Israeli doctor treating Syrians hopes to save hearts and win minds

(This article is courtesy of the Times of Israel)

 

Israeli doctor treating Syrians hopes to save hearts and win minds

In 2013, Salman Zarka, then head of IDF medical corps in the north, sent injured Syrians who came to Israel’s border to a Safed hospital. Now, he’s running it

Dr. Salman Zarka, director of the Ziv Medical Center in Safed, Israel, speaks with a Syrian girl to whom he gave treatment (Courtesy).

Dr. Salman Zarka, director of the Ziv Medical Center in Safed, Israel, speaks with a Syrian girl to whom he gave treatment (Courtesy).

WASHINGTON — For Israeli soldiers guarding the country’s northern border, Shabbat morning is often, though not always, quite placid, even with a raging civil war unfolding miles away.

The Israel Defense Forces have naturally been vigilant to keep the Syrian conflict from bleeding into Israel, especially over the last year as Iran has sought to entrench itself in the beleaguered Arab state. But more often than not, it hasn’t been Syrians with weapons that head toward Israel’s borders: it has been Syrians with injuries.

That came to the fore on a fateful morning in February 2013, when seven Syrians arrived at the Israeli border in need of serious medical attention. The medics there provided them with care, but it soon became clear that this would not be enough to save their lives.

At the time, Salman Zarka was the head of the IDF Northern Command’s Medical Corps. He quickly determined that the wounded Syrians needed to go to a civilian hospital where they could receive a higher level of care.

The closest one was the Ziv Medical Center in Safed, an ancient city overlooking the Sea of Galilee. Zarka ordered that they be rushed to the facility, where they were treated, and some underwent surgery. Every single one of them survived.

Ten days later, they went back to their homes in Syria.

Now, Zarka is the director of Ziv — a position he’s held since 2014 — where he has continued to treat Syrians who come to the Israeli border in need of lifesaving medical interventions.

A Syrian man carries two girls covered with dust following a reported air strike by government forces on July 9, 2014 in the northern city of Aleppo. (Photo credit: AFP/AMC/ZEIN AL-RIFAI)

Since 2013, Ziv has played a small but pivotal role in the treatment of injured Syrians over the course of their country’s ruthless civil war. That is at least partly due to the hospital’s strategic location: roughly seven miles from the border with Lebanon and a little more than 50 from the Syrian border.

At first, Zarka thought 50 miles was too far for patients in critical condition (about a 30-minute drive with sirens), who, he feared, might not survive the trip.

“We decided that if we’re going to have a mission of saving lives, we’ll do it in the best way we know, and the best way with our experience was to have a military hospital just on the border so severe injuries can be treated there,” Zarka recently told The Times of Israel.

Therefore, in March 2013, after consultation with government officials, Israel built a facility on the border, near a Druze village.

But a year and a half later, it closed.

“We discovered it wasn’t needed,” said Zarka, who is Druze. “Most of the Syrians’ injuries were orthopedic. They did not require immediate medical attention and could wait to be treated at civilian facilities.”

Today, most of the burden falls on Ziv to treat Syrians who come to Israel asking for help. Since February 2013, the hospital has treated roughly 5,000 Syrians, according to Zarka.

The experience, he said, appears to have an impact on those rescued — many of whom had grown up thinking their southern neighbor was a villain.

Dr. Salman Zarka treats a wounded Syrian boy at the Ziv Medical Cener in Safed. (Courtesy)

“I’ve met many Syrians. When I met them at first, they were very afraid to meet their enemy and receive medical support from us,” Zarka said. “They didn’t always tell us the truth. We noticed that sometimes they changed their names. But things have changed. They have started smiling and speaking Hebrew. A number have told us that for many years they have been educated that we are the devil and need to be kicked back to the sea.

“Now,” he said, “they understand that we are more human than Assad.”

At Ziv, Syrians are treated confidentially to protect their identity from Syrian authorities, who would not take kindly to their accepting help from the Jewish state.

The patients stay anywhere from a few days to a few months. In a few rare cases, some have stayed longer than a year. While there, Zarka noted, they receive the same level of care as Israelis.

“We offer not just treatment for their injuries, we treat them according to the Israeli standards,” he said. “We do our best not just to try to save their lives, we try to improve the quality of their lives.”

Magen David Adom (MDA) ambulance at the entrance to the emergency unit at Ziv Medical Center in Safed, northern Israel, on March 6, 2019. (David Cohen/Flash90)

In one instance, a Syrian woman came to the border with her 10-year-old diabetic daughter after their village was bombed. The girl was unconscious and her mother thought she was dead. Shortly after they arrived at the border, the IDF brought them to Ziv, where the girl was treated for three months.

During that period, the medical staff trained the mother to care for her child once they left the unit — teaching her how to check her daughter’s glucose levels and how to give an insulin injection. They wanted to make sure she could keep her daughter healthy once they left.

When Ziv released her from the hospital, Zarka was fearful for both of their futures. “We were very worried especially about what would happen to this wonderful girl when she got back to Syria,” he said.

Four months later, however, that girl made it back to Ziv for a checkup.

“To see that she is surviving and gaining weight and in a better situation … you believe that you are changing something,” he said.

Zarka said when the girl returned she gave him a present: a drawing of the Israeli flag with a big heart and her name on it.

It said, “Todah Raba” — “Thank you” in Hebrew.

For Zarka, experiences like this one reveal the ability to influence the worldview of Syrians who might otherwise despise Israelis without actually knowing them. It may be a small sample size, he said, but that little girl will grow up grateful for the country that helped her while her own was trapped in a humanitarian catastrophe.

“She will believe Israelis are saving lives, that we are good people,” Zarka said. “Maybe some day, we will have a different relationship.”

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Israel: Nano-vaccine against melanoma developed by Tel Aviv University researchers

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Nano-vaccine against melanoma developed by Tel Aviv University researchers

New approach to deadly skin cancer has been effective in preventing and treating primary tumors in mice, study says

Illustrative image of a doctor using a dermatoscope for a skin examination for melanoma (AndreyPopov, iStock by Getty Images)

Illustrative image of a doctor using a dermatoscope for a skin examination for melanoma (AndreyPopov, iStock by Getty Images)

Researchers at Tel Aviv University say they may have developed a new way to treat and prevent melanoma, through the use of a “nano-vaccine.”

