We were invited by the National Academy member, world renowned neurologist, and director of the
UM Program for Neurology and Discovery
Dr. Eva Feldman
, whom we were honored to welcome at
last year, when she came to share her cutting-edge knowledge of the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases using stem cell therapy. Introducing the AUB team at a Special Guest Seminar to discuss our strategic role in lifting the quality of education and health in the MENA region, Dr. Feldman graciously described her September 2018 visit to Beirut as “one of the best—I would have to say—academic trips of my (quite long!) career."
Michigan is America's best-funded and probably its leading public research university, a university which has been transformative in its milieu and which aspires to an ever-more global impact. The burgeoning AUB-UM partnership leverages our institution's position as a leading center of high-impact research in the Global South, one which endures chronic conflict and instability that create unique and complex health issues. Our vision of expanding AUB's health disciplines and reinvigorating education and health in our region will be guided to a large degree by the inclusive and integrated approach modeled at UM.
Following the symposium, Dean Nuwayhid and
UM School of Public Health Dean
F. Dubois Bowman signed a memorandum of understanding for student and faculty exchange and joint research projects. Our delegation also connected with a significant number of executive and academic leaders, including the university president,
Dr. Mark Schlissel, vice provost and director of the
Life Sciences Institute,
Dr. Roger Cone, acting vice president of research
Dr. Rebecca Cunningham, as well as the deans, chairs, and professors from the schools of medicine, engineering, and architecture.
In addition to UM, we also had important and informative visits with
Beaumont Health, Michigan's largest healthcare system, where we were hosted by our alumnus
Dr. Samir Dabbous and my friend and colleague from our 13 years together at Emory University, Beaumont Health CEO John Fox. We also visited the flagship of the
Henry Ford Health System, where we met CEO Wright Lassiter III and our alumnus
Dr. Adnan Munkarah who serves as EVP and chief clinical officer. We then toured the new cancer pavilion with our distinguished alumnus
Dr. Marwan Abouljoud, an internationally renowned liver surgeon recently elected as president of the
American Society of Transplant Surgeons.
While these exchanges generated an exciting wealth of fresh connections, alignments, and tangible plans to cement collaboration, we did not forget our loyal AUB alumni in Michigan, many of whom are connected to UM, not least our 2017 honorary doctorate recipient and UM professor of psychiatry and research professor at the Molecular and Behavioral Neuroscience Institute
Dr. Huda Akil, one of the world's most highly cited scientists, as well as MI chapter president
Dr. Manal Assi. An informal breakfast with AUB alumni at UM kicked off the second day of our four-day schedule, which ended with a fundraising gala dinner organized by the MI chapter at the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn, with proceeds going to the “Let's DiaBeat It" Fund supporting multidisciplinary AUB initiatives to treat diabetes, including groundbreaking research to develop non-invasive electromagnetic glucose monitoring.
We also dined at the home of our alumnus Ghassan Saab, a respected civic and business leader in Flint, well-known among the Arab-American community in the US, and his philanthropist wife Manal, with other AUB friends and alumni, and we ended our trip with an eye-opening visit to Greenfield Village and the matchless Henry Ford Museum, hosted by its remarkable President Patricia Mooradian, a fourth-generation Lebanese-American.
Overall, it was a remarkably impactful and enlightening visit that strengthened the links between the Arab world's premier university and an historic and distinguished US partner institution that sits in proximity to the Arab-American heartland of southeast Michigan. Special thanks to Drs. Eva Feldman and Assaad Eid, Assaad's former graduate student at AUB and current postdoc in the Feldman lab Dr. Stephanie Eid and AUB Development Director Dr. Lina Beydoun for arranging this remarkable trip. We were confident it is just the beginning of a series of very fertile partnerships, reinforcing a rich shared shared heritage, with tangible and high impact opportunities for faculty and students. We look forward to seeing its many fruits.
World-class neurological research and training
One of the most challenging fields of medicine, which has also seen some of medicine's most rapid advances, is neurology. In the last few years, AUB's
Department of Neurology, founded and led by longtime AUB leader and master clinician
Dr. Samir Atweh, has emerged as the leading department of its kind in the Arab world, and a match for any in the most advanced health systems. The department is the newest in the Faculty of Medicine, having been created in 2012, and its being upgraded from a division in the
Department of Internal Medicine to a department with divisions in its own right has been key to this remarkable preeminence.
