by Elliott Stein and Amiad Kushner
Imagine graduating from high school and dedicating the next 12 years of your life to serving your country. That’s precisely what students do when they enroll in Tsameret, the elite military medicine track at the Hebrew University-Hadassah School of Medicine.
Hebrew University launched Tsameret in 2009, in cooperation with the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), with the goal of alleviating the acute shortage of military physicians in Israel, and to close crucial gaps in medical knowledge in the military context.
To date, Tsameret has admitted 170 of Israel’s best students in three intakes, with a goal of 60 new students per year. Students take on a 12-year commitment, including service as military physicians for five years.
We sat down to chat with Netta Bar-Ilan, a third-year student in Tsameret, to learn more about the program.
Bar-Ilan described an extremely rigorous program that requires students to make a twelve year commitment upon their high school graduation. While their high school classmates embark on their mandatory IDF service of 2 years (women) or 3 years (men) upon graduating from high school, Tsameret students spend the next six years studying conventional medicine and receiving extensive training in military-related medicine, such as trauma and battlefield triage. At the same time, Tsameret students go through military basic training, the IDF Paramedics Course, and IDF Officer’s School.
In their seventh year, Tsameret students will focus on practical work and intern in one of Israel’s hospitals. Following that internship, the students will deploy in various IDF combat units, where they will serve as medical officers of battalions for their three year compulsory service and another two years as part of their career service in another position.
Despite the rigors of the program, Bar-Ilan and his Tsameret classmates still find time for other activities, including community engagement. Bar-Ilan and his classmates teach English as part of a tutoring project for underprivileged childrenl, and they volunteer at the Hadassah Medical Center. Recently, Bar-Ilan and several of his classmates trained for and ran in the Jerusalem marathon. As Bar-Ilan says, “if something’s important, you find time for it.”
The program attracts the country’s top students. Bar-Ilan is no exception. He comes from a family of distinguished academics and soldiers. His father, Avner Bar-Ilan, is a professor of economics at Haifa University and Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, where Netta lived from 2003 to 2005 Netta has a twin brother and two older brothers, all of whom serve or have served in elite units of the IDF.
As a relatively young program with limited funding, Tsameret is seeking to raise funds for new facilities and programs. Bar-Ilan highlighted a few of the program’s funding needs. For example, Tsameret hopes to build a simulation center on Hebrew University’s campus, similar to the one that the IDF Medical Corp uses in Rishon Lezion. The simulation center will allow Tsameret students to train under conditions that are intended to replicate actual combat zones. Tsameret also hopes to raise funds to build new (and improve existing) military medicine labs that focus on medical research, with a particular focus on injuries specific to military pilots, combat divers, and submariners. Additional funds will also help Tsameret recruit Israel’s best and brightest students, many of whom may live in under-represented communities, need financial aid, and won’t have the time to earn extra income during their studies.
Tsameret’s goal – to develop the theory and practice of military medicine, with the goal of saving lives – is a worthy one, indicative of the great work Hebrew University is doing to serve the State of Israel and the world.
If you would like to support, or simply learn more about, Tsameret or the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, please contact Orlee Gutman by email or call 212-607-8517.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, Lowenstein Sandler PC.