The new approach to fighting the most aggressive type of skin cancer has so far been effective in mice in preventing the development of melanoma and in treating primary tumors and metastases that result from melanoma, the researchers said in a study.

“Our research opens the door to a completely new approach — the vaccine approach — for effective treatment of melanoma, even in the most advanced stages of the disease,” said a statement by Prof. Satchi-Fainaro, chair of the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology and head of the Laboratory for Cancer Research and Nano-medicine at TAU’s Sackler Faculty of Medicine, who led the study.

The focus of the research, published on Monday in Nature Nanotechnology, is a nano-particle that serves as the basis for the new vaccine.

A nano-vaccine developed by researchers at Tel Aviv University enhances the sensitivity of melanoma to immunotherapy to destroy cancer cells. Illustration by Maayan Harel.

Melanoma develops in the skin cells that produce melanin or skin pigment. The cancer accounts for only about 1% of skin tumors, but is behind a large majority of skin cancer deaths, according to the American Cancer Society. Some 7,230 people in the US are expected to die of melanoma in 2019, according to the American Cancer Society.

“The war against cancer in general, and melanoma in particular, has advanced over the years through a variety of treatment modalities, such as surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy and immunotherapy; but the vaccine approach, which has proven so effective against various viral diseases, has not materialized yet against cancer,” said Satchi-Fainaro. “In our study, we have shown that it is possible to produce an effective nano-vaccine against melanoma and to sensitize the immune system to immunotherapies.”

The researchers used tiny particles, about 170 nano-meters in size, made up of  biodegradable polymers. Within each particle, they “packed” two peptides — short chains of amino acids, which are found in melanoma cells. They then injected the nano-particles (or “nano-vaccines”) into mice that had melanoma.

“The nano-particles acted just like known vaccines for viral-borne diseases,” Satchi-Fainaro said. “They stimulated the immune system of the mice, and the immune cells learned to identify and attack cells containing the two peptides — that is, the melanoma cells. This meant that, from now on, the immune system of the immunized mice will attack melanoma cells if and when they appear in the body.”

Tel Aviv University researchers have developed nano-vaccine to fight melanoma in mice. Left to right: Prof. Helena Florindo, Dr João Conniot, Prof. Ronit Satchi-Fainaro, Dr Anna Scomparin. (Galia Tiram).

The researchers then examined the effectiveness of the vaccine under three conditions.

In the first scenario, the vaccine was injected into healthy mice, followed by an injection of melanoma cells. “The result was that the mice did not get sick, meaning that the vaccine prevented the disease,” Satchi-Fainaro said. This means the vaccine proved to have a preventative effect, she explained.

Second, the nano-particle vaccine was used to treat a primary melanoma tumors in mice, together with immunotherapy treatments that are already approved for use or still under development. The combination of the vaccine with the treatment “significantly delayed the progression of the disease and greatly extended the lives of all treated mice,” the statement said.

In the last scenario, the researchers tested their approach on tissues taken from human patients in which the melanoma cancer cells had spread to the brain. They found that in the human brain, where there is metastases, the two same peptides exist. This suggested that just as these two peptides can trigger an immune reaction in mice when used as a nano-vaccine, they are likely to trigger a similar reaction in the brain, indicating that the vaccine could be used to treat brain metastases in humans as well, Satchi-Fainaro said in a phone interview.

A nano-vaccine developed by researchers at Tel Aviv University activates the immune system to attack melanoma (Illustration by Galia Tiram).

The next step for the researchers, she  said in the phone interview, is to “show that we can control the growth” of the metastasized cells in order to “prolong overall survival.”

The researchers believe that their “nano-vaccine” approach could be expanded beyond melanoma.

“We believe that our platform may also be suitable for other types of cancer and that our work is a solid foundation for the development of other cancer nano-vaccines,” Satchi-Fainero said.

The researchers are now setting up a company to take the development of their nano-vaccine further. It may take at least five to 10 years before a product could reach the market, if all the clinical trials go well, she said in the interview.

The team of researchers included Prof. Helena Florindo of the University of Lisbon, while on sabbatical at the TAU, and Dr. Anna Scomparin and postdoctoral fellow Dr. João Conniot, both of the TAU.

The project was funded by EuroNanoMed-II, the Israeli Health Ministry, the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT), the Israel Science Foundation (ISF), the European Research Council (ERC) Consolidator and Advanced Awards, the Saban Family Foundation – Melanoma Research Alliance (MRA) Team Science Award, and the Israel Cancer Research Fund (ICRF).

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How much water do you really need to drink?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TRIVIA GENIUS)

 

How much water do you really need to drink?

Eight glasses a day, right? That’s what we’ve always been told. But as it turns out, this widely-held belief isn’t as accurate as you might think. To really get an idea of how much water you need to drink to maintain your health, let’s look at the issue and come up with some answers.

Eight glasses is a myth

Credit: Svetlana-Cherruty / iStock

Yes, unfortunately, this bit of wisdom that many of us go our whole lives believing is a myth. There’s no actual science behind the claim that six to eight glasses of water per day is necessary for good health, but nevertheless, the claim gets tossed around by the government, the media, and just about anyone who fancies him/herself as a nutrition expert.

The original “eight glasses” claim purportedly comes from a recommendation by the 1945 U.S. Food and Nutrition Board, which stated that we should drink 2.5 liters of water every day for good health. There are two problems with this right off the bat:

  • The recommendation wasn’t based on any actual research.
  • The recommendation also suggests that most of this intake could come from foods.

Unfortunately, in lieu of more concrete directions, this recommendation took hold in our culture. Add in the fact that nutrition science is complicated and poorly-understood (even by experts!), and it’s clear why we can’t seem to shake the idea that more water = better health.

How much do you actually need?

