Special Mentors in My Life: the Path to Geriatrics and Dementia Care - Page 4

women with high cheek bones, but fair eyes, dark skinned men with almost black eyes, all speaking what I knew must be Hebrew despite my limited exposure to that language during my upbringing other than what I learned mostly by rote for my Bar Mitzvah. I kept thinking, “I share a history with all of these people”.

I started working the next day and met the head of the department among other members of the staff. Professor Aharon Peretz welcomed me warmly, asked about my heritage and established that he and my grandparents came from Lithuania which I could see meant a lot to him. He asked me what I wanted to learn and when I said “anything and everything” he said I could shadow him in all his clinics as well as other members of staff and if I wanted to assist him in the operating room that too would be fine. I could not believe my good fortune as being in the operating room at that point in my studies was still an exciting option which I did not have that much access to at medical school. I did not realize that the interns on the service would be more than happy to have someone else stand during surgeries and hold retractors which for me was still very exciting as the professor explained everything that he was doing and pointed out all the anatomic landmarks that I had seen only on my anatomy cadaver.

I learned a lot during that month and was given a great deal of latitude in what I could do. I observed Professor Peretz interview patients with various gynecological problems who had been holocaust survivors and were applying for reparations. I noted that whatever the condition which he was very good at explaining to the patient in Hebrew or Yiddish or Russian or it seemed whatever language was necessary, he then explained to me and then signed the necessary reparations form which I learned went to an adjudication committee in Germany which decided on the merits of the claim. When I naively asked if all the conditions were Holocaust related, he paused for a moment, looked at me deeply, drew in a breath and said in perfect English, “As far as I am concerned, every gynecologic problem that afflicts these women either directly came from the holocaust experience or was exacerbated or complicated by that experience. I could see from the look on his face that he felt this was a mission of his to make some sort of amends for what these women had experienced during their years as prisoners, refugees, people in hiding or just experiencing the cold, hunger and monumental trauma and grief related to those dark years of their lives. I only found out later that he was one of the key witnesses during the Eichmann trial in Israel in 1961-62. During a recent visit to a special exhibit at Yad Vashem (the Holocaust Museum) in Jerusalem I saw a picture of him bearing witness at the Eichmann trial, and seeing him there brought back a flood of memories of my time with him in Haifa.

When I left to return to Scotland, I recall the great sense of a new chapter of my life opening up that I did not realize was there. On my return to Dundee I had not formulated a definite plan of return, but knew that in one way or another I would be back to the country I had discovered resonated in my inner-most consciousness. After I received the prize in midwifery and confirmed with my professor