Peacemaking Through Cancer Treatment

Prestigious Lancet Oncology features joint program between Rambam and Augusta Victoria Hospital

Some time ago, I shared a blog post, “What Peace Might Look Like,” describing the inclusive care provided by Rambam Medical Center to Palestinians, Syrians and other Arab patients. Little did I know at the time that the prestigious Lancet Oncology medical journal was preparing an article that would underscore and document in detail such strides toward peaceful coexistence. Published last month by Professor Zvi Gil of Rambam, the Lancet article describes a now five-year old joint project with Augusta Victoria Hospital, a health care facility in East Jerusalem serving a primarily Palestinian population.

The project includes a hospital skills enhancement program at Rambam for Palestinian medical staff; Palestinian and Israeli medical teams working together at Augusta Victoria Hospital; and referral of patients with complicated clinical conditions from Augusta Victoria to Rambam to be managed by staff from both hospitals.

The joint Palestinian-Israeli health project already has trained 23 Augusta Victoria staff members from multiple disciplines, including head and neck surgery, otolaryngology, oncology, neurosurgery, nephrology, and plastic surgery.

The Lancet article illustrates an impressive growth curve for radiation treatments of oncology patients at Augusta Victoria Hospital since establishment of the program, drawing attention to how quickly the Palestinian physicians gained the necessary knowledge for treating a variety of tumors. The article also discusses the subject of continuity of care for complex tumors in Palestinian patients by staff from both hospitals, through Rambam’s multidisciplinary Department of Otorhinolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery. Treatments for these patients include specialized surgical procedures not currently available in the West Bank, including robotic surgery, endoscopic surgery, reconstructive surgery, transplants, and surgical removal of skull-based tumors.

Professor Gil explains, “The collaborative Israeli-Palestinian physicians’ program and its results over the past five years are evidence that common goals can be deployed as the basis for building cooperation and understanding between our peoples. The model demonstrates the potential of cancer treatment as a tool for building peace in our region of the world.”

By working together, Palestinian and Israeli physicians are seeking to achieve two long-term goals: formation of an independent Palestinian healthcare system; and assuring continuity of medical care in the Palestinian sector until an independent healthcare system is established.

Thanks to Prof. Gil, his colleagues at Rambam, and Palestinian health care professionals from Augusta Victoria, the work of peacemaking goes on, leaving politics aside and formal arrangements to government officials. For Rambam, be it with Palestinians, victims of the Syrian conflict, or others in the region, healing knows no political boundaries.

Richard S. Hirschhaut is National Executive Director of American Friends of Rambam Medical Center.

About the Author
Rick Hirschhaut has served as a Jewish communal professional for over three decades. He has held senior leadership positions with the Anti-Defamation League, Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center, American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, and American Friends of Rambam Medical Center. He is also an Emmy Award winning co-producer of the nationally broadcast documentary, Skokie: Invaded but Not Conquered.