Yanay Simhon has learned a lot in his six years of medical school, but has never experienced the kind of education like he’s had in the past month at Beaumont Hospital, Royal Oak.
From Rochester to Jerusalem: OUWB, Hebrew University exchange program offers unique educational opportunities
Students from Hadassah 2019
Yanay Simhon (left) and Ava Wexler (right) are in the middle of two-month clerkships at Beaumont Hospital, Royal Oak. The are in Michigan as part of an exchange program between Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine and The Hebrew University Hadassah Medical School.

Yanay Simhon has learned a lot in his six years of medical school, but has never experienced the kind of education like he’s had in the past month at Beaumont Hospital, Royal Oak.

Simhon, 28, is from Jerusalem, and one of two medical students in Michigan from Israel via a longstanding exchange program between Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine and The Hebrew University-Hadassah Medical School. The other student is Ava Wexler, 28.

Through the annual exchange program, two medical students travel to Michigan from Jerusalem for two months every October. Similarly, early in the following year, up to five OUWB students travel to Jerusalem.

In short, the purpose of the exchange program is to offer participating students an opportunity for level-appropriate clinical learning in another health care system and in a different culture.

Simhon — who has spent the last month working in the Medical Intensive Care Unit (MICU) at Beaumont Hospital, Royal Oak — offers proof positive that the exchange program affords what he calls an “amazing” educational experience.

“We’ve learned a lot because we’ve had good residents, good attendings … and the MICU is a great environment to learn because it touches so many sub-specialties in so man y different fields,” Simhon said. “In general, I don’t think I went through a month that I learned so much as I did during this month.”

Longstanding OUWB program

Hadassah 2019 infographicRachel Yoskowitz, MPH, assistant professor, Department of Foundational Medical Studies, and director, global health, at OUWB, said the exchange program stems from OUWB’s first affiliation agreement that dates to 2011.

The connection was established by OUWB Founding Dean Robert Folberg, who had been a guest lecturer at Hebrew University and collaborated with others there on research projects.

Per the exchange agreement (one of OUWB's Global Health Initiatives), qualifying fourth-year OUWB students have the opportunity to go to Jerusalem, and selected sixth-years from Hebrew University-Hadassah Medical School (HMS) get a chance to travel to Michigan. (HMS follows the European model of a six-year curriculum.)

To be eligible to come to the U.S. via the exchange, HMS students must be one of the top 15 members of their class. Interested candidates are then interviewed and selected by a committee at their school. English proficiency also is required.

For OUWB students who wish to go to Jerusalem, the application process starts a full year in advance. Interested students must indicate their intent to participate by March of their third (M3) year and complete the application process six months prior to their date of departure. Participation in the exchange counts as an elective during the fourth (M4) year of school. Yoskowitz notes that not all participants have been Jewish. 

Selected OUWB participants travel to Jerusalem and choose clinical electives based on Hebrew University Hadassah Medical School’s program for international exchange students. Schedules are based on timing of holidays, vacations, and exams at HMS, as well as OUWB’s academic calendar.

Five OUWB students are scheduled to go to Jerusalem in early 2020. They are David Weinfeld, Connie Chon, Alicia McLeod, Alisa Khomutova, and Maayan Yakir.

An enlightening experience

Simhon was born in Minnesota, but his family moved to Jerusalem when he was just a few months old. Wexler was born in New York, and her family moved to Jerusalem when she was 9 years old.

Both have fully embraced their host state of Michigan, from taking short trips to the Traverse City area and checking out the Mackinac Bridge to a mid-November snowstorm and single-digit temps.

But the majority of their time consists of long shifts at Beaumont, Royal Oak.

Simhon and Wexler spent the first part of their time in the MICU. For the second half of their experience, Simhon is working in nephrology and Wexler is concentrating on plastic surgery.

Both said they have learned a lot in their short time at Beaumont, and have been impressed by the level of care and technology that the hospital delivers.

“Here, if you want (equipment) or need it, you have it,” Wexler said.

She noted other differences, too, such as the amount of space that the hospital offers.

“The emergency room here is wonderful…it’s huge, it’s renovated, it’s spacious,” she said. “Space is something lacking at hospitals in Jerusalem.”

Simhon and Wexler said they can share such differences with their colleagues upon their return home, and “have more meaningful discussions” about health care and how it might be improved.

“We can see the potential now,” Wexler said. “We can see the path of where we can go.”

‘So uplifting’

While the exchange program is facilitated by OUWB, it gets a tremendous amount of support from the metro Detroit community.

It starts with financial support via a generous philanthropic gift from The Ravitz Foundation. The foundation covers the costs of travel, housing, daily transportation, and other essentials.

“(Ravitz Foundation board members) are very interested in funding things that support collaboration with an increased understanding of Israel and the Israeli way of life,” Yoskowitz said, noting that participating students are considered “Ravitz Scholars.”

For Israeli students who travel to Michigan, additional community support is provided via “host families.”

Host families are affiliated with the Hadassah-Greater Detroit Chapter, which has about 4,000 members who are women. Per the organization's website, the group is "committed to innovative, life-changing medical care and research, women's empowerment, education, advocacy, philanthropy and building Jewish identity – in Israel, America and around the world."

Joan Epstein, past president, Hadassah-Greater Detroit Chapter, said she has been a host for the past five years. Among other things, she’s taken students to local sporting events, concerts, restaurants, and welcomed them into her home on Thanksgiving.

“The experiences I’ve had with this program have warmed my heart to the degree of wanting to do it year after year,” she said. “I’ve met some of the finest people. To see the commitment and brilliance of these students has been a transformation for me.”

Carol Ogusky, immediate past president, Hadassah-Greater Detroit, also is a host. She said she enjoys meeting the students and hearing about their experiences at hospitals in Jerusalem.

“I feel wonderful about (being a host),” she said. “It is so uplifting and makes my heart sing. The students are very bright, very ambitious, they work really hard…and they are always very grateful and thankful to us.”

Wexler said she’s grateful for the host families that she says have been “so generous.”

“They’ve taken us out to different places, they’ve invited us everywhere, there’s such a sense of community,” she said. “It’s so unexpected because as far as we’re concerned, we’re just students in an exchange program studying at a different hospital.”

For more information, contact Andrew Dietderich, marketing writer, OUWB, at [email protected]

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