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Jewish Journal

Hearts in the Right Place

by Michael Aushenker

August 22, 2002 | 8:00 pm

Call it a mission with a mission."It was the most amazing trip," Dr. Charles Pollick told The Journal. "I've been to Israel many times, but they really rolled out the red carpet for us."

Unlike previous visits, this sojourn was more business than pleasure. Pollick, a cardiologist at Good Samaritan Hospital, was among three local medical professionals -- 21 overall from America and Canada -- who volunteered for a weeklong emergency medical care program, Aug. 4-11, organized by the Jewish Agency and the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).

The Beverlywood family man did not hesitate to sign up for the program.

"If Israel is sick, we need to help," Pollick, 52, says. The doctors participated in an intensive medical orientation, which included a tour of Israeli hospitals, the IDF Medical Corps School of Military Medicine and the medical branches of the Central and Homefront commands. The doctors also met with Health Minister Nissim Dahan and Col. Hezi Levi, deputy surgeon general of the IDF.

The IDF's goal, Pollick notes, is to train the doctors so that "should there be a war, we will go back to work in civilian hospitals because their doctors will have to work [on the frontline]."

Pollick is not exaggerating when he says that Israeli doctors work on the frontlines. Of the 13 soldiers ambushed in Jenin earlier this year, eight were medics, he says.

He adds that Israel is looking for more volunteers, especially surgeons and anesthesiologists.

"The most poignant part of the trip," Pollick says, "was when we met with an 18-year-old victim of terror [of the May 28 Itamar study hall ambush]. He survived, but he's now a paraplegic."

Ultimately, volunteers such as Pollick and Pasadena pediatrician Henie Fialkoff came away impressed.

"Their readiness for biological and chemical warfare is incredible," he says. "They're very prepared in Israel. Far more advanced than in America."

"It impressed on me that Americans are very naive," Fialkoff adds. "The entire world has really changed. We're in the 1930s, on the brink of major catastrophe. Israel is prepared for it. America is not."

Area doctors who would like to volunteer their skills for emergency situations in Israel should contact Dr. Eric Karsenty in Israel at eric.karsenty@moh.health.gov.il .

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