All-Time Israeli Alumni Reunion

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On November 17, the 30th anniversary of Lithuanian Israeli bilateral diplomatic relations was celebrated in Tel Aviv. To mark the occasion, LSMU alumni of all times were invited to the festive celebration, including those who graduated in Soviet times from the Kaunas Medical Institute, Kaunas Medical Academy, Kaunas Medical University, and present LSMU alumni. The organizers of the celebration, LSMU International Relations and Study Center (IRSC) and the Embassy of the Republic of Lithuania in Israel worked hard for the entire six months coordinating the details of the meeting, looking for alumni contacts, and inviting them to the event. Indeed, the organization of the LSMU celebration in a foreign country, Israel, was a challenge that required a lot of effort and time resources.

Over 100 University graduates attended the celebration. Besides being a pleasant diplomatic occasion for them, it was also an opportunity to meet and catch up with old friends, and for the younger generation, to see how many of their senior colleagues and teachers have graduated from the same educational institution, the Lithuanian University of Health Sciences.

At the celebration, LSMU alumni were greeted by distinguished guests: H. E. Lina Antanavičienė, the Ambassador of Lithuania to Israel, who greeted the invitees in Hebrew and noted the importance of long-standing diplomatic relations. The Ambassador emphasized that LSMU medical and veterinary doctors, dentists and pharmacists in Israel forever become representatives of Kaunas and Lithuania, a connecting link between the two countries. The video greeting was sent by H. E. Hadas Wittenberg, the Ambassador of Israel to the Republic of Lithuania, who was delighted that there are excellent conditions for studying and living in Kaunas, participating in the activities of the Kaunas Jewish Center, and feeling a home away from home. LSMU Rector Prof. Rimantas Benetis in a video message emphasized how pleased he was with the cooperation between the two countries and the successful studies of Israeli youth in Lithuania, as well as the need to maintain close ties between the University and its alumni. Talented children become excellent specialists, and the University has not only the responsibility and honor, but also the great joy of contributing to the well-being of the health system.

The participants of the celebration were honored by the presence of the University vice-rectors Prof. Vaiva Lesauskaitė and Prof. Kęstutis Petrikonis, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine Prof. Algimantas Tamelis, and the first dean of the International Relations and Study Center, Prof. Angelija Valančiūtė. The present Dean of IRSC Prof. Ingrida Janulevičienė introduced to the University graduates and guests the changed structure of the University, the impressive increase in the number of international students, and the growing community of Israeli alumni. IRSC employees Rūta Antanaitienė, Aušra Dapkevičienė, Jevgenij Razgulin, and Justina Vonžodienė were also happy about the opportunity to see LSMU graduates after many years who are now successfully working in Israel. The representative of the Lithuanian Science Council, Laura Pėkienė, invited the graduates to actively respond by submitting common proposals to the Horizon Europe program. Dr. Asher Y. Salmon, head of the International Relations Department of the Israel Ministry of Health, emphasized the importance of international studies in his welcome speech. Having strong family ties with Lithuania and Litvaks, Dr. Salmon was pleased with the high-level university studies in Lithuania and noted that there is a lack of health sciences universities and doctors in Israel. For this reason, the Israeli government plans to award scholarships to talented young people to study abroad and, after gaining a profession, return to serve the health and well-being of the people of their country. Prof. Alon Harris, head of international scientific and academic projects at New York’s Mount Sinai Icahn School of Medicine and a long-time guest lecturer at LSMU, noted that his scientific path, which started from Johannesburg via Tel Aviv, Indianapolis and New York, is tightly connected to Kaunas. More than 20 years ago, joint scientific projects in the field of glaucoma and ocular blood flow research have begun; today they are crowned with several dozen publications, scientific books, and new scientific ideas and project activities.

At the celebration, famous university alumni Prof. Joseph Press and Dr. Gabi Gavriel gave welcome speeches and shared memories of their study years. Prof. Press is a long-term chief doctor of Israel Schneider Children’s Medical Center, a doctor whose merits make him famous not only in Israel, but all over the world. Prof. Press reviewed his professional path, which, in order to become a good doctor, is inseparable from scientific activity: “in medicine, it is the case that answers to clinical questions can only be found through scientific research,” said the Professor, introducing himself simply as Juozas. A prominent representative of the younger generation of alumni, Dr. Gabi Gavriel won the award of the best doctor in the Jerusalem region in 2018, and in 2019, he was awarded the prestigious “Best Israeli Doctor of the Year” award. Presently, he does not only successfully work as a family doctor, but also holds the responsible position of the manager of two family clinics. In his speech, Dr. Gavriel shared memories of his study years, friendly relations with fellow students who came to study from different parts of the world. Dr. Gavriel also spoke about how to start medical practice in Israeli medical institutions after receiving an education at a foreign university. He was happy to acknowledge that his choice to study at LSMU was the best decision, which not only helped him acquire a beloved profession, but also create a family and attracted his brother and other close relatives to study at LSMU. It is nice that the LSMU alumni meeting has also become a family gathering for them.

The sounds of live piano music performed by famous jazz artist Tal Babitzky created a pleasant mood at the celebration. Guests had the opportunity to take pictures at the media backdrop decorated with LSMU logos and were invited to share their working career experiences during short video interviews. Israeli alumni were invited to join the LSMU alumni association and thus maintain constant ties with the University. We hope that this meeting not only brought together LSMU Israeli graduates of different generations, helped to revive memories, meet long-lost study friends, but also became a basis for making new acquaintances, which in the future will focus on new works and cooperation between Lithuanian and Israeli institutions.

Moments of the celebration