It’s not every day that Vermont anesthesiologists end up on the national news in Israel.
It’s also not every day that Israeli and Palestinian physicians train together. Mark Hamlin and Tim Dominick joined American physicians and Israeli doctors for a ground-breaking point-of-care ultrasound (US) training program.
About the Point-of-Care Ultrasound Training Program
The program was the first to include physicians from both Israel and Palestinian territories. The Peres Center for Peace in Jaffa sponsors the program with approval from the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority. The course consisted of two days. Day one: teaching in Beersheba, Israel. Day two: instructors crossed the separation wall into the West Bank and taught in Palestinian hospitals in Hebron and Bethlehem.
Their expertise in point-of-care US earned Dominick (US-guided regional anesthesia) and Hamlin (US in Shock) invitations to teach and travel with a group from Harvard/Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) to Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba.
Hamlin had taught previously in Israel in 2012, but then his physician trainees were all Israeli. This new teaching opportunity, he said, “was uniquely appealing, because it crosses political lines. It was phenomenal just to go into the West Bank, which (Americans) only see when something negative happens. It wasn’t like that at all.”
But the mental image we may have of the Palestinian territories is hard to shake.
At one point, Dominick said, his driver took a wrong turn. Navigating back roads in a car with Israeli license plates, “you just imagine if anything went wrong, God forbid, and how that could escalate.” Hamlin says traveling in the Middle East before lessened much of his concern. “I still felt a little uneasy outside the safe zone (in Hebron).” Several other instructors were friends from BIDMC and Israeli citizens, and he said this was unsettling for them.
Once inside the West Bank, Hamlin and half of the instructors stopped at Al Ahli Medical Center in Hebron to teach at the bedside in the ICU, while Dominick went on with the rest to teach US guided regional anesthesia in Bethlehem. During those visits, both actively engaged in patient care: Hamlin taught how to assess unstable patients with US, and even advised his trainees on how to manage a patient who went into an unstable tachycardic arrhythmia. Dominick was giving nerve blocks for patients headed into surgery.
Impressed by the hospital in Israel.
“The medical system in Israel is very sophisticated. Their trauma facilities are unbelievable,” Hamlin said. “That we’re doing innovative work says a lot about us here (in Vermont).” For Dominick, “It was an honor to relay the most cutting-edge teaching.” The physicians in the training group impressed both men, who describe them as “incredible learners who asked fantastic questions.”
Hamlin notes the small geographic footprint of the region. “I found a website where you could compare the size of Israel to that of your state. Israel pretty much fits within the borders of Vermont. There’s so much going on in that part of the world. Beersheba, where we stayed, is only 23 miles from Gaza and is the frequent recipient of missiles.”
They would both go back, but the course coordinator wasn’t sure that the Palestinian doctors would be allowed to come back for a planned follow-up session. “It was painful for both of us to come back (this month) and hear Trump stir up unrest in the Middle East,” Hamlin said. The places they returned from (Hebron and Bethlehem) are roiled by protests and violence, when “we went to do something that was supposed to facilitate peace.”
You can read more about the ultrasound training program at http://www.palestinian-israeli-ultrasound.com.