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Dr. Alexander S. Geha has been associated with AUB since 1946. “That was the year I entered IC," he remembers. As he explains, IC was part of AUB then, “so in my mind, AUB has been a part of my life for 73 years." It's not surprising then that AUB is also very much a part of the lives of his wife, Diane, and his three daughters: Dr. Samia Geha Foster and Dr. Rula Geha, who are both surgeons; and Nada Geha, who is a lawyer. “Although they are not alumnae, they all support AUB," Geha says proudly.
Geha transitioned seamlessly from IC to AUB where he graduated with a BS in 1955 and an MD in 1959, both summa cum laude. He completed an internship and residency in general surgery at the American University of Beirut Hospital (as it was known until 1970). “I then had the opportunity," he remembers, “to do a residency in thoracic and cardiovascular surgery as well as a research fellowship at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota." While in Minnesota, he also earned an MS from the University of Minnesota, Graduate School of Medicine. Geha spent his career in the US—at the University of Vermont (1967-69), Washington University in St. Louis (1969-75), Yale University (1975-86), Case Western Reserve University (1986-98), and the University of Illinois at Chicago (1998-2006) before retiring in 2006. Since 2008, he has been on the faculty of UC San Diego.
A celebrated cardiothoracic surgeon, Geha has published widely and is the co-editor of Glenn's Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery and the House Officer's Guide to ICU Care: Fundamentals of Management of the Heart and Lungs. He is proudest, however, of the 60 residents he has trained over the years. “Many of these doctors have gone on to great careers," says Geha. “I am very proud of what they have achieved. I am also very proud that 15 of these residents were from Lebanon and neighboring countries; ten were AUB graduates."
He has always stayed closely linked to his alma mater as an active alumnus, a good friend of the Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery, a member of the Board of Trustees, and a philanthropist. He has an especially close connection to AUB president, Dr. Fadlo R. Khuri. “His father, Dr. Raja N. Khuri, was not just a classmate, but a roommate," he explains. He has also been connected, and is still very close, to the family of former AUB president, Dr. Malcolm Kerr. “Both of Malcolm Kerr's parents were my professors: his father, Dr. Stanley Kerr, was my biochemistry professor and his mother, Elsa Kerr, was my sociology professor."
Many AUB legends have played important roles in Geha's life. “Dr. Joseph McDonald, who became chairman of the Department of Surgery in 1946, was my preceptor during my first year as a medical student. He used to take us first-year medical students with him—they were just four of us—on rounds every Saturday. It was during those rounds that I got interested in surgery." Geha also knew former AUB president, Dr. Calvin Plimpton, especially well: “He was my chief of medicine," he remembers.
Over the years, Geha has generously supported many initiatives at the university including scholarships and awards. In 2005, he established the Alexander S. Geha, MD Endowed Lectureship, which he continues to support. “I have always been grateful to AUB for providing me with the educational and academic backgrounds I needed to succeed. I think it is important for alumni to support AUB," he says.
The members of the Surgical Alumni Association of North America (AUB-SAANA) recently recognized Geha selecting him to receive both the Academic Achievement and Outstanding Service Awards. The award ceremony took place during a reception on October 29, which was held at the time of the annual congress of the American College of Surgeons (ACS) that is attended by surgeons from around the world. “It was a wonderful and very special evening for me," Geha says, “and especially meaningful to be recognized in this way by my fellow AUB surgeons."