Rachel Schonberger
National Vice President, Hadassah

New Mount Scopus Campus for 21st Century Jerusalem

Dr. Asnat Walfisch, photo courtesy of Hadassah

Several years ago, when my husband Larry and I visited the L&D (labor and delivery) area at Hadassah Hospital Mount Scopus, I came away distressed about the physical plant. My husband, however, couldn’t stop talking about the commitment of the doctors and nurses, about the fact that patients continued to come in large numbers because of the care despite any physical discomforts. Doctors, nurses and support staff at Hadassah Hospital Mount Scopus provide world-class medical care in – truthfully – less than ideal physical surroundings.

I am a doctor who worked as a faculty physician for 29 years in university affiliated hospitals and clinics in Atlanta, Georgia, providing community-based care to some of the region’s most underserved individuals. Our multi-ethnic staff offered comprehensive primary care for a multi-ethnic, multilingual population – a situation somewhat similar to what we see in Hadassah Hospitals. There are systemic differences related to medical insurance – most of our patients had none; Israeli citizens are all covered by a national health fund. Coming from the US, it was culture shock for me that Hadassah Hospital treatment plans accommodate involvement of extended family members in a patient’s care. But one thing we share – I know what it’s like to be a doctor delivering this year’s medical care in yesterday’s building. Like Hadassah Hospitals, our hospital system was underfunded, and our facilities’ major renovations were made possible by combined private donations and government support.

Not to be deterred by obstacles, the women of Hadassah raised the funds and started building Hadassah Hospital Mount Scopus in 1935 – right in the middle of the 20th century worldwide depression. When it opened in 1939, It was the most modern hospital in the Middle East, adjacent to the Hebrew University with which it shares a commitment to academic excellence in research. In undertaking enormous signature projects, Hadassah women are always guided by the mandate of founder Henrietta Szold: “Dare to dream, and when you dream, DREAM BIG!”

Besides being a beacon of teaching and research, Hadassah Hospital Mount Scopus is a community hospital. Except for the 1948-1967 period when it was inaccessible, it has been serving a culturally diverse population of Muslims, Jews, Christians and others in surrounding communities since 1939. It epitomizes Hadassah’s mission – a “bridge to peace” through healing. Hadassah Medical Organization received a 2007 Nobel Peace Prize nomination for providing exemplary medical service to all, regardless of race, religion, or nationality.

But …. the original Mount Scopus Hospital building is 83 years old. Jerusalem’s population has grown. Health care has matured. Hadassah nurses and doctors will not allow the limitations of the physical plant to lower the quality of care they provide. And they dream of how much easier it will be to provide that care in the new campus being planned for Hadassah’s healing hill, how many more of Jerusalem’s residents can be cared for close to home. A 21st century building will bring to North Jerusalem’s diverse population non-emergent diagnostic and therapeutic options that now can only be done across town at Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem, where the state-of-the-art Sarah Wetsman Davidson Hospital Tower opened its first rooms in 2012.

Last time I visited Hadassah Hospital Mount Scopus in 2018, I saw the rebuilt L&D area. It was “standing room only” of pregnant women wanting to access Hadassah Mount Scopus level care in a state-of-the-art physical setting. The numbers of patients and the smiles on the faces of the doctors almost skipping through the hall said it all. If Hadassah builds it, they will come. Dr. Asnat Walfisch, the head of the Obstetrics Gynecology Department was excited to show me every element of the detailed planning that went into the construction of a facility that optimizes patient, doctor and nurse needs in a culturally sensitive setting. From drive-up arrivals to private gardens, to the sadly needed “safe rooms,” to the central hall which allows physicians and nurses discreet access to patients, it is a sparkling gem. They need a second unit.

The cardiac catheterization suite at Mount Scopus – built with a grant from USAID – brings to the front yard of residents of North Jerusalem, interventions that save heart muscle in a heart attack. It also prevents heart attacks in the first place when symptomatic patients, educated in Hadassah’s heart-healthy community programs, do not delay assessment because a hospital is inconvenient or not culturally sensitive. They need a larger facility.

We have seen what a difference modernization can make in areas that have been rebuilt – L & D, emergency rooms, cardiac catheterization suite. State-of-the-art equipment is wonderful, but no matter how much we might push them, the walls just won’t move to accommodate the numbers of people we need to serve and the more complicated technologies we use to treat them.

Former Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat once said, “The future of Jerusalem is the future of Hadassah. Jerusalem is the heart of Israel and Hadassah is the heart of Jerusalem.” As the vision for Mount Scopus becomes a plan, it will be developed in coordination between Hadassah Medical Organization and the Mayor’s Office in Jerusalem. It will be designed to fit into long-term health needs of Israel as recognized by the Government of Israel. The wish list includes an inpatient hospital tower, general and specialty clinics, physician offices, family-friendly spaces, parking garages, green spaces.

One of the new buildings – The Gandel Rehabilitation Hospital, funded in part by a landmark gift from the Gandel family in Australia – is already under construction. Proximity to Hebrew University will continue to support the academic base of research at Hadassah.

Hadassah does not just DREAM BIG, we create quality. Hadassah Hospital Mount Scopus is an architectural landmark, designed by Eric Mendelsohn an early 20th Century German Jewish architect known for expressionist functionalism in his designs. The new campus buildings will be equally outstanding. That is Hadassah in action. Hadassah is the Power of Women (and Men) Who Heal.

Hillel advised:  – “If I am not for myself, who will be? If I am only for myself, what am I?” If not now, when? For us. For you. Hadassah Hospital Mount Scopus – now and for the future.

About the Author
Hadassah National Vice-President Rachel Schonberger, MD was most recently Hadassah Medical Organization (HMO) National HMO Chair and is a member of HWZOA’s National Board. She is a Past President of Hadassah Greater Atlanta and Hadassah Southeastern Region. Her previous HWZOA positions include: Founding Chair, Hadassah National Physicians Council, Resource Chair, Super South, and HWZOA’s National Service Committee. In addition to her HWZOA portfolio, Schonberger has had a long professional association with Emory University, where she has served as Clinic Physician and Asst. Professor for the Depts. of Community Health, Community Medicine and Family and Preventive Medicine. Additionally, she served as Interim Chair, Dept. of Family and Preventive Medicine; Director, Division of Community Medicine, Dept. of Family and Preventive Medicine; Director of the Division of Community Medicine at Emory and Grady Hospital; and Director, Grady Hospital Neighborhood Health Centers.
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