The Department of Pediatrics at AUBMC was established in 1932 as the first department of its kind in Lebanon and the region.
Trained Dr. Henry Nachman, Dr. Leonard Moore was asked to develop a pediatric service at the AUB Medical Center. He initiated research in pediatric public health in 1935. He introduced the first incubators for sick infants in the Middle East. Dr. Hassan Idriss, who was trained by Drs. Moore and Nachman, joined the hospital staff in 1939 and people from all over the region came to AUB for his medical care. In 1951, Dr. Hans Zellweger became chairman of the Department of Pediatrics. Dr. Zellweger described the inherited syndrome that bears his name. Under his leadership subspecialties, including nutrition, nephrology, and hematology/oncology, were introduced to the department, which became the first in the region to introduce subspecialty clinical practice and research to the field of Pediatrics. Dr. Salim Firzli, the first pediatric hematologist/ oncologist in Lebanon established the first hematology clinic (1957) and in 1960 the first pediatric oncology clinic, He was joined by Dr. Ibrahim Dabbous in 1965. Between 1956 and 1957, residents were taking care of around 600 inpatient cases per year, hundreds of newborn and premature babies in the nursery, and around 1500 patients in the Outpatient Department.
Between 1960 and 1963, Dr. Calvin Woodruff was chairman of the department. The department included 14 attending physicians at the time, and continued to be the leader in subspecialty pediatric practice. In 1960, Dr. Samir Najjar joined the staff. He was the first pediatric endocrinologist in the region, and also started the basic science research in pediatrics. That same year, the first infectious diseases specialist, Dr. Salim Musallam, joined the department. Genetics was introduced in 1963 by Dr. Vazken Der Kaloustian, who later established the first unit of human genetics in the region (1980). Pediatric nephrology was started by Dr. Mustafa Ghandour in 1962. Dr. Charles Ayoub, and later Dr. Sami Nassif and Dr. Farid Kutayli, developed the service of pediatric cardiology as of 1962. In 1963, Dr. John Bitar joined the department as the first pediatric gastroenterologist.
In 1964, Dr. Samir Najjar became acting chairman and later chairman of the department for 20 years. The pediatric residency training was further developed into an organized, leading program. Neonatology was first introduced by Dr. Aida Khazen in 1969. The first immunologist in the region, Dr. Raif Geha, who had joined the department in 1974, performed the first bone marrow transplantation in the Middle East.
In 1970, the department established a fellowship of 3 years in Social and Preventive Pediatrics, sponsored by a Macey Foundation Grant, aimed at teaching and providing comprehensive health care for children and adolescents within their community, with special emphasis on the underprivileged. The program continued till 1975, with the active contribution of Dr Majd Ariss as member and instructor. During that period also, Dr. Sylvie Mansour contributed to the development of a psychology service in the department.
The Department of Pediatrics continued to serve as a leading institution in the Middle East, despite the eruption of the Lebanese civil war in 1975. It continued to function under the leadership of Dr. Samir Najjar, and with the efforts of Drs. Majd Ariss, Salim Firzli, Nabil Mounla, and Salim Musallam. Dr. Salim Firzli became acting chairman between 1986 and 1992. He played a key role in maintaining and developing the department during a most difficult period. Dr. Salman Mroueh joined the department in 1988 as its first pulmonologist and became acting chairman between 1992 and 1994.
In January 1995, Dr. Mohamad Mikati joined the department as professor and chairman. He was a pediatric neurologist and the first epileptologist in the country. He established and directed the first Adult and Pediatric Epilepsy Program and Epilepsy Monitoring Unit (EMU) in Lebanon and the region, for the evaluation and treatment of epilepsy patients. New subspecialties were introduced including inborn errors of metabolism, genetics, adolescent medicine, pediatric critical care and emergency medicine and epilepsy. The Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) was established in 1996 with 4 intensive care and 4 intermediate care pediatric beds.
