Dr. Arnold Noyek, founder of CISEPO

by Wendy Jewell

"Always moving forward." Dr. Arnold Noyek
Dr. Arnold Noyek (Dr. Noyek)
Dr. Arnold Noyek (Dr. Noyek)

Dr. Arnold Noyek is a peace-builder, physician, author, lecturer, innovator, humanitarian and founder of CISEPO, the Canada International Scientific Exchange Program, whose mission is to build bridges to peace through academic medicine, public health, health care science and international cooperation.

Based at Mount Sinai in Toronto and the University of Toronto, CISEPO deals with bridge building to peace through medicine in the Middle East and is a very unique and successful model in the world. This model of Global co-operation brings together academics, researchers, educators, doctors, students, medical and public health specialists and allied health professionals under one Canadian umbrella as a team of Canadian, American, Israeli, Jordanian and Palestinian individuals and institutions. Even though they come from such diverse backgrounds these CISEPO partners share a commitment to peaceful coexistence, equality, mutual respect, trust and the highest standards of personal and professional behaviour.

Israeli and Jordanian Audiologists with Dr. Noyek (Dr. Noyek)
Israeli and Jordanian Audiologists with Dr. Noyek (Dr. Noyek)

Dr. Noyek started working with physicians in Israel in 1972 and then expanded to audiologists, nurses and scientists, always growing this program. In 1982 he began working with the Arab world which led to the late King Hussein of Jordan, in 1995, asking if Dr. Noyek and his team could start to bring Arabs and Israelis together in the public sector. This momentous forward motion was based on all the scientific and educational successes to date, and CISEPO was born.

As an Otolaryngologist, (an Ear, Nose and Throat Surgeon), Dr. Noyek has worked almost his entire life to empower children and their families and communities with the gift of hearing. Through CISEPO, Dr. Noyek and his team of professionals reach across borders to neighbours who don't normally interact in the Arab and Israeli communities a model of international medical co-operation we start all sorts of educational and resource networking among Arabs and Israelis. One of these programs is training trainers meaning, in one instance last year, a cross-cultural exchange among Canadian, Israeli and Palestinian medical students at Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children, resulted in a lot more than learning to suture wounds. A great majority of Israelis have never actually met a Palestinian and vice versa, so even though their ideology is worlds apart, they now come together in the name of medicine and helping children. They have the advantage of really getting to know someone who was once perceived as the enemy and realizing, they are human beings as well, united by their common desire to help and heal children. Many hope to keep in touch when they go back to their respective countries and to possibly work together in the future.

Med Students Israel, Jordan, Palestine & Canada (Dr. Noyek)
Med Students Israel, Jordan, Palestine & Canada (Dr. Noyek)

Dr. Noyek explains, "CISEPO starts and ends with capacity building, which is a big part of current international development. Capacity building is where you don't give someone a fish, you teach them to fish. CISEPO strengthens professionals and the health systems within which they operate constantly building the capacity of professionals. "We are academics. When you take a doctor and over time through fellowships and education, make them a better doctor they become stronger as physicians and stronger back in their home country and less dependent on others." Once back in their home countries, there are many layers of support within this network of peaceful professionals, organizations like the Rotary Club for instance, who help to keep the momentum going. One doctor, one patient, one step at a time.

CISEPO doesn't have a lot of money but does have access to a huge pool of human resources in many knowledge-sharing universities in Canada and the United States. The CISEPO network is very attractive and becomes a very powerful tool for peace. Medical schools in Canada, the United States, Britain and others, train our trainers. The doctors that work with us are not political. There is no political component and all doctors have an understanding of their unique outreaching role and international development in the health sector and their focus is on their patients.

Dr. Noyek tells me that, 15% of projects are on the ground in Canada and the other 85% in other countries in the Middle East. When we find and help a deaf infant or child, it is a wonderful demonstration for a family that this international co-operation fixed their child. It's very powerful."

Palestinian School for Deaf Children (Dr. Noyek)
Palestinian School for Deaf Children (Dr. Noyek)

Recently, Dr. Noyek took time from his busy schedule to speak with The My Hero Project.

MHP: I'm sure there are many wonderful stories of kids CISEPO has helped but does one stand out for you?

Dr. Noyek: A beautiful one is what happened on December 31, 2003 in Amman, Jordan. The leading Ear Surgeons from Jordan and Israel operated together at the King Hussein Medical Center, performing the first cochlear implant surgery on twins. A cochlear implant provides an inner ear device for a child born deaf, which allows it to hear. CISEPO created the first ever Arab and Israeli association across borders and they operated together on national TV. That is what we call the fruits of cooperation.

MHP: What are the biggest obstacles you and your organization face?

Dr. Noyek: CISEPO is a small organization without a lot of funding but with many volunteers with a shared vision of peace building through medicine. Because they have had to move slowly and to build trust slowly around a model that was so different, the results have been remarkable. Dr. Noyek believes that ultimately this has turned out well in the end as it has allowed an enduring trust and sustainability to develop over time. There have been many naysayers along the way, but the proof of the success of CISEPO is evident in the many doctors, patients, hospitals, organizations and people in the Middle East and around the world that have formed lasting bonds of cooperation and continue to stay the course of international peace and global harmony.

MHP: If you had the attention of the world for 5 minutes what would you do or say?

Dr. Noyek: I think I would encourage everyone to get involved in some type of project that involves cooperation. Get engaged directly. Physically get involved with doing some kind of act of kindness. Help others and in the doing you help yourself and your society.

Bust of Hippocrates  (Wikipmedia Commons)
Bust of Hippocrates (Wikipmedia Commons)

MHP: When we met at the IEARN conference in Canada last month you said Hippocrates and Maimonides were two of your heroes.

Hippocrates is famous for the Hippocratic oath, which is usually interpreted as one of the first statements of a moral code of conduct to be used by physicians, assuming the respect for all human life.

Dr. Noyek feels, If you can practice the oath individually with patients you can do it together as physicians mutually. Why can't doctors from opposite sides of the fault lines or borders work together?

Maimonides, a preeminent Jewish scholar and physician from the 12th century, is another hero. He was a pioneer that served Arab patients from the poorest to the highest station in Egypt.

MHP: Do you have any living heroes?

Dr. Noyek: All the people who work with us on the ground across the Arab and Israeli frontier are wonderful. My heroes on a day to day basis are my colleagues who work every day with us and do all the heavy lifting. There are a lot of first rate heroes about and in this unique model, they are very important heroes to acknowledge. I don't see why everyone can't be heroes in the game of life. Everyone has that capacity in their lives.

Page created on 10/18/2010 11:03:13 AM

Last edited 1/6/2017 9:57:36 PM

The beliefs, viewpoints and opinions expressed in this hero submission on the website are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the beliefs, viewpoints and opinions of The MY HERO Project and its staff.

Related Links

Canada International Scientific Exchange Program - CISEPO is a Canadian charitable, ngo based at Mount Sinai Hospital and the University of Toronto. CISEPO's primary objectives are to:Enrich academic medicine, public health and health care in Canada and internationally and Contribute to Peacebuilding in the Middle East.