Miami Prize-Winner Re-acquaints with Israel

Her prize-winning essay, on Israel’s semi-socialist health-care system, won Dana Schey, 20, of Plantation, Florida, just outside Miami, a trip to Israel and a semester at the University of Haifa. She took the opportunity to become re-acquainted with the country she had left at the age of eight.

“I never looked at Israel the way I see it now,” she said toward the conclusion of her month’s stay at the University. “I probably wouldn’t have gone to see half the sites if I lived here. I came [to Haifa] thinking it was a just a trip. My time here has changed my view about living here [in Israel].”

Dana’s demanding program at the University of Miami Medical School, where she was about to enter the third year of a six-year course of study, caused her to forgo the semester in Haifa. Instead, she came this past summer on a special month-long course offered by Haifa’s Overseas Students Unit. The course, which accepted fewer than a dozen foreign students and was separate from the summer Ulpan, focused on the history of Israel from pre-World War I to the present time, “Israel on the Eve of the Millennium.”

The essay contest that the young medical student won had been sponsored by the Israeli consulate in Miami in connection with the country’s jubilee year celebrations.

It was an eye-opening intellectual experience for Dana, who was embarrassed to say that she had never heard of the University of Haifa before, despite having been born in Herzliya. She still has grandparents in Petah Tikva, whom she last visited five years ago.

Her fluency in Hebrew, she admits, helped her form more connections with Israelis during the short time-span of the program here than did the other students in the course. Hebrew, in fact, remains the dominant language of her parents’ household. She has an older brother and two younger sisters, but the latter prefer to talk in English.

She wished the special course here had been longer, even if she worked hard. Judging from this experience, she remarked, “The studies here [at the University of Haifa] seem harder than in America.”

The intensive month’s program was equal to a 6-credit college course, but Dana had to take it as an audit because it involved no medical or science subjects.

Although Dana was not completely sure at first that she wanted to be a physician or even study medicine, “you can’t turn down this type of program,” she said about her acceptance two years ago to the Miami University Medical School. The Miami course of study is like the Israeli system, she explained, in that it leads right to the M.D. degree without having first to obtain a Bachelor’s degree. For that reason, it’s considered prestigious.

While in high school, the future medical student had done internships at an institute of message therapy and rotations in a hospital. She also wrote a paper for the Westinghouse Science Fair (“but I didn’t win”) and was the founder and first president of the BBYO chapter in Plantation, Florida.

It was the volunteer hospital experience that led her to apply for the Miami program in the first place. In Israel, she said, one has to be a third-year medical student before being allowed into a hospital other than as a patient or visitor. “That is a shame because you don’t get a chance to learn about the field beforehand and see whether you’ll like it.” Right now, with all doubts gone, she is thinking of an eventual specialty in heart surgery—and, in part because of her experience at the University of Haifa, of one day returning to Israel for good.

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