Women in Medicine – Israel and the UK
The Science and Innovation Network and British Embassy in Israel held a “Women in Medicine” event in honour of Prof Dame Parveen Kumar, Henry Cohen Visiting Professor for 2017. Prof. Kumar, who has a special interest in the theme of women in medicine, is the first woman in recent years to be awarded this prize.
Fourteen women, Israeli health professionals of the highest calibre, gathered in her honour for lunch at the Ambassador’s Residence. This group of exceptional women consists of the most influential and brilliant within senior management in the Israeli health system as well as a wide range of expertise. There were top administrators from the Ministry of Health, chairs of ethics committees, hospital department heads, a newly elected medical school dean and even a university president, all from different medical disciplines: genetics, family medicine, woman’s medicine (not to be confused with gynaecology), psychiatry, anesthesia, haematology and more. Many of them are the only women in Israel who hold these positions.
It was interesting to hear what obstacles some of them, but not all, encountered while building their careers. The most common challenge described was raising a family while pursuing their ambitions. Another challenge was the attitude in the 80’s towards women who wanted to become doctors, although already then 50% of med students were female. One was asked to bring her husband along to her residency interview to get his permission. Another story we heard showed how men in senior positions may be unaware of these issues, which is another problem.
The UK and Israel have similar statistics regarding women in medicine (over 50%) and women in senior medical management (only 10-15%). Prizes are seldom awarded to women in academia. It was agreed that these figures must be changed – all agreed that the way to do this is by making sure that to every senior position and to every award call at least 50% of the applicants should be women. Women should not be picked based on their gender, but increasing female application rates will ensure that many more will be picked based on their outstanding credentials and capabilities.
Cambridge Graduates in Israel
There are several Cambridge graduates who are working currently in Israel in a mixture of clinical and biomedical roles. During Regius Prof Patrick Maxwell’s 2018 Henry Cohen visit Ambassador David Quarrey invited a group of them to meet Prof and Mrs Maxwell for breakfast at the UK Embassy.
Drs Balcombe, Fertleman, Galinsky-Tzoref, Pepys-Vered, Pine and Silverstein were joined by British Council and Embassy staff, and by Prof Afek from the Israeli Medical Association. The members of the graduate group told Prof Maxwell about their experiences at the interface between British and Israeli science and medicine. Dr Silverstein highlighted the problem of reciprocal registration for medical practice. Prof Afek emphasised the importance of international exchange with the UK. Dr Pine noted the “added value” of the exchanges, such as the Weizmann – UK fellowship awards, that had led to publications in high impact factor journals. Dr Fertleman asked why it was that electronic patient record systems worked so much better in Israel than in the UK. There was strong consensus that collaborative work between the two countries in this field should be encouraged since there were many as yet unexploited opportunities for mutual benefit in both research and clinical practice.