Credit: Doucefleur / iStock

This isn’t to say that hydration isn’t important; it certainly is, especially in hotter regions where people lose more water from sweating and exhalation. There are plenty of clear associations between hydration and metabolism, skin health, and general fitness.

But too much of anything isn’t good. Even water. So, how much is the right amount The answer is a bit tricky. There are three factors influencing how much water you should drink:

  • Body weight
  • Activity level
  • Local climate

Generally, the more you weigh, the hotter it is, and the more active you are, the more water you’ll need.

In terms of coming up with a specific total, some resources suggest taking half your body weight and aiming for that total in ounces; for example, a 200-pound person would need 100 ounces of water each day. However, this is just a rule of thumb—there’s no specific formula that works for every person. There are just too many variables that go into the equation, especially when you start adding water intake from solid foods.

Water intake doesn’t mean drinking

Credit: wundervisuals / iStock

It’s important to note that your daily “water intake” encompasses more than just the liquid you drink. Nearly every food we eat has water in it, and some (like fruits and vegetables) are extremely water-rich. Many of us end up getting much of our recommended liquid intake just from the meals we eat.

In short, you might be more hydrated than you think you are — even without downing a tall glass of water at every meal. This begs the question: How can I tell whether I’m hydrated enough to be healthy?

Follow your body’s signals

Credit: Group4 Studio / iStock

Every person’s water needs are unique, and as such, we need to rely on our own unique signals when deciding whether we’re properly hydrated. According to the Mayo Clinic, there are a few easy ways to stay hydrated, no matter how much water your body needs:

  • Drink water or other liquids regularly, including with meals
  • Drink any time you feel thirsty (or hungry!)
  • If you’re exercising, drink extra before and after a workout

It should be easy enough to tell whether you’re hydrated; generally, thirst, fatigue, and overtly-yellow urine are signs of dehydration. Aim for a routine of daily water intake that matches the energy you expend.

The perfect amount of water

Credit: SrdjanPav / iStock

Unfortunately, there’s no “ideal” recommendation for water intake that applies to everyone. Heck, even on an individual level, water needs vary widely across people. It’s not important that you force yourself to chug water each day in hopes of meeting an arbitrary goal. What is important is that you listen to your body’s signals and adjust your intake until it matches your lifestyle.

China’s first 5G-streamed robot-assisted surgery conducted in Shanghai

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CHINA NEWS NETWORK ‘SHINE’)

 

China’s first 5G-streamed robot-assisted surgery conducted in Shanghai

Video provided by Renji Hospital

The first robot assisted surgery broadcast through 5G was conducted in Renji Hospital on Thursday, allowing doctors throughout the Yangtze River Delta region to witness proceedings.

Doctors in other parts of the Renji medical network, student doctors studying in Renji and those working in Renji’s branch in Ningbo, Zhejiang Province, were able to watch the whole da Vinci procedure performed by Dr Zhong Ming, deputy director of Renji’s gastrointestinal surgery department.

Da Vinci is surgical system which uses robotic technology to allows surgeons to perform minimally invasive procedures.

China's first 5G-streamed robot-assisted surgery conducted in Shanghai

Ti Gong

Dr Zhong Ming from Renji Hospital operates the da Vinci system.

“We have tried 3D and VR in previous broadcasts. The previous limits of our digital technology, hardly met the requirements for medical education,” Zhong said. “5G allows students and interns to clearly see each step of the surgery in real time.”

Doctors from remote areas are perhaps the greatest beneficiaries. 5G allows them to see the most advanced technology in leading hospitals.

“Without the broadcast, I may never have had a chance to witness a da Vinci surgery in my entire life,” said Dr Yu Mengxi from Yunnan Province, who is in training at Renji Hospital.

Zhang Jidong, vice president of Renji Hospital, said surgery broadcasts are a very effective way to introduce doctors in rural areas to new medical technology, eventually benefiting more patients.

China's first 5G-streamed robot-assisted surgery conducted in Shanghai

Ti Gong

The da Vinci surgery system

The 2-minute guide to the human heart

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TRIVIA GENIUS)

 

The 2-minute guide to the human heart

Out of all the muscles in the body, the heart works the hardest. It pumps continuously whether we are working out or relaxing in bed, keeping the rest of our organs working properly – and keeping us alive. Here is a two-minute guide to the human heart so that you can better understand how it works.

Heart basics

Credit: Razvan25 / iStock

The human heart is a fist-sized organ located just to the left of the center of the chest. In healthy adults, it beats around 80 times per minute, meaning that it beats around 115,000 times per day. This adds up to around 42 million beats per year. If you want to take that statistic even further, in the average 70-year lifespan of a human being, the heart beats more than 2.5 billion times. This beating is what pushes blood, oxygen, and other nutrients through the body.

Chambers

The human heart has four distinct chambers, the top two of which are called the right and left atria. The two bottom chambers are the right and left ventricles. Blood from the rest of the body flows into the heart via the atria, and the ventricles pump that blood back out into the rest of the body, creating a constant, cyclical system.

Valves

Credit: Mari-Leaf / Shutterstock.com

There are also four valves in the human heart. The two valves that are located between the atria and the ventricles are called atrioventricular valves, and are further divided into the tricuspid (right valve) and the mitral (left valve). There are also two semilunar valves located where the ventricles let out. These are called the pulmonary and aortic valves.

Pericardium and heart wall

The pericardium is a two-walled sac that surrounds the heart, protecting it and keeping it in its proper place inside the chest. Between the inner and outer layers of the pericardium is a fluid that lubricates the heart while it contracts, as well as protects it from the movement of the nearby diaphragm and lungs.

The wall of the heart itself helps to protect this important organ as well. It is made up of three layers: the epicardium, which is the inner wall of the pericardium; the myocardium, which contains the muscular part of the heart that contracts when it beats; and the innermost layer called the endocardium, which is the lining that comes in contact with the blood that flows through the heart.

