id="attachment_1413" align="aligncenter" width="540"] With blue skies, sandy beaches and at the foot of the Carmel mountains, the Technion American Medical School is a world away from YU and NYC. Rambam Hospital, where many doctors train, is the white building on the coast[/caption]

When asked why he chose the Technion to study medicine, Allan was adamant, “The TEAMS program offered me what I was looking for. The highest quality medical research in Israel, very positive reviews from former students, and the TEAMS program was, in fact, the only program which offered me both Israeli and American doctor status at the end of the course.”

One Technion trained doctor and YU graduate who has taken full advantage of his dual American/ Israeli medical status is Dr. Stephen Reingold. Dr. Reingold, a native New Yorker, returned to the U.S. to practice medicine following his medical studies at TEAMS but was so enamored by his time in Israel that he and his wife made Aliya in 2009. Now he is a popular pediatrician amongst Israeli and new immigrant American families at a Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) in the growing city of Modiin and a lecturer on the TEAMS program. The Technion's American Medical School provided him with unique medical and life skills, which, he claimed, "cannot be found or experienced in the USA."

Dr. Reingold entered the program after graduating from Yeshiva University having completed the pre-med track, and with a degree in history (Class of ’95). "I came to the Technion because it had a reputation as an excellent medical school with relatively smaller classes and, quite frankly, fewer distractions than daily life back in New York," he recalled. "The academic standards at the Technion are extremely high, which proves to be a huge advantage when the time comes to take the American Medical Board exams.”

The move from YU to Israel and the Technion did not just enhance his medical learning. Dr. Reingold claims that the dating scene in Israel was a far better fit for him, and within six months of arriving to Israel, he had met his future wife. Coming from YU, the religious life was an important factor in his move to Israel, but Northern Israel also offered him a new and diverse opportunity to discover a treasure trove of medical anomalies that are unique to this area.

"During the course of the four years, we rotated between various Northern Israeli hospitals, where we came face-to-face with a very diverse population,” he revealed. "One day, we’d be dealing with local youngsters, for whom visiting a medical clinic was nothing out of the ordinary, while the next day we would be examining Israeli Arab kids, many of whom had never been to a doctor before.  When Middle Eastern culture meets the most technologically advanced medicine, veteran doctors and inquisitive medical students have access to a unique medical environment, unlike any other place on the planet."

Dr. Reingold chose to learn Hebrew fluently and fully integrate into the Israeli culture and lifestyle, but he hasn’t forgotten his YU roots and says that living in Modiin means that he is fortunate to interact with fellow graduates of his alma mater on a daily basis. “I see them in the shuk, on the bus, even in my busy clinic,” says Dr. Reingold. An active “YU in Israel Alumni Association” offers the chance to re-connect with forgotten classmates; “There are many communities of YU alumni scattered around Israel, and it is very reassuring to be able to be amongst a ready-made community,” Dr. Reingold said.