The Middle East peace talks may be going nowhere fast, but in the field of otolaryngology, peaceful cooperation is breaking out all over the place – among Canadian, Jordanian, American, Israeli and Palestinian medical professionals striving together to heal hereditary deafness. And a great deal of the credit for that has to do with the uncanny networking skills and phenomenal energy of Dr. Arnold Noyek, Ashoka Fellow and Founder of the Canada International Scientific Exchange Program, or CISEPO.
As Otolaryngologist-in-Chief at Mt. Sinai Hospital in Toronto, Noyek began working with ENT (ear, nose, throat) specialists in Israel in 1972, then expanded to working collaboratively with physicians in the Arab world in 1982, and in 1995, at the request of King Hussein of Jordan, CISEPO took on the mission of building bridges to peace through medicine, public health, and scientific cooperation among health professionals– no matter what their faith, politics, culture or nationality might be.
The Middle East has a special challenge with deafness: due to consanguineal intermarriage, children are born deaf 30-50% more frequently in Arab, Arab-Israeli and some ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities. But with universal newborn screening, meliorative therapies and cochlear implants can be implemented and these children spared a life of deafness and cognitive damage.
It’s this race to bring modern medicine to communities most at risk (and Noyek’s passionate networking) that has brought together 3,500 medical professionals from nations in bitter conflict to do what they do best: heal people. And in the process, experience the common ground that we all share.
Here’s what CISEPO looks like in action: organizing workshops with Canadian, Palestinian and Israeli doctors in Nablus and Gaza to screen, diagnose and treat kids with deafness, hearing disorders and chronic ear infections; bringing medical students from Jordan and Palestine to Canada for year-long Fellowships for Peace working alongside Israeli physicians and scientists; and setting up the first and only cross-border professional association between Arab and Israeli communities, where doctors can call each other and collaborate on treatment.
By bringing all these health professionals together to create personal relationships, work for the greater good of healing and curing children, and develop a level of trust and understanding, Noyek and his thousands of colleagues (all of whom volunteer) have created a tiny, thriving, hopeful, amazing microcosm of what peace might look like in the Middle East. (And because Noyek just can’t stop building peace, the CISEPO model of “health-to-peace” networks of professional cooperation and knowledge sharing in conflict zones is being rolled out in Zimbabwe, Ethiopia and beyond.)
For all the great work CISEPO is doing to help children around the world to hear (even if they never listen), my $100 today goes to 73-year old Dr. Noyek and his peace-seeking organization. To join me, click here.
AND … there is still time to go on to USO Thanks From Everywhere and send a personal message of remembrance and gratitude to our troops serving abroad. It’s a great chance to let the men & women serving our country know that even if they can’t get home for the holidays, their hometowns are thinking of them!