‘Be attentive to the needs and ideas of everyone around you’: Five minutes with Dr Asher Salmon of Israel’s Ministry of Health

By on 13/08/2023 | Updated on 13/08/2023

Asher Salmon, director of international relations, Ministry of Health, Israel, tells Global Government Forum about sharing expertise with other countries for mutual benefit, his impression of the Finnish civil service, and his unusual hobby

What drew you to a career in the civil service?

I have long been a big believer in the importance of universal health coverage and social justice, and I believe that the best way to achieve equity for all is through an effective public system. I therefore decided to join the civil service to be an integral part of building and improving this system.

What have you achieved in your career that you’re most proud of?

I am proud of major clinical achievements that include the introduction of new cancer treatments and cutting-edge research in Israel. I am also proud of being part of a team that helped two major medical centres withstand major financial challenges, principally through restructuring. For the past four and a half years, I have been dealing with international aspects of the Israeli health system, and am proud of having built bridges between Israel and our international partners, facilitating access to knowledge and expertise for mutual benefit.

What advice would you give someone starting out in the civil service?

Expect long learning curves, and be attentive to the needs and ideas of everyone around you, including those in lower-ranking positions.

What do you like most about working in the civil service?

The sense of fulfilling a national responsibility and having the privilege to work in a professional environment where my colleagues feel the same.

Which country’s civil service are you most inspired by and why?

I was rather impressed by the openness, flexibility and willingness to cooperate with other partners of the Finnish civil service. Specifically, over the past decade, they have enabled private and public sector collaboration to create an efficient genomic data system.

Can you name a project or innovation in Israel that might be valuable to your peers overseas?

Israel’s National Digital Health project and legislation process, reforming the use of medical cannabis, and the continuous shift of clinical services from government to Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs).  

What attributes do you most value in people?

Clarity in communication, a willingness to listen to and learn from others, and an understanding that our era is undergoing an unprecedented change in technological developments and patterns of human behaviour.

Which three famous people, alive or dead, would you most like to invite to a dinner party?

David Ben-Gurion, Vladimir Lenin, and Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Do you have any unusual hobbies?

Wine production.

What is your favourite book?

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami.

Who is your hero?

Ezra the Scribe, for spearheading Jewish national revival following destruction in the 5th century BCE.

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About Mia Hunt

Mia is a journalist and editor with a background in covering commercial property, having been market reports and supplements editor at trade title Property Week and deputy editor of Shopping Centre magazine, now known as Retail Destination. She has also undertaken freelance work for several publications including the preview magazine of international trade show, MAPIC, and TES Global (formerly the Times Educational Supplement) and has produced a white paper on energy efficiency in business for E.ON. Between 2014 and 2016, she was a member of the Revo Customer Experience Committee and an ACE Awards judge. Mia graduated from Kingston University with a first-class degree in journalism and was part of the team that produced The River newspaper, which won Publication of the Year at the Guardian Student Media Awards in 2010.

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