Exploring Israel’s Innovation Ecosystem in Human & Planetary Health: Can a Start-Up Culture and Technology Heal the World?

In light of the ongoing global COVID-19 crisis and worldwide travel restrictions, which are expected to remain in place for an indefinite period of time, Stanford University is suspending all BOSP Summer Quarter 2019-20 programs (see full announcement).

Seminar Quick Facts

Locations: Israel- Tel Aviv/Herzliya, Jerusalem, Haifa, Beersheba (Negev Desert)

Faculty Leaders
Sara Singer, Medicine and Business (by courtesy)
Gordon Bloom,
Center for Innovation in Global Health,  Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies

Arrival date in Tel Aviv, IsraelJune 21, 2020

Departure date from Tel Aviv, Israel: July 12, 2020

Information Session: January 21 (5:30pm - 6:30pm), Hillel at Stanford (565 Mayfield Avenue)

Program Cost: $600 program fee. Fee covers room and board, transportation and course activities during the program. Fee excludes airfare to/from the program location. Financial assistance towards the program fee and cost of travel may be available. Please visit the Overseas Seminar Overview webpage for complete information.

Academic Prerequisites
Students will be invited to enroll in a spring quarter course entitled MED 131: Exploring Israel's Ecosystem in Human and Planetary Health. Students may enroll for one or more credits (additional credits available for related, independent work). The course will meet four times, at hours determined mutually agreeable for faculty and students. Students studying abroad during Spring term will be included remotely, if desired.

Additional Program Requirements
1) Ground Rules - In order to optimize safety during the program, students will be required to agree to and sign Ground Rules that may restrict behavior throughout the program. These Ground Rules are in addition to the BOSP Participation and Assumption of Risk, Release of Claims, Indemnification and Hold Harmless Agreement that all students sign and agree to at the time of program application. Students’ parents/families will also need to sign these Ground Rules to confirm that they acknowledge the specific dangers of travel to the program location. 

Activity Level
Light/Moderate: Activities may include city walking tours, easy/short hikes, museum and other site visits as well as an occasional physical activity such as snorkeling, hiking, or kayaking. For a full list of program activity levels refer to the Overview page.

Center for Disease Control and Prevention: Health Information for Travelers to Israel

US State Department Country Information: Israel

Visa Information: Consulate General of Israel

General Information: Visit the Overseas Seminars Overview page

Application Deadline: January 26, 2020 at 11:59pm (applications will open in December 2019). Please visit BOSP's Application Process page for more information.

Questions? Schedule an appointment with a BOSP staff member.

General Description

3-week immersive course : We will journey to key Israeli centers of innovation in health and the environment to meet with leading innovators, entrepreneurs, university faculty, government policymakers, domain experts and changemakers, and to build our understanding of how socio-cultural and technological conditions in Israel shape the ecosystem that propels innovation in human and planetary health.

Why Israel?

  • Israel’s health and innovation system is one of the most admired in the world, and Israel invents and provides services at the technological frontier.  While spending only 7.6% of its GDP on health care, average life expectancy of Israelis is 82 years, among the highest in the world. Israel is ranked 6th on Bloomberg’s 2018 ranking of Health Care Efficiency; in contrast, the US ranked 54th out of 56 countries.    
  • Israel is a leader in environmental and ecological innovation in such areas as water, sustainable agriculture, solar energy and renewable resources, and its culture reflects a belief in the importance of Tikkun Olam- healing or repairing the world.
  • Israel, despite its small size, is home to a disproportionate number of start-ups. Known as “start-up nation”, this country of 8.8 million punches well above its weight in terms of innovation, with over 6000 startups as of 2017.  
  • Israel is a small, manageable country. Its innovation ecosystem is concentrated such that one can observe and understand what drives it over the course of a 3-week seminar.
  • Many institutional and personal connections and collaborations  between Stanford and Israel already exist, including a memorandum of understanding between Stanford School of Medicine and Technion-affiliated Rambam Medical Center (Haifa) and research and teaching collaborations involving the program’s faculty leaders and the Universities and individuals mentioned below. These established connections present also opportunities for participating students to find internships and to forge partnerships of their own.
  • Israel combines history, culture, politics, and religion in unparalleled ways that influence not only the health and environmental innovation ecosystem but all aspects of life. This rich set of influences will be on display in ways that present meaningful learning opportunities in the human and planetary health-innovation sector and beyond

Learning Goals

Students will gain (1) an understanding of how socio-cultural conditions, including political, regulatory, military, and academic institutions; geographical, historical, environmental, and technological conditions; and human cultures and activities have shaped the innovation ecosystem in human and planetary health in Israel into one of the world’s most productive centers; and (2) an appreciation of the advantages and disadvantages faced by entrepreneurs in Israel, how they have evolved, and how they compare to the experience of entrepreneurs in the US and elsewhere.

