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Dear friends and colleagues of the AUB community,

It is my pleasure to greet you again after what I hope has been a refreshing break. Let me also take the opportunity to welcome new students and an outstanding cohort of new faculty, none more distinguished than Dean Rabi Mohtar of the Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences whose vision for this vital school I shall reflect upon in a future perspective.

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After lengthy and intensive negotiations, and with a strong sense of the history of the moment, I was proud to sign a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with our sister Université SaintJoseph (USJ) on January 16, 2018—for the first time formally linking Lebanon’s two oldest and greatest academic institutions, witnessed by members of both of our Boards, and the Minister of Higher Education, HE Marwan Hemadeh. The MOU sets out opportunities for collaboration, cooperation, interaction, and positive academic engagement that reflect our shared focus on highquality research and worldclass student experience. Within three days of the signing ceremony, a group of us found ourselves at the Auditorium Francois Bassil in Mar Mikhael for the first AUBUSJ Joint Biomedical Research Conference focusing on advanced biomedical innovation which showed how much potential there is in this partnership.

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This agreement is designed to facilitate and develop a discussion process aimed at launching multiple relationships. It specifically allows us to explore future cooperation including joint academic programs, joint conferences, workshops and seminars; identify funding opportunities and pursue joint submissions of grants; manage student and staff exchanges; and foster exchanges related to publications and teaching materials. Both sides recognize the importance of protecting intellectual property and specific safeguards will be set forth in separate agreements. I would like to thank all the architects of this accord, led by Hala Muhtasib from AUB and Dolla Sarkis from USJ, who have worked tirelessly to bring this dream to reality, and my friend and brother Pere Dr. Salim Daccache for his friendship, his determination, and his commitment that future generations of students may see in this partnership the stirrings of hope for a brighter future for Lebanon and the Arab world.

Enabling career opportunities

Last term, we welcomed a new director of the careers office in the Office of Student Affairs, AUB alumna and exDubaibased HR and recruitment professional Melina Harb. This follows the retirement of her longserving predecessor, Maryam Ghandour, known to many as an indefatigable champion of employment opportunities for generations of AUB students. First, let us pay tribute to Maryam’s work, especially the extraordinary and enduring effort she put into fostering close links with many different employers, whose effect you can see today in the devotion and respect those employers show towards this university.

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In an everchanging employment market, everfresh approaches are required—both from job applicants and a careers service tasked with preparing applicants effectively for the world of work. So it is a significant advantage to have an expert of Ms. Harb’s caliber, speaking the language of employers, familiar with systems and best practices of recruitment. As you know, last year AUB was judged to be first in graduate employability in the Arab world and among the top 50 universities globally (in the respected QS rankings). This was without updating our service with current best practice; imagine what we can aspire to giving Ms. Harb and the OSA our collective backing!

The new director envisions a threeor fouryear careers engagement plan for all undergraduates. It will help students decide what jobs they are best suited to; familiarize them with the latest recruiting trends and techniques; help them avoid pitfalls such as injudicious social media postings; encourage creative approaches (video resumes, for example, or optimizing one’s LinkedIn profile) and thinking about the benefit of extracurricular engagement. Above all, the approach will address the 11thhour panic, which strikes some of our students as they emerge into the outside world as fresh graduates.

The first phase sees the light in February when students can attend newlylaunched workshops covering how to search for jobs, prepare for the upcoming jobs fair, create an outstanding resume, and “ace that interview.” There is certainly a huge amount to be done, with the director working closely with faculty career officers and a wider range of employers, especially those aligned with AUB’s core values, as well as widening the circle of our alumni prepared to help in this crucial sphere. If you are an alumna or alumnus looking to give back to your alma mater, there can be few better ways than contacting our dynamic new careers office! You don’t even need to have a vacant position to fill—any opportunity to engage your support will be eagerly accepted.

Highest standards of human subject research
As an oncologist spending my career performing and overseeing controlled clinical trials, I have great admiration for those individuals who volunteer as human subjects in the full knowledge that their participation in clinical research may ultimately only help others and not themselves. It takes a special kind of person to ingest a potential placebo to enable better medicines for future generations. We know ethical standards in human research have a checkered history, but the last 40 years have seen great strides based on the three fundamental principles enshrined in the 1979 Belmont Report underpinning US law on human research. These are 1) respect, of people’s autonomy and consent, treating them courteously, 2) beneficence, maximizing the benefits while minimizing the risks of research, and 3) justice, ensuring reasonable, nonexploitative, wellconsidered procedures are administered fairly and equally.

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Since Belmont, these principles have been upheld within the academy by independent committees called institutional research boards (IRBs). AUB is fortunate to have a genuinely worldclass IRB divided into two branches, for biomedical research and for socialbehavioral sciences. Led by Dr. Fuad Ziyadeh (above), also our chair of the internal medicine department at the Faculty of Medicine, a large and dedicated team of volunteer faculty experts, analysts and lay members work together under the oversight of our outstanding Human Research Protection Program (HRPP) directed by Dr. Ali AbuAlfa (left) and Provost Mohamed Harajli as responsible IO or Institutional Official.            

It is vital work as we have made it no secret that, to hold a position as a globally relevant and indeed pioneering seat of higher learning, AUB must elevate its academic research in our areas of excellence. This would be unobtainable in the experimental sciences without our ability to carry out ethical review and approval of research proposals involving human participants, the alternative being animal studies, tissue culture, and some lowrisk, lowimpact human surveys.

It is not only mandated by US federal and Lebanese law governing research—our excellent IRB and HRPP were key to AUBMC attaining accreditation as an academic medical center in last year’s outstanding JCI review; external researchers needing IRB approval for agencyfunded research seek out partners among AUB faculty. Our reputation as a research institution is enhanced by such a strong, transparent oversight that ensures the trust of research volunteers and the community; and our drive to pursue transformative innovation for the betterment of human society is secured and protected from the inherent risks. Moreover, one can no longer publish human subject research in a toptier academic journal without prior IRB approval.

With the advent of academic tenure, and our determined strategy to grow in our areas of excellence, the role of this key committee will only become more central to the mission of AUB and AUBMC. Considering the volume of proposals reviewed (550 new and 650 renewals annually) and the measures taken to expedite approval, IRB reviewers and volunteer board members do a tremendous service and deserve our full respect and gratitude. It remains a priority for the board to reduce wait times, but I prefer to think of that as a joint responsibility in which researchers strive as hard to submit scientifically vetted proposals and complete applications, as the IRB strives to review and approve them promptly. In the long run, the partnership between researchers and IRB will impact funding, extramural agency involvement, publications, the recruitment of high quality faculty and the kind of challenging research questions that we can investigate.

Best regards,

Fadlo R. Khuri, MD
President​