Hadassah highlights area medical links

BY MIKE SHERWIN, ASSISTANT EDITOR

A Hadassah program last week highlighted the connections between educational and medical institutions here, and counterparts in Israel.

St. Louis Chapter Hadassah held “World to World, Heart to Heart” at Children’s Hospital on Dec. 3, and showcased the collaboration between the hospital, Washington University and Hadassah Hospital in Israel.

Event co-chair Jane Tzinberg Rubin said the idea for the program came from a tour of Children’s Hospital for her undergraduate daughter considering a premed program. “The idea struck me that this would present a perfect opportunity for partnering,” said Rubin, who is also a member of the St. Louis Jewish Light board.

Rubin’s co-chairs were Tami Rosen Fernandez, Irit Ludomirsky, Risa Zwerling and Cynthia Kramer, who also serves on the Board of the St. Louis Jewish Light.

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In addition to showcasing the Maxine Clark and Bob Fox Cardiac Intensive Care Unit at Children’s Hospital, which Rubin noted was “remarkably reminiscent of Hadassah Hospital’s pediatric wing in Jerusalem,” at the same time, the event would be “highlighting the faculty and facilities of our own great institutions: Washington Univerisity, BJC and Children’s Hospital.”

“And most importantly,” she said. “We could display how collaborations among organizations such as Hadassah and Wash. U and between St. Louis and Israel can benefit our local community.”

To that end, the audience of over 100 people heard from Washington University Chancellor Mark Wrighton.

“We are fortunate to be partnered in many ways and to have Hadasssah Hospital and St. Louis Children’s Hospital and members of our professional staffs partnered is going to be extraordinarily rewarding,” he said.

Wrighton noted that Washington University has built connections with Israeli universities, particularly through its McDonnell International Scholars Academy, which has connections with The Technion and the Interdisciplinary Center at Herzlia.

Dr. Achiahu Ludomirsky, M.D., director of the Pediatric Division of Cardiology for St. Louis Children’s Hospital, was born in Israel and earned his medical degree from Tel Aviv University.

“For me, Hadassah is a home, because that is where I did my residency both in Mount Scopus and in Ein Karem in Jerusalem,” said Dr. Ludomirsky, who is also the Louis Larrick Ward Professor of Pediatrics and Biomedical Engineering at Washington University.

Israel is “an emerging powerhouse for life sciences,” Dr. Ludomirsky said.

“In Israel, there is a model of collaboration between investors, entrepreneurs and researchers and it was not like that until the early 90s,” when there was a “surge of intellectual property” largely coming from Russian scientists who immigrated and Israelis coming out of the Israel Defense Forces, particularly from IDF intelligence, Dr. Ludomirsky said.

Israeli universities and Hadassah Hospital developed life science incubators for start up companies, which could share resources with the institutions. The result, he said, has been a blossoming of the life sciences sector, with huge numbers of patents and over 600 start up companies in Israel.

Now, universities are partnering with Israeli institutions for collaborative research projects and even clinical trials on biotechnology and the FDA has recognized clinical trials conducted in Israel, he said.

“That gives us a very good opportunity to collaborate and share resources and clinical data,” Dr. Ludomirsky said.

Dr. Ludomirsky spoke about advances in pediatric heart surgery to treat congenital heart disease, which he said affects approximately one of every 125 children born in the U.S.

He said that for the first time, treatment has advanced to the point where people with congenital heart disease are living long enough to suffer from coronary heart disease as they age.

At the Maxine Clark and Bob Fox Cardiac ICU, which attendees to “World to World, Heart to Heart” were able to tour, Dr. Ludomirsky and the staff are using cutting-edge technology to diagnose and treat congenital heart disease earlier, and with less invasive treatments than previously used.

The audience heard from Washington University student Adina Talve-Goodman, who was a patient at Children’s Hospital. Talve-Goodman, daughter of Rabbi Susan Talve and Rabbi James Stone Goodman, was born with congenital heart disease and had a heart transplant in 2006.

“When I thought about what I might say about my time at Children’s, I wasn’t really sure where to start. Because I can’t say that I enjoyed it. This is a hospital: no one enjoys being here,” she said. “But I can say that I have always felt — not safe, because I only come here when I’m in danger — but well-taken-care of and supported. And most importantly, as odd as this may sound, I never really felt sick at this hospital.”

“I never felt sick here, I only felt that I was healing. That I was being tinkered with and repaired by people who knew me. Who cared not only that I was safe during and after my surgery, but who also made sure that I had something to return to,” Talve-Goodman said.

Nancy Falchuk, president of the national Hadassah organization, attended the event, and spoke.

“When you listen to Adina, it says it all,” Falchuk said. “All of us do what we do, because we want to make a difference, not only in making bridges for peace, not only for making the world a better place, but saving a life, one life at a time.”

“Your story,” Falchuk said to Talve-Goodman, “and your willingness to share it just validates for us everything we do.”

Proceeds from the event benefited pediatric health care and research at Hadassah Hospital.