Starting with a clean page, the department quickly adapted to a system of universal group practice, where physicians do not compete for patients but work together in the interests of each patient. It also developed from a general neurology practice into a subspecialty service offering disease-centered approaches for neurological conditions such as epilepsy and multiple sclerosis (MS). The
epilepsy division and
MS Center are able to handle the most difficult patients of the former condition, where epilepsy is not controllable by available medication, and the largest number of patients in the latter, with MS sufferers from around the Arab world coming to AUBMC for treatment.
The growth in patient numbers affords huge opportunity in terms of pushing forward the frontiers of research. Through the vision and labor of the epilepsy team led by
Dr. Ahmad Beydoun, AUB now holds the largest database of new onset cases of the disease in the world. The data collected so far on medications, scans, and changes in clinical status will be enough to keep researchers busy for years, and it keeps growing.
The Nehme and Therese Tohme MS Center, founded within AUBMC's
Abu Haidar Neuroscience Institute under the leadership of
Dr. Samia Khoury, is the first of its kind in the MENA region and
remains the foremost. While 20 years ago MS was virtually untreatable and it remains incurable, advances in treatments that prevent progression by modulating the immune system and aid post-relapse recovery mean MS patients can now live longer, more productive, and enjoyable lives. Meanwhile, MS is on the increase in the Middle East, having been less prevalent here than in northern climes. Fortunately, our brilliant clinical teams are leading the struggle against it in the shape of world-class research and much-needed care and treatment.
The department has also massively expanded its capacity to train residents in general neurology and to offer subspecialty training in its fellowship program, including in the most advanced techniques in clinical electrophysiology that have transformed neurology in the last 20 years. Universal group practice means teaching faculty on two-week rotations can deliver intensive one-on-one training to the same students handling all incoming neurology cases. This has had an incredible effect on improving the quality of training, as witnessed by top-rated evaluations.
The next objective is to create a center for dementia and behavioral neurology. We expect this will prove similarly transformative in our region for the treatment and care for people with degenerative brain conditions such as Parkinson's and ALS, as this world-class department, which addresses the most complex systems in the human body, goes from strength to strength.
MainGate magazine, present and future
Print magazines, once thought to be disappearing, are very much alive in the world of colleges and universities. A recent meeting of university magazine editors confirmed that alumni and friends are eager to receive magazines through the post, and that some colleges that discontinued their print magazines found it prudent to start them up again. It is always a joy for me to visit with a graduate or friend of AUB and spy
MainGate magazine occupying a prime spot on the coffee table or kitchen counter.
I am happy to announce a few updates to our elegant thrice-yearly publication. Barbara Rosica in the
Debs Center–AUB New York Office has taken on the role of managing editor and will showcase several changes in the fall/winter issue that you will be receiving in January 2020. They have consolidated the sections, changed the color palette, and added elements of Arabic calligraphy and symbols. As always, the photography brings readers to campus in a way that words cannot always achieve.
Having extolled the virtues of print, I am also excited to announce the launch of a companion digital version of
MainGate for the digital age. Ms. Rosica, joined by Carla Korkmaz, AUB director of
creative services, reviewed print and digital magazines from over 200 institutions of higher learning and commissioned a design that will be readable on cellphones, iPads, and desktop computers. This will launch with our next issue and the link will live on the
MainGate stories include cellist
Yo-Yo Ma's remarkable visit to perform Bach in Lebanon and ask cultural actors “what can we do better together than we can do alone?" You will also find journalist Rami Khouri's interview with Jordan's Prime Minister Omar Razzaz, and the cellular “skeleton key" of AUB alumna and UC San Francisco Professor Hana El Samad and her colleague, University of Washington's David Baker, who created a synthetic protein that makes cells smart.
If you aren't receiving
MainGate in your home mailbox and would like to, please send your mailing address to
email@example.com. And we hope you enjoy scrolling through the digital magazine, which will bring added resources of links, videos, and sound, as only a virtual version can.
Fadlo R. Khuri, MD