Course Summary

This summer seminar will be based at four universities and their paired medical/innovation centers: 

  • In Tel Aviv/Herzliya (Israel’s Silicon Valley), the progressive Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) and Sheba Medical Center, Tel Hashomer (ranked one of the 10 Best Hospitals in the World) and their new ARC (Accelerate Redesign Collaborate)  Innovation Center.
  • In Haifa, the renown Technion Israel Institute of Technology (established in 1912 during the rule of the Ottoman Empire, the oldest university in Israel) and Rambam Medical Center (named for the 12th Century physician/philosopher Maimonides, known as The Rambam), and the Technion Drive Accelerator.
  • In Jerusalem, the storied Hebrew University of Jerusalem (founders included Albert Einstein, Sigmund Freud, Martin Buber and Chaim Weizmann) and the famous Hadassah Medical Center-Mount Scopus and Ein Kerem campuses (with 1000 beds and 31 operating theaters,  a chapel with Marc Chagall stained glass windows, and a torah scroll given by Prof. Singer’s family!), and BioHouse/Hadassah Accelerator (powered by IBM Alpha Zone), Israel’s 1st bio-technology hub within a medical center. We will also visit with colleagues in the Israel Ministry of Health, and especially their Digital Health Innovation group.
  • And in Beersheba, the cutting edge Ben Gurion University of the Negev, leaders in innovation in health and the environment, especially in technology for water and solar power to “make the desert bloom”, and their Advanced Technology Park, and  Blaustein Institutes for Desert Research (BIDR), including the Zuckerberg Institute for Water Research, the Institute for Agriculture and Biotechnology of Drylands, and the Swiss Institute for Dryland Environmental and Energy Research.

We will spend several days at and around each university, which will serve as the base for class-based learning.  Class sessions will be interspersed with field-based learning trips, featuring experiential exercises during visits to health incubators, innovation centers, innovation hubs, technology companies, and military and regulatory institutions so that students can speak directly with innovators and entrepreneurs and experience first-hand how innovation in human and planetary health  is organized in Israel. Course requirements will include preparatory readings, active participation in planned activities, preparing and presenting an introduction for classmates to one trip activity, and preparing a final brief presentation and reflection paper (or journal), due at the conclusion of the seminar.

Sample Activities and Lecturers/Topics Covered

Entrepreneur Roundtable, informal discussion with entrepreneurs about their start-ups and how they got to where they are today. There will be several visits to entrepreneurs and health innovation leaders and their organizations.

Live case, which will engage students in an interactive strategy planning session with company leaders.

Design session, to envision products or product improvements to better serve low-income children.

Professor Miriam Erez, Vice Dean MBA Programs, Chair Knowledge Center for Innovation, William Davidson Faculty of Industrial Engineering & Management, will provide an overview and history of entrepreneurship and the innovation ecosystem in Israel.

Professor Varda Liberman, Vice Dean, IDC Arison School of Business, Director MBA in Healthcare Innovation will discuss shared challenges and opportunities facing Israel and the United States, such as skyrocketing healthcare costs and sub-optimal quality and person-centeredness of care, and the role of health innovation in addressing them.

Professor Eyal Mishani, Head Research and Development Division, Hadassah Medical Organization will lecture about staying at the forefront of innovation through R&D.


The program will include visiting primarily four major cities: Tel Aviv/Herzliya, Haifa, Jerusalem, and Beersheba that comprise the innovation ecosystem in human and planetary health in Israel. In addition, we will visit sites of historical, cultural, ecological and religious significance.

Living and Travel Conditions

Students will be in hotels or hostels and there may be some home visits for special meals. There will much walking about, and some hiking and the possibility of swimming in the Mediterranean and floating in the famous super salty Dead Sea. Kosher, vegetarian, and vegan food is readily available at the restaurants and accommodations in Israel. The program will include walking and some easy hikes to visit sites of historical, cultural, ecological and religious significance- i.e Jerusalem Old City, Masada, Dead Sea, Jaffa Port, Mediterranean (Yam Gadol), Bahai Gardens of Haifa, Bethlehem, Caesarea Ruins.


