Dear friends and colleagues of the AUB community,
Testament to an empowered woman
When we received the terrible news that a pioneering graduate of this university,
Mona Chemali Khalaf (BA '61, MA '64 ), had passed away
during a family visit to New York, my immediate thoughts were of the profound loss to her family and our community. I then turned to think of her innumerable ongoing projects, which she would now not be able to finish. Mona was as engaged in public service as ever, still chairing our high-impact support network, the
President's Club, and pursuing her passions for social and political activism, women's empowerment, academic life, and, of course, as mother of Amin and Nada, and her beloved grandchildren.
Despite her prominence in public life, Mona was uniquely determined to avoid taking credit for anything. She wanted to get things done, and get things done to the betterment of others, especially for Arab women struggling with gender inequality in the home and workplace, the area where her expertise as an economist was focused. Whether as director of the
Institute for Women's Studies in the Arab World at the Lebanese American University, or sitting on the Advisory Board of the Gender Economic Research and Policy Analysis Initiative, or working with the Lebanese NGO Commission for the Preparation of the 1995 Beijing World Conference on Women, or in so many, many other roles, Mona was an exemplar of thoughtfulness, selflessness, determination, grace, and leadership. As chair of the President's Club since 2011, she was a tireless, strategic and thoughtful advocate and supporter of our students, determined to improve their experience at AUB in myriad ways. We celebrated Mona's remarkable life at a
President's Club commemoration on April 3, with eulogies from First Lady Mouna Haraoui, Salwa Siniora Baasiri, Antoine Haddad, Eugenie Hosri ,and her son Dr. Amin Khalaf. My own contribution highlighted my feeling that “the most impressive individuals are often the ones who are trying not to impress you at all." That was Mona through and through.
The celebration of Mona Chemali Khalaf's life was followed by the launch of a special project of Mona's, an exhibition in the Byblos Bank Art Gallery, entitled
For all Conditions of Men: Stories of Women at AUB. I hope many of you will have seen it, but if you have not, the last day is the day this message is being sent. There is an accompanying book, which contains the stories of the 92 remarkable women featured in the exhibit, which will remain available as a permanent record of this sad but memorable moment. It was Mona whose brainchild this exhibit and publication was and it was one of her unfinished projects. She and her fellow researchers had gathered 91 stories, and it was a fitting testament to her—and something she would never have accepted while alive—that she could be included as the 92nd entry.
Mental health at MEMA
In the last edition, I wrote about the Counseling Center and its important work helping students through the concerns and emotional or psychological problems which inevitably appear in so many of their lives. What I did not have space to cover was the vital nexus the center has with colleagues at
AUBMC in the
Department of Psychiatry, which is also fully engaged in helping students with clinical conditions requiring medical support, as well as having its own team of clinical and educational psychologists, specialized nurses, social workers, case managers, and special education teachers, who work with the medical psychiatrists. Whatever your entry point—the Counseling Center at the Office of Student Affairs, the
Family Medicine clinic, or the
Emergency Room for 24-hour access if needed—we are determined to help you to see the appropriate person for what may be causing you trouble.
College mental health is a fairly new issue in our part of the world. Before the civil war, the
Faculty of Medicine's Psychiatry Division did its work at the now-closed Lebanon Hospital for Mental Diseases at Asfourieh. The first full-time psychiatrist post-war was appointed at AUBMC in 1990 and the fully-independent Department of Psychiatry was formed in 1997. The integrated service for students had to wait until recommendations came from of the University Mental Health Committee, established in 2007, to bind it together with the work of the Counselling Center. The department is of course not restricted to student welfare, as it provides extensive adult clinical services in psychiatry and psychotherapy, treatment for addiction and eating disorders, comprehensive diagnostic evaluation and treatment for children and adolescents, including home- and school-based interventions. The department prides itself on its multidisciplinary approach as team shares ideas, discusses cases, and revises treatment plans in a spirit of true collaboration.
Building upon this burgeoning interdisciplinary base, this year's
49th Middle East Medical Assembly (April 19-22) is tackling
Mental Health Across the Lifespan for the first time in its long and illustrious history. As the name suggests, the assembly approaches the topic along the broadest possible terms. With 150 speakers from a wide array of disciplines, including many of global standing from around the world, it will raise awareness and share the latest discoveries in the field with healthcare professionals and lay audiences. Mental disorders have become one of the leading causes of disability worldwide, but the treatment gap remains wide in our region. Only by taking a holistic approach—not just treating the illness but considering the whole person and the world they inhabit—can we address the challenges with concerted multidisciplinary collaboration.
Modeling international diplomacy
It is a busy season for AUB students involved in the Model United Nations (MUN) movement. Delegations from the AUB MUN Club recently appeared at events in Turkey and in the
National MUN at the UN headquarters in New York, where the team—who were selected to represent Denmark—earned the top accolade of “Outstanding Delegation" for their performance, evaluated on ability to stay in character, participate in debate, and follow the rules of procedure. In Turkey, team members also picked up several individual awards, but it must be stressed that while the competitive element is a great motivator, there are no losers at these gripping international exercises in politics and diplomacy. MUN Participants frequently come back saying they are the best experiences they have at college. At AUB, there is a large and enthusiastic band of club members who put enormous efforts into their training and preparation to debate the great issues of today with their peers from other universities.
Taking it to the next level, AUB has for the last three years been hosting the Beirut International MUN, known as
BEYMUN. This year, the event is bigger than ever, with nearly 100 organizers from AUB who adopt the role of the UN secretariat and an expected 250 delegates, some 40 AUB students, 180 from other Lebanese universities, and 40 coming from countries as diverse as Canada, France, Germany, Morocco, Tunisia, Turkey, and the United Kingdom. The overarching theme of BEYMUN 2018 is
Paving Unity, Pioneering Acceptance, with the aim of fostering open mindedness in order to tackle the challenges that humanity faces.
The key to a successful MUN is for the delegates to walk in the shoes and inhabit the policy landscape of their allocated country. It is an exceptionally valuable experience to do this in a high-pressure simulation of UN committees and the Security Council. Once bitten by the MUN bug, students will often return again and again to hone their skills and widen their circles of friends from around the world who experienced it with them. It is tempting to think that younger, fresher minds can do a better job solving the world's problems through debate and consensus than the optimism-sapped older generations to whom the task typically falls. Certainly the success of BEYMUN is a promising sign for the future.
Fadlo R. Khuri, MD