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J Health Soc Behav. 1997 Sep;38(3):191-202.

Technology versus responsibility: immigrant physicians from the former Soviet Union reflect on Israeli health care.

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  • 1Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Bar-Ilan University, Ramat Gan, Israel.


About 13,000 physicians from the former Soviet Union have found themselves in the saturated medical market in Israel as a result of the latest wave of immigration. This paper examines the gap in professional attitudes and practices between Israeli and Soviet MDs and the cognitive mechanisms employed by immigrant physicians in the process of adjustment to the new medical culture. The study draws on 25 semistructured interviews with recent (about three years in Israel) immigrant doctors who were at various stages of obtaining a local medical license. Reflecting on the need to redefine themselves as professionals and to confront negative stereotypes regarding ex-Soviet doctors, many respondents stressed the strong sides of Soviet medical training and work style. In their collective self-portrait, immigrant doctors emphasized devotion to patients, clinical intuition, manual skills, and empathy, while flaws were regarded as superficial and improvable by technical training. Conversely, the alleged flaws of Israeli doctors were perceived by these informants as pertaining to the core of medicine: "Excessive dependence on technology," "lack of responsibility toward patients," and "weak preventive orientation of Israeli colleagues were repeatedly criticized. The paper sheds light on the significant conceptual differences between the Soviet and Western medical traditions and provides a vivid example of the sociocultural construction of medicine. Our findings are also indicative of the interpretative processes and coping strategies that immigrants in general may develop in saturated professional markets.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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