Sara Singer (Medicine, Business) and Gordon Bloom (Medicine) co-teach MED/HRP 285 Global Leaders and Innovators in Human and Planetary Health and have faculty affiliations including the Stanford Center for Innovation in Global Health, and Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies. Their combined experience includes study, research, and teaching in several of Israel’s major centers over 30 years, and over 20 years teaching on the faculties of Harvard, Stanford, and Princeton. Gordon and Sara are married. They have a daughter Audrey (20), currently a Stanford junior in Hum Bio,  and a tech innovation oriented son Jason (17), and they live in the San Juan residential district on the Stanford campus.

Sara Singer, M.B.A., Ph.D., is Professor of Medicine at the Stanford University School of Medicine and Professor of Organizational Behavior (by courtesy) at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. Previously, she was a Professor of Health Care Management and Policy at Harvard Chan School of Public Health with dual appointments at Harvard Medical School and Harvard Business School.

Sara is the Faculty Director of the Center for Leadership and Innovation in Health at the Stanford School of Medicine. Her research and teaching in the field of healthcare management and policy focuses on how organizational leadership and culture impact efforts to implement health delivery innovations, integrate patient care, mitigate social determinants that undermine health, and improve safety and reliability of health care organizations. Sara currently leads the AHRQ-funded Engineering High Reliability Learning Lab (EHRLL) and the Center of Excellence in Health System Performance Project on Care Integration, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation-funded initiatives on Corporations and Public Health and Culture of Health: A Business Leadership Imperative, and the Commonwealth Fund and Peterson Foundation-supported program on High Need High Cost Bright Spots. She is a member of Stanford University’s Committee on Faculty Staff Human Resources and the University’s Faculty Women’s Forum. She is a Faculty Affiliate of the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, the Center for Health Policy/Center for Primary Care and Outcomes Research, which she helped to found in 1999, the Center for Innovation in Global Health, and the Clinical Excellence Research Center.  Sara is an internationally respected scientist and award-winning teacher. Her publications have won numerous awards, including best paper awards from the Academy of Management’s Health Care Division four times, in 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2019. She is the recipient of the 2013 Avedis Donabedian Healthcare Quality Award from the American Public Health Association and the 2014 Teaching Citation Award from the Harvard School of Public Health. She earned an AB in English from Princeton, her MBA from Stanford and her PhD from Harvard in Health Policy and Management.

Gordon M. Bloom, M.B.A., M.F.A.,  is founder of the Social Entrepreneurship Collaboratory (SE Lab) at Stanford, Princeton, and Harvard. He teaches about the design, development and leadership of innovative social ventures in global health, development, and the environment.  At Stanford, Gordon leads the Social Entrepreneurship and Innovation Lab (SE Lab)- Global & Planetary Health, teaching and co-creating interdisciplinary courses on health and the environment in collaboration with students, fellows, and faculty across the University.  Gordon is a Lecturer in the Department of Medicine Division of Primary Care and Population Health, Stanford School of Medicine; and a faculty fellow at the Center for Innovation in Global Health and is affiliated with the Center for Health Policy and Center for Primary Care and Outcomes Research, Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies. Starting in 2019 Gordon is a mentor of the new Knight-Hennessy Scholars Program. 

Previously, at Harvard, Gordon was faculty director of the Social Entrepreneurship and Innovation Lab (SE Lab) for US & Global Health, and taught jointly on the faculties of the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health (Health Policy and Management) and the Harvard Kennedy School (Management, Leadership and Decision Sciences) and served as an Expert-in-Residence (EiR) at the Harvard Innovation Lab (i-lab), and as affiliated faculty at the Center for Primary Care, Harvard Medical School (HMS). Gordon also served as an Entrepreneur-in-Residence (2013-2014) at Harvard Business School in the Rock Center for Entrepreneurship, on the Faculty of Arts & Sciences in the Sociology Department, and as a principal of the Hauser Center for Non-Profit Organizations (2004-2007). 

Gordon served as one of the founding faculty of the $10 million Harvard Reynolds Fellows Program in Social Entrepreneurship, a Center for Public Leadership and Harvard President’s interdisciplinary fellowship initiative that paid full tuition and stipend for graduate students from the Harvard Kennedy School, School of Public Health and Graduate School of Education. 

At Princeton, Gordon served as Dean’s Visiting Professor in Entrepreneurship in 2009-2010. Working together with the School of Engineering & Applied Science, the Woodrow Wilson School of Public & International Affairs, and the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, he launched a new set of programs and prizes in social innovation and entrepreneurship in collaboration with students, faculty and alumni. 

