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Thursday, September 18, 2014

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Medical students take part in exchange program

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TORONTO — The first two medical students to participate in an exchange between University of Toronto and the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology recently shared their experiences at a dinner celebrating the inauguration of the program.

Daniel Pincus (left) and Rana Halloumee were the first two medical students to participate in a research exchange between University of Toronto and Technion – Israel Institute of Technology.

Rana Halloumee of Israel and Daniel Pincus, a Toronto student, were the first participants in the CREMS (Comprehensive Research Experience for Medical Students) Program between Toronto and Israel. Halloumee spent her two months on exchange researching heart rate-dependent electrical remodelling. This was her first time in North America, and one of the first things she noticed about Toronto was its multiculturalism.

“I was very impressed to see how people [in Toronto] respect each other and treat each other well no matter what their nationality or homeland is,” the third-year medical student (equivalent to first year in Canada) said.

Pincus spent his three months in Israel researching hip fractures and bone imaging at Carmel Medical Center in Haifa. When asked about his experience on exchange, he said he would definitely recommend that others should participate.

“It’s good to get some really productive research done, and on the other hand, have an experience that is usually not offered to medical students in first and second year.

“I am humbled and privileged that I was able to participate,” he added.

The CREMS Program, established in 2005, allows first- and second-year medical students from the University of Toronto to participate in research-based exchanges at medical schools all over the world.

The idea to start a Toronto-Israel exchange came from Dr. George Fantus, associate dean of research in the faculty of medicine at U of T. He was familiar with schools in Israel – his daughter went to medical school there, a nephew attended the Technion and his son spent some time at the Weizmann Institute of Science.

One of the largest hurdles, Fantus said, was getting money to fund the students. After approximately a year of negotiating, the Canadian Technion Society approached with a proposal to support the exchange program. Gary Goldberg, national president of the society, has been very supportive, he said. In all, it took about 2-1/2 years to get this exchange off the ground.

At the dinner, Judith Wolfson, vice-president of university relations, discussed the importance of students appreciating and being aware of the world beyond where they live.

“[There is a] huge interest in all students at all levels to ‘internationalize’ their experience and ensure a broader understanding of their field in the world,” Wolfson said.

Catharine Whiteside, dean of the U of T faculty of medicine, was excited by both the potential of the Israel branch of CREMS and that of the program in general.

“We’re very keen to partner with the best in the world, and this opportunity with Technion exemplifies that for us,” she said.

“It’s a great opportunity for our students to experience another institution in another country and learn about health and about medical sciences from a different perspective, but still have an experience that’s beyond just learning about science.

“These types of experiences have a lifetime impact on the students. I think we’ll probably see this program grow.”

For Fantus, the importance of the exchange program is threefold: it furthers medical research, creates global citizens and promotes peace in the world.

“It’s important for people everywhere to have different experiences and be exposed to different cultures,” he said.

“Only with common goals and understanding can we create a better life for everybody.”

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