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One of the problems that have arisen post Covid-19 is that since 2020 the other immunisations may not have been as highly prioritised as they should be. One probable consequence is that there has been a significant increase in measles cases, and this has been particularly serious in areas with large Jewish populations. Active campaigns to promote immunisation against measles have been launched, and an example of this from Hackney, introducing new clinics and attempting to increase vaccine cover as quickly as possible before the forthcoming Jewish holidays, can be seen here.

Dr Tammy Rothenberg, consultant paediatrician at the Homerton University Hospital in London, reports that as of early August 2023 there has not been an upswing in measles cases in Stamford Hill, but that there has been an outbreak of pertussis in Stamford Hill, Gateshead and Israel.

Furthermore, Tammy reports that NHS England are running a webinar on Monday 21st August 2023 on the theme of “Sharing Innovation to Promote Equality in MMR Campaigns” which has been organised by Samina Tarafder [Engagement Lead (Orthodox Jewish community) and Under 5's Immunisations Co-ordinator, North East Hackney]

Full details (and how to register for the event) can be accessed here.

Following several cases of poliomyelitis that have been reported in Jewish communities in different parts of the world, members of the Association have helped with the preparation of answers to FAQs that arise about the subject of vaccination in general, and polio in particular. These have been taken up by the Jewish press and can be accessed here.

In March 2022 Dr YingFei Heliot of the University of Surrey published a report on her study “Influencing and Supporting Religious Identity in the NHS through Faith Competency”. The report can be accessed here.

Dr Heliot’s Key Recommendations were that the NHS should:

  • Build religion and belief competency frameworks into medical education and international recruitment and local recruitment.
  • Introduce faith and belief competency conversational workshops as a regular activity for all NHS colleagues.
  • Include the Faith and Belief Competency Framework in staff inductions and cultural and spiritual assessment.
  • Establish and support faith and belief networks/forums across all NHS Trusts.
  • Increase visibility of senior leaders in faith competency conversational workshops.
  • Make clear and consistent statement(s) on the position of all NHS Trusts on the expression and behaviour of faith and belief at work.
  • Develop a mechanism to support champions in faith and belief competence at work.
  • Engage in continuous conversations between Human Resources, faith and belief groups, and senior leaders with the aim to champion faith competency at all levels.

I have been asked by the BMA about the situation with regard to Jewish doctors being requested to provide “cover” during the forthcoming junior doctor industrial action days. The reason given for the question is that these include the 7th and 8th days of Pesach (Passover) (which commence at 19:34 on Tuesday 11th April and end at 20:47 on Wednesday 12th April).

This is of course a problem for observant Jewish doctors as they may be asked to work instead of their juniors. We hope  that arrangements can be made for them to provide such cover during Tuesday and Friday daytime wherever possible, rather than on the festivals.There is an added specific complication with regard to the end point of the Industrial action. This is that Sabbath begins on Friday 14th April at 19:39. The industrial action ends at 07:00 on Saturday 15th April, whereas Sabbath ends at 20:51 on Saturday 15th April. It would be helpful if colleagues and healthcare organisations would take this into account and avoid expecting observant Jews to provide cover during the final 12 hours of the industrial action (i.e. ~19:00 14th April until 07:00 15th April)

(Prof David R Katz)

Speaker: Dr Tamar Ashkenazi
Director of the Israeli National Transplant Centre.

Dr Ashkenazi is a registered nurse, and undertook her doctoral research at Tel Aviv University, presenting a thesis about adaption to loss. She has held her current position for 23 years.

She established the network of national transplant coordinators and dedicated ICU physicians in all Israeli hospitals; the ongoing process of quality control for organ donation; and developed unique process dedicated to accompanying and supporting families of organ donors. She moderates grief support groups for bereaved organ donor families and published a book - "Mourning – the day after", proposing a variety of practical ways to cope with various situations over time after donation - associated bereavement with combined input of parents, brothers and children who have experienced bereavement.

In her talk Dr Ashkenazi will introduce us to her remarkable work and also talk about how she has developed the Israeli live donation system which includes an international kidney pair programme between pairs who do not have a match.

Please pre-register here.

On 11th March the Association organised a discussion meeting to hear Prof Paltiel talk about the theme of “Women in Medicine – an Israeli Perspective”.

This meeting followed on from Prof Parveen Kumar’s 2017 meeting with the leading women in Israeli medicine, held at the British Embassy in Ramat Gan, when she was Henry Cohen Visiting Professor. In her subsequent lecture to the Association’s Annual General Meeting Prof Kumar noted that Dr Lotte Newman had played a leading role in the Medical Women’s Federation (MWF), as she had done in the Association.

In her talk Prof Paltiel reviewed the status quo in Israel. As in the UK women are not represented proportionately  in surgical specialities and academic medicine. The Israeli Medical Association Taskforce had summarised the situation in 2015, and their report with recommendations was published recently.

In conclusion Prof Paltiel summarised her personal experience. She said that we should have no regrets – meaning doing more (training, volunteering, showing up) than is reasonable at any given time. Biology is fate not a handicap; a realistic professional mix of clinical, teaching and research) can lead to flexibility if you are well-trained; work-life balance requires decisions rather than defaults. You need to choose your partner (and nanny) carefully and to be a mentor to other women. But most of all “you must enjoy life and the greatest privilege of all – being a doctor!”

Two Association members, Dr Nicola Rosenfelder (Consultant Oncologist) and Dr Naomi Katz (General Practitioner and Care Commissioning Group Vice Chair) outlined their perception of the present situation in the UK. The areas where women were disadvantaged and / or “disappeared” were noted, but the progress that had been made in the 21st century was reflected in the changes that have occurred in College hierarchy and in senior NHS management respectively. Notably women that (manage to?) emerge from the stresses of postgraduate training period, medicine is an excellent career in which they had the potential to thrive.

Senior members of the UK MWF were at the event and took part in the discussion. The immediate past President, Prof Parveen Kumar, and the current President, Dr Henrietta Bowden-Jones, reflected on their personal experiences. Prof Kumar recalled her situation as the only woman on a Gastroenterology Unit at Barts, and compared this with the present; and Dr Bowden-Jones noted that she had been able to pursue an academic and clinical career in the field of addiction psychiatry successfully.

A vote of thanks to all the participants was proposed by Prof Liz Lightstone.