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Summer 2007 Vol. V, No. 4

Maingate Connections

Lessons Learned

We must strive to remember the young medical students we were thirty years ago, working together to help the injured without regard to religious or political views.
Tawfik Zein (MD ‘77) chairman of AUB alumni in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia.

Our class, the class of 1977, witnessed a major part of the Lebanese Civil War. Two of our premedical classmates and one classmate from second-year medicine were killed. In a perverse way, however, it was a good year because the war gave us the opportunity for unparalleled training. The American University Hospital (AUH) opened its doors to all casualties, regardless of religion or political affiliation.

Although tensions were high all around Lebanon and the country was polarized between competing factions, the staff at AUH maintained their professionalism and integrity at all times. Their determination gave them strength and kept them going during the long hours they worked treating casualties. Because it was too dangerous to venture outside, many of us slept at the hospital for weeks before going home for a day or two and then returning to the hospital. The streets were divided among ethnic groups, and kidnappings and killings were common.

After graduating from AUB, I did my urology training in the United States and sub-specialized in urologic oncology at Roswell Park Cancer Institute in New York State. In 1989, I moved to Saudi Arabia with my family to work with Aramco in the Urology Department of their hospital, and in 1998 I joined the newly formed AUB alumni committee. Learning from the excellent work of other committees, we decided to keep the AUB community interactive and connected—something we have continued to do. We often have joint events with our colleagues in Bahrain, for example. Our alumni committee also started an endowment scholarship fund at AUB. I am very proud that we have raised enough money to pay the tuition for eight students already. We also help the AUB director of admissions recruit new applicants to the University by arranging visits and meetings with families of prospective students.

Looking at old pictures from my years as an AUB medical student, I realize that our class is dispersed all over the world, with the majority in the United States, some in the Gulf, and a small minority in Lebanon. Working with other alumni chapters for Class Reunion 2007, we were inspired by the idea of reuniting like a family—a chance to renew old memories and also a chance to get back in touch with each other. Like our alumni committee in the Eastern Province, the Class of MD ’77 is a diverse group in terms of its specialties and studies, yet we work hand in hand to promote AUB and its commitment to liberal education, tolerance, non-sectarianism, and critical thinking.

We must strive to remember the young medical students we were thirty years ago, working together to help the injured, without regard to religious or political views. One of the great lessons I learned at AUB was tolerance. I learned that if people let themselves get to know each other better, they will learn that their differences really stem from divergent perceptions and perspectives of their specific cultures. If all Lebanese are taught tolerance and to feel a sense of belonging and commitment to Lebanon, the country will survive and peace and harmony will prevail. zeinta@yahoo.com

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MainGate welcomes contributions from alumni reflecting on their AUB experiences as well as stories about their lives after graduation. Submissions may be sent to maingate@aub.edu.lb