Rachel Nega: Ethiopian Doctor in Israel Breaking Barriers

In her work as a doctor, Rachel Nega says she hopes to bridge some of "the huge gaps between different communities" in Israel. (The Jewish Week)

The Jewish Week

By Hannah Dreyfus

Staff Writer

Wearing a white coat, name badge and stethoscope, Dr. Rachel Nega strides through the halls of Manhattan’s Mount Sinai Hospital. To patients and visitors, she looks like any other doctor on duty — slightly preoccupied, with a deliberate air to her step. Yet her dark skin and almond eyes hint at her unique background.

Nega, 29, is the first Israeli-Ethiopian doctor to intern at Mount Sinai, an opportunity that came through the joint efforts of an Israeli nonprofit and an Israeli-American philanthropist. During the summer internship, she worked under the guidance of Dr. Martin Goldman, a leading cardiologist who heads the echocardiography lab at Mount Sinai.

“This experience will shape my future,” says Nega over coffee in the Mount Sinai lobby.

Nega, who is in her third year of medical school at Tel Aviv University, hopes to practice medicine in Israel’s “peripheries,” the parts of the country where specialized medical professionals are sparse. Her goal is to work with immigrants and those from impoverished backgrounds.

Though Nega didn’t enter the internship knowing what medical specialty she wanted to pursue, she now is seriously considering cardiology. “The potential for innovation is huge,” she said.

Nega’s story is just one of many demonstrating how the Israeli-Ethiopian community has overcome significant hurdles in the past few decades. A first-generation Israeli, Nega’s parents emigrated from Ethiopia to Israel in November 1984 during Operation Moses, the mass migration of Ethiopian Jews out of Sudan.

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