How Israel's Sheba became one of the world's top hospitals

A look at how Sheba Hospital, ranked as one of the world's top 10 hospitals, became Israel's most prestigious - and innovative - hospital.

Yoni Kempinski ,

Professor Arnon Afek
Professor Arnon Afek
Yoni Kempinski

Earlier this year, Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer, Ramat Gan, was ranked by Newsweek as one of the top ten best hospitals in the world, making it the top rated hospital not only in Israel, but in the entire Middle East.

Professor Arnon Afek, the Acting Director of Sheba Medical Center, and the hospital’s Associate Director, sat down with Arutz Sheva to discuss how Sheba has built itself into one of the world’s most prestigious hospitals.

“We were founded by David Ben-Gurion, the founder of the State of Israel, together with Chaim Sheba, who was at that time the Surgeon General of the IDF, and later the director-general of the Ministry of Health.”

“They decided to establish a major, comprehensive hospital in central Israel. The basic idea was that someone who comes to Sheba, to the ER, wounded, and will come out of our hospital rehabilitated; on his feet.”

“A few years ago, the head of the IDF’s parachute division was [involved in an accident during a jump] when his parachute didn’t open up." While his reserve parachute did eventually open, it did so "just a few hundred meters from the ground, and he crashed.”

“When he came to us he was hospitalized in our intensive care unit for weeks. We feared for his life. But afterwards, he went directly to the rehabilitation, was rehabilitated, and was able to run the triathlon, which is a great, great achievement, and was very satisfying for us as well.”

How did Sheba Medical Center become one of the top ten hospitals in the world, according to Newsweek’s recent ranking?

“It is because of the spirit of our people. The people at Sheba work very, very hard. It isn’t just a matter of working hard to treat patients – everyone does that. We also have a very innovative spirit, so people [here] are always trying to do research, investigate, and innovate things.”

“We opened the ARC: Sheba Innovation Center. And we let our physicians do their startups within our hospital, and we help them do so. Once you combine all of that together: the spirit, the innovation, the care for people, I think that is the winning formula.”

How much has globalization affected Sheba? How closely do you work with hospital’s overseas?

“We have a very close relationship with many American hospitals. I was at a conference about a month ago at MD Anderson in Texas, a leading American cancer institute.”

Sheba has worked with other American hospitals, Afek continued, including the Mayo Clinic, and several hospitals in New York.

“It is very, very important for us to learn from the experiences of other people and hospitals.”

“We are a major site for many American and international pharma companies, who do development work here in Sheba.”

“We are always trying to find something new, something we can add to" medical practice and knowledge. "That, I think, is part of the Jewish tradition.”

Do you feel a sense of Zionist pride when foreign companies invest or do research here at Sheba?

“Yes. Every time we hear that another American company has bought an Israeli startup, on the one hand we are very, very happy; even as we say on the other hand that ‘another Israeli company left Israel’. But still, we are proud. We see the United States as our closest ally, so we are very proud to contribute to US.”

One of Sheba’s visions is that people won’t actually come to the hospital, with digitized medicine playing a growing role. How will that work?

“If you have the number of older people growing [rapidly], and see how many more physicians and nurses and healthcare professionals you need, you understand that you cannot continue to take care of all these people just by increasing the number of healthcare professionals. You have to find something else, like tele-medicine.”

Afek also touched on the issue of medicine in rural areas, where the full range of specialists may not be available.

“For example, someone who specializes in diabetes may not have expertise in treating thyroid cases."

How can the healthcare industry manage the rise in demand created by an aging population, while also providing a broad array of services to patients living in sparsely populated areas? By bringing tele-medicine to the peripheral part of Israel, or the States, and you globalize that.”

“Today, if you have a certain medical problem, what do you do? You ask ‘who is the best medical expert around me.’"

"Why not ask yourself ‘who is the best expert in the world’? Why not connect with him through tele-medicine, through Skype, and give him your information, so that he can send you the exams you need to take. Then you can consult him again after the results of the exam are in.”

“You can get the best medical treatment even if you live in some place very remote and beautiful, like the Rocky Mountains.”



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