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Outstanding doctor from outstanding Israeli hospital visits Down Under

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Internationally renowned Israeli doctor Nitza Heiman Newman is currently visiting Australia representing the Soroka Medical Centre, the only major medical centre in the entire Negev. 

It is one of the largest and most advanced hospitals in Israel, serving a population of more than one million people, including 400,000 children, in a region that accounts for more than 60 per cent of the country’s total land a

Soroka also serves as a teaching hospital of the Ben-Gurion University Medical School.  

 But what makes Soroka even more unique in the region is that in a nation often embroiled in conflict, it caters for everyone.

 “We treat people by the severity of the medical problems they have, not by any religion or culture,” Dr Newman said.

 “You can see in our wards, in the same room, Israelis, Jews, Arabs, Bedouin and more.

 “And you can see the changes of the people in those wards. It can sometimes start out with – I wouldn’t say with tension, but maybe with some suspicion amongst the patients and those who visit them. But within 24 hours they are getting along better and visitors are often bringing along cakes for everyone in the room.”

 Another thing making Soroka a standout facility is the way it is prepared for trauma. In a war zone, this is a necessity.

 “What we see a lot of unfortunately is military trauma in our area. The last time there was a serious breakout two years ago our helipad was very, very busy and we were treating a constant flow of injured soldiers and civilians,” Dr Newman said.

 “We are one of the biggest medical centres in Israel and definitely as a trauma centre. But we are also a general hospital with more than a thousand beds.

 “We do everything, including transplants. Our specialty is genetics and we also have the biggest delivery room in the country – delivering 55 new babies every day.”

 Dr Newman says Soroka is an example to the world, which is part of her reason for being in Australia.

 She is speaking at forums about the medical centre and also about the United Israel Appeal program called Professions for Life, which assists new immigrants to Israel to re-certify in their chosen professions.

“If you make the transition easier for new immigrants you make their lives easier and they integrate faster,” she said.

 “It makes life more enjoyable for them and for those who absorb them into the community.”

 Born in Israel, the only child of Holocaust survivors, Dr Newman served in a range of positions in the Israel Defense Forces, including as an officer in the Golani Brigade. Her last army position was as a company commander in a female officers’ course.

 She took a year off from medicine to direct a school in Be’er Sheva for gifted children, before taking a residency in pediatric surgery at Soroka Medical Center in Be’er Sheva.

 She then did a year-long fellowship at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London in the field of pediatric oncology surgery, a field that she developed at the hospital.

 Since 2005, Dr Newman has been responsible for the Dr. Gabi and Eng. Max Lichtenberg scientific program in surgery for outstanding staff at Ben-Gurion University.

 From 2009-2013, she was a member of the Be’er Sheva city council and responsible for the health and environment portfolio.

 Since 2010 she has been the deputy hospital director, in charge of medical personnel, children’s division, maternity division, gynecology, psychiatry and now rehabilitation as well.

 Chris Johnson