At the time of the First Zionist Congress in Basel, Switzerland in 1897, Palestine was slowly emerging from its status as a backward province of the Ottoman Empire. The country was largely rural and sparsely populated, hardly a postcard for the vibrant country it would eventually become.
Theodor Herzl who convened the Congress declared that at Basel he “founded the Jewish State.” Ever the realist, he also said that if he uttered these words at that time, “I would be greeted by universal laughter.”
One person who took his message seriously was US-born educator and communal worker, Henrietta Szold. Ms Szold founded Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America. It would in a few short years become a byword for medical and research excellence that continues to resonate today. Taking heart from Herzl’s clarion call, she visited Palestine for the first time in 1909.
It was in Israel that her vision for westernised healthcare in this impoverished land came into being.
Today, as we celebrate the 125th anniversary of that ground-breaking Congress, we can see how profoundly Herzl’s message and Szold’s advocacy have changed the face of healthcare not only in Israel and the Middle East, but the world.
Israel is an amazing country with much to offer the world – innovation, high-tech and, from our perspective, fantastic medical facilities, healthcare, and medical research. I raise this because we are proud and honoured to be part of the work that brings Australia and Israel together for all the right reasons.
AUSiMED, the Australia Israel Medical Research & Collaboration Foundation, established as a separate NGO by Hadassah Australia in 2012, has recently been in the news. And for a very good reason. AUSiMED is hosting a 15-person delegation to Israel of Australia’s leading COVID-19 public health experts, led by Prof Sharon Lewin AO, Head of Melbourne’s renowned Doherty Institute. The delegation will share with its Israeli counterparts, research and direct public health experiences in the battle against the pandemic – read more in the article in this newsletter.
AUSiMED was “born” out of Hadassah Australia and our conviction that Australia and Israel are two countries that “punch” significantly above their weight when it comes to medical research.
AUSiMED’s 10th anniversary is a reminder of how central the value of medical research has been, and continues to be for the Hadassah Medical Organization.
Hadassah is the leading centre for medical research in Israel. Its two hospitals house about 300 scientists (doctors and researchers) and about 200 graduate and postgraduate students engaged in all levels of medical research – basic, translational and clinical.
The high quality of research is reflected in the large number of national and international grants received by Hadassah scientists from the most competitive international funding bodies such as the American National Institutes of Health (NIH), the European Union (EC), the National Science Foundation (ISF), the Binational Foundation with Germany (GIF) and North America (BSF) and many more.
In fact, every year, Hadassah receives more than 50% of the grants distributed by Israel’s National Science Foundation to hospitals in Israel.
There is also a growing internationalisation of the research. Hadassah researchers have teamed up with their colleagues in other countries in pursuit of treatments that will deliver better outcomes for all – not just in Australia and Israel.
A great example of just such an initiative is work being sponsored by AUSiMED involving researchers at Monash University and Hadassah. This is transformational collaborative research that will help protect premature babies from lifelong kidney disease.
Dr Oded Volvelsky’s lab at Hadassah has developed novel chronic kidney disease (CKD) mouse model systems and provides clinical expertise. Dr Alex Combes lab at Monash University contributes cutting-edge technology and expertise in advanced imaging and single cell gene expression profile. Combining their expertise, they will identify how nephron formation is interrupted by premature birth; and test interventions in pregnancy and at birth, which may protect the developing kidney from the effects of prematurity later in life.
Collaborative medical research is part of Hadassah’s DNA. It is the essence of the Mission of AUSiMED. We are proud to have been the entity that launched AUSiMED and excited about the opportunities that are available to us to invest, together, in globally impactful Israel-Australia medical research.
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