The Vascular Medicine Program has just entered its 9th year as the academic arm of the Heart and Vascular Institute at AUBMC, supporting multidisciplinary research among various faculties at AUB to understand vascular disease and to pave the way for advancing health policies in Lebanon to circumvent the increasing mortality and morbidities caused by cardiovascular disease (CVD). Over the past period, we have seen progress in many areas and the initiation of more than 14 working groups. We have witnessed the progress of the Greater Beirut Area Cardiovascular Cohort working group with numerous publications highlighting the increasing prevalence of CVD risk factors and its association with dietary habits and genetic methylation. We await the results of the second wave of follow up with new interest focuses on mental health. Furthermore, the air pollutants and smoking effects on CVD working group continue to provide us with very informative findings including a pollution map of Beirut and correlations with coronary disease in addition to evidence showing a link between coronary calcium and water pipe smoking. Similarly, the CV technology unit managed to apply several artificial intelligence techniques in CVD research leading to the generation of several innovations. And it is during this year that the Women Heart Health Center – YADUNA, cared for patient number 5000, providing Lebanese women with the most advanced primary prevention CV care in the region using a coronary calcium score based algorithm. Moreover, our joint infrastructure model for clinical trials has led to participating in several multicenter clinical trials well positioning our faculty members to attract more.
In the coming period we will continue to move along the same pillars that guide us in all of the research groups:
- Our projects attend to subjects of national importance
- We work to generate the science needed for policies
- The solutions promoted in the policies need to be innovative and follow actionable strategies
- Where beneficial, we adopt cutting edge technology such as artificial intelligence
- All our efforts are based on teamwork that engages different expertise from AUB faculties
- We reach out to non-AUB members, which is vital to the success of our projects very early on to engage them in the planning and execution of our strategy
The above pillars are clearly exemplified by the work of the Pre-hospital care and disaster preparedness initiative led by members of the Faculty of Medicine and Faculty of Nursing. In this work the group is focusing on the problem of out of hospital arrest in Lebanon. They generated the data showing that the survival rate of out of hospital arrest in Lebanon is very low compared to USA and European countries. Furthermore, the group surveyed physicians, emergency responders, nurses and college students showing: what guides the CPR practice currently performed; what barriers are preventing a better practice; and the willingness of the community members to learn CPR and perform CPR when needed. This led to advocating regulations needed to improve the practice of CPR and promoted jointly with the Lebanese Society of Cardiology and Lebanese Society of Emergency Medicine. This is all done while remaining cognizant of the cultural and social determinants of the diseases we are tackling because of our pragmatic understanding of the Lebanese community at large and the need for our messages to be well received by our community.
The success metrics at the VMP are not restricted to the number of publications generated nor the impact factor of the journals in which we publish. We tremendously value action that impacts the practice leading to reducing mortality and morbidities associated with CVD. We are taught that counting is a political act that reflects the biases and values of the people counting in what they choose to count and how they count it. Saving lives is what counts to us! This is what my predecessor Dr. Kamal Badr instilled and what we continue to aspire toward.
Hussain Isma'eel, MD, FSCCT, FESC
Associate Professor of Clinical Medicine
Director, Vascular Medicine Program
Division of Cardiology, American University of Beirut