“You don’t want this one,” Roey said, referring to the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta’s medical mission to Israel, which I’d brought to his office. “You want this one: a 40-under-40 trip to Tel Aviv.”
Seeing as I’m in my 20s and an artist, Roey made a lot of sense. But I had no interest in making sense. I’d read that medical mission description, and I’d fallen in love.
Lucky for me, Jews must appreciate chutzpah because soon I was granted generous scholarships from Federation and Moishe House to awkwardly blog, vlog and selfie-log 10 brilliant medical practitioners as we toured the most progressive health programs in the Middle East in late winter.
From the colossal Sheba Medical Center to the Save a Child’s Heart nonprofit, where volunteers perform hundreds of free heart surgeries for children around the world, my American posse always came around to ask the same question: “How do you do it?”
As if it were the dumbest question in the world, Dr. Sylvie Luria, the CEO of the Sheba Technology Transfer Co., replied, “Well, we get up at 6,” and, essentially, “We use the phone.”
An inventors club. This was grade-school-level problem-solving. These success stories seemed to boil down their accomplishments to “Use teamwork, be brave, and if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”
Have I not been applying these concepts?
Many on our trip explained their frustrations with home administrative conflicts; it seems that so often we play it safe when faced with new opportunities. Often our fear of failure makes it too easy to find the “no.”
Meanwhile, the Israel Center for Medical Simulation leads medical students through fully simulated hospital cases. Not only is this program delivering necessary hands-on hospital experience before people work with live patients, but, perhaps even more important, young adults are being trained to self-reflect, own mistakes and apply what they’ve learned to upcoming cases.
Furthermore, this program encourages students to empathize with their patients. To see human emotion valued as an asset in business was refreshing, to say the least. This program is producing a generation of problem-solvers, professionals who have a positive outlook on making mistakes and are unafraid to find the “yes.”
We entertained the notion that perhaps because all Israelis serve time in the army, they share exceptional training in follow-through, focus, teamwork and stress management. I, for one, have seen how anxiety can be a leading cause of surrender and even counterproductive choices in the United States.
Unlike what I’ve seen anywhere else, the Israeli medical field addresses psychological stress head-on. The Israel Trauma Coalition specializes in refining and sharing psychological therapies such as EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing), practiced to treat trauma-related symptoms, including those of post-traumatic stress. These therapies are widely well received among Israeli citizens.
My friends and I recapped over authentic Moroccan cuisine, where I met a young man who started his restaurant line with little knowledge of the food industry. I said, “That must have been really scary.”
He didn’t understand. “Scary? Scary is the army. Opening a restaurant, that’s just life.”
Intrigued, I persisted and asked if he was afraid to fail. Again, as if he didn’t understand the question, he said, “If you fail, you learn, and you just try again.”
I’ve received so many curious inquiries regarding how in the world a young artist would benefit from a trip catered to seasoned medical specialists. I dare to argue that I found the trip most transformative of all.
To see the most successful men and women in the world building phenomenal legacies on such simple work ethics, anyone in my shoes would have concluded, “I can do that too.”
Since returning from this medical mission, I’ve been a trailblazing best new me. I’ve learned it’s not so challenging to evolve. I encourage you, from time to time, to treat yourself to being the dumbest person in the room. Just be brave, welcome failure, and find the “yes.”
Aviva Leigh is an actress who helped open the Buckhead Moishe House last year.