36 Hours with a Doctor in Israel’s South

With her love for children and desire to fix things that hurt, it was natural for Dr. Vika Ioffe to become a pediatrician. It was only during graduate school, when she starting spinning beats as a

DJ in local Detroit clubs, that she truly became attuned to her natural ability and love for individual beats. Hooked by musical and heart rhythms alike, her path steered into cardiology. Now, Dr. Vika is a pediatric cardiology fellow, a mother, a teacher, a former DJ, an Olah, and a superwoman.

Toting a flexible, forward-thinking attitude and a genuine desire to create a better world, Dr. Vika made Aliyah in 2010 and is now making an immense impact on the southern region of Israel. Having a specialist on hand is a substantial game changer, and having Dr. Vika, who was recently honored with an award for teaching excellence, is exceptional.  Together with the other two cardiologists in the Negev, the goodhearted team grasps a strong sense of responsibility for continued education.

Soroka Medical Center is the only hospital in the south with a pediatric cardiology branch, and thanks to Israel’s medical advancements, is at the forefront of prenatal screenings and diagnosis. With guaranteed action and endless learning opportunities, the doctors host a teaching program for local and international medical students.

“I’m direct and comfortable with my patients, just like I am with the students. It’s more than just learning medicine. Soroka is a special environment, where close relationships are formed between patient and doctor,” said Dr. Vika.

Acknowledging the significant impact that Dr. Vika and other medical specialists have on the southern community, Nefesh B’Nefesh, backed by the Knesset, launched a program collaborating with trained specialists searching for an opportunity to make a difference in Israel. By providing a soft landing for educated, Zionist doctors, an acute need is being filled on all fronts.

“We’re pioneering a new frontier of medicine and we’re making it sustainable for trained and educated American doctors to join. Just one doctor can create a transformative effect on the entire southern region,” shared Doreet Freedman, Nefesh B’Nefesh’s Director of Strategic Partnerships.

Dr. Vika is at the forefront of understanding what one person is  capable of bringing to the team, and to the entire Negev. There’s a need for medical care and, for every minute she spends with a patient or student, she feels the significance from all sides.

“Having the ability to practice what you love and be directly impactful is not only fulfilling—but fulfills a need for a population that deserves high quality healthcare.”

Take a peek into 36 hours of Dr. Vika’s life below. This superwoman moves at the speed of light in both her professional and personal life—and she balances it all without skipping a beat.

THURSDAY

5:30 AM
Wake up. Get ready for the day. Organize. Clean. Make the girls lunch. Wake up Naomi, 6 ½, and Roni, 5, for school. They ask for four braids each today. I ask them to compromise because Mommy needs to make it to her teaching session on time. They go for two each and we are out the door.

8:00 AM
Head into Soroka and meet my nine pediatric students for rotations. Quick, must stop in the pediatric intensive care unit for an urgent call. The patient agrees to being observed by the students. They always do. I have to work, the students have to learn; everyone wins. Our patient was born with a congenital heart defect. Echo, ultrasound, explanation, check. Mom and baby are okay for now. Before I can leave, she asks how my kids are doing too. Continue to the clinic until the next urgent call.

1:30 PM
Lunchtime! Today, we’re short on time. Thankfully, our Soroka staff goes above and beyond their duties. Every morning, one of the cleaning women cuts up vegetables and prepares big bowls of salad. She sees how hard we work and wants to help. With the bread and cheese the hospital supplies, we can thankfully grab a quick bowl of fresh and delicious food.

2:00 PM
Ready to hit the neonatal intensive care unit for more consultations. A Bedouin woman comes in with her newborn baby who was born with a congenital defect. She wasn’t able to come in sooner without male supervision. The desert has taught us to welcome all surprises. We were prepared and conducted the necessary surgery.

4:00PM
That came quick! It’s time to pick up the girls. Naomi asks if she can invite a friend over, so of course Roni does too. My open door policy means we drive home as a car full of girls– and Naomi finished her homework, so we’re good to go. We don’t have a TV, so today we kareokoed our hearts out!

8:00 PM
Bedtime for the girls means quiet time for me. Today, like every day at work, happens at such a crazy pace. I naturally reflect on today’s cases, double over my actions, and continue my research.

10:00 PM
Now it’s time to relax. I reminisce over my old playlists from graduate school in Detroit. From Mizrahi to Italian and everything in between, I unwind listening to a different kind of beat until I fall asleep

FRIDAY

7:00 AM
The day I get to sleep in. It’s a more laid back morning. I wake the girls and treat them to something they love. We make French toast and I drop them off at school. I head into the Be’er Sheva shuk and stop by my meat guy and my produce guy, and then pick up the girls’ cake order for the week. Last week was crumb cake. This week, they choose chocolate cake with cherries on top.

12:45 PM
Pick up the girls from school and we go for a nature walk in the forest nearby. We take the bus home and run into a patient’s mother, who I haven’t seen in a while. She warmly greets me and I do the same, asking her where she’s been. She tried to make an appointment but didn’t get a call back. I place her in my calendar right then for next week. A deeply blessed ‘Shabbat Shalom’ is delivered and we part ways.

4:00 PM
Clean up, clean up, everybody everywhere. My girls and I prepare for Shabbat. The Moroccan fish is slowly simmering. My girls love this. I was born in Latvia, raised in America, speak Russian, English, Hebrew, and am learning Arabic to better communicate with our Bedouin population— but still make the best Moroccan food.

7:00 PM
Three stars are out. We light candles and bring in Shabbat. We eat, read, sing, and relax. I take time to reflect and hope for no urgent cases this weekend. If so, it would still be a learning opportunity, and the Soroka staff is my family. We genuinely care about one another and once you’re in the circle of trust, it’s the pure team effort and desire to help which makes it a very special place.