Dr. Jonathan Halevy, MD: Pediatrician

Family Medical Practice Viet Nam


In the last issue of this TDH Newsletter we featured Dr. Louise Auger, MD of The Montreal Children’s Hospital here in Canada. This time we would like to introduce you to one of our in-country medical resources. The picture at the side is a candid shot of Dr. Jonathan Halevy, MD, exceptional pediatrician, and friend of TDH. He is our international adoption program medical assessor in southern Vietnam, in Saigon.
Quite appropriately, adoptive parents hoping to welcome a child from Vietnam into their lives want to know, have a right to know, and even have a moral obligation to know all about the child’s health. TDH has always taken the question of the child’s health very seriously and has made strong efforts to discover in-country physicians who have a significant degree of expertise in pediatric medical assessment and who demonstrate their competence in reporting their findings in a thorough, thoughtful and medically significant manner. It is a bonus if the physician also has a warm, human social ability with children and good personal communication skills.
But the litmus test is diagnostic skill which is critically evaluated by our consulting pediatricians here in Canada. Jonathan’s medical reports are sent to Dorinda Cavanaugh in the TDH office. She then sends the reports to the adoptive parents. The adoptive parents, in turn, usually take the reports to their own local physician for review. Discussions regarding the child’s medical condition usually are based on these reports as is the decision by a set of adoptive parent to accept a particular child who is proposed to them for adoption. Dr Jonathan’s reports have received enthusiastic endorsement from such diverse Canadian adoption medical experts as Dr. Jean-François Chicoine, Dr. Cecilia Baxter, Dr. Louise Auger, as well as from many of our adoptive parents who are themselves medical specialists in various fields, and who have expressed their respect for the quality of his assessments.
These various levels of medical consultations provide the opportunity for different perspectives from different local medical contexts. It is useful to remember that the practice of medicine is an art and that not all practitioners are going to provide the same interpretation of the medical facts. But it is crucially important that these medical facts be as correctly reported as possible.
These diverse consultations do serve to promote the thoroughness of the medical exams and to focus on specific elements of the report. Sometimes further medical information is requested or a specific set of further tests are requested or a specific investigation into a particular aspect of the child’s health is made. All of this medical information is for the benefit of the child and of the adoptive parents. The medical reports are typically scrutinized carefully, so it is very important that the initial reports be very well done. And we at TDH, as well as the consulting pediatricians and specialists in Canada, have about ten years of excellent medicals on which to base our complete confidence in the medical skills of Dr. Jonathan.
Dr. Jonathan was born an Israeli, raised to speak both English and Hebrew. After completing his service in the Israeli navy, he completed his medical education, (1992-2000) graduating from Sackler School of Medicine of Tel Aviv University in 1999. During this period of 1997 he served as a paramedic on the Cardiac Intensive Care Ambulance for “Natalie” (Israeli Emergency Care Services) and worked in Advanced Cardiac Life Support & Advanced Trauma Life Support.
Life vocations are not always conscious, rational choices; sometimes they are the result of significant experiences that mark the soul. Jonathan’s choices of pediatrics as a vocation seems to have been one of those soulexperiences and somewhat explains his dedication. He says “Pediatrics - when I was an intern, I was rotating between different departments. When I first arrived to the pediatric ward at the hospital, I felt this was my home. It just fit. As a kid growing in a big family I used to take care of my little brothers and sister, and being a Pediatrician and taking care of babies and children felt very natural to me.”
As a member of the Israeli medical association (IMA) and of the Israeli Association of Clinic Pediatrics (IACP) (2000-2010) he did his Residency in the Pediatric Department of the Wolfson Medical Center in Israel, earning his Certification as a Specialist in Pediatrics (2000-2005) and graduating from his Residency ‘with Excellence’. During his Residency he participated in Pediatric Advanced Life Support (2001) and later (2008) in Advanced Cardiac Life Support. At Wolfson he was extensively trained in pediatric emergency and neonatal intensive care. Subsequently he taught pediatric respiratory and endocrinological disorders at the Wolfson School of Nursing and participated as a pediatrician in a multidisciplinary gastroenterology clinic specializing in nutrition and feeding disorders.
Jonathon then took up a position as Senior Pediatrician for seven years as Senior Pediatrician at the Family Medical Practice in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Vietnam from 2005 to 2012. He worked to establish a comprehensive pediatric care program in the clinic, including programs for measuring growth and development, a periodic assessment program for babies, and the development of a vaccination program essential to every child’s health.
Jonathan’s transfer from Israel to Vietnam was the result of yet another life-changing experience. He writes “The first time I came to work at the clinic in Saigon it was in 2003. I came to replace another doctor for 2 months. I felt strong connection to the clinic, the people, and the country. I returned to the clinic in 2005 on a one year contract, and stayed here ever since then... I still love working at the clinic, it is more challenging than working at a regular clinic in any other place. I have the opportunity to do work that is unique here, such as adoptions, evacuations of critical children to other countries, taking care of children with rare conditions, and volunteering with the clinic in medical missions to rural areas (Kon Tum, Quang Binh).
In 2012 Dr. Jonathan left Vietnam for a year of training in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne Australia. He acquired extensive experience and training in care for babies and children in critical conditions (e.g. Cardiac diseases, transplants, trauma, severe infections and respiratory failure) and in emergency air and land evacuations. While there he also filled the position pf Registrar at the PICU, Royal Children Hospital, Melbourne, Australia (2012-2013). Dr. Jonathon returned to Saigon in November 2013, back to the “Family”. Dr. Jonathan has been working in the field of Pediatrics for the past 14 years.
TDH’s particular interest in Dr. Jonathan, of course, is for routine medicals on the children proposed for adoption and, perhaps more challengingly, for expert consultation on the medical conditions of special needs children. Jonathan’s perspective on international adoption is very significant to us. In his own words: “Adoptions - I have probably examined over 600 babies and children for adoptions, the vast majority were TDH babies. I think parents who adopt babies, such complicated malformations and diseases, must be saints. They give new life and new hope to those unfortunate suffering babies, that otherwise would be condemned to a life of poverty and misery. I think adopting parents are in a much more sensitive situation than biological parents, they need to know and should know as much as possible about their baby's health before taking such a crucial decision that will affect them for the rest of their lives. I always do my best to get as much information as I can about these babies, through history (which many times is so limited and unreliable) physical examination, and proper tests. On the other hand, I need to be careful not to wrongly diagnose a child who is normal and healthy and might suffer because of wrong judgment. I pray to God I won't ever make such a mistake.

Brendan Cavanaugh
Newsletter TDH Quarterly (Fall 2014/Winter 2015)