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Visiting Mexican medical intern’s experience in Israel

“When I arrived at the hospital, I was faced with a peculiar case. It was a young man of about 27. The attire worn by the family and his unusual Hebrew accent stood out immediately. I learned they were Bedouins.

The patient was suffering for a chest pain, and in the end there was no clear diagnosis; all tests were inconclusive. There was a barrage of studies, analyses… everything, the doctors did not leave one stone unturned. They conducted every possible examination to find out what was causing this young man’s ailing.

Days went by filled with specialists, questions between doctors – nobody stopped researching and looking for a working course of action.

One morning I arrived at the hospital and saw his doctor devastated, he looked very sad. He said simply, “he’s gone”.

I could see the pain and frustration he was feeling, and still he had done everything he could to save this man’s life.

The patient is not the only one who suffers from disease; the family shares that bond and the doctor also lives with their pain.

That doctor taught me that humility, kindness, attachment to the profession, and affection for one’s neighbor is a pillar in our profession. I truly liked his professionalism and how he showed his human side to the young patient and his family.”

This is just one anecdote recounted by Dr. Ariela Avigdor, a 23 year-old medical intern from Mexico who arrived at Ben-Gurion University in September 2017 as part of the university’s medical student exchange program.

Ariela, who is fluent in Spanish, English, and Hebrew, grew up and acquired her degree in Mexico City.

“As a young medical student, being able to participate as an exchange student at BGU has given me a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity in many ways. For example, to live with and participate in the program with peers from Canada, USA, China, Switzerland – many of whom are older than me – pushes me everyday to understand and embrace diversity, to comprehend new and different ways of thinking, executing, reacting. It is allowing me to capture a unique way of learning and studying – through someone else’s mind.”

Dr. Ariela Avigdor
Dr. Ariela Avigdor

For 15 years BGU’s medical school has been inviting students from Mexico and Ariela is about the 20th student to participate in the program. During her clinical clerkships in Soroka Medical Center, (BGU’s teaching hospital), Ariela comes into constant contact with MSIH 3rd year students, working and learning together.

“Studying in a different language is a great challenge for me. It’s like when you play a new melody – nothing is monotonous – that’s my way of describing this program, the surprise factors are palpable and I’m excited about what I learn each and every day.”

Bright, warm and energetic, Ariela is not short of kindness and professionalism herself.

“In my visits to the hospital, I learned of a lady who suffered a stroke that partially affected her speech. Her memory of whatever Hebrew she had learned in the past, was now completely forgotten – as if she never learned it at all. The only way she could express herself and contact the world was by writing – and that task too was very difficult to her.

Later I discovered that her native language was Spanish, and that she was from Argentina. Once I started speaking in Spanish, her attitude changed, and she finally felt that someone understood what she was writing. The hospital then switched to a caretaker who spoke Spanish.

For the lady it was as if she had found an open window, to communicate with others and fully express her mind.”