*Pictured above from left to right: Dr. Michael DeBakey, Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, Dr. Elias Zerhouni, and Dr. Huda Zoghbi

As we celebrate National Arab American Heritage Month, we want to recognize several of the most prominent Arab American healthcare professionals who have made groundbreaking contributions to the practice of medicine. Some of the best doctors in America are of Arab descent and have made lifesaving discoveries.

Arab Americans Shaping Modern-Day Medicine

These are just some of the doctors who have shaped modern-day medicine:

  • Michael DeBakey, MD (September 7, 1908 – July 11, 2008) – Dr. Michael DeBakey was a Lebanese-American cardiovascular surgeon who invented ventricular assist devices and the roller pump. He was also a pioneer in surgical procedures such as coronary bypass, aneurysm repair, and endarterectomy, a procedure that opens blocked blood vessels and removes plaque from affected arteries.
  • Hunein Maassab, PhD (June 11, 1926 – February 1, 2014) – Dr. Hunein Maassab was a Syrian-American epidemiology professor and scientist who invented FluMist, an influenza vaccine administered in the form of nasal spray. Thanks to Dr. Maassab’s tireless pursuit to find a safe live vaccine, he was able to discover a solution that helped reduce infection and death rates from a preventable virus.
  • Elias Zerhouni, MD (April 12, 1951 – )– Dr. Zerhouni is an Algerian-American radiologist, biomedical engineer and scientist. Dr. Zerhouni invented techniques using diagnostic imaging to diagnose cardiovascular disease and cancer. He has also served under two presidential administrations as an advisor and as Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
  • Huda Zoghbi, MD (1954 – ) – Dr. Huda Zoghbi is a Lebanese-born American geneticist responsible for discovering that Rett syndrome and spinocerebellar ataxias are genetic disorders. She has also made important discoveries in neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Rana El Kaliouby, PhD (1978 – ) – Dr. Rana El Kaliouby is an Egyptian-American scientist pioneering the development of technology to assist those with autism who struggle with emotional communication. While working at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, she and her team developed the emotional hearing aid and emotion-reading glasses, devices that help autistic patients read and respond to facial expressions when interacting with others.
  • Mona Hanna-Attisha, MD (December 9, 1976 ) – Dr. Hanna-Attisha is a pediatrician who was pivotal in bringing attention to the Flint Water Crisis and the impact it had on children’s blood lead levels. Thanks to her research and bravery, thousands of Flint residents were saved from further exposure to contaminated water and now live healthier lives.

Recognizing Those Who Help Others

Without these incredible doctors, we would not have the medical knowledge to perform successful coronary bypass surgeries, or breakdown barriers of communication for those with autism. For others, they may not even be here today, if it weren’t for the lifesaving technology that detected a cancerous tumor, or a courageous doctor that spoke up in the face of adversity and denial of a water crisis.

These men and women have made history, making discoveries that have helped Americans overcome many health conditions. They serve as an inspiration to all. This National Arab American Heritage Month we honor and celebrate these individuals who have dedicated their lives to helping others.

Photo credits

Dr. DeBakey By University of Houston Digital Library – http://digital.lib.uh.edu/u?/p15195coll6,256, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php

Dr. Hanna-Attisha By HappyPenguinista – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php

Dr. Zerhouni By NIH History Office from Bethesda – Elias Zerhouni, M.D., became the 15th director of the National Institutes of Health in 2002., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php

Dr. Zoghbi By eLife Sciences Publications, Ltd – http://www.elifesciences.org/about/elife-community/editorial-leadership/huda-zoghbi/, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php