Dear friends and colleagues of the AUB community,
Learning from our athletes
The longer one works in education, the more one encounters how much teachers learn from their students. In October-November 2019 we witnessed
AUB sports teams insisting on continuing their training even as the country ground to a halt and its people cried “Enough!" of failure and unfairness. Whether making their voices heard, or navigating blockades, our athletes were nevertheless determined not to let training schedules be derailed. Each one had made a commitment to their teammates and to themselves and were not going to let anything break that commitment. Staff at the
Charles Hostler Student Center quickly recognized this sentiment and did everything possible to keep the center open while much of AUB was forced to close.
The fruits are seen today with our varsity teams riding high in the mid-season rankings in a number of national university leagues, drawing sizeable crowds to celebrate their successes and enjoy the quality of competition.
Please join me in saluting AUB athletes who train day in, day out while upholding arduous academic requirements—and everyone behind the scenes, be they coaches, physical therapists, personal trainers, dietitians, facility attendants, or life guards. Thanks also to our new interim director of sports, Zouheir ElHalabi, stepping into the very big shoes of Ghaleb Halimi after his well-deserved retirement last year.
Like many pursuits, sport has needed to adjust to new realities in Lebanon. But crises rarely come without opportunities, and
University Sports and the
Student Affairs Office have grasped these with enthusiasm. While overseas tours may be challenging in current circumstances and completing the 2019-20 leagues remains a challenge, we are using the hiatus to build bridges of friendly competition with local non-university clubs and make plans for training camps for local young people to learn from our top athletes.
Another opportunity, while national leagues are suspended, has been to employ the talents of professional photojournalists (from
Sportscode Images) to capture the thrills and action of university sports. You can enjoy these outstanding images on the AUB Sports
Twitter accounts where you can also get a full fixtures and results service.
We know it is essential to invest in university sports—not for silverware, but for the healthy habits that sport instills, and the life lessons that honest competition and teamwork can teach us.
The legendary Czech runner Emil Zatopeck held that: “An athlete cannot run with money in their pockets. They must run with hope in their heart and dreams in their head." Arthur Ashe, the only person of color to win the Wimbledon men's title, taught us: “You are never really playing an opponent; you are playing yourself, your own highest standards, and when you reach your limits, that is real joy." Record-breaking NBA player and coach Steve Kerr, who has deep family ties with AUB, once said “even if you're losing games, you're still learning a lot. If you're enjoying the process, that's important." Win or lose, in the classroom or the sports field, AUB exists for young people to explore their limits, with joy and hope in their hearts and dreams in their heads.
Our public policy hub
Well known for its distinctive Zaha Hadid-designed edifice on campus and as a generator of quality research and evidence-based policy recommendations among scholars, researchers, policy makers, civil society, and the media, the
Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs (IFI) has never been a busier or more relevant entity in AUB's mission to make an impact on the world around us. The same goes for IFI's stellar line up of staffers, fellows, and researchers who have made dozens of individual contributions to the print and broadcast media in the last four months in addition to their full schedules.
As the October uprising gathered pace, IFI cemented its role as the quintessential space for the interdisciplinary exchange of cutting-edge ideas, by bringing forward research and policy discussions that have been central to the institute's work for several years now: energy security, education and youth policy, social justice and protection, constitutional reform, independence of the judiciary, and Lebanon's finances. To make sense of the demands and goals of the protests, you may have seen the comprehensive and eye-catching
mapping exercise performed by IFI of more than 50 political platforms of groups participating in the uprising which was widely shared when released in Arabic and English on January 10. By breaking down the clamor for change, into political, governance, economic, and social/environmental categories, and spelling out different contexts, demands, and hoped-for goals, it was a welcome parsing of a movement that can seem perplexingly amorphous.
