On a winter night in February around the dinner table at a Tel Aviv restaurant, leading Israeli pediatricians, Prof. Frank Oberklaid, internationally renowned Australian community child health specialist, and Hadassah Australia President Ron Finkel brainstormed the next phase for the dream to bring a comprehensive community pediatrics program to Israel.
Instrumental in forging this collaboration, Hadassah Australia initiated a community pediatrics training fellowship for Hadassah pediatricians to train under Prof. Oberklaid in Australia. The first pediatric fellow, Dr. Hava Gadassi, recently began her two-year fellowship at Royal Children’s Hospital. At the completion of her training, she is slated to establish a Community Child Health Unit at Hadassah.
At this pivotal Tel Aviv meeting, there were leaders of hospital pediatric departments, veteran pediatricians from various Israeli cities, representatives of health funds, philanthropic foundations, and organizations involved in child health care issues, and heads of Israeli pediatrics associations, including Mati Berkovitch, President of the Israel Pediatrics Association. Dr. Berkovitch volunteered to spearhead the initiative and suggested the name, “Goshen Project.” Its overarching goal is to enhance the field of community pediatrics nationally by training pediatricians for leadership positions in community and developmental/behavioral pediatrics. Goshen is the name of the restaurant where the February meeting was held as well as the name of the fertile land in the Nile Delta where the Israelites took refuge during the famine in Biblical times.
The Goshen Project will heighten awareness among pediatricians about the importance of the early childhood years in impacting health throughout the life span. The goal is to take action to avoid conditions such as obesity, criminality, poor literacy, substance abuse, welfare dependency, and mental health problems. As Prof. Oberklaid explains, “Pediatricians and other health professionals have an unparalleled opportunity to participate in programs of prevention and intervention early in the life course, before problems become entrenched.”
Next steps for the Goshen Project are:
* Establish a committee to operationalize the program
* Identify funding sources to establish a secretariat under the umbrella of the Israel Pediatric Association and to financially support retreats and travel for the Goshen Fellows
* Develop job descriptions for the Goshen Fellows
* Secure fellowships at institutions around the country, then advertise and select candidates.
As Prof. Porter comments, “We all felt sure that this time things were starting to come together for child health.”