Angelica Berrie, the entrepreneur and philanthropist whose life has taken her from the Philippines to Englewood, and from Catholicism to Judaism, and whose carefully placed, hugely generous gifts have helped local and farflung institutions, both inside and outside the Jewish world, to pursue cutting-edge technology and to fill the most basic of human needs, will be honored by Teaneck’s Holy Name Medical Center next Saturday night.
When she is asked which of all the programs she’s funded there means the most to her right now, she answers immediately. It’s the most recent, she says. It’s the Institute for Simulation Learning.
“The concept was born of a trip when our foundation” — that’s the Russell Berrie Foundation, named after Ms. Berrie’s late husband — “took about 10 non-Jewish local community figures to Israel five or six years ago,” Ms. Berrie said. “It was meant to help them see and understand Israel with non-Jewish eyes.
“They were mostly Catholics or other Christians. We took them to Christian holy sites, and also to see things that they wouldn’t have seen on religious pilgrimages. It occurred to us that non-Jews did not know a great deal about Israel. They just didn’t know. We wanted to show the best of Israel, and we wanted to show them the geopolitical situation, what it means to live in a small country. We took them to Israel’s borders — to the border with Lebanon, to the border with Syria. We wanted them to see how close they are.”
Of course, Ms. Berrie and her foundation also took the visitors to see some of Israel’s high-tech wonders.
One of the travelers was Michael Maron, Holy Name’s president and CEO. “Mike was blown away by what he saw,” Ms. Berrie said. “We went to Tel Hashomer Hospital, in Ramat Gam, where the IDF sends its soldiers, to the Israel Center for Medical Simulation there.
“The head founder of the unit was Dr. Amichai Ziv. He was a fighter pilot, and he said, ‘As a pilot, I have to go through simulations. You can’t just take a plane and fly it and crash it. You have to go through simulation, learn how to use it, and show that you can use first.’
“‘Why should my body be any different? Why should I allow someone to use my body for the first time?’”
Asking that entirely logical question, Dr. Ziv and his colleagues established a state-of-the art simulation center. Among many other high- and low-tech devices, it uses “robots that can cry, that can bleed, that breathe as if they are human,” Ms. Berrie said. “But they are powered by humans.” By actors, in fact, who can help play through such situations as “a pregnant Arab woman giving birth with a male doctor.” It helps teach “cultural sensitivities and an awareness of certain cultural barriers,” she said.
Some of the center’s work is “scripts, like a medical curriculum,” she said. Practical things. “How do you amputate on a field in wartime? The first thing you have to do is to cut the pants open. If you don’t the leg will blow up, and it will be stuck to the flesh. It’s the kind of thing you wouldn’t think of. But if you are a doctor or a nurse you can make a mistake in a prescription.
“There are 100,000 completely avoidable deaths that are the result of medical errors in the United States every year,” Ms. Berrie said. “How do you train people to lower that incidence? That’s how Dr. Ziv thought about it. He wanted to give people hands-on experience, so they would be competent.”
The training also includes such common-sense situations as “when you are evacuating a place, when there is shelling going on. It happens all the time in Israel. And people panic. They go everywhere, and they block entrances. You have to teach them about what to do.”
Similarly, “you can simulate apologizing to a patient’s family when the patient dies because of an error. How do you do that?
“We know that there are fewer lawsuits when there is an apology, but no one trains you to do it. It is so awkward to do, and if you do it wrong no one is comforted.”
Another simulation deals with how medical workers should handle Ebola patients. How do they put on the unwieldy suits they are mandated to wear? “There is a requirement for Ebola training, but they created their own simulation, and added a layer to the protocol.
“It is important to avoid panic, and to avoid error.”
This idea is not new, Ms. Berrie said, but the implementation is. “And it is reflective of the innovation we’ve seen in Israel.” In fact, Mr. Maron “brought eight members of his team to train in Israel.
“This is where you see the connection to Israel, and its value to our community as a technology and innovation resource,” Ms. Berrie said. “Israel is being a light to the world by bringing this technology to other places. And they don’t do it for money. They do it because they want to share it.”