Arteries and veins

Credit: magicine / iStock

The final aspect of the heart’s anatomy that needs discussing is the system of arteries and veins. Arteries are the vessels that carry blood away from the heart, with the largest and most important one being the aorta, which comes out of the left ventricle. The veins are the opposite of arteries, in that they bring blood back into the heart after it circulates through other parts of the body.

Cardiac cycle

As strange as it may sound, the heart has an electrical system as well, which sends cardiac impulses that cause it to beat. This beating is a part of what is called the cardiac cycle, and is divided into two parts. The first part is called systole, which is when the ventricles contract and send blood into the arteries to go to the rest of the body. The second part is called diastole, which is when the ventricles relax and take in blood from the atria. Incredibly, this all happens thousands of times a day, and as long as the cycle goes smoothly, it isn’t necessary to give it a second thought.

A New Cannabis Survey Reveals the No. 1 Legalization Hurdle

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE MOTLEY FOOL’S PAPER)

 

A New Cannabis Survey Reveals the No. 1 Legalization Hurdle

Despite budding public support for marijuana, cannabis could remain illegal in the U.S. for a long time to come.

Jul 6, 2019 at 9:06AM
As recently as a decade ago, marijuana was considered to be a taboo topic. Politicians skirted the issue if ever questioned, and Americans mostly avoided the discussion of what was largely an illicit drug throughout the United States.

But a lot has changed in a decade. Today, two-thirds of the country have given the green light to medical marijuana, and Illinois recently became the 11th state to OK adult-use marijuana. Recreational sales will commence in the Land of Lincoln on Jan. 1, 2020. We’ve also witnessed a number of politicians openly discuss, and perhaps even support, marijuana reform at the federal level.

So, if so much has changed, at least among the public and at the state level, why hasn’t the government shifted its stance on marijuana at the federal level? A recent poll from CBS News reveals the key insight that’s holding the industry back.

A black silhouette of the U.S. partially filled in with cannabis baggies, rolled joints, and a scale.

IMAGE SOURCE: GETTY IMAGES.

Support for legalization hits an all-time high in this annual survey

In April, just ahead of 4/20 (April 20), a celebrated day among the cannabis community, CBS News released its now-annual survey that outlines how the public perceives marijuana. When asking if respondents favored the idea of legal marijuana use, an all-time record 65% were in support, which is up 6 percentage points from April 2018, and 20 percentage points from April 2013. This result more or less jibes with national pollster Gallup’s results, which showed 66% support for legalization in its October 2018 survey.

Among the findings, CBS News found that, for the first time ever in its polling, a majority of Republicans supported legalization (56%). However, as has been the case for some time now, seniors aged 65 and up were still on the fence about legalization, with just 49% in support of such an idea. Comparatively, 72% of young adults aged 18 to 34 were in favor of legalization, along with 72% of self-identified Democrats.

One of the primary reasons marijuana has been growing in popularity is that most Americans view it as a positive for the local economy. Just over half of those people polled (52%) suggested that cannabis could be an economic positive, compared to just 15% who viewed it as a negative for the local economy. The remainder of those polled foresaw little or no economic effect.

Furthermore, exactly half of all people polled felt that legalizing marijuana use would have “not much effect” on the number of violent crimes committed. Comparatively, 20% expected a decrease, while 26% forecast an increase in violent crimes with increased cannabis use.

A row of voting booths with pamphlets attached.

IMAGE SOURCE: GETTY IMAGES.

Marijuana isn’t viewed as a political game changer

Each and every one of these data points would appear to be a selling point for federal reform. Americans overwhelmingly favor legalization, believe it’s helping their local economies, and don’t think cannabis use will lead to more violent crimes. And yet, it remains an illicit substance at the federal level.

The reason? According to the CBS News poll, 56% of Americans questioned said their presidential candidate’s support for legal marijuana wouldn’t make a difference in their vote. Meanwhile, 21% suggested they’re more likely to vote for a candidate who supports legalizing weed, with an equal 21% less likely to vote for a candidate who supports legalizing pot. Put in another context, a majority of the public may have an opinion on whether they believe cannabis should be legal or not, but the stance their candidate takes won’t be enough to sway their vote.

A 2018 survey from the independent Quinnipiac University yielded a very similar finding. Quinnipiac posed the following question to its respondents:

“If you agreed with a political candidate on other issues, but not on the issue of legalizing marijuana, do you think you could still vote for that candidate or not?”

A mere 13% of respondents affirmed that they wouldn’t vote for such a candidate, with a whopping 82% noting that they still would. Marijuana simply doesn’t have enough political clout on Capitol Hill to cause elected officials to lose their seats. This means there’s little rush for lawmakers to endorse the legalization movement, even if the public tide has dramatically shifted in favor of legalization in recent years.

A drug free zone sign posted in a quiet neighborhood.

IMAGE SOURCE: GETTY IMAGES.

Cannabis could remain illegal at the federal level for years to come

Even if voters won’t be making marijuana a single-voter issue, it doesn’t reduce the importance of the 2020 elections. On top of numerous states expected to vote on recreational cannabis, the federal government could see shake-ups at the congressional and presidential level. With Republicans having a historically more adverse view of cannabis than Democrats, hanging onto the Senate and/or Oval Office could doom pot to at least another two years without any chance of federal reform. In short, a lot is riding on next year’s elections.

Although there are plenty of ways for marijuana investors to make bank in the U.S. via the hemp and cannabidiol markets, a lack of progress on the federal cannabis front could certainly dent investors’ near-term expectations.

For example, last quarter we witnessed multistate cannabis operator Acreage Holdings(NASDAQOTH:ACRGF) fall by 20%, making it one of the 25 worst-performing cannabis stocks. Acreage, which has retail stores, grow farms, and processing sites in more states (20) than any other vertically integrated U.S.-focused pot stock, agreed to be acquired by Canopy Growth(NYSE:CGC), the largest marijuana stock in the world by market cap, in April.

