Highlighting Some of Our Women Physicians

As part of our Year Of The Volunteer project, we will be highlighting volunteers from across the country who give of themselves and their time to help others each and every day. It is time to recognize these heroes for the work that they do both as volunteer first responders and in their everyday lives. As today is Women Physicians Day, held every year on February 3rd to celebrate all the women who dedicate their lives to improving the health of others, we are highlighting three women physicians who made a difference this past year both as a physician and as first responders. 


Ariella Tvito – Kfar Oranim

Dr. Ariella Tvito lives in Kfar Oranim and is a physician who specializes in the field of internal medicine and Hematology. She works in Shaare Tzedek Hospital and volunteers with United Hatzalah as a first responder in her spare time. She is married and has six children and manages to still find time to respond to medical emergencies whenever they occur in her vicinity. 

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Dr. Ariella Tvito

“I think it is incredibly important to provide medical treatment as fast as possible,” Ariella said. “As a physician we see the difference between people who receive medical care immediately and people who have to wait to receive that care. The difference is palpable. One of the reasons I decided to join United Hatzalah is that I live in Kfar Ha’Oranim and right before I joined there was a young person from the town here who passed away because they didn’t receive medical attention fast enough. Sadly they passed away. I knew then that I had to join in order to help anyone I could receive medical care faster. I think it would be great if we had a trained first responder on every block. Until we get to that point, we’ll do the best we can.”

Ariella said that the work of all first responders, no matter what level their training is incredibly important. “Anyone who has the proper medical training should make every effort to respond to medical emergencies taking place around them. The faster we can respond to medical emergencies and initiate treatment, the better. In the hospital, we want to treat patients as quickly as possible and that is true in the field as well, and why I really enjoy volunteering with United Hatzalah. Ambulances do great work but they can’t offer the speed that United Hatzalah can and that is one of the main reasons that I am a proud physician first responder.” 


Ariella has responded to more than 100 medical emergencies as a first responder and has saved many lives, both as a volunteer, and of course in her work as a physician. “I live with my family in a small and young town, so every extra responder helps. One time a few years ago, there was a case that required CPR in my area. A man suffered a cardiac arrest and collapsed. I rushed over and performed CPR together with other United Hatzalah responders before an ambulance was able to arrive. We managed to bring the man’s pulse back. When he arrived at the hospital he was given an emergency catheterization. Six weeks later, the man’s family came to say thank you to all of the volunteers who helped save his life. For me, that was an amazing feeling. Most of the time when we perform CPR on a patient, they don’t survive. Even in cases where we manage to bring back a pulse, it is often only short-lived and the person may still die later. In this instance, the man returned to his family with no neurological damage. Being a part of that gave me immense satisfaction and I am so grateful to have been involved in saving the man’s life.”

Dr. Inas Zeidan – Isafiya  
Inas Zeidan is an emergency room doctor in Carmel Hospital who specializes in emergency medicine. She is a Druze volunteer with United Hatzalah and is a mother to a young girl named Warrd. She has been volunteering with United Hatzalah for the past five years and lives in the town of Isifiya. 

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Inas (second from right) together with other Druze and Jewish volunteers on an ICU ambulance shift

She is recovering from breast cancer which she contracted a year-and-half ago and has been very active ever since in raising awareness for the disease among the more closed communities in Israel both among the Druze population and the Ultra-Orthodox population. “I was nursing at the time that I came down with the disease. It is rare that nursing women develop breast cancer. Statistics have shown that only three percent of all women who develop breast cancer are nursing women. But I credit my daughter with saving my life. When I was nursing there was a painful clump which I thought was just some clogged milk, but it didn’t pass. After two months my daughter simply weened herself and that caused me to go get checked out. The clump turned out to be cancerous. I began treatment and thankfully I am now cancer-free. I was very sad when my daughter stopped nursing because I loved having that connection with her, but the fact that she did so ended up saving my life. Beyond my advice to all mothers to listen to the instincts of their babies, I also strongly recommend not to ignore clumps when breastfeeding, especially if they don’t pass after a short while. 

When I was ill with cancer, I was able to see medicine from the side of the patient. Even though the treatments were arduous, I now have a much better understanding of what a patient sees and how to interact with my own patients. I learned a lot from my illness and I am confident that I am now a better doctor and a better first responder because of it. I learned that pain doesn’t always come together with suffering. There are ways to learn how to live with pain without suffering. It is incumbent for all doctors who work with patients that experience chronic pain to teach the patients how to live with the pain, without necessarily suffering from it. 

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Inas (second from left) taking part in a community education day in Haifa with other United Hatzalah volunteers

I feel that working as an ER doctor has added to my skills as a first responder and vice-versa. Seeing a patient in the field on a mobile intensive care ambulance is very different from seeing one in the hospital ER. It is a different skill set and series of challenges. I think one of the most important things that we can do as first responders is to provide fast treatment in the field. As a doctor I really enjoy when I arrive at a patient in the field and I can give a stable patient the reassurance that they don’t need to go to the hospital because they have already been seen by a doctor and thus save them the expense and travail of a hospital visit. 

What causes me to want to go out and respond to medical emergencies on top of my work at the hospital is seeing my fellow responders and seeing how much they give of themselves to help others. It goes far beyond simply saving lives, these volunteers are all focused on helping others and they have such an amazing drive to help that it is simply inspiring, and it even inspires me. United Hatzalah is really an incredible family to be a part of.  


Dr. Shani Shamir – Jerusalem 

Shani Shamir is a family doctor and is currently in residency in Hadassah Har Hatzofim and is married to Matan who is a volunteer EMT with United Hatzalah and an ambucycle rider. They have six children and still manage to find time to respond to medical emergencies. They often respond together on Matan’s ambucycle. “Matan brought me into the organization and because of him I save lives both out in the field, and in the hospital.”

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Shani and her husband Matan in front of their ambucycle

Shani said that she feels a significant difference between her work in the hospital and her work in the field, but that the two types of medicine compliment each other and make her better at both. “As someone who spends most of her time in the hospital, I see patients mainly there in the context of the hospital, where we have teams of doctors working together to make the decisions as to the best way to provide care for them. When I go out as a first responder, I see the patients in their natural context and it is a completely different picture.” 

“When people are in the hospital they are somewhat disconnected from their regular lives, and that makes them act a bit differently, they are more dependent on the medical staff for their care and for answers regarding their condition. Seeing patients in the field reminds me of the context of their lives and how much they have to live for and look forward to. I think being a first responder helps me fill in a lot of the pictures about my patients that I get when I meet with them in the  hospital.” 

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Shani Shamir

Shani also pointed out that a first responder needs to take a different approach when responding to medical emergencies in the field. “Emergency care out in the field is a different style of thinking, and one needs to work differently, with the tools at hand. We need to make a lot of decisions on our own and we don’t have all the tools at hand that a hospital does. In the hospital, we have lots of options for testing, CTs, MRIs, laboratories for blood tests, and many others. We also have treatments on hand that can assist our decision making and we always have other doctors that we can cross-reference with or ask questions to. In the field, the only support team we have are the other first responders around us. I often confer with my husband who has been an EMT for the past eight years and has a lot of experience. We work together and rely on each other. We make a great team and thankfully we do a lot of good work. I am happy and thankful to be involved in both worlds and I find them equally enriching.”    

To support the work of United Hatzalah volunteers such as Ariella, Inas, and Shani, and to learn more about our Year of the Volunteer program, click here: