News and Events

World-Renowned Radiation Oncologist Brings Spirit of Volunteerism to Rambam

Publication Date: 2/15/2024 11:00 AM
As the war continues, more medical volunteers arrive at Rambam Health Care Campus (Rambam) in Haifa, Israel to support the war effort. One such physician is radiation oncologist Dr. Steven Frank from Houston, Texas.
L-R: Professor Irit Ben Aharon, Professor Michael Halberthal, Dr. Steven Frank, and Dr. Thomas Charas. Photography: Rambam HCC.L-R: Professor Irit Ben Aharon, Professor Michael Halberthal, Dr. Steven Frank, and Dr. Thomas Charas. Photography: Rambam HCC.

Dr. Steven Frank is a tenured professor in radiation oncology and holds the Bessie McGoldrick Professorship in Clinical Research at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. Dr. Frank is experienced in specialized radiotherapy techniques and pioneered the treatment of head and neck tumors using intensity modulated proton therapy (IMPT) and MRI-assisted radiosurgery (MARS) for the treatment of prostate cancer. Also known as "pencil beam proton therapy," IMPT is a sophisticated mode of proton therapy comparable to intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT), and an active area of investigation in cancer care.

In 2022, Dr. Frank met Dr. Tomer Charas, the deputy director of Rambam’s Joseph Fishman Oncology Center, at a prostate cancer conference in Israel. The two became fast friends. After war broke out in Israel, Dr. Frank began arrangements to volunteer his time and expertise at a hospital with which he already had a working relationship. Dr. Frank applied through the Ministry of Health and was approved to volunteer at Rambam.

“It became apparent to me that we’re all in this war together and ‘Never Again’ is now,” said Dr. Frank, after flying to Washington DC with his daughter to participate in the March for Israel in November 2023. “The Israel Ministry of Health put out a request for medical volunteer assistance. I got in touch with Dr. Charas and asked if I could help and he said ‘Yes!’” At that point, he discussed with his family and work the possibility and implications of going to Israel to volunteer, and with a sabbatical coming in January 2024, “the timing was right,” said Frank. Next came settling the details with the Rambam administrative staff, director of the Joseph Fishman Oncology Center, Professor Irit Ben Aharon, and director of the Radiotherapy Institute, Professor Salem Billan, along with Rambam’s general director, Professor Michael Halberthal. Dr. Frank says, “I pushed the application through with Ministry of Health approval in December and made my way to Israel in early January.”

While at Rambam, Dr. Frank worked closely with the medical staff at the Joseph Fishman Oncology Center. “I did some teaching, treatment consultations, and provided support. I gave a lecture on proton therapy, something we’ve pioneered at MD Anderson, shared results from our clinical trials in advancing proton therapy treatment, participated in prostate cancer procedures in the operating room, clinical case reviews for head and neck and prostate cancer, and treatment planning and quality assurance reviews,” says Frank. “But maybe most importantly,” added Frank, “I shared the world’s support for Israel and did a lot of listening.”

Aside from his work at Rambam, Dr. Frank also gave a lecture in Tel Aviv on exciting results from his randomized trial on proton therapy for head and neck tumors and met the head of the Oncology Department at Tel Aviv University’s School of Medicine. As part of his time in Israel, Dr. Frank also toured Kibbutz Be’eri, participated in agricultural volunteerism by picking strawberries and avocados, and visited Hostage Square in Tel Aviv. Certainly not a stranger to Israel, Dr. Frank has been visiting since he was young, with his first trip in 1985, and he even has family in Jerusalem who made Aliyah from Atlanta, Georgia. His strong connection to Israel led to sending two of his daughters to study here in 2021.

One of the driving factors for Dr. Frank’s volunteer medical mission was not only to help where he could, but to bring his experiences back home to the US and pass on the message of what is truly happening on the ground during this challenging time. His biggest takeaway is, “the strength and the resilience of the people of Israel and the cultural integration of the state of Israel.” He emphasizes the importance of acknowledging Israel’s “integration and inclusive society.” Frank concludes, ““The strength and resilience of the medical staff and team, the innovation at Rambam to ensure the highest quality of care of patients, the diversity of the staff and patients, and the ability of volunteerism to increase morale and spirit has important value. Together, we are one.”

Dr. Frank picking strawberries

Dr. Frank pitches in to help pick strawberries. Photography: Rambam HCC.