Faculty of Medicine - Leapfrogging the Galilee

Experience from wide-scale projects in general and medical schools in particular, indicates that projects of this kind can promote regional leapfrogging if economic clusters form around them. Generating such clusters requires taking complementary steps both in the project and in the region.

Executive Summary

The inauguration of the Faculty of Medicine at Bar-Ilan University's (BIU) Tsfat campus creates significant expectations that the Faculty, and its adjacent future research center, will transform the area. These expectations are reflected in the words of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu: "[The Faculty will give] a great boostto thedevelopment of the Galileeandto the development ofthe academicandmedical establishment in Northern Israel." The idea of the Faculty dates back to Mr. Shimon Peres's tenure as Minister for Development of the Negev and the Galilee (MDNG) and was realized under Mr. Silvan Shalom's leadership.

The Government of Israel (GOI) offered to match donations received by BIU for construction of the campus. As a result, BIU turned to Jewish donors around the world, aiming to raise 200 million dollars to support the establishment of the Faculty's temporary building in the Tsfat city-center and for the forthcoming permanent campus in the city's outskirts.

In order to meet the deadline of the beginning of the academic year, the GOI and BIU devoted the majority of their attention over the last year to the complex challenge of constructing the temporary building under ambitious timetables; this effort culminated in the building's successful opening in October, 2011.

Given the high expectations associated with the opening of the Faculty of Medicine, some stakeholders have posed the following questions: what conditions are necessary for the project to generate a sustainable change for the entire region? Does the Faculty of Medicine meet these conditions? Historically, not all development projects (whether a factory, science park or a new highway), have met their expectations. Some projects become "white elephants" while others stay isolated from their surroundings (referred to as "cathedrals in the desert"). Two known examples of such projects are the Sofia Antipolis - a technology park in southern France, and the Akademgorodok - the Russian "Science City".

In this context, the Reut Institute was asked to address the aforementioned questions. This report reflects Reut's understanding of the potential regional impact of the Faculty of Medicine on the City of Tsfat the Galilee:

Reut defines a sustainable regional change as regional leapfrogging, suggesting a significant improvement in all aspects of life - economy, society and environment. Leapfrogging requires a combination of (1) sustainable rapid growth that enlarges the pie of resources, (2) a component of 'inclusiveness' that distributes the pie more evenly, and (3) sustainability that preserves natural resources for the benefit of future generations.

Projects such as the Faculty of Medicine can stimulate regional leapfrogging provided they create economic clusters around them. A cluster is a dense network of companies, research and education institutions, training centers and non-governmental organizations which are organized around a unique asset (such as unique technical expertise or local knowledge). For example, in the United States, most of the biotechnology market is organized around nine metropolitan clusters, in which medical schools are a key part.

It is clear that the Faculty alone will not create a leapfrog, not in Tsfat, nor in the greater Galilee region, unless a series of complementary measures are undertaken by the relevant actors. These measures should aim to connect the project to the region and to the needs of the local community so that it may serve as a catalyst for change. Studies emphasize the importance of the following measures:

  • Close collaboration with local leadership in the planning and executing phases of the project;
  • Investment in relevant human capital, so local communities can be part of the project and enjoy its fruits;
  • Connection between the project and its local urban surroundings;
  • Stimulate local businesses, for example, through temporary subsidies to local contractors;
  • Setting Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) relating to expected external effects, with an emphasis on the projected geographic area of impact.

The Faculty has the potential to be a unique model in terms of its vision for the medical education system in the Galilee (community medicine, culture-sensitive medicine, etc). However, the precondition for a greater change is for the project to act as a catalyst to promote health, in its broader sense, as a central pillar in the region's strategy.

Why health? A focus on health presents the region with a great opportunity for promoting inclusiveness. Economic and social gaps between the Galilee and the center of Israel are clearly represented in health indicators such as life expectancy, availability of doctors, etc. The Faculty's focus on community medicine may reduce disparities in access to medical services, and a focus on promoting healthy lifestyles may reduce mortality rates. In addition, the health sector holds a wide variety of job opportunities and is particularly appealing to the Arab residents in the Galilee.

Therefore, in order for the project to create a significant change, we call for a swift action by the GOI and BIU, in cooperation with local authorities, to make the Galilee a "Healthy Region" and to promote a health cluster. In particular, this requires a focus on the bio-medical and wellness sectors.

The health cluster would be based on two centers combining medicine, science and education in Western and Eastern Galilee. Each Center will host a medical institute (The Faculty\Ziv in the east and Nahariya in the west), an R&D institution, one or two regional colleges (Western Galilee College and Tsfat and Tel Hai Colleges in the east), and a leading regional high school focusing on science.

Below are recommendations for additional efforts:

  • Upgrade the basic medical infrastructure in the Galilee, based on reports such as "Tzafona," and invest a greater chunk of the budget in the early stages of the project, in order to increase its visibility;
  • Connect between Faculty institutions and regional colleges through the joint use of infrastructure, dormitories and shared curriculum. The colleges should specialize in paramedical areas, such as physiotherapy, pharmacy, nursing, nutrition, alternative medicine, etc;
  • Enhance existing attempts to create business and economic networks around the Faculty, and in particular in the bio-medical industry, especially by the MDNG;
  • Invest significant resources in the physical and social infrastructure of the city of Tsfat without delay, in order to ensure a significant physical connection to the city and integrate students into urban life through schools, hospitals and community centers;
  • Establish a regional development forum that will include the forum of the 15 Eastern Galilee mayors, representatives of local authorities in the Galilee, BIU, and the MDNG. This forum should lead and coordinate the work of defining KPIs for the project.

The following is a list of several promising projects in the region, which should be taken into consideration only should the above recommendations advance. These projects were discussed in workshops held with the projects' key stakeholders:

  • Establish a medical simulation center (M.S.R.), based on the Sheba hospital model that will allow students to train in innovative ways through live simulations of medical emergencies. A specialization in emergency medicine is necessary in light of security realities that the region faces, and the proximity of medical institutions to the IDF's Northern Command;
  • Promote a regional research authority that integrates existing resources, in order to create critical mass of research in the area and compete with leading medical institutions in the Tel Aviv area;
  • Establish a leading Regional High-School in Tsfat and Nahariya focusing on science and art. This high-school should be adjacent to medical institutions (based on the prestigious Leyada high-school in Jerusalem);
  • Create a regional investment fund co-founded by the GOI and invest in bio-medical initiatives;
  • Build a relocation center to serve as a one-stop-shop for students and Faculty members and future families who wish to move to the Galilee region.

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