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8.5.16 Issue

Annette van de Kamp-Wright, Editor, Jewish Press

In 2012, the New York Jewish Week posed the question: So What is it with Jews and Medicine? The article shared the background of Yeshiva University’s exhibit, Trail of the Magic Bullet: The Jewish Encounter with Modern Medicine, 1860-1960. The point of this exhibit was “to view the modern Jewish experience through the unique lens of medical history,” according to writer Hannah Dreyfus. Before writing the story, she attended a tour at the museum.

“The exhibit’s curator, Josh Feinberg began the tour by posing a provocativ,e question: ‘When I say Jews and medicine, what comes to mind?’ A brief silence. Then a diminutive, no-nonsense Jewish grandmother piped in: ‘Pride.’ Others followed with ‘identity,’ ‘status,’ ‘independence,’ ‘acceptance,’ ‘knowledge,’ and, finally, ‘responsibility,’ Dreyfus wrote.

The historical tie between the Jewish people and medicine is rich and immensely meaningful. From the Tuberculosis Sanatorium in Denver (TB used to be erroneously called the “Jewish Disease”) that paved the way for the National Jewish Health Hospital, which today is a leading hospital in respiratory diseases, to the quotas on Jews entering Medical School that weren’t fully lifted until 1960. From the first Care Emergency Bandage (invented by an Israeli Military Medic) which saved Gabrielle Gifford’s life when she was shot in 2011 to a gadget called SensaHeart, which can detect an impending heart attack. Then, of course, there’s Prozac, Valium, the Polio Vaccine, Radiation, Chemotherapy, the Artificial Kidney Dialysis machine, the Defibrillator, the Cardiac Pacemaker, Vaccination against the deadly “Hepatitis B” virus, the Vaccinating Needle and Laser Technology.

All of that is impressive, but at the end of the day it’s practitioners like Dr. Alan Kricsfeld who make all those inventions into something real and practical as they interact, one-on-one, with their patients.

Alan is a member of Beth Israel and the husband of Debbie Besser Kricsfeld. Together, Alan and Debbie have two children: Sam, 16, and Rachel, 13. He says he has always wanted to be a physician, “My father is one, and I remember being mesmerized by the stories he shared with me. He would sometimes take me on rounds with him and let me look at the EKG monitors.”

Alan is Board certified in Internal Medicine.

“In a nutshell, it means I am a doctor for adults. I diagnose and treat my patients for a variety of ailments, but also focus on disease prevention.”

When asked what he loves the most, he says: “The interactions and the personal relationships I build with my patients are the best part. I also love it when I correctly diagnose a difficult case. It’s a thrill.”

As for the challenges in modern medicine, they center around the various hoops health care professionals have to jump to. “It can be hard to get the proper treatment for patients,” he says. “Often, we find ourselves on hold for 25 minutes or more just to get approval for using a certain medicine or to order an imaging study.”

Still, Alan feels blessed doing what he does.

“I have a job that I look forward to doing almost every day. Besides, I get to help patients live longer, and I get to build meaningful relationships with interesting people.”