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Israel mission: strengthening student mobility, research and physician training

Students outside Tel Aviv University

Tel Aviv University: “Our institutional engagement with Tel Aviv University is both deep and expanding,” says U of T’s Vivek Goel (Photo by Jaime Silva via Flickr)

Partnerships in research, entrepreneurship, innovation, student mobility and training for Palestinian physicians were just some of the outcomes of the University of Toronto’s participation in a recent mission to Israel led by Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne. (Read what U of T innovation expert Dan Breznitz has to say about the mission here.)

U of T was well represented in the mission led by alumna Wynne. The U of T contingent included Judith Wolfson, vice-president of international, government and institutional relations, Professor Janice Stein, senior adviser to President Meric Gertler on international initiatives, and Professor Lynn Wilson, the vice-dean partnerships, Faculty of Medicine.

Professor Izzeldin Abuelaish from the Dalla Lana School of Public Health also travelled with the Ontario delegation on behalf of his charity organization, Daughters for Life.

In all, the business mission resulted in 44 new agreements for the province valued at more than $180 million, according to Wynne. The U of T-specific agreements included:

Biomedical science

U of T’s Institute of Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering is collaborating with the Alexander Grass Center for Bioengineering at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem to support student research and study abroad, clinical and academic faculty travel, and research collaboration. The Jerusalem-Toronto Bio-Innovation Partnership will provide support to students in engineering, biology and computer science to conduct research in the partner country over a 12-week period. An intensive eight-week educational program – the Transdisciplinary Innovation Program – that weaves together computer vision, big data, and bioengineering will also be offered to U of T students, enabling  work under the mentorship of Israeli scientists and entrepreneurs, and the opportunity for students to pitch ideas to investors.

Social Work

U of T’s Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work and The Hebrew University of Jerusalem's Paul Baerwald School of Social Work and Social Welfare have entered into a partnership facilitating student exchange and practicum placement. Under the agreement, full-time graduate students from each university are eligible to study at the partner university and, in the case of University of Toronto students, also participate in experiential learning during their coursework in Israel.

Big data and health

U of T and Tel Aviv University will stage a joint conference on big data and health in Tel Aviv in the fall of 2017. The conference will be the second held by the two universities under an agreement to foster and promote research collaborations. The first joint conference, which focused on bio-imaging, was held in Toronto in May 2015.

“Our institutional engagement with Tel Aviv University is both deep and expanding. Nowhere is this more palpable than in the medical sciences,” said Vivek Goel, U of T’s vice-president for research and innovation. “The upcoming conference brings together top scientists and researchers from the two institutions working together on the application of computational and data sciences to pressing health challenges.   I am confident that it will spark further collaboration and joint research opportunities across these areas.”

Innovation and Entrepreneurship

U of T signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Israel’s Start-Up Nation Central aimed at deepening ties between the innovation ecosystems in Canada and Israel. The partnership will connect University of Toronto faculty with Israeli start-ups and link up U of T students with internship opportunities at Israeli companies. Stein noted that Israel has one of the highest rates of innovation and entrepreneurship in the world.

“We are delighted to be joining forces with Start-Up Nation Central to expand our knowledge of the innovation ecosystems,” she said. “The experience that each brings will be of great mutual benefit in unleashing our shared potential.”

Palestinian physician training

U of T’s Faculty of Medicine and Munk School of Global Affairs will join forces with the Palestinian Ministry of Health and university partners in Palestine to support continuing education for physicians, including the development of a digital platform for the delivery of physician training, to be facilitated by the Munk School’s Digital Public Square.

Health Informatics

Over the next four years, faculty from the Institute of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation (IHPME) at University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health will share best practices in support of the Jerusalem College of Technology’s development of a master's degree in health informatics. Institute director Adalsteinn Brown said the IHPME will share its experience in health informatics to develop a foundation for future collaborations.

Student mobility

Israeli students in engineering, medicine, business and global affairs will be coming to the University of Toronto for research projects made possible with the support of Global Affairs Canada. The new Canada-Israel Innovation Initiative for Student Mobility will award up to 10 scholarships annually valued at $10,000 each.  

Daughters for Life Foundation

The Daughters for Life Foundation, which was set up by Abuelaish after his three daughters were killed by a tank shell in Gaza, awarded 49 postsecondary scholarships to Palestinian and Israeli women at ceremonies in the West Bank and Jerusalem, attended by Wynne. The foundation is also providing scholarships and fellowships that will allow Israeli and Palestinian women to attend institutions in Ontario, including U of T-affiliated Women’s College Hospital and the TRIO Fertility Treatment Practice.

“Education is the key to escaping a life of unrelenting poverty and hopelessness. In particular, education of girls and young women can make our world a more humane, free and peaceful one,” Abuelaish said. “The Daughters for Life Foundation is proud to give these promising students a boost toward completing their degrees and fulfilling this vision.”

(Visit Flickr to see the original of the photo at top of the story)