Annual Report 2009

Chairman’s Report to the Annual General Meeting – July 2009

During the period since the last Annual General Meeting it is pleasure to report not only on what has been achieved, but also on the increasing participation of so many of our members in the development of new initiatives and activities:

• To start the year off  in September 2008 the medical student group, led by Abigail Martyn and Paul Wolfson, organised a freshers event welcoming new Jewish medical students
• Dr Claire Walford, in a Presidential address, described her experiences of teenage violence from the perspective of an Accident and Emergency Department
• Prof Charles Sprung delivered a Jakobovits Memorial Lecture in Jewish medical ethics, discussing his Europe – wide studies of end of life issues in critical care units, and reviewing recent Israeli law relating to this topic.
• The night before his talk in London Prof Sprung delivered the same lecture to the inaugural meeting of a JMA(UK) Manchester group organised by Drs Ellis, Kwartz and Simon.
• The Channukah event took the form of a panel discussion on “Physician assisted suicide” with Dr Margaret Branthwaite and Dr Michael Fertleman as speakers.
• Neil Bradman spoke to the clinical trainee group, which is led by Dr Claire Naftalin, on his work on chromosomal tracing of Jewish ancestry.
• JMA members provided back-up support and medical cover at Limmud, organised by Dr Paul de Keyser.
• Prof Mark Clarfield spoke to a meeting about his experiences as a physician at Soroka Hospital / Ben Gurion University Medical School during the recent conflict in Gaza
• Rabbi Dr Akiva Tatz spoke to a group, organised by Dr Patrick Stafler, on Jewish medical ethical issues.
• The annual dinner was attended by over 200 people, with Prof Michael Baum as speaker. Prof Baum outlined the problems that he has encountered during the past year ever since he participated in a debate in the columns of the British Medical Journal (BMJ), and spoke about his efforts to promote unified and positive linkages between British and Israeli medicine. He appealed for more funds to support this work, and the response from JMA(UK) members has been considerable
• Several members of JMA(UK) attended the meeting of the World Fellowship of the Israel Medical Association (IMA) in Tel Aviv in April. Speakers included Prof Michael Baum, Dr Kenneth Collins and Dr Michael Peters.
• To celebrate the end of the academic year the medical student group held a successful summer party.
• Prof Howard Cedar delivered a Joffe Memorial lecture in Cancer Studies, explaining how gene silencing influences our understanding of developmental biology as well as of cancer.
• Dr Leslie Solomon spoke to the clinical trainee group about the topic of circumcision.
• The medical student Israel tour is planned for 26th – 31st August 2009.
• Several JMA(UK) members have responded to Dr Paul de Keyser’s request for help with the “drop in” centre that provides support for refugees and asylum seekers.
• Dr Louise Morganstein is organising  help for Jewish Action and Training for Sexual Health (JAT) in their work with schools and youth groups.
• Dr Charlotte Benjamin has initiated a JMA(UK) mentoring scheme to provide our members with a friendly voice to whom they can turn with their queries.
• Two Israeli medical students are in the UK currently as part of an exchange scheme organised by Dr Alan Naftalin.
• The educational programme run by JMA(UK) is submitted for accreditation for continuing medical educational purposes via the Royal College of Physicians.
• During the year JMA(UK) members have provided expert advice to the Board of Deputies of British Jews and other Jewish organisations about professional issues.

This does not mean that we can be complacent about our activities. We need to expand our membership, to revamp and revitalise our website, and to begin to tackle broader themes and topics that are important in the UK Jewish medical community. We have to achieve a subtle combination of professional, educational, cultural and social objectives.

It would be, however, naïve, if not ridiculous, for me to table this report without reference to some of the serious problems that have arisen over the past year. During the latter part of 2008 Michael Baum and I, in our personal capacities, attempted to facilitate some agreement within Israeli medical circles which would prevent internal controversies spilling over into the UK. We had support and a way forward to investigate concerns offered by the IMA, but these attempts foundered in accusations of lack of good faith.  Subsequently there has been intensified criticism of the IMA, as well as personal attacks on the President, Dr Blachar, who is also President of the World Medical Association (WMA). In March a supplement to the Lancet was published which made extensive claims about public health problems for which Israel was blamed. This appeared in the same week as an article in the BMJ which attacked the “Jewish lobby” for events which took place in 2004, with a companion piece harking back to the early 1980s; and at the same time as the Lancet Editor addressed a meeting in Oxford where he made wide ranging allegations. The Board of Deputies took the view that the BMJ article was antisemitic and inappropriate. Clearly all this material had been planned well before the recent Gaza conflict. Thus these events impacted not only the JMA(UK) charitable aim “to provide linkage to Israeli health institutions” but also the way we provide “a public forum for the discussion of Jewish issues in medicine and healthcare in the United Kingdom”. 

David R Katz


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