Health care lessons, from inside a new culture

Working closely with medical professionals in Israel during a recent Dialogue of Civilizations experience taught nine students from the Bouvé College of Health Sciences critical lessons about providing medical care in a multicultural society.

Anita Finkelman, a visiting clinical instructor in the School of Nursing, led the students — mostly psychology, physical therapy or public health majors — on the Dialogue experience to Be’er Sheva, the largest city in Israel’s Negev region.

“Some of these students had never lived in [an overseas] place for a month and interacted with the culture,” Finkelman said. “Their collective realization that we are more alike than we are different is something that is important in medical care, whether you’re working in Boston or halfway across the world.”

The students had nearly unlimited access to more than three-dozen Ben-Gurion University faculty and staff. At the university-affiliated Soroka Medical Center, a hospital in Be’er Sheva, students interacted on a daily basis with medical professionals, patients and their families.

One of the students’ most rewarding experiences, Finkelman said, was meeting Bedouin women training as nurses in a first-of-its-kind program created by the Israeli government. The Bedouin are a desert-dwelling Arab ethnic group, who, Finkleman said, “are even more restricted than many Muslim women.”

“The government of Israel believes that Bedouin women would be better care providers inside their culture,” Finkleman said. “[Bedouin] women going on for higher education are almost unheard of.”

In preparation for the trip, students studied public health, cultural and historical issues in Israel, and were responsible for creating presentations on their work and experiences there.

“The students were very well prepared for everything they encountered,” Finkelman said. ”The Ben-Gurion faculty was very impressed with them, too. By far, I count it as the most amazing teaching experience I have ever had in my many, many years as an educator.”