October 2021
Holiday Greetings & Bringing Tomorrow's Health Today
Dear Friends,
It is a privilege and an honor to serve as the President of American Friends of Soroka Medical Center. Over the years, I have been inspired by the impact and changes that our support has made to this principal hospital in the south of Israel. With our dedicated board and supporters we have championed clinical research, contributed to the Legacy Heritage Oncology Center and Dr. Larry Norton Institute, witnessed the installation of a monumental artwork in the healing garden, supported the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) and contributed to the Emergency Trauma Center.

On behalf of the Board of Directors, we are turning to you for your support. These last two years, as you can imagine, have been extremely challenging, especially at the forefront of the pandemic. Soroka Medical Center has been a beacon of hope for many, opening the first COVID-19 Unit in Israel, while continuing its extraordinary care with the birth of 18,000 babies born annually and treating wounded IDF soldiers serving on the nearby Gaza Strip.

This year at our annual Gala, we will be raising money for Medical Innovation at Soroka: we are establishing a cutting-edge Innovation Center which will have a transformative impact on our medical research. The emphasis on innovation, integrating advanced medical and scientific technologies with the best minds and practitioners in the Middle East, augments the study, prevention and curing of disease-- advancing personalized medicine. THIS IS THE NEW MEDICAL FRONTIER – TOMORROW’S HEALTH TODAY!

On Monday, October 18, we are hosting our 9th annual Gala at Cipriani, 25 Broadway in NYC. This event will have limited seating and will strictly adhere to the local COVID protocols. Whether you join our celebration in-person or virtually, your help is vital in advancing our mission and making Soroka’s vision a reality.

We will be recognizing the contributions of two outstanding honorees – our President Emeritus Dr. Jay Selman and Mr. Pedro Lichtinger. Together we have the commitment to stand by Soroka Medical Center and support its growth and prosperity. We are thrilled that Dr. Albert Bourla, CEO of Pfizer, is the Gala Honorary Chair. The distribution of the Pfizer vaccine has saved countless lives globally and has had a profound effect on medical outcomes in Israel.

What happens in Israel reverberates around the world. Every dollar makes a difference. To make a tax-deductible contribution visit To register for the gala please go to or call our office at 914-725-9070.

On behalf of the Board of Directors and team of American Friends of Soroka, I thank you in advance for your generosity. We hope to see you at our “Tomorrow’s Health Today” gala!

With best wishes for a Happy and Healthy New Year,
Caroline Franklin Freidfertig
President of the Board
Rachel Heisler Sheinfeld
Executive Director
On October 18, 2021, American Friends of Soroka Medical Center (AFSMC) will host Tomorrow’s Health Today, its 9th annual gala event, at Cipriani 25 Broadway in New York City. The event will spotlight Israel’s Soroka Medical Center’s leadership in medical and scientific research and successes in fostering innovation in the service of saving lives, while raising funds to support a new innovation center in the Negev. From bench to bedside, research and innovation at Soroka Medical Center saves lives in Israel and around the world.

The event honors Mr. Pedro Lichtinger and Dr. Jay E. Selman, two extraordinary leaders who have each dedicated their careers to advancing global health and alleviating human suffering.

Pedro Lichtinger will receive The Soroka’s Healthcare Champion Award. He is the Co-Founder, Chairman & CEO at Starton Therapeutics, a company dedicated to improving and extending the lives of cancer patients by unlocking the full potential of approved drugs with an innovative delivery model. A pharmaceutical and biotechnology senior executive, Mr. Lichtinger is an expert in the drug development cycle from proof of concept to loss of exclusivity. He spent 16 years at Pfizer, where he held senior positions as President of Global Primary Care, President of Europe Animal Health and Global Health and President of Europe Pharmaceuticals. Prior to launching Starton, he served as CEO of Optimer Pharmaceuticals, where he focused on advancing hospital antibiotics, and as CEO of Asterias Biotherapeutics, a company developing regenerative medicine using stem cells. Mr. Lichtinger has deep bonds with Israel and is extremely proud to be supporting medical advancement at Soroka.

Dr. Albert Bourla, the Soroka Gala Honorary Chair, is the Chairman and CEO of Pfizer. While leading one of the most vital healthcare emergency responses in recent history, he is having a transformative impact on human health by fulfilling Pfizer's purpose: Breakthroughs that change patients’ lives. A longtime friend and colleague of Pedro Lichtinger, he noted that, “I have known Pedro for 25 years, and I can’t think of a person more deserving of this honor. Pedro was not only my boss, but my mentor and one of the smartest people I know. He taught me about business, entrepreneurship, and the importance of thinking big, which has served me and Pfizer well, particularly over these past 18 months. He always looked at things differently and was able to see opportunities where others would get stuck on the problem.” He added, “Congratulations, Pedro. I am forever grateful for the lessons you have taught me that have helped shape my life and career.”
From left to right: Pedro Lichtinger, Dr. Jay E. Selman and Dr. Albert Bourla
Dr. Jay Selman will receive The Soroka Inspirational Leadership Award. He is the President Emeritus of American Friends of Soroka Medical Center, and serves as a director of the nonprofit. As board leader, Dr. Selman developed strategic partnerships and initiated educational webinars about the pandemic, while inspiring American Friends of Soroka to embrace core humanitarian values, hope and resilience.

