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Beyond Our Borders

Historic medical training partnership launched between Hartford & Israel

By Cindy Mindell

MDA senior paramedics Dana Nagler and Moshe Vaknin with Dr. Thomas Nowicki,
director of Emergency Medicine Simulation at Hartford Hospital and director of the
Simulation Center at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine

HARTFORD – Last month, Hartford Hospital and Magen David Adom (MDA) in Israel announced a five-year partnership to advance emergency medical training and preparedness in both communities.
Dr. Michael Drescher is the bridge between the two organizations. A Pittsburgh native who made aliyah after high school, Drescher served in the Israeli Defense Forces and studied medicine in Israel. He completed further studies at Hartford Hospital and a residency in emergency medicine at UConn. He and wife Yosefa Drescher, an Israeli documentary photographer and fine-art photography dealer, moved their family back to Israel in 2011 after several years in the West Hartford community.
Associate chief of Hartford Hospital’s division of emergency medicine, Drescher serves on the advisory committee for the Israeli National Emergency Medical Services and the medical advisory committee of Magen David Adom in Israel.
While in Israel from 2000 to 2005, Drescher experienced the height of the Intifada, and was able to see how Magen David Adom operates in mass-casualty situations. “They first take care of the wounded and injured, and then they get life back to normal,” he says. “The idea is that terrorists may take lives, but they don’t disrupt daily life.”
This natural emergency medical system, Drescher says, is one that the U.S. medical community can learn from. He has created the partnership with the help of Dr. Rafi Strugo, head of MDA’s medical division and Rami Miller, chief paramedic of MDA. “It’s a great opportunity for the cross-pollination of ideas between the two sides,” Drescher says.
Magen David Adom is Israel’s national emergency medical, disaster, ambulance, and blood-bank service. Since June 2006, MDA has been officially recognized by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) as the National Aid Society of the State of Israel under the Geneva Conventions. MDA is also a member of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.
In May, Hartford Hospital invited MDA to participate in the first of what will be an annual mini-fellowship in air medical transport, training with the hospital’s LIFE STAR critical-care air medical-transport program. Named Association of Air Medical Services 2011 Program of the Year, LIFE STAR is the state’s only air ambulance service, operating two helicopters and transporting approximately 1,100 patients a year.
A significant portion of the flight crews’ medical training occurs in Hartford Hospital’s state-of-the-art Center for Education, Simulation and Innovation (CESI). CESI is a 12,000 square foot facility that trains staff from most departments at the hospital, as well as local Emergency Medical Services (EMS) and military personnel.
The hospital launched its training program in 2000, opening the 20,000-square-foot CESI facility a decade later. The multi-disciplinary center houses five simulated clinical environments, each with its own control room: labor and delivery, resuscitation, intensive care, trauma and emergency department, and operating room.
From Oct. 15 to 19, two paramedics from MDA in Israel trained with the LIFE STAR team in educational and practice sessions at CESI, and on board a helicopter.
Dana Nagler and Moshe Vaknin, both senior and aviation paramedics, completed the Magen David Adom First Aid and Paramedic Training Program in Tel Aviv. Nagler is supervisor of the Gilboa Region; Vaknin is deputy director of the South District and director of Helicopter Services.
Vaknin was the subject of a 2009 article in Israel21c.org, “An Unsung Hero Rescuing Lives at the Gaza-Israel Checkpoint,” describing his work transferring thousands of Palestinians from Gaza for care in Israeli hospitals.

Dr. Michael Drescher

While Israel is known for the quality of its air force and pilot-training programs, critical-care helicopter transport has existed for only about five years in Israel, Vaknin says, while Hartford Hospital has been at it since 1985. “They have a lot of knowledge and experience and it helps us to go through special training and see how it works ‘on the ground,’” he says. Magen David Adom already follows some American medical protocol, Vaknin says, like that of the American Heart Association.
The content and duration of the fellowship were customized to MDA’s specific interests, with lectures and cases tailored to the Israelis’ experience and level of training.
The educational sessions included topics such as safety in the air medical-transport environment, flight physiology, evaluation and care of the trauma patient, and various medical and pediatric topics. Simulation cases covered airway management, adult and pediatric trauma cases, and adult and pediatric critical-care cases.
The sessions were taught by Dr. Lauri Bolton, medical director of LIFE STAR; Dr. Thomas Nowicki, director of Emergency Medicine Simulation at Hartford Hospital and director of the Simulation Center at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine; Dr. Alise Frallicciardi, assistant director of Emergency Simulation at Hartford Hospital; as well as LIFE STAR flight crew and emergency medicine residents.
“We’re very excited about the partnership,” says Hartford Hospital CEO, Jeffrey Flaks. “Our fundamental belief is that when we teach, we learn. Hartford Hospital is a national leader in emergency response, trauma, and intensive care. The opportunity to partner with Magen David Adom in Israel is an extraordinary opportunity to give them our wonderful experience and teach, and to exchange ideas.”
Over the next five years, Flaks envisions regular fellowships at the hospital and, in time, at MDA in Israel. “They have a wonderful emergency response system and excellent remote trauma capabilities and excellent preparedness. We share a philosophical alignment in the purpose of our respective institutions.
Israel is just one of many countries that enjoy training and research partnerships with Hartford Hospital Flaks says, which include China, Brazil, Norway, France, and England.
Flaks sees these partnerships as an effective economic driver for Connecticut, bringing people to Hartford from all over the world, as well as industry, federal funding, and grants that will all result in a higher quality of life in the state. The hospital is a sponsor of the Connecticut-Israel Technology Summit, organized by the Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford in partnership with The MetroHartford Alliance.

Comments? Email cindym@jewishledger.com.

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