A Conversation with Dr. Stephen Lazar
Thursday July 18th, 2013
The Executive Dean reflects on the groundbreaking Sackler New York State/American Medical Program
Accredited by New York State and open to students from across the U.S. and Canada, Tel Aviv University’s Sackler School of Medicine New York State/American Program has set the academic and professional standard for international medical schools across the globe. But for program founder Dr. Raymond Sackler, Executive Dean Dr. Stephen Lazar, and the rest of the New York team, there is a very personal connection with students and graduates as well.
What inspired the creation of the New York State/American Program?
In 1976, Dr. Sackler and his two brothers dreamed of funding a program that would benefit both Israel and the United States. American students would travel to Israel, gain another perspective, get a wonderful medical education, and come home as ambassadors for Israel.
They reached out to benefactors from all over the U.S. who believed in their vision, and they later became advisors on the program’s Board. When the office was establiahed in New York, they selected deans from NYU, Columbia, Cornell, Mount Sinai and Einstein medical schools to serve as volunteers and advisors to the program on a day-to day-basis. Many of the people involved then are still involved today, including me and Dr. Barry Stimmel, the Vice-Chairman of our Board, so this program can boast a 37 year continuous history.
When the program first opened, of course, it was designed strictly for students from New York State, but eventually, it grew to reach all across the U.S. and Canada.
What’s been the impact of the program?
The Sackler Medical School New York State/American Program is widely considered to be the premier example of successful cultural and educational cooperation. When students apply to the program, they work with our New York office, and have access to all of the federal loan programs available to medical students in the United States. The New York and Tel Aviv offices are in daily contact, by phone and in person. It’s a true partnership. And the program benefits from this strong international spirit.
I think that the prestige of our graduates has greatly increased the number of applications that we receive for the program, and the quality of our students continues to rise to the point where we are very competitive with American medical schools. Many of our students have been accepted to schools in America, but are choosing to join the TAU program instead.
We’ve become more successful than anyone could have imagined, and we now served as a model for new programs opening all over the world.
What makes you passionate about the program?
I am emotionally involved because as a group, the students are so happy with this program and the faculty is so supportive that we truly are a family — and you don’t find that in many medical schools. Everybody knows everybody by first name, and they all care about one another. We have many alumni who continue to volunteer, assisting our students not only financially but academically, and as advisors for residency programs.
What makes the program so special?
Not only do Sackler students get a first class medical education, they also have the opportunity to envelop themselves in the wonderful Israeli culture. Many come back with a deep understanding of Israeli culture and a love for the people.
Professionally, so many our alumni go on to have notable careers. When the first class graduated in 1981, they were unknown to American hospitals. Now, 37 years later, these same hospitals seek out Sackler graduates because their overall performance is outstanding. When hospitals look for the best applicants among students, they routinely include the New York State/American Program.
And our alumni are thrilled with their experience. We’ve actually graduated the children of some of our earlier graduates — so we’re into the second generation!
Do graduates stay involved?
We have a vibrant alumni association that organizes periodic reunions in New York, and now we’re organizing reunions throughout the United States. Our graduates volunteer for the program, helping students academically and mentoring them through the residency application process, and even serve on the Board or as interviewers for applicants throughout the U.S. and Canada.
Many of our alumni also contribute financially to the program. Dr. Raymond and Beverly Sackler, who continue to be very active participants, have among other things established the Dr. Raymond and Beverly Sackler Alumni Scholarship Fund, which matches dollar for dollar any contributions our alumni make to a maximum of one million dollars over a five year period.
Going forward, how will you prepare students for the medical landscape of the future?
Residencies are becoming more difficult to obtain because more medical schools in the U.S. are either opening or expanding — so an increasing number of people will be applying for the same number of residencies.
To continue to get the finest residencies in America, our students will have to be at the top of their game. That’s why we continually update our curriculum to reflect the cutting-edge of modern medicine — and with our students’ characteristically hard work, we have no doubt they will continue to succeed.
Original article: American Friends of Tel Aviv University – A Conversation With Dr. Stephen Lazar