This year will see the launch of a Crisis Observatory, an inter-disciplinary research program to track the repercussions of the economic crisis in Lebanon on 11 areas (economy, health system, education, housing, unemployment and poverty, food security, social safety nets, urban services, energy, law and order, and social cohesion). The aim is to provide evidence and systematic analysis of the crisis to policymakers, the media and the public, and to engage with those stakeholders on possible policy and community solutions and responses. Other plans include developing ways to engage AUB students in research and experiential learning, beyond the current
internship and student awards programs which institute offers.
While much of IFI's work and partnerships are by nature long-term and low-profile, it is worth highlighting a few examples of how tangible impact has been created at a national level: raising the rate of birth registration among Syrian refugees from 17 percent to 30 percent in two years by helping reduce government red tape; revision of the National Water Sector Strategy to address water insecurity in the Beqaa region; developing the Beirut Zone #10 proposal to protect Beirut's seafront, adopted by the Order of Architects and Engineers and the Beirut Municipality; and conducting a simulation of a 300MW solar photovoltaic power plant in the Tfail region, currently being considered for development with the support of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.
At the end of last year, we bade farewell to Dr. Tarek Mitri, who led IFI with skill and foresight for five years—a mentor to many and always ready to share his wisdom and guidance. His tenure saw a period of growth and impact and he has left the institute in a healthy state as a vibrant component of AUB. As we near the completion of our search for a new director to lead IFI into a new and challenging era, we wish Dr. Mitri great success in his new role as president of the University of Saint George.
Hidden gem in Medicine
Did you know that one of the world's earliest examples of dentistry—the magnificent Ford Mandible from the fifth century BC—sits in the
AUB Museum of Archaeology? Did you also know that AUB itself has a venerable tradition of academic dentistry dating back to 1910? (Our School of Dentistry was the first between the Mediterranean and Indian Ocean although it closed in 1940.) And did you know that, today, the
Faculty of Medicine boasts an MS in
orthodontics described by the New York State Education Department examiners as “second to none" and “superb" for the challenging educational program that has been created with strong clinical, didactic, and research settings?
Now that you are aware of this third fact, it may come as less of a surprise that the American Journal of Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics (AJODO), the world's top orthodontic journal, has honored an AUB-authored paper with its prestigious Wayne G Watson Award recognizing the highest rated biological or experimental research article published in 2019. The article,
Three novel genes tied to mandibular prognathism in eastern Mediterranean families (authors: Genno PG, Nemer GM, Zein Eddine SB, Macari AT, Ghafari JG), advanced the science by pinpointing candidate genes for the protrusion of the jawbone, which could with additional research spare growing patients years of costly orthodontic treatment that would ultimately need surgical correction after growth has ceased.
AUB's Division of Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics came into being in 2001—61 years after the demise of the dental school—when Dean Nadim Cortas received authorization from the
BOT to create such a unit in the
Department of Otorhinolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery. The renaissance of AUB dentistry has been steered by Dr. Joseph Ghafari, an NIH-funded and USJ, Pennsylvania, and Harvard-trained dentist/orthodontist who happened to be on sabbatical here 20 years ago and who remains at the head of this remarkable enterprise today. The opportunity to start from scratch meant that Dr. Ghafari and his recruits were able to build a state-of-the-art academic and clinical model, which now combines a three-year masters and residency program for qualified dentists that has been accepted into the American Dental Association (ADA) Continuing Education Recognition Program (CERP), in addition to the NYSED credit, just one of a handful of non-US programs to be so distinguished. Residents are challenged to address the whole patient as medical doctors and researchers, breaking free of the narrower confines of technicians who fix teeth and jaws.
The division exemplifies the elite global standards that we achieve in AUB's Faculty of Medicine and our
Medical Center, indeed across the whole university. With an acceptance rate of less than 10% of residency/masters applicants, and a genuinely international intake, it graduates only the best of the best in a field with major impact on oral health and wellbeing, while generating world-class research that interfaces with other medical disciplines, as well as mechanical and computer engineering, basic sciences, genetics, and nutrition. Congratulations to Dr. Ghafari and his outstanding faculty and residents, for the latest accolade and for their sterling work to restore dentistry excellence at AUB.
Fadlo R. Khuri, MD