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From left: Hadassah Australia President Ron Finkel; Australia’s Federal Minister of Health, The Hon. Nicola Roxon; Hadassah’s Associate Director General Dr. Yair Birnbaum

Tapping into ingenuity and community connections, HadassahAustralia created AusIMed—the Australia Israel Medical Research Fund—to support clinical collaboration and bilateral research between theHadassah Medical Center and high-level hospitals in Australia. AusIMed was launched at a dinner on July 29, in coordination with the Australian Ministry of Health and the State Zionist Council of Victoria.

The 330 guests included key players in the Australian health sector, chief executive officers of major health networks, Jewish community leaders, physicians, health researchers, and supporters of HadassahAustralia. Among the distinguished speakers were Australia’s Federal Minister for Health and Aging, The Hon. Nicola Roxon; Hadassah “Ambassador” Dr. Yair Birnbaum, Associate Director General of the Hadassah Medical Center; and The Hon. Steve Bracks, former Victorian Premier.

Mr. Bracks, after witnessing firsthand Hadassah’s state-of-the-art preparedness for mass casualty events, spearheaded government funding for reciprocal training programs between Melbourne’s Alfred Hospital and Hadassah. The collaboration led to the creation of a new mass casualty strategy at The Alfred and opened the door to new, powerful collaborations between Hadassah and other Australian clinical and research institutions.

With the launch of AusIMed, the Hadassah Medical Center will begin sharing talent and expertise with the Royal Melbourne Hospital in the field of neuroscience, Melbourne’s Royal Children’s Hospital in pediatric community health, and Sydney’s Westmead Hospital in adolescent psychiatry. The AusIMed Fund will support post-doctoral and graduate students in the form of fellowships and scholarships, enabling them to spend three to six months in clinical and academic exchanges. Chairing the fund are Prof. Leon Piterman of Monash Uiversity, Melbourne, and Dr. Ergad Gold of Momentum Funds Management, with support from Dr. Elane Zelcer, BioConsult.

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Opening the gala evening, Master of Ceremonies Prof. Piterman gave an overview of common threads between Israel and Australia, including being multicultural societies and leaders in biomedicine. He then introduced the Hadassah Medical Center’s film, “From Lab Bench to Bedside,” which explores the ways Hadassah solves medical problems through research. (Click here to view this film.)

Three Australian doctors, representing the specialties which will be the focus of the first AusIMed collaborations, spoke next about their respective fields of medicine. President of Hadassah Australia Ron Finkel presented a certificate to The Hon. Steve Bracks, which recognized his “pivotal role as a catalyst for these binational research medical collaborations.” In his response, Mr. Bracks spoke of his respect for the way Hadassah not only treats all patients equally, regardless of ethnicity or religion, but also provides equal support to their families. He expressed his wish that the “collaboration between Hadassah and Australia go on for many years to come.”

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Dr. Birnbaum (above), in his address, presented a comprehensive picture of Hadassah’s research capabilities and gave examples of the way Hadassah provides seed money for new young physicians to conduct research, as well as supporting more senior researchers as needed. He also explained some of the research now being done at Hadassah in the fields of patient-tailored medicine, vaccination against melanoma, and minimally invasive surgery. He noted that Hadassah allocates more funds to researchers than the Israeli Ministry of Health. Concluding his talk, Dr. Birnbaum thanked Hadassah Australia for “lovingly sending a hand of support over to us” and expressed his wish that AusIMed, “this half-dream/half-reality will turn into something of vitality and we will all be proud of it.”  He added that he hoped “our partnership will go from strength to strength.”

The Hon. Nicola Roxon added her admiration for the formation of AusIMed in her speech. She commented that it is “important to look across the horizon for potential collaborative work.” She encouraged the audience to be part of this exciting project and to support it financially. “Insight,” she said, “can be orchestrated.” As one fosters research across boundaries, she explained, “we step outside our normal comfort zone and spark that new thought.”With AusIMed, she said, “we provide that spark.”

The launch, sponsored by Johnson and Johnson, Melbourne’s Monash University, Bank Leumi, Deutsche Bank, the Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce, and several others, was covered on national prime time news. As President of Hadassah Australia Ron Finkel notes, “This was another good step in establishing the Hadassah brand here inAustralia.”

Jesse Gerstl, Interim Director of Young Hadassah International, who attended the AusIMed launch, captures its impact in his comment: “It was inspiring to be in a room full of medical leaders from around Melbourne who were all eager to learn about Hadassah Hospital and the possible avenues of collaboration that are available to Australia and Israel. Both countries have so much to offer each other, and the AusIMed fund will be a fantastic vehicle to achieve their goals.”