With a mission to deliver exceptional and comprehensive quality care to patients across Lebanon and the Middle East region, outstanding education and training, and leadership in innovative research, the American University of Beirut Medical Centre was established around 150 years ago. Its medical center (AUBMC) is an academic institution passionately dedicated to offer state-of-the- art comprehensive healthcare system to improve the well-being of the communities of Lebanon and the region.
This is further enhanced by offering teaching programs for medical students as well as postgraduate trainees in numerous medical specialties. In addition, the Center promotes basic science and clinical research and development in its premises. As a matter of fact, research productivity by the medical scientists at AUBMC is amongst the highest in the nation and the region.
A Stellar Leadership
In order to shed more light on how AUBMC is enabling best care possible, Insights Care interviewed Dr. Ghazi Zaatari, the Interim Dean of the Faculty of Medicine at AUBMC.
Dr. Zaatari is a member of several local, regional, and international pathology societies. He holds residency in pathology and laboratory medicine at the John Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore- US and fellowship in surgical pathology at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York.
Dr. Zaatari has also held a faculty position at Emory University in Atlanta (1982-1986) and served as associate director of Anatomic Pathology at Methodist Hospitals of Dallas (1986- 1995) before returning to AUB in 1995. Apart from this, he is also an author of numerous publications, book chapters, and a book of pathology.
Staying Ahead of the Curve
To be novel in its healthcare approaches, AUBMC recruits topnotch physicians who are highly trained and certified professionals. They bring the most advanced levels of experience and expertise in unique sub-specialties across multiple disciplines from some of the largest and most reputable western academic medical centers. This team of physicians and other staff members are dedicated to providing high quality innovative patientcentered care according to best international standards of accreditation.
In this spirit AUBMC is currently the only medical institution in the Middle East with five international accreditations for its clinical and educational programs:
The Joint Commission International (JCI), Magnet (Magnet Recognition Program®), the College of American Pathologists (CAP), the American Council for Graduate Medical Education-International (ACGME-I) and the Joint Accreditation Committee for EBMT and ISCT Europe (JACIE). In addition, it holds the honor of the Meritorious Outcomes with the American College of Surgeons attesting to its superior standards in patient-centered care, nursing, and pathology/laboratory services.
Dr. Zaatari states that it is quite evident that new technologies have opened a new era in the way one practices medicine. Today, the biotechnology has forced itself on the practice of medicine in so many ways. AUBMC is striving to teach this new technology to its students.
He asserts, “Things have changed a long way from the time I was a medical student in this institution to the time today when the new advancements have occurred at all levels and disciplines. It is practically a must now. This technology is expensive and what we face in developing countries like ours is to create the balance between what we can afford and what is useful. But that has not in any way blocked our effort to acquire the best technology possible to introduce to our educational programs as well as to the client services; you cannot offer the best care today without such technology.”
Undertaking Necessary Measures
Currently, Lebanon is not only facing the problem of the COVID-19 pandemic, but also the financial and monetary crises that stormed the country. In addition, the recent tragic explosion at Beirut port has worsened the conditions of the country.
To cope up with COVID-19 pandemic at the clinical level, AUBMC has strategically utilized the size of its medical campus to designate a freestanding building to the care of COVID-19 patients; it is away from the main buildings of the Medical Center where regular patients are admitted. This building includes both ambulatory and inpatient services. The ambulatory service, also known as the flu clinic, takes care of all patients who are coming in with symptoms that are suggestive of the diagnosis.
Nearby, it has a separate area to carry tests for the individuals who are seeking testing for the purpose of travel or other indications such preoperative testing or in preparation for procedures. Secondly, it also has a drive-thru service right next to the facility. As for inpatient service, this dedicated building has four floors, which include intensive care units to admit patients with severe complications as well as those with less severe illness. The building houses an operating room, dedicated to those COVID patients who need to go for surgery.
In worst-case scenario of the pandemic, especially with unpredictable surges in the country, AUBMC may have to utilize the regular hospital beds in the main building; in the meanwhile, we are striving to avoid such situation by coordinating with other healthcare facilities in the city.
For the educational programs it undertakes, AUB & AUBMC are relying on online and remote education to its medical students and trainees. However, there are situations where we need to bring them for face-to-face instruction and education, especially for those require direct patient exposure for adequate education.
To cope up with financial crisis of the country, AUBMC is going through belt-tightening measures, and it is restricting capital expenditures to the most needed and required equipment. The leadership has to be very selective and prioritize the new equipment and technology that the Medical Center needs to acquire during this critical period.
Being a private non-profit organization, AUB & AUBMC have some independent funding and financial resources that enable it to carry on with much of its routine work, but right now, it is in a determined survival mode that would allow it to carry on with its mandate of offering best care possible and also sustaining its mission for the future.