Even when Jews packed medical school classrooms, there were few organizations dedicated to their special concerns. Today, most schools lack active associations for Jewish students. As Carol Ghatan puts it, "The Jewish medical student gets lost sometimes."
Ghatan, both the daughter and the mother of a doctor, is also associate director of the American Physicians Fellowship for Medicine in Israel (APF). This organization, founded by three Jewish doctors in 1950, is now belatedly reaching out to Jewish medical students.
APF is sometimes called "Israel's best-kept medical secret." Committed to advancing medical education, research and care in Israel, it gives fellowships to Israeli doctors for advanced study in North America, and sends American experts to lecture and teach in Israel. Board member Peter Glazier, son of an APF founder, estimates that over time the group has dispersed $6 million in grants, helping to ensure that Israeli medical care remains world class.
Though APF members prefer to work quietly, they've been positively secretive about one aspect of their mission. In close cooperation with the Israeli government, they've compiled a registry of American health care professionals willing to travel to Israel in case of national emergency. The APF list emerged in the aftermath of the Yom Kippur War, when American doctors took over for Israeli counterparts pressed into military service. The list has not been reactivated, but APF stayed on high alert during the Gulf War.
New York University medical student Justin Friedman explains why he joined APF: "I decided to become a physician to make a difference in people's lives.... APF has benefited countless thousands of people by helping [Israeli] physicians obtain a better education, and thus, positively affecting their patients' care. APF is something everyone should know about, but they don't. So, I feel compelled to tell them."