It was another William Walker who went from the Department of Medicine in Dundee to Aberdeen who I followed there for my first house job (internship) who had the profound influence on my appreciation that one could combine a love for the humanities and medicine. While in Dundee he gave a series of after-hours lectures on “Humanism” which had a profound effect on my world view, already having been primed by my previous exposure during undergraduate education and range of reading. I was so impressed with him that in the culture and practice of post-graduate training in Scotland in those days I deliberately requested on a personal basis that he take me on in the department he was to head in Aberdeen, which he did, and that turned out to be one of the best clinical experiences of my career.
It was the five months following my Aberdeen house job that had the most profound effect on the trajectory of my life. With the 500 pound prize that followed my midwifery examination, I received permission to use it to fund a second “house job” in midwifery in Haifa Israel, a place I had visited as a medical student two years previously. It was during that student visit that I had an epiphany in terms of my identity. Although I was raised in a Jewish family, mostly of secular Jewish persuasion other than my paternal grandparents, I had not a particular interest in that identity other than from the strong historical and cultural ties that I felt. I had a strong sense of the importance of the Holocaust on the history of my people, but Israel itself held no particular powerful attraction to me as it did for many other people with my background. However, in response to many questions from family members why I did not visit Israel while already being on the “other side” of the Atlantic I decided to combine one of my summer medical training experiences to include Greece for a month with a follow-up month in Israel which was “just across the Mediterranean.”
I had arranged to work at the Rambam Hospital in Haifa, named after the great ancient Jewish medical scholar and sage also known by his more complete name (Moses ben-Maimon, or more commonly Maimonides).
The profound experience I had occured on the second day after settling into my small prefabricated hut that acted as housing for interns, residents and visiting students like me. I went to the beach that was adjacent to the hospital which sat on the Mediterranean shore and as I looked around at the throngs of people, many with small children, somewhat reminiscent of my exposure to Brighton Beach where I was raised, I had a sudden wave of recognition. I thought to myself, even though these people were strangers, “these are my people”, every single one of them. When I went on the local service bus the next day I had the same revelation. I kept looking at the different faces, clearly from different parts of the world, light skinned like myself, Slavic looking