Michael Lewis knows the advantages of physician visit programs. The associate professor of clinical anesthesiology and program director of anesthesiology at the University of Miami's Miller School of Medicine is a prestigious Fulbright Scholar.
"I taught Israeli anesthesiology residents and spent 3 days a week building a website dealing with perioperative care of the elderly," Lewis says.
The results of his physician visit allowed Dr. Lewis to develop a well-defined syllabus in geriatric anesthesiology. Once this body of knowledge was organized, he created a website for it and submitted it for peer review. It was submitted to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), has been approved, and is waiting to be posted on their website. From his experience, the entire anesthesia community has a new, widely available learning tool.
"From a patient safety standpoint, I have created an educational product for caregivers to the elderly during the perioperative period," he says. For example, if an elderly citizen emerges from surgery in a confused state, the anesthesiologist can access the website to reference treatment options.
Dr. Lewis is even more proud of his accomplishment given the rigorous review process he went through to earn the Fulbright Scholarship, including:
This careful, painstaking procedure took about 6 months. "Well worth the process, making it even more of an honor," says Dr. Lewis.
He points out that his Fulbright experience was from an academic standpoint. It reinforced his thirst for even more educational visits for himself, and has prompted him to encourage fellow anesthesiologists to do the same. It also ignited his passion to help to start a US chapter of the Israeli Medical Association World Fellowship (IMA-WF), which is known worldwide for its physician exchange visits. In fact, thanks to Dr. Lewis, Dr. Abe Berger, and others, the IMA-WF US chapter (http://www.ima-wf-usa.org) has just become a reality. Dr. Lewis would like to see his fellow anesthesiologists take full advantage of it as the exchange visits through the US chapter develop.
"The IMA programs will allow physicians in private practice as well as in academia to work in Israel," he says.
Dr. Tzaki Siev-Ner, chair of IMA-WF's headquarters in Israel, says the application process for IMA physician visits takes about 2 months. He adds that the American physicians who participate in the IMA's programs will be giving as well as receiving.
"Israel is becoming short on physicians in all specialties, and there is a huge demand for anesthesiologists," Siev-Ner points out.
For example, in one emergency program, visiting Americans would substitute for Israeli anesthesiologists who are recruited to the army.
Another benefit for American anesthesiologists is learning from the experience of Israeli physicians who have dealt with mass casualty situations, Siev-Ner says.
However, he emphasizes that Israel is interested in welcoming these physicians in peace time as well, benefiting from each other's experience, exchanging ideas and knowledge, and initiating joint projects. Nevertheless, he is not asking American anesthesiologists to move to Israel permanently. He says the exchange program allows them to choose to work there for 1 week or longer.
Dr. Lewis says not only does the visiting physicians relieve a physical shortage, but it eases an emotional stress of health care professionals as well: "My Fulbright sabbatical took place during the Lebanon war and I, along with the Israeli physicians, felt the pain of a people under attack."
"You take back to America the ability to provide high quality anesthesia in the presence of limited resources," he says. Because of budget restraints, not all of the medications or equipment readily available to the anesthesiologist in the US is always immediately accessible to a colleague practicing in Israel.
"Because of my single visit with the Fulbright program, I have become a better physician and have been able to contribute to my profession, particularly in the field of geriatric anesthesiology," Lewis adds. "Now that we have more choices for organizations offering physician visits, the potential for contributions that my fellow anesthesiologists can make to their patients has no limit."