Spotlight on…

Spotlight on…Sackler School of Medicine New York State/American Program

15Tel Aviv University’s first international program of study, the Sackler School of Medicine New York State/American Program 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 Harvard, Columbia, 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 significantly 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

sacklerschool_300x225The 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.

And 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.

labMany 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 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

1A 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

17Sackler’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

8Unlike 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.

And 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.

New York State/American Program Alumni Say…


Dr. Deborah Axelrod and
Raymond and Beverly Sackler


NYU Clinical Cancer Center:
Director of Clinical Breast Programs and Services
Medical Director of Community Cancer Education and Outreach

Renowned surgeon and breast cancer and disease expert Dr. Deborah Axelrod has never forgotten her TAU roots. Drawn to studying medicine in Israel, she saw the American Program — then called the New York State Program — as an opportunity to be part of a new initiative. “I was excited to help establish and nurture the school,” she says. “When you believe something will be successful, you want to get involved at ground level.”

Calling her time at Sackler an “adventure,” Dr. Axelrod believes her experiences at the school have helped to shape her career path. It was through her learning experiences there that she first became interested in the breast as an end endocrine organ, and was exposed to the innovative idea of conservation surgery for breast cancer patients.

She also credits her time abroad for instilling in her qualities that are crucial for a physician, including independent thought, ingenuity, and motivation. “It’s not like being in another state or part of the country here. You have to learn the language and be a part of a new culture and society. It’s a chance to experience a different life and grow.”

Today, Dr. Axelrod maintains close ties with American Program, serving on the Board of Directors. She expresses great appreciation for the care and attention the Sacklers have afforded the program. “Raymond and Beverly are angels who always look out for the school and its inhabitants,” she says.

In fact, the noted philanthropists were present to cheer her on when she was recently named Kanas Family Foundation Associate Professor of Surgical Oncology at NYU. “It was a big thrill for me,” she notes.

tracy_120x148DR. THOMAS TRACY – M.D. 1981

Chief Medical Officer, Senior Vice President, Rhode Island and Hasbro Children’s Hospital

Vice Chairman of Surgery at Brown University
Pediatric Surgeon-in-Chief of Hasbro Children’s Hospital

A graduate of the inaugural class of the American Program, Dr. Thomas Tracy believes that a medical education at the Sackler Faculty of Medicine rivals top programs in the U.S., Canada and Europe.

The foundation of the program, which combines Israel’s outstanding scientific research with the rigors of the American medical system, results in “one of the most balanced medical educations that you can find anywhere in the world,” he says.

Dr. Tracy continues to value the relationships that he built at Sackler, where he felt motivated and inspired by his teachers and peers. Interested in surgery when he entered medical school, his interactions with several pediatric surgeons in Israel cemented his future ambitions. “Because of these interactions, I was able to interview for my residency positions with a strong understanding of my direction,” he recalls.

Now a leader in his field, Dr. Tracy is sure that his experience through the American Program has strengthened his career. He says that having an understanding of a different medical system has made him an adaptable, big-picture thinker.”Throughout all the changes in American medicine, I was able to refer back to an entirely different system. I saw the benefits and drawbacks of each.”

It has also prepared him for the international collaborations that drive the medical field today. Referring to medicine as a “team sport,” Dr. Tracy believes that there is no better place than Israel — and Sackler — to learn how to build international, cross-cultural teams.

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