The Children’s Heart Center was established in 1996 by Dr. Fadi Bitar. It continues to be a major center, caring for congenital heart disease in Lebanon, with a multidisciplinary team providing a full range of services from diagnostic techniques to interventional therapies and cardiac surgery.
In 1998, Dr. Khalid Yunis started the National Collaborative Perinatal Neonatal Network (NCPNN), the first research network of its kind in the Middle East, whose mission is to improve maternal and child health through the use of perinatal and neonatal information to promote best practices and effective policies.
The Children Cancer Center of Lebanon (CCCL), affiliated to St Jude Children’s Research Hospital, was established in 2002 under the direction of Dr. Miguel Abboud, through an agreement between St Jude Children’s Research Hospital, the Children’s Cancer Center of Lebanon Foundation and the American University of Beirut Medical Center.
It provides access to state of the art treatment for children with cancer regardless of their ability to pay.
In 2003, Dr. Majd Ariss established and directed the Adolescent Program. The name of the department was changed to the Department of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine in 2007, making it the first department in the Middle East to introduce the specialty of adolescent medicine as part of pediatrics and to carry that name. In 2009, the multidisciplinary Pediatric and Adolescent Weight Control Program was established in collaboration with the Departments of Psychiatry and Clinical Nutrition.
Dr. Ghassan Dbaibo established the Center for Infectious Diseases Research, an infectious disease research laboratory and a research core facility in coordination with basic science departments. The Primary Immune deficiency fund (PID) was established in 2012 to help cover tests and treatments of patients with PID.
On February 1, 2011, Dr Miguel Abboud was appointed as Chairman of the Department. A new strategic plan is being developed for the department along with the 2020 vision of the medical center, and eventually moving towards excellence in patient care and specialized services for children.
Dr Rose-Mary Boustany, world renowned pediatric neurologist and leader in the field of neurogenetics, established the neurogenetics program to provide diagnostic and treatment services to patients with neurological, genetic or neurogenetic disorders and other developmental disabilities, caring for children with special needs and their families with a multidisciplinary approach. In 2011, she established The AUBMC Special Kids Clinic to provide, multidisciplinary and comprehensive state-of-the-art care to children with special needs and optimize their intellectual and physical development in order to prepare them for full integration into school and society at large.
Also in 2011 the Inherited Metabolic Diseases (IMD) Program was established by Dr Pascale Karam. It is the first and only comprehensive program for inherited metabolic disorders in Lebanon. It provides clinical evaluation, metabolic diagnostic investigations and treatment for babies, children, adolescents and adults who have inborn errors of metabolism.
The Sickle cell disease (SCD) program was initiated by Dr Miguel Abboud to provide comprehensive care for children and adolescents with Sickle cell disorders and conduct research aiming to improve outcome and quality of life in children with this chronic disease. The SCD fund was established through concerted efforts of donors and is now assisting in the treatment of many patients with SCD.
The Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) was renovated by the end of 2011 to include 20 beds with state of the art equipment.
In 2015, new clinical programs were introduced including the hypothermia program and the
Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation for the care of children with encephalopathies.
The Developmental Care and Early Intervention Program (DCEIP) was established in 2012 and is headed by Dr. Lama Charafeddine offering individualized care for infants admitted to the NICU at AUBMC.
In 2012, the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit was renovated and the number of beds increased to six critical care beds (Pediatric Intensive Care Unit) and 5 intermediate care beds (Step Down Unit).
In 2016, the Neonatal Intensive Care Extended clinic was established to provide a comprehensive multidisciplinary follow up for NICU graduates and assess their neurodevelopmental, cognitive and behavioral outcomes.
The pediatric residency program was the first of its kind in the Middle East. It has since its inception trained countless pediatricians who went to assume leadership positions in Lebanon, the Middle East and the USA. Since 2006, it started to develop programs to comply with the standards of the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME). The accreditation of the program took place in December 2016.