Interview with the New Chairman of American Friends of Sheba Medical Center

Ishaia Gol – Congratulations on being elected as the new Chairman of American Friends of Sheba Medical Center.  What from your background do you bring to the position and how do you feel it can help you to give guidance and leadership to the organization?

I have been involved with American chapters of Israeli charitable organizations since the early 1990’s and American Friends is one of the first boards that I joined. I am familiar with the many aspects of fundraising, even though this is the first time that I will be in the position of chairman of any of those organizations. Since I have been involved with the hospital for several decades, I am deeply aware of its strengths and how the American Friends can support its needs. I have been living in New York for over four decades (since moving from Tel Aviv) and I look forward to educating my broad network about the wonderful work of Sheba Medical Center, both in Israel and globally.

At this stage of your life and business career, what was it about Sheba Medical Center that motivated you to take the helm of this organization?  In other words, how is Sheba Medical Center different from other Israeli hospitals currently being represented and supported in the US?

My personal attachment to Sheba Medical Center is what drove me to become Chairman. I believe that all the hospitals that are being supported in the US are important. They represent different areas of medical excellence, but I have a personal history with Sheba. In 1970 when I was in the army, one of my childhood friends was injured in the War of Attrition. While on leave from military service, I went to visit him in the military hospital of Tel HaShomer. In those days, the hospital was comprised of long tin barracks shaped like a semi-circle. These were the leftover barracks of a British medical camp from WWII. By the time I next visited the hospital in the late 80’s, it had grown into a campus filled with high rise and modern buildings. Today my childhood friend is still being treated by Tel HaShomer. He developed PTSD during the Intifada, and he is a patient at the world-renowned rehabilitation center. In addition to my dear friend, several of my family members have undergone complicated procedures at the hospital and everyone was treated with respect and received excellent medical care. The breadth of specialties represented by Sheba doctors is unparalleled.  After years of being a member of the Board, I decided that I would increase my commitment and give back to the hospital by serving as the next Chairman.

As you enter this new role, what do you see as the key challenges for the American Friends?  What are your personal goals for the organization?

Sheba Medical Center is a big medical center in every aspect. It is physically large, consisting of a 200-acre campus with close to 2,000 beds, and serves over 1 million patients per year. It is also a major research institution, with 75 laboratories and represents 25 percent of all Israeli medical clinical research taking place at its state-of-the-art facilities. Sheba operates as a hospital without borders, treating all patients, regardless of gender, ethnicity, religion, or nationality. It was recognized as one of the world’s 10 best hospitals by Newsweek magazine (2019) in quality care, and yet the hospital remains unknown to the American public, including most of the Jewish American public. Of course, as a charitable organization, the primary goal is to increase donations, but I believe that we must also educate people about the hospital. I would like to increase awareness so that Sheba becomes a recognized name for Americans. 

Specifically, I see many organizations struggling to attract the support of the younger generations since there are so many worthy causes fundraising in the US. As a parent of two adult children, one of my principal goals is to raise awareness and build a lasting support among the younger generation which will follow in our footsteps.

How do you see the future for the American Friends group, as well as Sheba, itself?  And, how do you envision AFSMC’s impact in the future for Sheba?

The State of Israel provides excellent medical care for its citizens and supports many of the operational needs of Sheba. However, it is the support of private individuals and institutions which ensures that patients of the hospital receive the best care possible by equipping the hospital with the resources it needs to keep innovating and growing. It is our goal to support the hospital’s expansion in areas such as digital medical technology, biotechnology, medical simulation (the MSR), oncology and preventative medicine.