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Alumni Profiles: A Century of Changing Lives
"AUB in 1948" - excerpts of President Stephen B. L. Penrose Jr.'s article for the Whitman Alumnus magazine
 

Summer 2007 Vol. V, No. 4

Alumni Profile

A Century of Changing Lives

By Jennifer Muller

1900s

Nehme’ Nucho (MD ’01): Pioneering Treatment of Tuberculosis
Professor Emeritus Nehme’ Nucho is most well-known for his tireless and pioneering work in the diagnosis and treatment of tuberculosis. He graduated with an MD in 1901 from what was then the Syrian Protestant College and returned in 1904 to join the medical faculty.

In 1908, Nucho was approached by Dr. Mary Pearson Eddy to help at the newly established Hamlin Memorial Sanitorium, which was primarily used to care for tuberculosis patients. At that time, tuberculosis was essentially incurable. Nucho introduced many advances in dealing with this dreaded disease, including surgical treatment of advanced cases as well as new methods for early diagnosis before it appeared on chest x-rays. He was director of Hamlin for over 25 years as well as director of the Dahr-el-Bashik Sanitorium. In 1952, he was awarded the Lebanese Order of the Cedars in recognition of his distinguished medical and humanitarian career.

Nucho was tragically shot to death in his examining room in 1955. His son Charles was wounded trying to shield him. Charles Nucho later succeeded his father as director of the Hamlin Sanitorium.

1910s

Sami Haddad (MD ’13): Founder of the Orient Hospital
Professor Emeritus Sami Haddad was described by colleagues from the Faculty of Medicine upon his death in 1957 as, “a great physician, an unforgettable teacher, a pioneering surgeon, an organizer and an administrator of great ability…” After graduating with an MD in 1913, Haddad practiced for several years and later joined the AUB Department of Surgery in 1920. On a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation, Haddad trained under the famous Dr. H. H. Young at Johns Hopkins University.

Returning to AUB in 1922, he introduced many innovative methods in urological medicine. Haddad also introduced other surgical techniques to the region, including laryngectomy for laryngeal cancer and orchectomy for prostate cancer.

In 1939, he became chairman of the Department of Surgery and was dean of the Medical School for a brief period during World War II. The author of many articles and books, Haddad was also an avid historian and wrote a book in Arabic, The Contributions of Arabs to Medicine. After his retirement from AUB, Haddad went on to found the Orient Hospital, whose mission was to admit low-income patients, and served as its superintendent and chief surgeon.

Yusuf Hitti (MD ’17): Published First English Arabic Medical Dictionary
Hitti was a prominent internist, teacher, and hospital administrator who served his country and his profession throughout a long life. One of his many contributions to the field of medicine was the publication of the first English-Arabic medical dictionary in 1967.

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1920s

Yervant Jidejian (MD ’28):A Mentor to Generations
Professor Emeritus Yervant Jidejian was a mainstay of the AUB Faculty of Medicine and the Department of Surgery for over 40 years. Jidejian earned his MD from AUB in 1928, was an intern at AUH for two years, and then in charge of the Outpatient Department for three years. He began in the Department of Surgery as an instructor in 1933 and was eventually promoted to clinical professor in 1951, serving as acting chairman several times.

Known as a skilled surgical practitioner, Jidejian attracted patients from all over the Middle East. He was also an acclaimed teacher and one of the first instructors at AUB

to use audio-visual aids in teaching. More importantly, he is remembered as a mentor to generations of medical students and residents. His research was internationally recognized, especially the book he wrote on Hydatid Disease. He was also active in the community, serving as president of the Cancer Society and the Educational Committee of the Gulbenkian Foundation. Among other awards and decorations, Jidejian was presented with the Gold Merit Award from the Medical Alumni Chapter in 1974.

1930s

Adma Abu Shdeed (MD ’31): AUB’s First Female MD Graduate
Against tremendous odds, Adma Abu Shdeed became the first woman to graduate with an MD from AUB in 1931, leading the way for generations of female students to follow. Abu Shdeed continued her post-doctoral training in pediatrics and gynecology in London and later in the United States. After spending ten years in Iraq as a teacher and medical consultant, she returned to AUB in 1948 to join the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and to practice in her private clinic.

