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Weizmann Institute opens new medical faculty

The race to increase the number of medical students in Israel is heating up: the Weizmann Institute of Science is working vigorously to open a new medical school in a unique "boutique" program of physician-researchers (MD-PhD). This is in collaboration with Sheba Medical Center (Tel Hashomer). In the first phase, the program will include only about 40 male and female students per year, and it will be a six-year program intended for graduates of bachelor's degrees or advanced degrees. The research activity will be carried out by the students at the Weizmann Institute, and the clinical training will be received at Sheba.

In the coming days, the Institute will contact the Higher Education Council (HEC) with a request to approve the plan. It was kept secret for a long time, and even the Ministry of Health did not know about it - but the Ministry is not expected to oppose any plan that will increase the number of medical students in Israel.

The school will be established in partnership between the Aaron Gutwirt Loyalty Institute and the Allied Group, which has been donating to it for many years. The institute stated that "joining the Gutwirt Trust in favor of this unique model is natural, in light of its long-standing commitment that is consistent with the values ​​of the Weizmann Institute, to make a significant contribution to society and medicine in Israel."

The new initiative is part of an overall movement to increase the number of medical students in Israel. It joins two major steps that have been taken in recent months: the first is the initiative to establish the first private school of medicine at Reichman University, which is already in more advanced stages of establishment but has not yet received the approval of the Legislature, through a donation from the Recanati family. At Reichman they signed a cooperation agreement Clinical with Sheba and Billinson.

The second step is the historic decision to cancel the American programs for medical studies at Tel Aviv University, the Technion and Ben Gurion, and to replace the students who studied in them with Israeli students. For this purpose, the state agreed to compensate the universities for the financial loss involved in closing the programs. In addition, the government plans, within the framework of the upcoming budget, to financially assist Israeli students who go to study at recognized medical schools abroad after they have been screened (the "Norwegian model").
In parallel with the establishment of new medical schools, agreements are currently being forged with universities abroad for collaborations, which will include clinical studies in Israel in the last academic years.

All these changes are possible following a paradigm shift regarding the operating hours of clinical fields in Israeli hospitals. At Sheba, they already started operating a "second shift" in the clinical fields last year. In its framework, the clinical studies can be carried out not only during the day but also in the afternoon, around the same beds in the wards. This is made possible by paying medical staff who stay at the hospital in the afternoon - and are engaged in studying students.

Thus, it is possible to significantly increase the limited infrastructure of the clinical fields, which were traditionally considered the bottleneck that prevents the increase of the number of medical students in Israel. The Ministry of Health believes that with this method it is possible to increase the number of training places in Israel by tens of percent.

The various initiatives to increase the number of medical students come against the background of the understanding and internalization that the country is moving towards a crisis of shortage of doctors. On the one hand, Israel trains only 40% of its doctors and ranks last among OECD countries in self-production of doctors: in 2020, about seven Israelis per 100,000 citizens received a license to practice medicine from a medical school in Israel, compared to the average that is almost twice as high in OECD countries - a rate of 13.5 doctors new for every 100,000 citizens.
At the same time, a "stable reform" came into effect, under which the Ministry of Health shut down various medical schools, mainly in Eastern Europe, where many Israeli students studied in the last decade, after it became clear that the level of education in them was too low and did not meet the standard appropriate for the health care system in Israel. In light of this, starting in 2025, university graduates who were disqualified in the reform will no longer be able to obtain a medical license in Israel.

A recently published OECD report indicated that these trends are occurring at the same time as the trend of many doctors retiring: the rate of doctors approaching retirement age (passing the age of 55) is one of the highest in the organization and much higher than the average. It should be noted that experience shows that MD-PHD graduates In many cases, they become full-time researchers, and engage in a little clinical activity at the patient's bedside.

The Weizmann Institute stated: "The initiative to establish the program was born out of the need to create a direct connection between science, and in particular between basic research and the world of medicine, and to train research doctors who will contribute to enriching hospitals with holistically trained personnel and bring the most advanced and innovative treatments to patients on the one hand, and enrich the The scientific research carried out at the Weizmann Institute, on the other hand. Another direct result of the opening of this course of study is the training of doctors who will strengthen the health system and assist in alleviating the personnel crisis it is facing. The opening of the new program is subject to the approval of the Council for Higher Education."