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U-M CCC - Progress Newsletter Fall 2003 Online

U-M Fellowship Brings Better Cancer Care to Israel

The significance of radiation oncology to the treatment of cancer patients cannot be overstated. By some estimates, for each cancer patient cured by drugs (chemotherapy, immunotherapy, or hormonotherapy), four are cured by radiation. Yet we take for granted the extensive training required of these specialists practicing in the United States.

While on a six-month sabbatical in Israel in 1992, current dean of the U-M Medical School and former professor and chair of the Department of Radiation Oncology Allen Lichter, M.D., saw firsthand both the disparity in training and the overall lack of specialists in the profession practicing in Israel, and decided to leverage Michigan's strengths in the discipline to do something about it. He was instrumental in establishing the Israeli Fellowship in Radiation Oncology at the U-M Medical School in 1993, a program which has been enthusiastically continued by his successor, current chair Theodore Lawrence, M.D., Ph.D.

"Here in the U.S., radiation oncologists complete an intensive, four-year residency program in radiation therapy," explains Lawrence. "In Israel, training in radiation therapy is but a small part of a medical oncology program." In addition, the small number of practicing radiation oncologists -- only 14 in the whole country -- impacts the quality of care as well. "While an American radiation oncologist might treat 150 to 300 patients per year, their Israeli counterpart treats about 650 patients per year; a clearly unmanageable patient load."

The U-M program is intended to expose Israel's most promising young oncologists to the most current clinical and research techniques. "It is a two-year sequence that places participants in the lab for one year and the clinic for another," Lawrence explains. "The fellows make a significant contribution to our research while they are here. The work of past fellows has already helped improve treatments for cancers of the liver and pancreas."

Three doctors have already completed the fellowship and returned to Israel. Currently, two fellows are receiving training. Amichay Meirovitz, M.D. arrived in July 2002, and Merav Akiva Ben-David, M.D. arrived this July to begin her fellowship. Meirovitz is quick to reflect on how supportive the staff has been. "Everyone has been great, welcoming me and helping me acclimate to the U.S., Ann Arbor and the University." Upon returning to Israel next year, Meirovitz plans to practice oncology with an emphasis on radiation oncology. "The superb training I have received here is the best preparation possible for that goal," he says.

Ben-David plans to take the knowledge she gains home to Israel's Shiba Medical Center. While here,she is collaborating on breast cancer and genetics research. She says the best thing about the fellowship is impacting patient care and research. "We put our shoulder to the effort along with the other residents. We're not just observers; we make a difference."

To learn more about the Israeli Fellowship in Radiation Oncology, contact Marc Halman at (734) 936-4302.


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