Caroline Franklin Freidfertig, the current President of the Board stated: “Jay is a powerhouse of wisdom and compassion. His dedication to Soroka, combined with his impressive clinical experience and generosity makes him an exceptional leader. It has been an honor to advance our mission alongside Jay!”

Dr. Selman is a neurologist with areas of expertise including headaches and migraines, autism, ADHD, developmental disabilities, concussions and head trauma, stroke, spasticity, cerebral palsy, tics and Tourette syndrome. He is also Professor of Clinical Child Neurology in the Division of Child Neurology/Columbia University Irving Medical Center (CUIMC) and retired as Chief of Neurology at Blythedale Children’s Hospital in Valhalla, New York.

In reflecting on the decision for Israel to become the real-world test case of the vaccine’s efficacy, Bourla stated: “As a small nation with universal healthcare, sophisticated systems for collecting and sharing data and deep experience in crisis management, Israel was considered an ideal place for studying the vaccine in a real-world setting. As one of Israel’s leading institutions, with a pioneering spirit and deep focus on clinical research, Soroka represents an ideal place for innovation and medical breakthroughs.”

Soroka’s Center for Clinical Research will equip Israel’s most promising physicians and researchers with the laboratories, resources, guidance and administrative support they need to initiate transformational, patient-centered medical research benefitting the region, the country and the world. Soroka is the teaching hospital for Ben-Gurion University. The close relationship between Soroka and BGU fosters fruitful scientific cooperation among researchers. There are myriad collaborations spanning biology and medical sciences to behavioral sciences and engineering. These close connections facilitate the seamless development of research programs that cover the bench-to-bedside continuum, increasing our understanding of important disease processes and translating basic scientific findings into innovative therapeutic interventions.

In the words of Dr. Larry Norton, 2018 Soroka Gala Honoree: “Soroka is a scientist’s dream. It has the three most vital elements: human diversity, a stellar academic partnership and the necessary access to the population”.

To register for the gala visit For sponsorship opportunities or questions, contact us at or call Executive Director Rachel Heisler Sheinfeld at 914-725-9070.

For the first time in Israel: A rare operation to separate Craniopagus twins
The surgery to separate one-year-old conjoined twins was performed by the hospital's medical staff in collaboration with international experts following many months of preparation. Dr. Mickey Gideon, director of pediatric neurosurgery at Soroka Medical Center and leader of Soroka’s team remarked: "This is a rare and complex operation performed so far in the world only about 20 times and for the first time in Israel, and in this case in very young babies.
Dr. The twins were born conjoined at the back of their heads and can now face each other, for the first time since they were born a year ago.
The surgery and the preparation for it were carried out by the best and most skilled teams at the hospital, and reinforces the sense of mission that made us doctors. The next few days will be critical in the process of the twins' recovery."

The rare operation to separate the Craniopagus twins (twins conjoined at the head) was performed on September 2. The one-year-old twins were born at the hospital in August last year with their heads conjoined at the back. Dozens of staff members accompanied the family on this journey from before birth until the day of the operation. Preparations made for their complex birth included the staff of the Saban Birth and Maternity Center, physicians and nurses from the Saban Pediatric Medical Center, anesthesiologists, and imaging specialists.

The dedicated team worked for many months planning every detail. Surgery for the separation of twins conjoined at the head takes place in several stages. In the present case, in the first stage, the treatment team introduced skin and tissue expanders several months ago in order to stretch the skin to make it possible to close the scalps of the two girls after the separation.

Over the past several months, the twins underwent extensive testing. They were under continuous monitoring by the Child Development Institute at Soroka and Social Services, which supported the family members. In addition, their cardiac and respiratory functions were closely monitored. They came to Soroka for regular check-ups, and in the last three months have come for more frequent treatment to continue the skin expansion procedures and prepare for the final stage.

The multidisciplinary team used 3D models and virtual reality (VR) models to plan the surgery. The 3D models of the 3D4OP and Stratasys companies are based on MRI, CT, and angiography imaging, and simulate in the most reliable and accurate way the complexity of the connections of the twins’ blood vessels, meninges, skull bones, and skin.

The Surgical Theater company’s VR model made it possible to carry out simulations of the surgery and plan it in the most precise way possible. Using this model, it is possible to go into the depth of the connection between the twins, see shared blood vessels, and conduct simulations of all aspects of the surgery. Dozens of repetitions and simulations of all stages of the operation were performed in each of the models of all the team members.

