American Univesity of Beirut

​​Dear friends and colleagues of the AUB community,

I would like to begin by congratulating the organizers, officials, candidates, and voters who participated in another exemplary set of student elections last Friday. Democracy, student engagement, and friendly rivalry were the winners and I look forward to working with the elected student representatives in the coming year.

Reframing the doctor-patient relationship
The teaching of medicine is at a crossroads and our university and its medical center are in a strong position to influence the direction that will be taken at a global level. As the regional headquarters of the Association o​f Academic Health Centers International (AACHI) in the MENA region, AUBMC is responsible for fostering the discussion on key issues for academic health systems, especially—but not only—in the MENA region. The recent conference entitled “Transformation of Medical Education in the New Era: Humanism, Technology, and the Physician of Tomorrow," chaired by Dr. Kamal Badr, focused on the fundamental question of what skills and competencies will doctors need as the 21st century unfolds.

​Like most professions, medicine stands at the frontiers of a new high-tech era, one which can be harnessed to effect extraordinary advances in diagnostics and patient care. Artificial intelligence, virtual reality, robotics, bioinformatics, and big data have already started to make an impact, but these technologies raise as many ethical and educational questions as they answer. How will we fashion the education of tomorrow's doctors to master as-yet unimagined tools and techniques while preserving, or even strengthening, the humanistic qualities of the profession that date back to Hippocrates.

We were honored to host Dr. Rita Charon, professor at Columbia University and the originator of the field of narrative medicine, Dr. Albert Scherpbier, dean of the Faculty of Health, Medicine and Life Sciences at Maastricht University, Dr. Bill Eley, executive associate dean at Emory University School of Medicine, and Dr. Elizabeth Gaufberg associate professor of medicine and psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, and director of the Arnold P. Gold Foundation Research Institute, all of whom joined a stellar line-up of American, European, and Arab academicians, as well as more than 300 representatives from the private sector, who attended the conference on September 27-28. These leaders are dedicated to ensuring tomorrow's physicians are brought into more intimate contact with their patients as the technology advances, and not less. Medicine, and the avenues for direct contact between doctor and patient, must become more democratic, less bureaucratic, more individualized.

Narrative medicine is clinical practice fortified by the knowledge of what to do with stories. As Dr. Charon explains, it reveals to doctors “whom do your patients love, who loves them, what is their desire, their hope, what is the narrative" that drives their lives. This dynamic strengthens doctors' therapeutic alliances with patients and deepens their ability to identify with others' perspectives, while patients feel the potency of individual recognition that alone can ease suffering.

The training of doctors is by definition an evolving process. After much hard work and negotiation, this university's medical students and residents on programs with advanced specialty accreditation from the international arm of the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education will be eligible to apply for ACGME fellowships in the US. I extend my thanks to Dr. Badr, EVP and Dean Mohamad Sayegh, Dr. Salah Zeineldine, and the Graduate Medical Education team for establishing this two-way pipeline that will see some of the best and brightest medical students being trained the US, and perhaps one day returning to the ranks of AUB doctors to join us in lifting the health and wellbeing of those in need in this region.

Recognition for FHS role shaping public health discourse
AUB's regional leadership in medicine and medical training is matched by our outstanding Faculty of Health Sciences (FHS), which last month was honored by ACCESS, the largest Arab American community nonprofit in the United States, at its Eighth Arab Health Summit in Washington D.C. with its “Global Health Leadership Award." The award, which was accepted by Dean Iman Nuwayhid on behalf of FHS, with a cohort of faculty and staff members present, was given to acknowledge the role of FHS in advancing public health education, research, practice, and policy in the Arab region and beyond.

​Never one to mince his words, Dr. Nuwayhid told the 350-strong audience of Arab American academic and business leaders from across the US and public health and medical leaders from different Arab countries and US agencies, universities, and organizations that the time had come for a new approach to public health. “The model of public health that we know and is most established globally does not provide the tools we need to engage with public health issues in the context of uncertainty, political instability, and corrupt or failing governments and states," he said in his keynote. Indeed, for public health professionals to be agents of change in the fullest sense their focus must transcend the confines of disciplinary skills and classroom learning, and address the social, political, and economic determinants of the health of populations, as exemplified by the work of FHS.

