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Rotation in Middle East proves successful
by Jonathan Ewart
Nour, a 2-year-old patient at the Children’s Cancer Center of Lebanon
(CCCL), searched the hallways of the hospital looking for Youssef
“Wein habibi, wein habibi,” she asked. Where’s my love, where’s my
right, confers with CCCL director Miguel Abboud, left, and AUBMC dean
of College of Medicine Nadim Cortas, in Lebanon.
These sentiments are much different than the one she expressed a month
earlier during her first meeting with Zeidan, a visiting fourth-year
M.D./Ph.D. medical student from MUSC.
To her mother’s embarrassment, Nour admonished Zeidan with expletives
cursing his father during her initial examination. “Pretty impressive
for a 2-year-old,” Zeidan said.
“Nevertheless, whenever her appointments came, she was a joy for the
whole center, with a large group of fans consisting of students, nurses
and doctors. As time passed, we became good friends,” he explained.
Zeidan, a native of Tyr, Lebanon, spent his first two years of medical
school at the American University of Beirut Medical Center (AUBMC). He
then moved to the United States to complete his medical degree and
begin work on his doctorate through the Medical Scientist Training
Program (MSTP) in the College of Graduate Studies.
Once a year he returns to Lebanon to visit with family and friends. As
part of this year’s trip, he participated in a monthlong rotation with
CCCL was established in 2002 as the cooperative effort of St. Jude
Children’s Research Hospital, the American University of Beirut Medical
Center and the CCCL Foundation, which is responsible for fundraising.
The center has modern facilities with inpatient and outpatient units
especially designed for children. It offers comprehensive care, with
radiation therapy, chemotherapy, bone marrow transplant, a limb-salvage
program, and busy hematology and sickle cell programs.
While there, Zeidan worked closely with Miguel Abboud, M.D., medical
director of CCCL; and Nadim Cortas, M.D., dean of the College of
Medicine at AUBMC. Before his position at the cancer center, Abboud was
a MUSC faculty member in the Department of Pediatrics for more than 10
“This was my first experience to see how medicine is practiced outside
of the U.S.,” said Zeidan. “I enjoyed the Middle-Eastern twist for
medical practice, particularly the social, humanitarian and holistic
aspects of the patient-doctor relationship.
“I was impressed with the amount of communication that took place with
other centers,” said Zeidan. “When there were tough cases that did not
fit with regular protocol, we held international video conferences with
St. Jude-Memphis and cancer centers in Morocco, Jordan and Saudi
The cancer center constantly works to overcome many challenges and
barriers. Although most patients are Lebanese, many travel long
distances to seek treatment at CCCL, because it is the region’s premier
pediatric cancer center.
“It often took many days and a lot of paperwork for them to travel from
Syria, Kuwait and Iraq,” Zeidan recalled.
Because of the socioeconomic hardships facing the region, medical care
often is too expensive for many people to afford. CCCL, however, has
fundraising programs in place to cover the cost of treatment for most
children whose families cannot afford to pay.
Operating on a finite budget always has its limitations, but to
Zeidan’s surprise, “Lack of funding was not an issue in turning sick
children down,” he said. “Amazingly, the center accommodated everyone.”
“On very rare occasions, four times in the last six years, when
patients with complicated diagnoses needed care not available at CCCL,
they were sent to St. Jude-Memphis for treatment,” Abboud said in an
e-mail from Lebanon. “The cost of transportation and treatment for some
of these cases were sponsored by St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.”
MUSC is reaching out to the region in a different way. In 2003,
spearheaded by Cortas and Perry Halushka, M.D., Ph.D., dean of the
College of Graduate Studies, a formal exchange agreement was signed
between the two medical centers opening MUSC’s Medical Scientist
Training Program to qualified AUBMC students who have the first two
years of medical school under their belt.
“The major goal was to ultimately train people to get dual degrees to
become academic physician-scientists with the intent that they would go
back to AUBMC to be future faculty members,” said Halushka, who also is
the MSTP director.
“We take one or two AUBMC students a year, and these are some of their
best students,” said Halushka. “They really want to learn to how to do
research and become faculty members, so this is an ideal program for
The first student graduated from the exchange program two years ago
with two more graduating next year, one of whom is Zeidan. He is
applying throughout the Southeast to residency training positions in
“If I had a chance to do another rotation at CCCL, I would not think
twice about it,” said Zeidan.
Friday, Oct. 10, 2008
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