Abu Shdeed was a champion of women’s reproductive rights and health, helping to found the Lebanon Family Planning Association in 1969 and serving as its first president until 1975, as well as establishing free clinics throughout Lebanon.

She was honored with many decorations, including the Order of Merit, Officer Rank, for her exemplary humanitarian career in pediatrics. Abu Shdeed eventually retired in 1985 and passed away in 1992, but her influence can still be felt at AUB and throughout the region.

Antranig Manugian (MD ’35) and the Teaching of Psychiatry
Manugian introduced the teaching of psychiatry at all levels in the Faculty of Medicine and established the first residency training program for psychiatry in the region at the Lebanon Hospital for Mental and Nervous Diseases.

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1940s

Fuad Sabra (MD ’43) Brings Neurology to FM
Fuad Sabra was instrumental in establishing the study of neurology at the Faculty of Medicine. In 1992, Sabra wrote the following about his alma mater: “AUB is a way of life, an attitude, a spiritual state of mind that determines our identity. We do not judge or condemn people but we try to understand them."

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Jamal Karam Harfouche (MD ’41): Early Authority on Maternal and Child Health
Professor Emeritus Jamal Karam Harfouche was the only female student in her class throughout medical school and said of this experience, “I learnt to depend on myself and cultivated a strong sense of determination.” This strength of character served her well in a long and distinguished career. Harfouche received her MDfrom AUB in 1941 and later got a PhD in Public Health from Harvard University in 1965. Harfouche spent almost 40 years teaching at AUB in the Faculty of Medicine, the School of Public Health, and the Faculty of Health Sciences.

Author of over 40 articles and four books, Harfouche was one of the preeminent authorities on maternal and child health, especially pertaining to Lebanon and the Middle East. Her expert advice was sought by many international organizations and she was an active member of numerous prestigious boards and executive committees. She was also a committed public health advocate and established a string of community health centers in Lebanon. Harfouche was presented with many awards and, upon her death in 2000, President John Waterbury said, “AUB is proud to count her among its illustrious sons and daughters.”

1950s

Ibrahim Dagher (MD ’5­1): “El Muallem”
Professor Emeritus Ibrahim Dagher graduated in 1951 and retired in 1996. Known to generations of medical students as “El Muallem,” Dagher still frequents the halls of AUBMC and delights people with his distinctive humor and stories from his long career as a renowned surgeon and respected teacher. Of his many achievements in the field of thoracic and cardiovascular surgery, Dagher is most well-known for performing the first open-heart surgery in the region (1959) and the first total cardiopulmonary bypass in Lebanon (1960).

Seeing the need for more complex and better forms of cardiac surgery and driven by the desire to bring the highest level of patient care to Lebanon, Dagher found creative solutions to the lack of specialized equipment needed for open-heart surgery. In order to perform the first total cardiopulmonary bypass, Dagher worked with technicians in the medical machine shop to build an oxygenator machine from scratch. This was used without complication for six surgeries until it was replaced with a newly purchased heart-lung machine. In recognition of his valuable contributions to the practice and study of medicine, Ibrahim Dagher was awarded the Lebanese Order of the Cedars, Commander Rank, in 2004.

1960s

Karam Karam (MD ’67): Modernizing Health Care in Lebanon
Karam Karam is “deeply committed to the causes of health and peace in the world,” and this is evidenced by his years of indefatigable service to the University and to Lebanon. Karam graduated with an MD in 1967 and went on to do postdoctoral training at UCLA, Harvard Medical School, and Johns Hopkins University. After returning to AUB, he was eventually appointed chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology in 1987 and served in this post for twelve years. In 1988, he reestablished the Middle East Medical Assembly and was its chairman for five years.

Along with his medical practice and teaching responsibilities, Karam has authored numerous articles and is a frequent presenter at local and international conferences. As Lebanon’s Minister of Health (1998-2000) Karam worked to reform the health care system and to modernize and rehabilitate the country’s health care facilities. Since then, he has served as Minister of Tourism, Minister of Culture, and Minister of State.

A member of many international boards, Karam served on the Executive Committee of the World Health Organization and has twice been a finalist for the position of WHO director general. Among numerous honors, Karam was presented with the Order of the Cedars, Commander Rank, in 2004.

