For more than 20 years, MSIH has been working with partner institutions in low-income settings. Hundreds of fourth year students have taken Global Health clerkships in hospitals in India, Peru, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Vietnam, Ghana, and a host of other countries.
When the Coronavirus pandemic swept the globe in early 2020, MSIH students were mid-clerkship. Anticipating the impending lockdown and the likely closure of borders, the school made the difficult decision to bring all students back to Israel. This was both to protect the students, and to lessen the burden should an emergency develop at their site.
As the year progressed, MSIH maintained contact with its sites. Many countries developed health crises. In Peru, an emergency developed very quickly, while in other countries, things deteriorated more slowly. Surprisingly, many low-income countries, at least so far, seemed to have managed better than high-income countries with modern medicine. This has been explained by, among other things, the predominance of children in the population (young children suffer less from COVID-19), under-reporting or both. Others fared well at the beginning, but began a decline later in the year.
“Global Health is in the DNA of MSIH”, explains Prof. A. Mark Clarfield, former director of the school and current head of BGU’s new Center for Global Health. “We decided – together with our colleagues at the Faculty’s School of Public Health – to run an on-line seminar with our Global Health partners to hear how they are faring.”
The seminar, attended by more than 120 participants from around the world, took place at the beginning of August, 2020. Presentations were made by physicians from the partner sites in India, Nepal, Ghana, Ethiopia and Peru.
Clarfield pointed out that, “it is not the first time we have conferred with our partners from abroad. For more than two decades staff from MSIH have gone out to visit the sites and twice in the last ten years we have invited (at the school’s expense) representatives from all sites to participate in a conference in Beersheva exploring various aspects of teaching Global Health. They teach us, we teach them, and we all learn from one another. “
Showing the can-do spirit for which Israel is so well known, he pointed out, “we did not want to allow the COVID-19 epidemic to interfere with our mutual learning process and this ZOOM conference proved the point that we could overcome the obstacles and continue our fruitful interchanges.”
The audience from around the world included faculty from partner sites, BGU’s Faculty of Health Sciences, as well as scores of students and alumni of MSIH as well as staff and students from MSIH’s sister institution, the Braun School of Public Health at Hadassah-Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
The event even garnered interest of Israel’s Jerusalem Post that summarized the seminar in its article here.
“It was an outstanding meeting,” explained Prof. Alan Jotkowitz, Director of MSIH. “We all learned a lot from our colleagues and their presentations. I’d like to thank Prof. Clarfield for the initiative, and look forward to more cooperation with the Center for Global Health.”