Summer 2007 Vol. V, No. 4
Faculty of Medicine and Medical Center: Deep Roots, Endless Skies
Rx for Success
Celebrating the 140th anniversaryof the Faculty of Medicineand the Centennial of theMedical Center at AUB
The creation of the first medical school in Lebanon and
Syria in 1867, one year after the founding of the Syrian Protestant College
(the name was changed to the American University of Beirut in 1920), reflected
the foresight of the founders who realized the importance of medical education
and health care from the outset. Initially working in several hospitals
located throughout Beirut, the faculty delivered quality medical education,
provided exceptional patient care, and engaged in research. Students in
the first class studied in a small rented building in Zokak Al Blat in
Beirut. In 1871, the first class of six medical doctors graduated. Two
years later, in 1873, the first medical building was built on campus (the
building that now houses the Suliman S. Olayan School of Business). The
facilities eventually included schools of pharmacy, dentistry, and nursingand
three hospitals: Maternity and Womens (1908), Eye and Ear (1909),
and Childrens and Orthopedic (1910). The three were later combined
as a 200-bed hospital complex located where the parking garage, the Saab
Memorial Library, and Issam Fares Hall now stand. Dale Home was built
to house the School of Nursing in 1925.
In 1871, Dr. George Post used chloroform for the first time in Lebanon. He coined the term kulfara to describe the procedure.
To meet the growing needs of a medical center that was attracting
patients from the entire region, a new medical center with a 425-bed hospital
was inaugurated in 1970. The Diana Tamari Sabbagh Building, home of the
Faculty of Medicine, opened in 1975.
the Genetics Program was based in the Pediatrics Department. The new programs
focused on teaching students and updating interns and residents, while promoting
Since 1993, AUBMC has adapted quickly to peacetime, rapidly expanding the range of specialties in its programs and units. In 1995, the Adult and Pediatric Epilepsy Program was created. Its four important units extend help to many countries in the region and treat patients from as far away as India and the United Kingdom. The Monitoring Unit identifies precisely the nature of epileptic fits. The Pharmacotherapy Unit determines drug therapy and helps in planning for surgery. The Surgery Unit, established in 1997, has performed a number of firsts: the first epilepsy surgery in the country and the region, the WADA test for locating speech and memory deficit, subdural electrode insertion, and awake-craniotomies with resection. The first core research facility was opened in 1997 to support research and enhance recruitment of academic physicians. The Basic Laboratory and Clinical Research Unit is vigorously engaged in ongoing research.
AUB pioneered the first Childrens Heart Center in Lebanon in 2001, where the first fetal echocardiology and the first coil embolization in both Lebanon and the region were performed. Doctors at the Childrens Heart Center developed a number of neonatal interventional catheterization procedures and a novel treatment for acute rheumatic fever. They also work with the first patient fund in Lebanon that was established to provide financial assistance to needy families of children suffering from heart defectsthe Brave Heart Fund.
AUBs Division of Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics was established in 2001, 67 years after the closing of the School of Dentistry, and included the first postgraduate training program in orthodontics in the Faculty of Medicine, an orthodontic residency. On May 31, 2007 the Karekin G. Tabourian Dentofacial Clinic, equipped with seven dental chair units and facilities providing for orthodontics and a range of other dental and maxillofacial disciplines, was officially named and inaugurated.
The new Medical Practice Plan, introduced in October 2001, paved the way for multidisciplinary programs such as the Abu-Haidar Neuroscience Program,
In 1951, the Department of Public Healththe first in the countrywas established. In 1978 the department became the independent Faculty of Health Sciences.
established in 2002 for the study and treatment of all neurological and behavioral psychiatric diseases, and the Naef K. Basile Cancer Institute, which began in 2004 with both outpatient and inpatient units and a bone marrow transplant unit. As part of the Medical Practice Plan, these programs bring together physicians from different disciplines to create patient-focused clinical services.
The first family medicine program in the Arab world was established at AUBMC in 1979.
All of these significant new programs have made many groundbreaking advanced medical interventions possible at the AUB Medical Center. After World War II medical pioneers flocked to the hospital, including Drs. Riad Tabbara (1947) and George Rubeiz (1958), who brought with them expertise in electrocardiography and cardiac catheterization that enhanced the accurate diagnosis of heart disease and post-operative monitoring of patients. In April 1959, Dr. Ibrahim Dagher, now professor emeritus, performed the first open-heart surgery on an adult patient at AUBMC. On this occasion, he placed the patient in ice water to slow vital heart activity. In May of the following year, however, Dagher performed a similar operation on a child without external cooling, by using an artificial pump oxygenator built in the hospitals machine shop.
In 1910 AUB founded the first dental school in the Middle East.
Recent advances in technology have introduced many additional
surgical firsts to the region. In 1998 AUB doctors adopted
the InstaTrak System for image-guided surgerya sophisticated system
that permits the surgeon, guided by the systems computer monitor,
to navigate successfully inside concealed anatomy revolutionizing
In 2002 surgeons from the Childrens Cancer Center brought new hope to children with bone cancer through the introduction of an expandable prosthesis, the Phenix device.