A Complicated Journey

Oct 10, 2010

I returned late last evening from a week long trip to Israel. This was the fourth "People to People" trip that I have led in the past three years. I was able to lead 30 Speech-Language Pathologists to Israel for professional exchange with each other via Continuing Education, with colleagues in universities, hospitals, and clinics in Tel Aviv, Haifa, and Jerusalem, and also to tour important historical and religious sites. What a trip! Exhausting and exhilarating and filled with surprises and learning! The trip was not affiliated with the Institute and was not sponsored by the Institute (just in case you were wondering!). What a great way to use some of my annual vacation leave. Some thoughts that I will spend time (alone, not on here) thinking about over the coming months-- +speech-language pathologists from the US and Israel have much in common and services are similar in many ways, though not identical. Passion for people with communication disabilities, health issues, and quality of life are universal concerns. We have wonderful Israeli colleagues. +In the higher education and clinical sites that we visited there was multicultural concern about assuring that access to services was available for people of diverse religions and languages. Regardless of the political issues that are so prevalent in that small country, there is consistent passionate concern for the rights to access services, to develop a diverse pool of SLPs, and address cultural competence. One university, Hadassah (Jerusalem) will open a new MS degree program with an emphasis on multicultural competence.+The political, historical, and religious conflict in Israel are complex and defy resolution. Israeli and Palestinians are able to express concerns for each other, while experiencing great anxiety about compromise. Not surprising, there are diverse opinions within groups as well as between them. I am anxious to read more, learn more, and develop a better understanding of the political environment.+Israel is prepared for violence and war. All young people enter the army for 2-3 years after high school. At first it is a bit alarming to see 20 year olds walking around, some out of uniform, carrying large weapons. Airport security is much more complex than the US (I didn't know that was possible). The largest hospital in Israel (Sheba) is equipped with a complete underground alternative hospital, that is available should there be war on the ground. It is maintained 24/7, even though it has never been used. We also saw outdoor gurneys and showers to be used if there are chemical attacks. One of our meetings at a preschool program for deaf children was held in a basement room, that is a bomb shelter. Every public building has bomb shelters. Reality is in your face everywhere in Israel; but people are happy, positive, and confident. Amazing!+Socialized health care is working well and colleagues with whom we spoke were encouraging about our future. Some examples---all children under 6 are screened for all problems possible and covered for health, habilitative, and rehabilitative services. We saw a treatment program for 6 month old high risk infants that was beyond belief. Talk about investing in the future. They have much to teach us. Similarly, cochlear implants are universally covered for children with hearing loss, if the parents desire the implant (this is hardly true in the US). Rehabilitation hospitals have patients in treatment for PT, SLP, and OT for several months after onset of the disability. Their system is quite impressive and there is high regard across the system for interdisciplinary collaboration.I come back to the Institute with a renewed sense of commitment to assuring that our future in the new health care system assures access for patients with ALL types of needs, that we assure that all of our students understand the importance of primary and generalist care as critical to such access, and with an appreciation for the work of our colleagues in Israel. Stop by and I can share some pictures with you! It was a wonderful trip. Mazel Tov.

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