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MSIH Student Rachel Gaufberg awarded Gold Humanism Summer Fellowship

For about 10 years, MSIH has been a proud member of the Arnold P. Gold Foundation’s “Gold Humanism Honor Society.” Committed to creating a “Gold Standard” in healthcare, more than 160 top medical schools are members of the Foundation – with a handful outside North America. One such chapter is MSIH. In the decade of MSIH membership, about 65 graduates have been inducted into the society, each “demonstrating unusual commitment to global health and commitment to humanism.” 

This year, 1st year student, Rachel Gaufberg has taken the connection one step further. She has been awarded a grant of $3,000 for the Gold Humanism Summer Fellowship program.

Unusual for the Negev

Rachel’s project is unusual for Southern Israel. Over the years, MSIH and its students have initiated and supported health programs for underprivileged communities of Bedouins and Ethiopians, as well as Jewish-Israeli children from poor neighborhoods. Never before has a project involved the Spanish-speaking community of the Negev.

Entitled “Expanding Healthcare Access to the Spanish-Speaking Community of the Negev,” Rachel will create a comprehensive translation program to improve the community’s access to healthcare. The project will be in partnership with a family medicine clinic in Beersheba frequented by Spanish speakers, the vast majority of whom are not proficient in Hebrew.

20,000 Spanish/Portugese Speakers

The idea emerged from her volunteering work with “PortuHispanos,” an Israeli organization founded by members of the Negev Spanish-speaking community. Their mission is to provide support and guidance for the 20,000 or so Spanish/Portuguese-speakers who immigrated to the Negev from various countries in Latin America. This community faces many obstacles – with the language barrier providing one of the greatest challenges. Communications are particularly challenging when Spanish-speakers try to navigate the Israeli healthcare system. This frequently leads to significant patient distress and often, compromised care. The project took shape through many discussions with Dr. Elissa Freedman (MSIH almuna, and local physician) and the leaders of PortuHispanos, including Dr. Bruce Francis, her mentor for the project, his wife Yehudit Francis, a native of Costa Rica, Nicole Mizrahi, who completed her PhD on Latino Immigrants in Beersheba, and Dr. Aida Strocovsky, a Psychiatrist and native of Argentina. 

“I will be working with “PortuHispanos” to carry out several initiatives – some of which include creating an in-depth instructional video in Spanish on how to navigate the Clalit website and patient portal, generating appointment confirmation text messages in Spanish, translating into Spanish and then disseminating health information materials, composing and disseminating a “call line dialogue” script in Hebrew with Spanish transliteration, for patients calling into the Clalit Yud Aleph office to schedule an appointment,” explains Rachel.

The program will begin mid-June 2021 and will continue throughout the summer.

“Since first getting involved with PortuHispanos, I’ve been so inspired by their mission, and the countless volunteer hours members put into making life for these Olim (immigrants to Israel) easier and richer. For example, the organization disseminates a weekly Spanish newsletter to all members. They create online forums where members can connect with one another, and post questions on topics ranging from health and wellness to helping with grocery delivery for home-bound elders.  They also compile listings of Spanish-speaking physicians.”

Serial Volunteer and Musician

Rachel, from Boston, Massachusetts, completed her undergraduate degree in Psychology at Clark University in 2017. She helped lead public health trips to Leogane, Haiti, where her team ran outpatient clinics and conducted public health surveys to assess the needs of the community. She also volunteered at the Family Health Center of Worcester, a community health center which primarily serves refugees.

Were that not enough, in college, Rachel played piano for various chamber music ensembles and sang in an acappella group. She also volunteered as a music therapist at Boston Children’s Hospital, worked as the music teacher at a Hebrew School, and sang in a vocal ensemble of students and professionals in healthcare and science, with the mission of decreasing medical burnout, promoting emotional wellness, and performing high-quality choral music.

A Wonderful Example

“Rachel sets a wonderful example to all of us,” says Professor Alan Jotkowitz, Director of MSIH. “We’re so proud of her award, but we’re also hugely impressed by her willingness to use her considerable talent for the benefit of those in need. As the world slowly emerges from a pandemic, there is much healing to be done. People like Rachel will lead the way and create a better world for us all.”

Rachel has known about the Gold Foundation and their work for many years, and deeply values and respects their mission to promote humanism in healthcare.  “I feel that focusing on humanism in healthcare is more critical now than ever, as so many obstacles such as technology and physician burnout, can undermine the essential human aspects of caring for patients.  I am thrilled to have been awarded their summer fellowship, and look forward to continued involvement with the Gold Foundation in years to come!”