The $3.4 billion cash-and-stock deal was made on a contingent-rights basis, with Canopy Growth paying $300 million in cash up front, and handing over $3.1 billion in stock later, upon the legalization of marijuana at the federal level in the United States. Although the deal has a roughly 90-month runway to occur, Republican wins in the Senate or Oval Office next year could possibly push back any chance of reform for another 24 months, at minimum. Canopy Growth might look to have an easy in to the United States’ burgeoning pot market, but there’s no guarantee that the contingent rights of the deal with Acreage will be met anytime soon, if ever.

Until marijuana becomes more of a single-voter issue, there’s little chance of real federal reform in the United States.

Sean Williams has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Indian students’ arrests puts focus on underbelly of China medical colleges

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES OF INDIA)

 

Indian students’ arrests puts focus on underbelly of China medical colleges

The agents often become incommunicado after extracting lakhs from the families and a commission from the college, leaving students confused and stranded in a foreign country with no grasp of the local language and without family or peer backup.

WORLD Updated: Jun 24, 2019 15:50 IST

Sutirtho Patranobis
Sutirtho Patranobis
Hindustan Times, Beijing
Chinese medical colleges,Indian students,MBBS
More than 21,000 Indian students are studying MBBS across 100 Chinese universities. And the number is increasing.(FILE PHOTO.)

The recent arrest, expulsion, and deportation of Indian students studying in medical colleges in China for drug abuse has raised dual concerns about the quality of campus life here and the lack of information available to foreign students about Chinese law.

It also puts the focus on the soft underbelly of Chinese medical colleges where a nexus of interests between a few India-based agents and some university officials has misled students, promising them top facilities but delivering less.

The agents often become incommunicado after extracting lakhs from the families and a commission from the college, leaving students confused and stranded in a foreign country with no grasp of the local language and without family or peer back-up.

It becomes more difficult for “first generational learners” who have moved to China from smaller cities in India and find themselves in a world that is entirely foreign in terms of lifestyle, language, culture and even teaching methodology in colleges.

Several cases of depression, in fact, have been reported among Indian students who have not been able to adjust to life in China.

More than 21,000 Indian students are studying MBBS across 100 Chinese universities. And the number is increasing.

On an average, at least 3000 to 3500 Indian students annually enroll at medical colleges, attracted by less rigorous admission procedures and cheaper tuition fees.

The facilities at some Chinese colleges are also said to be better than Indian universities.

Involvement in drug-related cases, however, is becoming the big worry for families as it attracts strict penalties from authorities here; the numbers aren’t big but the trend is worrying.

A few Indian students were recently deported for using drugs in one university; in another case, passports of a few more were seized by the police and they were expelled from the college.

In May, 15 foreign students were arrested on drug-related charges at the Dalian Medical University; three were Indian.

According to Chinese law, if deported, the student cannot return to China to finish the MBBS degree, adding a hefty financial loss to the mental anguish and stress on them and their families.

The Chinese education ministry didn’t respond to a list of questions sent by HT on the problems faced by Indian students in China.

The email to the ministry mentioned specific issues faced by them.

The ministry remained silent to the question whether its officials had ever looked into the problems faced by the large number of Indian students coming to China to study.

Sources told HT that for many students the world of a Chinese college could well be different from the one promised by agents in India.

Easy availability of drugs is just one of the problems.

The quality of teachers in certain colleges is questionable with many professors unable to teach in English. As a result, the quality of education suffers. Students complain that many professors teach only through power-point presentations, which aren’t backed by discussions and they, the students, are often left to fend for themselves.

At some places, the shocking practice of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) doctors teaching MBBS courses has been reported.

At some others, students get little clinical exposure and a few medical colleges don’t even have attached hospitals where they can complete their mandatory medical attachment or internship.

In one case, a batch of Indian students was flown to Moscow this year to complete their internship at a Russian medical college.

In certain cases, students were promised better facilities like single or double-room accommodation but later made to share one room with a number of students.

For many Indian students, sourcing vegetarian or Indian food becomes a chore though they are promised easy access to Indian food by agents.

Recently, the Indian embassy released an official notification from the Chinese education ministry, a list of 45 Universities in China that are authorized to give admission to foreign students (including Indian students) to undertake MBBS degree course (in the English language) in China for the year 2019.

These 45 colleges are different from the 214, which also offer MBBS but in the Chinese language.

Many Indian students, however, are grappling with some problem or the other at nearly all colleges, HT has learned.

Indian students in China (All-time high): 23198

Indian students studying medicine: 21000+

Number of Indian students in China is fourth after South Korea, Thailand, Pakistan.

Number of foreign students in China: 492185

Source: Education Ministry, the Indian Embassy.

First Published: Jun 23, 2019 17:32 IST

1,500 Chernobyl ‘liquidators’ live in Israel. They are appallingly mistreated

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

1,500 Chernobyl ‘liquidators’ live in Israel. They are appallingly mistreated

A 2001 law promised housing, medical care to this group of heroes, but scandalously has never been implemented. Maybe interest sparked by the remarkable TV series will change that

Ksenia Svetlova
Chernobyl liquidators visiting the Knesset in Jerusalem. (Ksenia Svetlova)

Chernobyl liquidators visiting the Knesset in Jerusalem. (Ksenia Svetlova)

The much-discussed new TV series, “Chernobyl,” which focuses on the worst nuclear disaster of the twentieth century, has reminded the world about what happened at the plant’s No. 4 nuclear reactor 33 years ago.

Despite the very real health dangers, many curious tourists have been making their way to the remote Ukrainian city where time stopped in April 1986. And journalists have been seeking out the people who fought the devastating fire and built the Chernobyl sarcophagus, the massive steel and concrete structure that was constructed on top of the destroyed reactor to isolate it and limit radioactive contamination of the surrounding area.

The vast majority of the hundreds of thousands of Chernobyl “liquidators”— those who were called in to deal with the immediate aftermath of the catastrophic nuclear leak — who are still alive today reside in the former Soviet Union. But about 5,000 of them immigrated to Israel at the start of the 90s, and 1,500 of them still live here. Unfortunately, the liquidators are elderly and suffer from ill health. Unsurprisingly, those facts are less interesting than the painful memories from those terrible days: the friends who died, the hair that fell out, the diseases that spread.

