Research Partnership in Israel
Lauren Hooberman (right), a graduate student in public health, with a Thai worker and another volunteer for Kav LaOved, a worker’s rights organization in Tel Aviv, Israel. Hooberman spent the summer in Israel studying Thai migrant workers’ exposure to pesticides.
Before she even began her summera reserch project in Israel, Lauren Hooberman learned something new.
“I didn’t know there were Thai workers in Israel,” said Hooberman, a second-year graduate student in public health. “It was really fascinating.”
Hooberman traveled to Israel to collaborate with a nonprofit worker’s rights organization and faculty at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, studying Thai migrant workers’ exposure to pesticides.
Her project — a perfect fit for her global health concentration — is just one of the research collaborations UIC has established with Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.
Students and faculty have collaborated with Ben-Gurion University over the past three years, participating in intellectual exchanges, working on joint grant applications and conducting research, said Paul Brandt-Rauf, dean of the School of Public Health.
An agreement provides for collaboration between UIC and Ben-Gurion on joint research, academic and student exchange programs.
“We’ve had a lot of collaboration in the past, and hopefully with the formalization of the relationship it will expand,” Brandt-Rauf said. “We’ve found it a very good fit between the public health community at Ben-Gurion and here.”
Hooberman spent the summer working with Kav LaOved, a worker’s rights organization in Tel Aviv. The group is partnering on a public health project, led by Ben-Gurion faculty member Nadav Davidovich, on Thai migrant workers’ exposure to pesticides.
Hooberman visited farms in Israel and interviewed Thai workers, with the help of a translator, to record their grievances — most related to compensation and working hours.
She interviewed employers, who spoke English, to find out how they make sure workers remain safe when handling pesticides.
She also attended lectures and a global health seminar at Ben-Gurion.
“It has really broadened my perspective of issues that migrant workers face,” Hooberman said.
“I realized how complex some of these issues are, depending on the location of where you’re working. Employers are kind of determining safety practices on their own, and there’s really a lack of enforcement, even if there are regulations. There are also cultural issues, legal aspects and huge language barriers, so all of those things are at play.”
The opportunity to collaborate with another university benefits students and faculty members, Brandt-Rauf said.
“It’s good for students like Lauren who have an interest in global health and want to get a comparative experience in the world,” he said. “For faculty, it’s an opportunity to learn from them and hopefully for them to learn from us.”
Jack Zwanziger, professor and director of health policy and administration, recently collaborated with Ben-Gurion, assisting with Davidovich’s review of Ben-Gurion’s master’s of health care administration program.
He visited the university, talked with faculty and staff and identified possibilities for collaborative research.
For public health researchers, Zwanziger said, there are interesting opportunities to study the Bedouin population, which is in transition from semi-nomadic lifestyle to settling down in communities.
The health services in Israel are regionalized, which leaves some medical centers with the responsibility of serving large populations — another springboard for interesting research, Zwanziger said.
“Many of our students have a global health interest in looking at populations that do not necessarily have access to a lot of services in their home communities,” he said.
The possibility for research collaborations with Ben-Gurion extends beyond public health, Zwanziger said.
“The university has a comprehensive set of colleges and a global focus,” he said. “It’s a full university so it has a range of possible collaborations.”