The Sackler School of Medicine New York State/American Program is Tel Aviv University’s first international program of study. It has been training world-class American doctors with Israeli ingenuity since 1976.

Its graduates are sought after by the most prestigious hospitals and medical programs in the U.S., including Columbia, Harvard, Johns Hopkins University and Yale.

The success of our program is reflected in our graduates’ success in gaining some of America’s most highly-sought residency programs. And as their careers develop, a significant number of graduates attain high positions in the U.S. and Canadian medical systems, including appointments at top-tier institutions.

Following in the footsteps of Dr. Raymond and Beverly Sackler, founders of the program and long-time supporters of TAU, there is “true partnership” and cooperation between the Tel Aviv and New York offices watching over the program, says Executive Dean Dr. Stephen Lazar, meaning that students are mentored and supported by dedicated staff in both countries. (Read “A Conversation with Dr. Stephen Lazar”)

Best of Both Worlds

The trailblazing program — the first of its kind in Israel — gives students access to the very best that the renowned Sackler School of Medicine has to offer. Conducted entirely in English, it offers direct access to leading researchers and physicians, as well as to TAU’s numerous affiliated hospitals and medical centers. Students’ time is divided between preclinical and clinical studies in Israel and hospital rotations in the U.S., providing a well-rounded education grounded in two top-tier medical systems.

While the quality of education is on a par with the best the U.S. and Canada has to offer, Sackler’s American Program offers smaller class sizes and personalized attention that American schools can rarely match.

Many American medical schools have a large number of students per class which can be “overwhelming and daunting for students,” says Dr. Aaron Allen, Clinical Director of the program. “With fewer students in every Sackler class, we feel like a family. Each student is individually known by the administration and faculty, and I think that’s what makes the difference.” Students are tutored directly by heads of departments and attending physicians. Career guidance is also a prominent feature, with one-on-one interviews that help students to form goals for the future.

The proof of Sackler Medical School’s methods is evident in its graduates’ 95 percent success rate with United States Medical Licensing Examination. And the number of graduates who gain their first choice of American residency programs is equally impressive.

Both in America and Israel, the program invites deans from top American medical schools to lecture and coach Sackler students on the American medical system so that they have a smooth transition into residency, says Dr. Lazar. Because the New York State/American Program is chartered by New York State, Sackler students are considered graduates from an New York State medical school — and it is the only international program to offer such a benefit.

Benefiting From New Challenges

A four-year education at Israel’s leading university offers outstanding benefits, says Dr. Arnon Afek, Director of the Sackler program. Beyond the opportunity to live in Israel and forge a connection to a new culture, choosing to train abroad can be an important career influence, molding more well-rounded doctors.

“Accepting and adapting to a new culture helps our students to expand their world view and think through situations from multiple perspectives. These are crucial skills for success in medicine. They are better able to relate to patients from diverse backgrounds, and bring a high level of creative thinking to each case.”

Some American Program applicants seek a deeper connection to their Jewish roots. Most, however, are simply adventurous, wanting to travel and explore at the same time as they achieve their life goals, he adds. And with curiosity a cornerstone of innovative science, that’s a desirable trait to encourage in young medical practitioners.

The State of Israel benefits from the American students’ four year experience in Sackler’s program, too — graduates become good-will ambassadors with a vibrant connection to the country.

Cutting Edge Research Enhances Clinical Understanding

Sackler’s American Program offers unparalleled opportunities to shape the fabric of the medical community through participation in cutting-edge research, and that serves to enhance its students’ future clinical practice. Embracing the Jewish value placed on education and knowledge, says Dr. Afek, Sackler students never stop learning, and are encouraged to contribute to the field of medicine as a whole. Promoting active research — not just study — is widely regarded as one of the major strengths of the program.

A specialized program called Chetz, “Arrow” in English, pairs Sackler students with laboratories in their field of interest at TAU-affiliated hospitals. More than simply enhancing their resume, the experience allows students to become fully-incorporated members of a research team, and can even include participation in international conferences. The popularity of the Arrow program is growing, and students have been have been involved in a wide range of projects — from the genetics and pathology of multiple sclerosis to the interaction between alternative medicine and oncology, to novel non-invasive techniques for the removal of cerebral tumors, and more.

Learning From Experts

Unlike many programs in America, Sackler students receive their training directly from top researchers and clinicians, Dr. Sheryl Shoham, Program Director for Pre-Clinical Studies, notes. Students consistently remark on the quality of the staff, gratified to be learning from the brightest and most accomplished medical minds in Israel. It’s not uncommon for heads of departments to lead Sackler students around hospitals, or run classroom workshops.

The American Program curriculum never remains fixed for very long. Regular updates feature the latest educational tools, and now include web-based lectures and small-group interactive learning.

Above all, the Sackler Program’s priority is to train physicians equipped for tomorrow. “We are always mindful that becoming a good doctor is a multifaceted process. It includes developing skills in patient care and interviewing, valuing community involvement, and being equipped to handle the ethical dilemmas that arise in the practice medicine,” says Dr. Shoham.

Modified article: American Friends of Tel Aviv University – Spotlight On… Sackler School of Medicine New York State/American Program