I came into contact with this unique group of people four years ago in the course of the election campaign for the twentieth Knesset. The head of the association of Chernobyl liquidators here, Alexander Kalantirsky, got in touch with me before I was elected, and asked for my help. When we started talking, it emerged that he had studied construction engineering together with my mother at the same university in Moscow.

Alex Kalantirsky (R) during a demonstration of Chernobyl liquidators at the Knesset in Jerusalem. (Ksenia Svetlova)

Kalantirsky was in his 40s, married and with children, when he was sent to Chernobyl to work on the construction of the sarcophagus.

Did he know what was waiting for him there, and that his health would be irreparably harmed? Absolutely. But at no point did he contemplate evading this mission.

“We knew that if the radiation continued to spread, not only would Ukraine, Belarus, Lithuania and Russia be hit, but all of Europe, including the Mediterranean basin. That was all we were thinking about. We hoped we would be able to neutralize that immense danger,” he told me in our first discussion.

A concrete and steel sarcophagus that seals the Chernobyl nuclear power plant’s No. 4 reactor is seen in this picture from December 8, 1999, in Ukraine’s Chernobyl. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

The rights of the Chernobyl disaster liquidators are anchored in several international treaties to which Israel is not a signatory. Nonetheless, when the liquidators immigrated to Israel, they asked for the assistance that would enable them to deal with their illnesses and other needs.

And indeed in 2001, the late Knesset member Yuri Stern initiated legislation that recognized the liquidators’ work and gave them a unique status. The law specifies their right to public housing, to a one-time grant and to treatment in a special medical facility to be set up for this purpose.

An aerial view of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, the site of the world’s worst nuclear accident, is seen in April 1986, two to three days after the explosion in Chernobyl, Ukraine. In front of the chimney is the destroyed 4th reactor. (AP Photo)

Since the passage of the law 18 years ago, however, the state has not implemented it and has not allocated the funding to implement it. In the four years that I served as a Knesset member, I sought answers from the government ministries responsible for this failure. Some of their responses were quite fascinating.

The Immigrant Absorption Ministry, and the Construction and Housing Ministry, for example, completely ignored the liquidators. The insurance companies refuse to insure the liquidators, because of the high level of illness to which they were exposed, but an effort to involve the Treasury in this issue was thwarted, with the explanation that the Treasury has no right to require private companies to insure or not insure an individual.

Deputy health minister Yaakov Litzman during a press conference after meeting with president Reuven Rivlin at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem, April 15, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

But the most outrageous response of all was from Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman, who told me that “research does not prove that the Chernobyl disaster liquidators suffer from illnesses as a consequence of their work at the reactor. Most of them are smokers and it is possible that cancer in their cases is a consequence of that smoking.”

Once that contemptuous and offensive response was received, the path to a petition to the High Court of Justice was plainly open, since the 2001 legislation had instructed the government ministries to set up a medical facility to treat the Chernobyl liquidators. A petition was submitted by attorney Gilad Sher, who has been working for years on their behalf.

A doctor examines a boy who was evacuated from near the Chernobyl disaster area to Artek, June 14, 1986. (AP Photo)

At a hearing on December 17, 2018, the High Court accepted most of the liquidators’ key demands. The court made clear that the state had no right not to provide the liquidators with all their rights via a pretext that their medical situation was unclear.

The state was given 120 days to rectify the situation. But then the election campaign, and now the second election campaign, have frozen the work of the government and the Knesset, and nothing has moved.

Children from Chernobyl come to Israel for medical treatment in 1990 (Natan Alpert / GPO)

Very few reporters have taken an interest in this saga and the dire situation of the liquidators here. Among those who have focused on the story at all, most have concentrated on the awful details of what happened 33 years ago and interviewed these elderly, ailing people about that. For most of the liquidators, this is a profoundly traumatic experience.

And now came the remarkable “Chernobyl” historical drama.

Poster for Chernobyl, the 2019 miniseries

Says Kalantirsky: “This series returned me to the nightmare. The more I talk about my experiences there, the sicker I get.”

He and his friends, he says, do not understand why interviewers ignore their tales from the last three decades in Israel — the relentless battle they have been waging against government ministries who try to fob off responsibility from one ministry to another, and their dire financial situation.

“It’s been 18 years since Yuri Stern’s law passed. How many more years will it be before they start taking care of our issue?” asks Kalantirsky, a wise, intelligent, clearheaded man.

He has been amazed by the number of requests he has received for comments from the media, and disappointed by the superficiality of the questions.

“I have no problem talking about what happened at Chernobyl, even though it’s not easy for me,” he told me recently. “I watched the series. It was staggeringly accurate, apart for a few minor details. But it’s vital for me that it is not only the story of what happened then that is heard, but also our cry today.”

Workers who constructed the cement sarcophagus covering Chernobyl’s reactor four, pose with a poster reading: “We will fulfill the government’s order!” in summer of 1986 next to the uncompleted construction.(AP Photo/ Volodymyr Repik)

In contrast to the characters in the TV series, the Chernobyl disaster liquidators are real people, flesh and blood.

I can only hope that the renewed interest in the greatest ecological disaster of the twentieth century will eventually lead the media to focus not only on the horror stories of the two-headed chickens and the prematurely lost teeth, but also on the actual lives of 1,500 Israelis who live here.

Chernobyl ‘liquidators’ testify at a Knesset committee meeting (Ksenia Svetlova)

As their right, and not as an act of pity of charity, they require and deserve our practical help with homes and medical treatment. This is the least we should be doing for them, and it is scandalously long overdue.

The writer was a Zionist Union member of Knesset in 2015-19.

This article originally appeared in Hebrew on Zman Yisrael, ToI’s Hebrew site

Israeli researchers find ‘potential hope’ for some pancreatic cancer patients

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Israeli researchers find ‘potential hope’ for some pancreatic cancer patients

New drug stalls progression of disease for patients who have the BRCA genetic mutations, study by Sheba Medical Center with AstraZeneca and Merck shows

An illustrative image of a cancer patient and perfusion drip. (CIPhotos, iStock by Getty Images)

An illustrative image of a cancer patient and perfusion drip. (CIPhotos, iStock by Getty Images)

Researchers at Israel’s Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer said Sunday that a targeted cancer therapy drug they developed together with pharma giants AstraZeneca and Merck & Co. Inc. offers “potential hope” for patients with a specific kind of pancreatic cancer, as it delays the progression of the disease.

