The Adelson School of Medicine at Ariel University has not yet opened its doors but already appears on a government list of schools recommended by a panel of experts as a platform for increasing the number of available places to absorb Israeli medical students.
The panel was assigned in October with the task of recommending how to increase the number of slots for medical students in the country from a current 750 to 1,000. Headed by Dr. Eran Halpern, director of Rabin Medical Center and chairman of the association of hospital directors and Prof. Shimon Marom, dean of the Technion faculty of medicine, the committee is expected to present its findings on Sunday to the Health Ministry director general and the Council on Higher Education in Israel.
One source of new places where more medical students may be absorbed is Ariel school, which is launching a four-year program next year for 70 students with undergraduate, pre-clinical degrees.
It was reported last year that the establishment of the medical school would be funded in large part by a donation of $20 million from American Jewish businessman Sheldon Adelson, who is also the owner of the free Israeli daily newspaper Israel Hayom. The school is to be named after Adelson and his wife Miriam.
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Last month Haaretz reported that the Justice Ministry had instructed Ariel University not to take any irreversible steps regarding the establishment of a medical school and to make clear to any potential students that final approval for the school is still under review.
Marom has said that solutions have been found to supplement the university's facilities, to supply internships and hospitals that will be associated with the Ariel medical faculty.
“Laniado Hospital and Mayanei Hayeshua are to be associated with the Ariel faculty and can provide clinical placements for some 450 students. About 25 more students will be able to have their clinical placements in other hospitals not associated with the faculty,” Marom said.
According to Marom, even if for some reason the Ariel faculty does not open, the quota of 70 students the committee envisions enrolling there would also be able to register at the Tel Aviv University school of medicine.
Other recommendations for enlarging the number of spaces for medical students in Israel call for cancelling or limiting programs for some 130 medical students from the United States and Canada a year. The committee proposes either cancelling these programs entirely or limiting them to 55 students a year, which would open up another 75 to 130 places for Israeli students.
Another idea broached is to increase the number of places in the pre-army medical school program at Hadassah University Hospital to a total of 90 students a year. Currently there are 70. The committee also recommended increasing the number of students at the Bar-Ilan medical school in Safed from 20 to 144 students a year.
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The committee has also suggested abolishing the medical studies program run since 2011 by Sheba Medical Center, Tel Hashomer in cooperation with the University of London and the University of Nicosia, Cyprus, and Tel Aviv University. This program trains 30 students a year from Israel and abroad with undergraduate degrees.
It is a four-year program, two years of which are spent in Nicosia, and the remaining two at a clinical setting at Sheba. It accepts students with any undergraduate degree and a minimum grade average of 75, and requires applicants to take a test in biochemistry and English and undergo a 40-minute interview.
In addition to the 30 students from Israel, the program takes students from North America and the European Union.
“Proper application of the recommendations can provide another 250 places for medical students in Israel in the near future, and bring us closer to the goal of 1,000 students a year,” Marom said.
Ariel University said a month ago it “has prepared and is preparing for the opening of the coming academic year for medical studies in October 2019.”
The university said it is operating “according to the instructions of the appropriate authorities, and we will act according to the instructions of the Justice Ministry.
"Any delay in opening the program will harm the national interest of significantly expanding the possibility of studying medicine in Israel.”