During the operation, after the successful separation of the blood vessels, the bones were separated. At this point, the team members split into two teams that worked in parallel in two separate operating rooms, performing reconstruction of the skulls and scalps of each of the girls.

The operation, which lasted more than 12 hours, involved some 50 hospital staff members who took part in both the many preparations and the execution: specialists in neurosurgery, plastic surgery, anesthesia, pediatric intensive care, and brain imaging, operating room nurses, nursing teams, pharmacists, laboratory staff, social work service teams, and logistics teams.

The surgery and its preparations were led by:

Dr. Mickey Gideon, director of pediatric neurosurgery at Soroka and team leader; Dr. Israel Melamed, director of the Department of Neurosurgery; Dr. Yuval Sufaro, deputy director of the Department of Neurosurgery; and Dr. Ido Ben Zvi of the Department of Neurosurgery;

Prof. Eldad Zilberstein, director of the Department of Plastic Surgery at Soroka, Dr. Yaron Shoham, senior physician, the Department of Plastic Surgery;

Prof. Alex Zlotnik, chairman of the Division of Anesthesia and Intensive Care; Dr. Avner Leon, Dr. Sergei Tsaregorodtsev, Dr. Anna Grabniov, and Dr. Yotam Zhat of the Division of Anesthesia, and Mr. Shlomo Besharim, the head of anesthetic technicians team;

Prof. Ilan Shelef, director of the Imaging Institute at Soroka and Dr. Ella Bankovich and Dr. Rosa Novoa of the Imaging Institute;

Dr. Anat Horev, head of Cerebral Angiography Unit at Soroka;

Dr. Tzachi Lazar, director of the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, Dr. Yuval Kaveri, senior physician, the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit

Tal Hayun, head nurse of the Southern Operating Room; Ricki Beiner, Nursing and Recovery Room Nursing Manager; and the Operating Room Nursing Staff: Bruria Assulin;, Ohad Schneider Mizrahi; Tal Carmel; Oksana Israelov; Vladislav Schiff; Galina Maran; Zeev Greenberg; Atwa Abu Arar; and Avishai Cohen;

Two international experts who have previous experience in surgeries of this type also took part: Mr. Noor ul Owase Jeelani, pediatric neurosurgeon at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London and the founder of Gemini Untwined, a charity set up for the treatment, research and education for Craniopagus Twins, and Dr. David Staffenberg, a plastic surgery specialist from NYU Langone in NYC.

Dr. Mickey Gideon, director of pediatric neurosurgery at Soroka: “This is a very rare operation that has been performed so far in the world only about 20 times and for the first time in Israel, in this case on one-year-old babies, among the youngest in the world on whom this surgery has been performed. The complex surgery and the preparation for it were carried out by the best and most skilled teams in the country with advanced equipment and technologies, some of which were specially brought to Soroka for the surgery, such as the equipment of the 3D and virtual reality models and special devices for monitoring oxygen saturation in the brain. This complex and unique surgery and the amazing teamwork reinforce the sense of mission that made us doctors. The next few days will be critical in the process of the girls' recovery."

Dr. Shlomi Codish, Director General of Soroka Medical Center: "As the medical center responsible for the health of the residents of the Negev, we prepared in advance for this significant and rare operation with the leading staff of the hospital together with an international team of physicians. I am very proud of our teams, of all the fields and sectors that have taken part in this challenging and complex surgery. I wish the twins and the family a full recovery."

Announcing the First Center for the Treatment of Rare Diseases in the Country at Soroka University Medical Center
Rare diseases are a group of progressive, life-threatening, chronic, low¬-prevalence diseases that cumulatively affect a significant portion of the population. To date, some 8,000 rare diseases of various types, including Duchenne muscular dystrophy, Pompe disease, Gaucher disease, and others, have been identified. In Israel, approximately 170,000 babies are born each year. Assuming that the prevalence of rare diseases here is the same as it is in the rest of the world, i.e., on average 5%, approximately 8,500 affected children are expected to be born each year.

Currently, approximately 500 patients with rare diseases are treated at Soroka. Eighty to ninety percent of these patients are from the Bedouin community, and most are under age 18. In line with the growth of the Negev population, there is an increase of some 20 such patients per year. These patients require multidisciplinary teams for their treatment.
In most patients, rare diseases manifest themselves in early childhood. With rapid diagnosis and optimal treatment, the chances of improving their quality of life and ensuring they reach adulthood are higher than they were previously. Lack of diagnosis and awareness of rare diseases leads to a lack of appropriate treatment and low accessibility to treatment if it is available. For example, in the past, patients with maple syrup urine (MSUD) disease died shortly after birth or in early childhood. Today, with optimal treatment, they can reach adulthood and live normal lives.
Dr. Orna Staretz-Chacham, Director of the Rare Disease Center at Soroka
Our Vision is to create a Multidisciplinary Center for the Diagnosis, Treatment, Study and Prevention of Rare Diseases.

