Prior to 1850, medicine and anesthesiology in Lebanon were conspicuous by their absence. The majority of cities, towns and villages had no competent physicians and the population had to depend on unqualified practitioners such as bone-setters and basrbers for medical advice.
The first attempted use of inhalational anesthesia in Lebanon occurred in 1865 at the hands of Dr. George Post (1839-1909).He administered chloroform to a dog.
In 1866, the Syrian Protestant College (SPC) was founded in Beirut by Dr. Daniel Bliss and in 1920, became known as the American University of Beirut (AUB). In 1867, along with Drs. Cornelius Van Dyck and John Wortabet, Dr. George Post founded the Medical School of the Syrian Protestant College.
In 1873, Dr. Post published his book of surgery, in the Arabic language, (Almisbah Alwaddah Fi Sinaat Aljarrah) where he gave evidence of the use of chloroform for the first time at the Johanniter Hospital (Prussian Hospital) to reduce a man's dislocated shoulder.
A nurse by the name of Alice Osborn was the first trained anesthetist to practice at the American University of Beirut Medical center in 1922.
Dr. Veronica Bakamjian was the first MD AUB graduate to obtain formal training in Anesthesiology in the USA. In October 1947, she was appointed as the director of the Anesthesiology Service (at that time a division of the department of surgery). She became a diplomate of the AMerican Board of Anesthesia (ABA) in 1950. She started an anesthesia rotation for surgical residents and used intocostrin (purified curare) for the first time on late King Hussein of Jordan (then 14 years old Prince Hussein).
In 1954, a 2-year residency training program in Anesthesiology was introduced by Dr. Bakamjian. Dr. Adib Abou-Haidar was the first to join this program, followed by Dr. Francois Shemali, Dr. Raja Abdel Karim and then Dr. Musa Muallem. Dr. Muallem later became a pioneering member of the department of Anesthesiology at AUBMC, pursuing a successful academic career and becoming one of the first full professors of the department.
In 1958, the department of Anesthesiology became a separate entity from the department of Surgery. Dr. Bernard Brandstater was appointed as professor and chairman of the department till 1969, followed by Dr. Musa Muallem as acting chairman from 1969 till 1971.
In 1974, the department got a new and enhanced start with the pioneering efforts of Dr. Baraka. His contribution to anesthesia is international and beyond recognition. He was the department's mastermind and the unwavering and tremendous force at its center. His knowledge, his mastery and his energy were of essence in establishing a tradition of unfailing excellence. He remained at the helm of the department until 2007.
After his appointment in 2007 as the new chair, Dr. Ghassan Kanazi vigilantly preserved and enhanced this tradition, opening up the department to modernizing perspectives and allowing it to democratize, empowering young recruits to work with experienced physicians, thus paving the way for an indispensable and timely maturation.
Dr. George Bikhazi followed in 2014 and did not do any less. While turning excellence into the trademark of the department, he favored versatility and flexibility and opened up new horizons by expanding anesthesia services beyond the boundaries of the operating rooms, hence being the bridge that linked it to the new prospects of our ever-evolving trade.
Dr Marie Aouad-Maroun is currently the interim chairperson as of January 2017. She is entrusted to continue the outstanding journey of the department of Anesthesiology at AUB and to keep the beacon lit.