Dear friends and colleagues of the AUB community,
When ordinary medical techniques and approaches in Lebanon and the Levant are insufficient to save lives, a majority of residents have a common response. They think of one place—AUBMC, maker of miracles. Unfortunately, Lebanon's myriad crises have strained AUBMC's services and culture. Two World Wars, the Lebanese Civil War, and a three-year period of national decline accelerating emigration and economic collapse, have pushed this bedrock of the region to its limits. Yet AUBMC, its leadership, and its people have persisted with all their might, and its central historical figures along with the closely affiliated
Faculty of Medicine (FM),
Hariri School of Nursing (HSON), and
Faculty of Health Sciences (FHS) have passed into legend across more than 155 years.
Despite very real dangers to the wellbeing and careers of our health providers, only a small handful have ever been threatened or detained, the seeming halo around this national asset keeping its chief protagonists safe. Although we have witnessed a few recent incidents of violence, no physician or nurse has been seriously injured. Thus, an informal understanding across the region has held—no harm must come to those whose mission it is to heal wounds and save lives at AUBMC. Despite the loss of world-class medical providers during periods of extreme strife, the majority have stayed behind at risk of their lives and careers to heal the sick and mend the wounded. And when these dedicated care providers move on, yet another cadre of committed and talented healers steps up to serve in their place, a veritable army of medics and miracle workers. What are the secrets to this self-renewal?
An informal understanding across the region has held—no harm must come to those whose mission it is to heal wounds and save lives at AUBMC.
One aspect is certainly institutional attachment and a powerful, tensile alumni network. Another fact seems irrefutable. We educate, train, and produce the finest nurses and doctors in the region, and among the finest in the world. In celebrating International Nursing Day this week, we are forced to admit that our our nursing graduates are so exceptional, it has been difficult to retain most of them, even when Lebanon was stable and prospering. The competition for the services of these modern-day Florence Nightingales is remarkable. Versatile, humble, prepared, knowledgeable, and brave, our nursing graduates have their pick of postgraduate training programs or nursing jobs in the region once they obtain their BSN, MSN, or PhD from HSON.
The graduates of the Faculty of Medicine follow a different path. The vast majority obtain their postgraduate training and pursue careers in North America. They continue to match at some of the finest residency programs in the United States, generally after two-to-four years of postdoctoral research in prestigious labs in North America. Our graduates match for many reasons. They are bright, well prepared, motivated, and determined to make a difference. They retain an edge because of the network of highly successful medical alumni who help open doors for their fellow FM graduates, providing advocacy, research opportunities, and clinical experience, among other manifestations of their generosity.
One such graduate is my friend
Haytham Kaafarani, a highly decorated trauma surgeon at the Massachusetts General Hospital, just named Chief Patient Safety Officer and Medical Director for the Joint Commission for the accreditation of hospitals and health systems. Haytham's stewardship of careers of young trauma and general surgeons, AUB graduates and otherwise, has long been known to be sincere, forthright, and very much hands-on.
AUB is my polaris, my North Star.”
As Haytham asserts, “AUB is my
polaris, my North Star.” This is true for many AUB FM graduates, who will also celebrate this October 1st in Boston via our first medical alumni reunion in decades, where panels on medical education, mental health, and disaster preparation will bring together experts from across the academic and clinical firmament. Even among the finest physicians in the world, our graduates more than hold their own, and they stand out for the right reasons. Throughout their education and training, they have seen medical miracles take place and worked beside physicians, nurses, and technologists from the finest such schools in the region. They, along with our stellar medical laboratory graduates from FHS, work side-by-side to save those who seemed lost and heal those who appeared to have gone beyond the pale. Having seen these examples, our graduates are eager to hone their skills in the finest training programs in the world. And many of them harbor the desire to return to practice their craft at the AUBMC once they have mastered those undefinable intersections of art and science that define the healing arts.
One of America's most distinguished diplomats,
Ambassador Ryan Crocker, a member of
AUB's International Advisory Council (IAC), who ironically registered me for selective service in the old US Embassy in Ain El Mreisse on my 18th birthday, asked at one of our recent IAC meetings, “What other medical center has saved as many lives against the sternest of odds in America or elsewhere, than the AUBMC, the hospital so many still call the AUH? Doesn't America, to say nothing of Lebanon, owe it an unredeemable debt?"
We feel a sense of hope when we hear an ambulance or medical flight approach its doors.’”
Our answer to Ambassador Crocker is that while the world has many outstanding hospitals, few of them qualify as true “miracle centers." Even as we are taught to believe that while we can understand nature and mankind, some aspects evade our comprehension, we celebrate the American University of Beirut Miracle Center where so many have been saved. We feel a sense of hope when we hear an ambulance or medical flight approach its doors. AUBMC will be there, providing hope and empathy even in the face of human carelessness, cruelty, and contempt. It exists not simply to educate and to heal, but to stand for our finest instincts in times where we lose our bearings, or where our most cherished values seem ephemeral. What other magic will it conjure?
While the world has many outstanding hospitals, few of them qualify as true ‘miracle centers.’”
Fadlo R. Khuri, MD