1970s

Samir Alam (MD ’72) and Department of Cardiology
Samir Alam has been head of the Department of Cardiology since 1982, and helped introduce several transformative practices in cardiology that are now standards of care in the region.

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Camille Nassar (PhD ’76): Connecting AUBMC and the University of Balamand
Camille Nassar graduated from AUB in 1976 with a PhD in medical sciences and subsequently spent 25 years in the Department of Physiology, where he was professor and chair until leaving AUB in 2002 to become dean of the newly established Faculty of Medicine at the University of Balamand. Dean Nassar says that this young medical school is his “new baby” and that one of the things he did as dean was to sign a collaboration agreement with AUBMC.

Having been at AUB during the worst times of the civil war, Nassar says that he is proud that they were able to keep the school and AUBMC running and continue doing research, even as they worked behind sandbags in the windows because of the shelling.

Nassar is still very much connected with AUB in that he continues to collaborate with a multi-disciplinary group of medical scientists on research having to do with how the gastrointestinal tract is regulated by the nervous system. Nassar credits AUB for much of his success and, per the AUB motto, he says, “I think I had life more abundantly because of AUB.”

1980s

Ghassan Hamadeh (MD ’84): Director of University Health Services
Ghassan Hamadeh has worn many hats at AUB, including medical student, family medicine practitioner, researcher, teacher, and administrator. After graduating in 1984, Hamadeh spent several years in the United States and eventually came back to join the Department of Family Medicine, where he has been a full professor since 2003 and chair since 2005. On the academic side, Hamadeh has been involved in the move towards problem-based learning and evidence-based teaching in the Faculty of Medicine and gives lectures on medical ethics besides his regular teaching duties.
Outside AUB, Hamadeh is an advisor to the Minister of Public Health of Lebanon and has done several projects with the World Health Organization. Since 1995, Hamadeh has also been director of University Health Services and was instrumental in developing electronic medical records and quality indicators that have been in place since 1997. This administrative work takes much of his time, but Hamadeh says that times spent with patients “are usually the most peaceful, predictable, and enjoyable times.”

1990s

Ghassan Abou-Alfa (MD ’92): Pioneering Cancer Specialist
Ghassan Abou-Alfa is currently making his mark as a cancer specialist in the United States where he is assistant professor at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and Weill College of Medicine at Cornell University in New York. Abou-Alfa’s specialty is gastrointestinal oncology and he has been principal investigator of key studies that led to the development of new targeted therapies for primary liver cancer. Before moving to this prestigious cancer institute, Abou-Alfa completed his residency training in internal medicine and fellowship training in medical oncology and hematology at Yale University.

While at AUB, Abou-Alfa was already heavily involved in research and knew he wanted, “to do both: to do the research and care for patients.” Abou-Alfa is still very much connected with AUB and returns at least once a year. In the spirit of giving back to the school, he and his two brothers, also graduates of AUB (Dr. Ali Abu-Alfa, MD ’85 and Dr. Amer Abu-Alfa, MD ’89) established a scholarship endowment in the name of their grandfather, Dr. Kassem Faress, to support medical students with financial need.

2000s

Lara El-Zahabi (MD ’05): Integrating Bioethics and Medical Practices
Lara El-Zahabi graduated with an MD in 2005 and subsequently began a post-doctorate research fellowship at AUB in gastroenterology and hematology/oncology. As president of the Lebanese Medical Student’s International Committee, El-Zahabi attended regional conferences as a representative of the International Federation of Medical Associations.

It was at one of these conferences that El-Zahabi happened to learn about a scholarship offered through the World Health Organization to get a master’s degree in bioethics. Seizing this opportunity, El-Zahabi recently graduated with a MHSc from the University of Toronto and hopes to continue on to a PhD. Ultimately, she would like to bring her expertise in this field back to Lebanon in order to work towards integrating bioethics into the medical curricula and raising awareness of bioethical principles among researchers and physicians in the region. As she said in an interview with Lina Badih of the Toronto Executive Committee, “Our country needs us more than ever…students, especially in the medical school, have the capacity to make big changes.” As El-Zahabi makes abundantly clear, there are many ways for AUB’s medical graduates to make a difference.

“I think I had life more abundantly because of AUB.”

Camille Nassar (PhD ’76), Dean, Faculty of Medicine, University of Balamand