Through the SE Lab, Gordon has taught over 1,000 undergraduate and graduate students and fellows, and many have won the top awards of prestigious idea and business plan competitions, including those at Stanford, Harvard, Princeton and MIT.  Gordon is an author in the edited volume Social Entrepreneurship: New Models of Sustainable Social Change (A. Nicholls, ed., Yunus, Drayton et. al., Oxford University Press, 2006/2008) and served as a founding member of the Oxford/Ashoka-led University Network for Social Entrepreneurship. 

Gordon’s interest in entrepreneurship is informed by work in both the private and nonprofit sectors in the U.S. (New York, Cambridge, Palo Alto), Europe (London, Paris) and Asia (Hong Kong), as CEO of a medical technology company and in international strategy consulting. He holds degrees from Harvard (AB) magna cum laude in History & Science, Stanford (MBA) with an award for notable contributions to the Public Management Program, and Columbia (MFA) where he held a Shubert Scholarship. 

Prerequisites and Expectations

Students will be invited to enroll in a spring quarter course entitled MED 131: Exploring Israel's Ecosystem in Human and Planetary Health. Students may enroll for one or more credits (additional credits available for related, independent work). The course will meet four times, at hours determined mutually agreeable for faculty and students. Students studying abroad during Spring term will be included remotely, if desired.

Application Process

Decisions will be based on application materials. There are no interviews. The seminar capacity is 15 students.

Grading Basis

Satisfactory/no credit

Passport and Visa

Students are solely responsible for obtaining their passport and visa (if applicable). Every BOSP participant MUST have a signed passport that is valid for at least 6 months after the scheduled RETURN date from the overseas program. Students who do not have a valid passport must apply for a new or renewed passport immediately. For information on obtaining or renewing a U.S. passport please visit the State Department website.

To determine whether a visa is necessary for your program, visit the Consulate General of Israel. You may also consult with the recommended visa service providers listed below.

VisaCentral by CIBT
VisaCentral by CIBT offers online Stanford rates, or contact the local office:

In person: 555 Montgomery St. Suite 700, San Francisco, CA 94111
Walk-in hours: 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
By phone: (877) 535-0688

Health and Safety

Students on international programs should be aware that attitudes toward medical conditions, disabilities, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression and psychological conditions vary by culture and under the laws of the host countries. These differences impact the level of treatment and accommodation available abroad. Students should give serious consideration to their health and personal circumstances when accepting a place in a program and should consult with their clinician.

While the benefits of international travel can be enormous, it is often associated with certain health and safety risks. Thankfully, a number of interventions exist to mitigate these risks including vaccines, use of certain medications, and specific behavior changes. Health concerns vary by the particular destination, time of year, the health of the individual, type of accommodations, length of stay and specific activities. Participants should be up to date on all their regular immunizations, check the CDC website for vaccinations and immunizations. In addition, specific travel vaccines such as typhoid, yellow fever, or rabies vaccines may be indicated. Various types of medication may also be needed to prevent life-threatening malaria or altitude illness; or to treat traveler’s diarrhea. Finally, students should learn and utilize insect precautions, food and water precautions, and general safety precautions. These can prevent illnesses such as dengue fever, schistosomiasis, HIV; or accidents such as those involving motor vehicles. In spite of all the precautions, occasionally students do become ill or sustain an injury while traveling. Thankfully, most of these are minor. However, it is critical that students have a clear plan of care in case of an emergency on their trip. The travel clinic at the Vaden Health Center has produced an online travel health module that provides comprehensive strategies to help you stay safe and healthy while traveling.

Students must review the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website for complete information regarding the health concerns and vaccine recommendations specific to Israel. Students must also discuss with the on-campus Vaden Health Center Travel Clinic or a travel health specialist about the best ways to protect their health.

Students must review the U. S. State Department’s Country Information for complete information on safety and security in Israel.

As with any foreign travel, students are advised to be alert to their surroundings, and be particularly aware of any health and safety advisories for the area in which they will be visiting. Students should consult with their health care provider(s) to be prepared for potential illness. Additional issues of personal health and safety and precautions will be discussed in detail during the mandatory pre-seminar preparation and upon arriving in the country.

If you are uncomfortable traveling under such conditions, you should not apply to this seminar.


Program Modification and Cancelation

Stanford reserves the right to cancel or modify the Program before or during its operation for any reason, including natural disasters, emergencies, low enrollment, unavailability of facilities or personnel, or compliance with the University travel policy at http://provost.stanford.edu/2017/03/03/international-travel-policy-2/.