Dr. Talia Golan, the head of the Sheba Medical Center Pancreatic Cancer Center, has been conducting research and clinical trials with AstraZeneca and MSD, as Merck is called outside the US, to evaluate the safety and test the efficacy of a new drug treatment regimen based on Lynparza, or olaprib, tablets.

The tablets are a pharmacological inhibitor of the enzyme poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase, or PARP. PARP inhibitors are a group of drugs that inhibit the enzyme. They were developed for a number of indications, but most importantly for the treatment of cancer, as several forms of cancer are more dependent for their development on the enzyme than regular cells are. This makes PARP an attractive target for cancer therapy.

Those who received the medication in the study on average went 7.4 months before their disease began to worsen, known as “progression free survival” rates, compared to 3.8 months in the group that took the placebo, the researchers said.

The study, called POLO, was held with 154 patients with metastatic pancreatic cancer who carried the BRC -1 and BRCA-2 genetic mutations. Patients with these mutations “make up a small subgroup of those with metastatic pancreatic cancer,” the researchers said in their study. Golan said in an interview that this subgroup accounts for six to seven percent of the metastatic pancreatic cancer patients.

The results of the Phase III randomized, double-blind study with a placebo control group will be published in July in the New England Journal of Medicine, the partners said.

“The POLO trial using the medicine Lynparza offers potential hope for those who suffer from metastatic pancreatic cancer and have a BRCA mutation,” Golan said in the statement. “This treatment also exemplifies the advent of ‘precision medicine’ based on a specific genetic biomarker, BRCA 1 & 2.”

In the study, patients were randomly assigned to get the tablets, at a dose of 300 milligram twice daily, or a placebo.

However, though the drug was seen to slow the disease’s progression, an interim analysis showed “no difference” in overall survival between those who took the drug and the placebo group — a median of 18.9 months versus 18.1 months, the study said.

Pancreatic cancer is the 12th most common cancer worldwide, with 458,918 new cases in 2018 alone. It is the fourth leading cause of cancer death, and accounts for 7% of all cancer deaths, according to Cancer.Net. The five-year survival rate for people with pancreatic cancer is 9%. The cancer is often difficult to diagnose, as there are no specific cost-effective ways to screen for the illness, meaning that it is often found at later stages, when it has spread. For the 52% of people who are diagnosed after the cancer has spread, the 5-year survival rate is 3%, Cancer.Net says.

“When we saw the results were positive it was an exceptional, phenomenal moment,” said Golan in an interview. “For the field it is a huge thing.”

She added that this is the first Phase 3 biomarker study that is positive in pancreatic cancer and the drug “provides tremendous hope for patients” with the advanced stage of the cancer.  “This drug has shown efficacy and a tremendous really phenomenal response in this patient population,” she said.

BRCA1 and BRCA2 are human genes that produce proteins responsible for repairing damaged DNA and play an important role in maintaining the genetic stability of cells. When either of these genes is mutated, or altered, such that its protein product either is not made or does not function correctly, DNA damage may not be repaired properly, and cells become unstable. As a result, cells are more likely to develop additional genetic alterations that can lead to cancer. A significant number of Ashkenazi Jews (those of European origin) around the world are carriers of the BRCA 1 & 2 genes.

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Mother of Nechama Rivlin’s lung donor: ‘Another part of you has gone’

Sari Halabli, mother of 19-year-old Yair who died in March drowning accident, eulogizes president‘s ‘modest’ wife, says she will ‘rest in peace, together with my enchanting son’

Nechama Rivlin (R), wife of President Reuven Rivlin, on June 16, 2016. (Moshe Shai/FLASH90)
Yair Yehezkel Halabli (L), who donated his lung to Rivlin. (Twitter)

Nechama Rivlin (R), wife of President Reuven Rivlin, on June 16, 2016. (Moshe Shai/FLASH90) Yair Yehezkel Halabli (L), who donated his lung to Rivlin. (Twitter)

The mother of the young man whose lung was transplanted into Nechama Rivlin said Tuesday she grieves the passing of President Reuven Rivlin’s wife.

Sari Halabli, the mother of 19-year-old Yair Halabli, who died in March after drowning in a diving accident in Eilat, said Rivlin’s death at the age of 73 meant another part of her son had died.

Rivlin was “a modest woman, just like Yair,” Halabli told the Ynet news site.

“Rest in peace, together with my enchanting son,” she said in a message to Rivlin, before addressing her late son: “Another part of you has gone, and of my heart.”

Memorial candles are lit next to a picture of Nechama Rivlin, the late wife of President Reuven Rivlin, outside the President’s Residence in Jerusalem on June 4, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Halabli’s family donated several of his organs after his death. Rivlin received his lung on March 11 after a long time on a waiting list as she suffered from pulmonary fibrosis, a condition in which scar tissue accumulates in the lungs and makes it difficult to breathe. She died earlier Tuesday from complications linked to the transplant.

Her funeral will be held Wednesday at 6 p.m. at the Mount Herzl national cemetery in Jerusalem. Prior to the ceremony, her coffin will be placed at the Jerusalem Theater, where the public can go to pay its respects.

On Thursday and Friday, the president and his family will receive condolence visits at his official residence in Jerusalem as part of the traditional Shiva mourning period.

“I’m happy Nechama is no longer suffering. She really deserves the love she is getting now and the recognition of her service and work,” Channel 12 news quoted Rivlin telling friends following his wife’s death.

Rivlin died on the eve of her 74th birthday at Beilinson Hospital in Petah Tikva, where she was being treated after relapsing following the lung transplant.

