Dedication ceremony of Founders' Square

  • Prof. Rivka Carmi,
  • Prof. Amos Katz,
  • Prof. Haim Doron,
  • Prof. Ascher Segall,
  • Dr. Avishay Antonovsky who represents his late father, Prof. Aaron Antonovsky.
  • Ms. Vivi Gan-Or,
  • Ms. Jennie Navot who represent their late father, Prof. Prywes
  • Dear colleagues and friends,


I am honored, proud and excited to be the one who was selected to speak on behalf of the "founding fathers" in this moving ceremony, being the youngest among the five, although attaching the adjective "young" to me feels somewhat inappropriate if not strange...

The history of the Faculty and especially of the Medical School is well documented and published, therefore this is neither the time nor the place to describe how it has begun and what for. Rather, allow me to make just a few brief personal comments about the founders.

Almost half a century ago two visionaries met, joined forces and put together their passion and dedication to public health, their enormous experience, skills and political now-how and set the stage for this special endeavor which became the Health Sciences Faculty at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. These two giants were Prof. Haim Doron, who is thankfully right here with us today, who was then Director General of Kupat-Holim and beforehand family doctor in the Negev rural settlements and the Regional Director of Kupat-Holin in the Southern District. The second was late Prof. Moshe Prywes, then the Vice Dean of the Hebrew University and Hadassah Medical School (my alma matter) and later the first President of BGU. Both of them grieved at the condition of the community-based health services in the country and the inadequacy of the inflexible, hospital based medical education which was entrenched in its own ivory tower. Both of them were fighting against the rigid conservative, self-guarding academic establishment as well as against genuine economic restrictions. 

They believed that there is a way of education that will lead to tangible results: the creation of humane, caring and passionate health professionals who care and not only cure, who relate to health rather than to disease, who see the patient as an individual within the framework of his or her family and community, who see prevention as a major part of their commitment, and the wellbeing of patients as their ultimate goal.

Then they recruited Prof. Ascher Segall, my friend, colleague and mentor who is also here today, at the time Professor of Epidemiology in Harvard Public Health School and later the Head of the Center for Medical Education in Boston University, who developed an innovative approach to planning and implementing medical education. He also was fighting against academic rigidity and conservatism in the US and worldwide, but found an attentive ear in Beer-Sheva.  He established a process that was summarized in a book entitled "Course Design for Public Health: Competency Based Approach". The first drafts were in a red colored folder which gave the book the temporary title "the red book". Later, after the book was published in a white cover, Ascher was referring to it as "the book that is not red but should be…". Now-a-days Ascher's approach that, among other things, involves all faculty members in the process is a commonplace. I vividly remember the first time I saw Ascher at the home of one of the Soroka physicians. It was crowded, and I sat on the floor, but there was magic in the air. Ascher was speaking softly in Hebrew and I knew right there and then that my life had changed.   

Ascher recruited me. I was then general practitioner in the rural Negev, one of only 16 out of almost 3000 Israeli graduate who practiced outside hospitals and the only one in the Negev. I also was worried about the condition of primary care and hoped to be able to contribute to its change.  On July 1, 1974, Ascher gave me a specific limited job, and on July 8 I found myself immersed in planning the entire first year curriculum.  

While Doron and Prywes were laying the corner stones of the institution, building the pillars and putting on the roof, Ascher was the architect of the interior and I was the carpenter who carved the furniture. He was the prophet and I was his priest, who was expected to materialize his approach that I was learning on the go.

But while we all were on a kind of a march, trying to demonstrate to ourselves and to the entire world that there is another way to educate physicians and health professionals in order to make substantial change in public health, Aaron Antonovsky was in front of us all, carrying the flag and the banners. He was our uncompromising ideologist that mesmerized us all, faculty and students alike, He used his worldwide reputation as a leading health sociologist to put into a scientific paradigm the dreams of Moshe Prywes and Haim Doron. This paradigm has also become a common place today.  Now-a-days, when ideology has become a dirty word, communities are largely overlooked and social gaps are widening, we miss Aaron even more.

But the five of us honored here, could have not done a thing by ourselves. There are dozens of colleagues, physicians, bio- and social scientists, health professionals and administrative staff who assisted us at first, transferred the ideology to the students as teachers, became themselves innovators and eventually replaced us. They are too many to be mentioned by name, but I see the names of the five of us, carved on this stone, as representatives of all the dozens who are now hundreds and thousands, who carry on the torch and keep "the spirit of Beer-Sheva" alive and standing out as a living proof of the ideas that we, the founders, hoped for. Who better exemplifies this than the Dean, Prof. Amos Katz, graduate of the first class that started in 1974.  

It is a common belief that there is no institutional memory.  This ceremony todayoday is a proof that that the Health Science Faculty is different even in this regard. The institution does remember and commemorates the founders. And in this context, I have to extend a special gratitude to three people who were the engine behind today's event:  Prof. Yaakov Henkin, the Vice Dean for Education, Prof. Yaakov Urkin, the Head of Prywes Center for Medical Education and Prof, Shifra Shvartz who put into action her skills as an historian and her endless energy,

The famous author Meir Shalev wrote said once that "the deceased will die again when those who remember them will pass away". Such is life. What is important, though, is that the "spirit of Beer-Sheva" never dies, and that the ideas upon which this Faculty stands, adapted to changing environment, stay intact, and that hundreds and thousands of decent, humane, committed physicians and health professionals continue to emerge from this unique institution.

Thank you for your attention. Thank you for the honor.