Research at FHS has never been stronger and we congratulate the dean and his team for securing grants worth $4.8 million in support of six new projects. These are: an EU-funded study to develop a model for reduction and recycling of waste in 42 villages in southern Lebanon; a major award to the Knowledge to Policy (K2P) Center from the WHO to act as a lead mentor institute for developing evidence-informed decision making in health in six low- and middle-income countries across the world; an IDRC grant to strengthen national health information systems in the MENA region; a second IDRC grant to learn more about the drivers of children's food choices and dietary behavior in the Arab region to be able to develop evidence-based policies aiming to reduce the risk of NCDs; a third IDRC grant to build and nurture a regional research community on sexual and reproductive health and gender in MENA; and a fourth IDRC grant on the economics of waterpipe tobacco smoking in Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine, and Egypt.

The breadth and impact of these projects speak for themselves and we congratulate the members of this small, but globally significant faculty for their well-deserved ACCESS award and ambitious research agenda to shape the public health discourse and impact the health of populations.

Fifty years of architectural innovation
Next summer, this university will confer its 1,000th bachelor of architecture degree on a lucky, but deserving, student from the Maroun Semaan Faculty of Engineering and Architecture (MSFEA). To date, 980 of these coveted AUB degrees have been awarded since 1968, and the eponymous department has been celebrating its first half-century with a series of events since the spring term. They include the City Debates 2018 in April, a special end-of-year exhibition in June, and this October a symposium and exhibition with presentations by BArch graduates of different generations, and a sustainable design week bullishly entitled “Crisis as Opportunity ." The anniversary committee has also produced a 1968-2018 “Yearbook" narrating the history of alumni and faculty, social life and events, in a rich timeline, featuring 16 essays, and a catalogue of the current exhibition, featuring more than 140 projects by 131 alumni.

What makes the AUB BArch so special? The department and much of the ethos of the school emanate from the leadership of the departed but never forgotten Dean Raymond Ghosn, a visionary architect and leader of the department and the faculty from 1962 to 1976. In the beginning, as MSFEA Dean Alan Shihadeh points out, hiving off architecture from engineering in the 1960s prompted enquiries of “why" in addition to “how." Radical new approaches to teaching encompassed notions of space, philosophical inquiry, research through experimental modeling, and historical self-awareness. The department was the first in the region to bridge the gap between the architectural style and language of this region and modern and contemporary architecture. Open-ended thematic design “studios" followed and electives were introduced by faculty to broaden students' intellectual range, underpinned by AUB's liberal arts education. The Department of Architecture and Design (ArD) developed an edgy and rebellious atmosphere not far removed from the great architectural schools of global repute. And the excellence of education has led many BArch graduates to excel in careers in architectural design, while—in Dean Shihadeh's words—“there are many others who have crossed the boundaries of the discipline and achieved recognition in urban planning/design, plastic arts, photography, cinema, music, media, literature, and the social sciences."

The next half-century is dawning with a major renovation and expansion of ArD's home in the Dar Al -Handassah (Shair & Partners) Building—made possible through a generous pledge from the late Dr. Kamal Shair, and the unwavering commitment of Trustee Talal Shair—and an ambitious plan by the faculty to establish a new School of Design, in a purpose-built 15,000 square meter complex that will host undergraduate and graduate programs in architecture, graphic design, and urban planning and policy, and allow the introduction of new majors such as industrial design. In addition, the faculty leadership envisions a new design minor that will be open to all students, creating more opportunities for future generations of innovators and entrepreneurs who can contribute to a more sustainable economy in Lebanon and the region. Dean Shihadeh, department chair Mona Harb, and the ArD team are currently seeking funds through the BOLDLY AUB campaign and are counting on AUB's growing BArch community—and everyone who wishes to support a more liveable, viable, and equitable world—to contribute.

Best regards,

Fadlo R. Khuri, MD

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