DC Native Travels to Israel as Part of an Effort to Assist the Country’s Health Care System

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Dr. Abigail Hankin-Wei, a DC native and an emergency-room doctor in West Virginia, volunteers at Magen David Adom in Ashkelon. Credit: Nefesh B’Nefesh.

A doctor who is a Washington, D.C. resident, traveled to Israel as part of a global effort to boost the country’s health care system as tensions and violence rise in the region and a physician shortage is becoming an issue.

Dr. Abigail Hankin-Wei, who works as an emergency doctor in Virginia, is volunteering at Magen David Adom in Ashkelon, a combat area, where she said that she is putting her Jewish values to use by helping people and saving lives.

“If I have the capability and the skills needed to actually help in the way I’m being asked, then I will always in any circumstance make that effort to go,” Hankin-Wei said.

Hankin-Wei is one of many doctors who have made the trip to Israel and are able to volunteer due to a joint initiative between several Israeli organizations compromised of Nefesh B’Nefesh, the Israeli Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Aliyah and Integration and The Jewish Agency for Israel.

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The initiative was centered around constructing a database that would allow for a swift and efficient volunteer organization process that includes “essential information about the volunteers’ medical specialties, Hebrew-language proficiency and the documentation necessary to expedite the process for obtaining a temporary Israeli medical license,” according to a joint press release issued by the organizations.

Over 70 medical professionals from various specialties have already volunteered in Israel, with many more anticipated to join them in the coming weeks. The volunteers are only asked to stay for a two-week rotation but are welcome to stay longer, according to the organizations’ written statement.

The volunteers have been assigned to medical centers across the country, but there is an emphasis on getting them into combat areas in Sderot and Ashkelon.

“The mobilization of the Jewish communities in support of the State of Israel, at this difficult time, is particularly moving and strengthens us all,” said Maj.-Gen (ret.) Doron Almog, Chairman of The Jewish Agency for Israel. “The physicians who have come to volunteer in the Israeli health care system and the volunteers from the Jewish communities who are working side by side with the Israelis in essential fields throughout the country, are a tremendous display of strength and resilience.”

Despite the praise from the Israeli officials, heading to Israel still wasn’t an easy decision for Hankin-Wei, given the risk of fighting increasing with the presence of Hezbollah and having to leave her three kids, but she said her, and her family, decided it was worth the risk if she could save lives.

“Our family discussion was if I traveled to Israel amid increasing tensions and more there was some personal risk, but there’s also a risk that other people would get hurt and suffer if I didn’t go,” Hankin-Wei said.

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