President Reuven Rivlin and his wife, Nechama Rivlin. (GPO)

Soft-spoken and mild-mannered, Rivlin was eulogized by Israeli politiciansfrom across the political spectrum. She was also mourned by foreign diplomats stationed in Israel, as well as US President Donald Trump’s envoy for Middle East peace.

Trump, French President Emmanuel Macron and German President Frank Walter Steinmeier all called Rivlin’s office to express their condolences, according to Channel 12, which reported the president only spoke by phone with a few close friends of his and his late wife’s.

Nechama Rivlin was born in 1945 in Moshav Herut in the Sharon region. She married Reuven Rivlin in 1971, and worked for many years at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, until her retirement in 2007, at which point her lung condition was discovered.

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Veterans Affairs hospital for malpractice, forged records after vet files formal complaint and sues

THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

 

Feds probing Veterans Affairs hospital for malpractice, forged records after vet files formal complaint and sues

Feds probing Veterans Affairs hospital for malpractice, forged records after vet files formal complaint and sues
Veteran, Gary Zambito, enters the Primary/Specialty Care Pavilion, at the VA Medical Center in Northport, New York, for treatment. (David Wexler/for New York Daily News)
In June 1970, in the thick of the Vietnam War, anti-war demonstrators upset over the invasion of Cambodia took over a U.S. Navy building in Evanston, Ill. and beat 20-year-old Ensign Gary Zambito into unconsciousness.

Injuries from that attack forced the young law officer out of the armed services and caused him health problems for the next 50 years, including fainting spells, heart irregularities and high blood pressure.

Now in his 70s, Zambito turned to the Department of Veterans Affairs, specifically the Northport VA hospital on Long Island, for treatment he needed and was qualified to receive. But instead of getting better, he nearly ended up dead from a combination of misdiagnoses and neglect, according to a federal lawsuit and the New York State Division of Veterans’ Affairs.

Zambito sued the federal government for $4 million, the outcome of which is pending. The government has denied any wrongdoing, but the U.S. Attorney’s office in Central Islip has taken up a criminal investigation into malfeasance at the clinic, according to sources, which could result in criminal charges. The U.S. Attorney’s office would not confirm a criminal investigation, but the Daily News saw emails indicating a probe has been opened.

His ordeal with the Northport VA hospital began in December 2015 when Zambito, a Long Island resident, went there for a cardiology referral to treat increasingly frequent fainting spells that ended in blackouts, according to court papers.

“Mr. Zambito came to Northport VAMC as a Veteran with disabilities in need of proper medical care,” Benjamin P. Pomerance, a deputy director of the state VA liaison office, wrote in a February 2019 email to the hospital’s administrators. Zambito was referred to Pomerance by a veterans’ law clinic.

“What Mr. Zambito got instead from Northport VAMC was lies, broken promises, negligence, misconduct, further physical injuries, extraordinary mental strain and exhaustion, a set of multiple falsified medical records, an attending urologist whom Mr. Zambito simply cannot trust any longer, and cancerous tumors on Mr. Zambito’s kidneys that were never properly medically treated by the Northport VAMC despite the fact that treatment was readily available.”

The Veterans’ Administration and Northport VA hospital declined to comment because of the pending litigation.

Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center.
Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center. (David Wexler/for New York Daily News)

Zambito told doctors at the Northport VA hospital that the 1970 attack had left him with heart irregularities, and that after tests he was diagnosed with supraventricular tachycardia, an abnormally rapid heart rhythm. But, Zambito said in interviews and court records, doctors could not identify the cause of the fainting spells and he crashed onto sidewalks 18 times, injuring his eye, face, hands and knees. He said questions about the possibility of a relationship between his heart condition and fainting were ignored.

In his complaint to the VA, Pomerance wrote, “These injuries would have been avoided if the cardiology unit had diagnosed Mr. Zambito appropriately and treated him accordingly, rather than summarily dismissing him from their care.”

After three years of struggling with the VA hospital, the veteran said he went to a private doctor, who gave him an electrocardiogram and determined that his heart condition, which resulted from the attack, could be treated with a drug called Flecanide Acetate. It was prescribed on March 11, 2017, and quickly eliminated the fainting problem, he said.

“If they had given me that medication 14 months earlier, I would never have had those 18 (fainting spells) and never have suffered my five permanently disabling injuries, which are all service related because they were caused by the attack on the naval facility,” Zambito explained.

Still, Zambito said he kept seeking help at Northport because he could not afford private care. He was now walking with crutches, and using braces for his neck, right arm and hand and a patch on his right eye but relied on public transportation because he could not afford to use car services.

During the course of his cardiology treatment, tests showed growths on his kidneys and doctors prescribed surgery. Zambito said that urologist Dr. John Fitzgerald told him that because of his heart condition, removing the tumors under general anesthesia could be fatal. So, Zambito said, the doctor referred him to a private clinic, which he co-owned, for treatment under local anesthesia.

But, Zambito said, when he showed up for the procedure it was scheduled for general anesthesia.

“Had this surgery proceeded as scheduled, I would have been placed at risk of life-altering negative consequence, perhaps even death,” he told The News.

Zambito claims that after confronting him, the doctor began missing appointments but stated in records that the veteran was the “no show.” Zambito said on one trip to the Northport VA hospital he waited 8 hours, only to be told, without explanation, that the doctor was not available.

Ultimately, the doctor told Zambito the cancerous tumors could not be treated using local anesthesia, according to correspondence between the state and VA administrators. Pomerance noted in correspondence to the VA that verbally and in writing, the doctor used the word “impossible” to describe the chances of any medical provider offering this treatment to Zambito.

Fitzgerald, through his assistant, deferred comment to the U.S. Attorney’s office.

Zambito’s dire circumstances drove him to find a treatment, and he ended up in Manhattan at the VA hospital on E. 23rd St. He said that within a couple of hours he was scheduled for treatment at New York Presbyterian/Weill Cornell.

“Had Mr. Zambito not taken these additional steps on his own, he would still be waiting for this medically necessary procedure without the slightest hope for resolution from the doctors and other medical leaders whom he was supposed to trust as experts in his care,” Pomerance told the VA in an email.

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