The center will provide exceptional patient-centered medical care and serve as an example of excellence in medical education and research. The center will aim to facilitate optimal care for patients and the prevention of recurrent hospitalization due to delays in diagnosis by:
  • Providing early diagnosis to improve cognitive function
  • Ensuring early diagnosis and treatment to improve quality of life and increase life expectancy
  • Delivering enzymatic therapy to reduce future surgeries and hospitalizations
  • To conduct research and take part in partnerships
  • Serving as a center of knowledge for medical staff and patients and training physicians
  • Providing genetic counseling for family planning.
Roles of the Center
The center will provide comprehensive diagnostic, counseling, and treatment services for patients with inborn errors of metabolism and other rare diseases such as congenital immunological disorders
  • Genetic counseling
  • Nutritional counseling tailored to each disease and patient
  • The support and assistance of a social worker
  • A psychologist to provide support for families
  • Physical therapy and occupational therapy according to patients’ needs
  • Speech therapy
  • Metabolic neonatal counseling and rare disease diagnostic services
  • Training for medical teams, specialist physicians on rare diseases
  • Counseling and support for the different hospital wards
  • Education to build awareness

Star of David Art Shines on Soroka as a Beacon of Hope and Healing
"The History of the Star of David" art installation has remained on-track with strong stakeholder support and is now on view in its permanent home at Soroka Medical Center. Artist and filmmaker Marc Bennett’s monumental artwork greets visitors, patients and their families with its uplifting color palette depicting the enduring journey of the world's most recognizable star. American Friends of Soroka Medical Center commissioned Bennett to create this installation, which is the largest of its kind, standing 16 feet tall and spanning 24 feet wide. This permanent public art installation produced on a striking stainless steel material shines as a beacon of hope throughout the redesigned Healing Garden adjacent to the Legacy Heritage Oncology Center and Dr. Larry Norton Institute at the campus in Be’er Sheva.

“This is a significant opportunity for Soroka to support its life-saving mission through the healing power of art,” states Rachel Heisler Sheinfeld, Executive Director for the American Friends of Soroka Medical Center.

"While I’m in chemo treatment, I can look out of my room and see these gorgeous colors and imagine that I’m as strong as those stars looking back at me.”
— Anonymous Patient at Soroka

"The History of the Star of David" installation at Soroka provides visitors with a unique cultural experience that honors three pillars of Jewish heritage: education, tolerance, and giving. It is in this spirit that Marc Bennett has partnered with Soroka Medical Center to share a powerful message of hope and healing. Accompanying the installation will be an educational panel and scannable QR code that reveals the many stories of perseverance as witnessed by Judaism’s iconic star throughout the ages. In order to serve its multicultural population, all related information is published in Hebrew, Arabic, and English. Soroka’s public art initiative is also exploring collaborations with local and national tourism boards to welcome visiting tour groups, student-led art tours, children's art workshops, and other educational programs to enhance the learning value of Bennett’s art. Soroka’s proximity to and partnership with Ben Gurion University places "The History of the Star of David" artwork at the center of the Negev’s cultural hub, uniquely positioning the work to inspire visitors and promote cross-cultural engagement.

Prof. Itzhak Avital, Executive Medical Director of Soroka’s Comprehensive Cancer Center and Chairman of Surgery, has shown enthusiasm for the project from the inception. Now that it is part of the campus he is moved by watching visitors, patients and staff connect with the powerful piece.

“This masterpiece is just what our garden needed. It’s a place to relax, ponder and gain hope,” explains Avital. “If the Magan David survived so many tribulations, so too can the cancer patient. It goes way beyond art.”

Art in this case is healing, emotional, inspirational and may also be a source of sought after supplemental funding. This installation brings notoriety to the institution which helps with global donor development. There is also a long term vision for support through the assets of the art itself.

"The History of the Star of David" art’s vibrant jewel-tone colors and images provide a plethora of licensing opportunities for associated art and art-related merchandise,” remarks Mindy Gale, CEO of Gale Branding. “From charm bracelets to treasured tabletop items and Judaica pieces, these will provide Soroka with a steady stream of additional funding to support its mission for generations to come.”

Looking to the future, the work of art is expected to generate significant revenue. Ten percent of worldwide art and art-related merchandise sales will go directly to Soroka. Branded merchandise will be available for purchase on-site, online at, museum gift shops, Jewish centers, and specialty stores around the world. The universal message of hope for the future told by each of the 18 stars featured on the piece reminds viewers that they too have the power to endure adversity through strength, perseverance, and faith.
American Friends of Soroka Medical Center
PO Box 184-H | Scarsdale, NY 10583 | (914) 725-9070