Israeli veterinarians learn new science with Koret aid

In California, if it barks, meows or whinnies when it's seriously sick, the animal might benefit from nuclear medicine or radiation treatments.

In Israel, however, veterinarians have yet to be trained in such specialized procedures, and animals are yet to benefit from them.

Now, because of a $400,000 grant from the San Francisco-based Koret Foundation, Israel's animals may soon receive that kind of care.

The training will come through an exchange program between U.C. Davis and the Hebrew University's Koret School of Veterinary Medicine in Rehovot, outside Tel Aviv. Professors and interns will trade locations for periods ranging from six weeks to two years.

Vered Schub, an Israeli veterinarian whose current U.C. Davis fellowship is part of the Koret-sponsored program, is sure the state-of-the-art techniques she is going to learn "will help elevate veterinary care in the Jewish state."

Dr. Richard Goldstein, who like Schub is a graduate of the Koret vet school, is in his second year of residency in small-animal internal medicine at U.C. Davis.

Goldstein has already mastered "treatments I couldn't do a year ago" — such as Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), Computerized Tomagraphy (CT) scans, nuclear medicine scans and radiation, he said.

And while participants from both countries laud their professional exchanges, they also praise the cultural contacts between Israelis and Americans.

Chris Hoolihan, a 26-year-old senior, says he found "an instant rapport working with Dr. Goldstein — whether utilizing playful Yiddish terminology or being on rotation together during the High Holy Days."

Hoolihan, who converted to Judaism in 1991 and whose "one-year-old daughter, dog and two cats are all being raised in a Jewish home," tells of one way their rapport grew.

"When we had to deal with a bereaved client whose dog died of a stomach tumor on the way here for treatment, we found our compassion came from our common Jewishness," Hoolihan said.

According to Tad Taube, president of the Koret Foundation, "The goal of the program, which we are already achieving, is to foster Israeli-American veterinary medical collaboration while building an understanding of our different approaches to the practice of veterinary medicine."

The medical training, of course, is paramount.

Goldstein notes that being able to "do things on a daily basis that I could just read about before is fabulous."

He's now seeing a 12-year-old English sheepdog with diabetes and a brain tumor.

"An MRI and brain surgery," Goldstein says, "will give her another year of good-quality life."

Ultimately, Goldstein hopes he will join the faculty at the Koret school "as a specialist to consult with private veterinarians in Israel."

Schub, who will spend a year in the U.C. Davis radiology department working with large animals, is also excited about the new expertise she'll bring back to Israel.

Other vets participating in the exchange include Phil Kass, assistant professor in population health and reproduction and a U.C. Davis epidemiologist who is spending three months at the Koret vet school; Shimon Harrus, who will join the U.C. faculty in January for three months in the area of infectious diseases; Giora Avni, an equine surgeon who taught at U.C. Davis for two months this summer; and Ed Feldman, a U.C. Davis endocrinology specialist who visited the Koret School for six weeks.

The Koret Foundation was instrumental in establishing the vet school in 1986, and through the years has awarded nearly $4 million to the institution.

In addition to recently adding a second story to the facility, Koret has provided grants for a large-animal x-ray machine, a treatment vehicle that travels all over Israel, computer systems and air conditioning.

"Being able to fund the structure and the physical improvements to the school was significant," says Susan Koret, chairman of the foundation's board. "But being able to fund training programs that will immediately save animals' lives is of unequivocal value. And our new exchange program can transcend cultural barriers."

Hoolihan is especially pleased to learn the similarities and differences between veterinary training and techniques in Israel and the United States.

The learning process is a two-way street, however.

"Once in a while, an exotic disease will crop up in our studies, one we haven't seen because it's common in the Mideast but not here," Hoolihan adds.

"At the same time, the visiting vets have to be shown some weeds" — like the local grasses called foxtails — "that can cause animals real trouble but are only in California."