20 Years of Breakthroughs




20 Years of Breakthroughs

Children’s Heart Center (CHC) at AUBMC Celebrates 20 Years of Breakthroughs and Innovations

The American University of Beirut Medical Center (AUBMC) celebrated the 20th anniversary of the Children’s Heart Center (CHC), one of the pioneering and most successful specialized congenital heart centers not only in Lebanon and the region but in the Middle East at large, treating some of the rarest and most complex cases. To mark the occasion, a press conference was held on Tuesday, September 15 at Issam Fares Lecture Hall, AUB to share information on the center’s milestones, outcomes and future plans. Exclusive empirical data, crucial for productivity in the domain of clinical and basic research, was revealed for the first time.

Dr. Fadi Bitar, Director and Professor – CHC and Associate Dean for External Medical Affairs, thanked the attendees and elaborated on the blueprints which led the center to success, namely the center’s mission, vision, achievements, commitments, and giving. He shared the various stages the center has undergone since its inception leading to today where the CHC is viewed leading resource in the field of congenital heart disease for the Lebanese and regional community. “When CHC was first incepted in 1995, the goal was to establish a comprehensive heart center dedicated towards children with congenital heart disease (CHD) in Lebanon. Twenty years later, the CHC has surpassed its aim and become one of the leading institutions and a beacon of hope in Lebanon, the region and beyond.”

With great pride, Dr. Bitar illustrated the growing volumes and pinpointed the surgical outcomes in which CHC outranked many of the world’s leading academic medical centers (Reference: Society of Thoracic Surgeons (STS)) with a success rate of around 98% for the year 2015.

In her speech, Ms. Joumana Atallah, Founder of the Brave Heart Fund, highlighted the organization’s role in supporting the CHC and helping more than 3000 children across the nation. “The Brave Heart Fund was established at the Children’s Heart Center at AUBMC to help cover the cost of surgeries and hospitalization for underprivileged children suffering from CHD, regardless of their race, sex or religion.” Ms. Atallah added, “We strongly believe that no child should die from heart disease because of a lack of funds.”

Dr. Ziyad Ghazzal, Deputy VP/Dean and Associate Dean for Clinical Affairs representing Executive VP for Medical Affairs and Global Strategy and Dean of the Faculty of Medicine, Dr. Mohamed H. Sayegh, echoed the importance of the CHC as a translation of the AUBMC 2020 Vision. He said, “By providing the highest standards of patient care, recruiting the highest caliber of surgeons and researchers, introducing new procedures and research breakthroughs in the field of pediatric cardiology to Lebanon and the region as well as providing financial support to underprivileged families of children with CHD in cooperation with the philanthropic Brave Heart Fund organization, the CHC has successfully realized the five paths of the AUBMC 2020 Vision.”

Ms. Rayan Hafez, a former patient at the CHC who is now a medical student, thanked the center for saving her life. She recounted the center’s support in helping her overcome her disease and inspiring her to become a doctor herself. “I am here today to thank the Children’s Heart Center on behalf of all patients.”

The Children’s Heart Center is a premier center that offers the most comprehensive inpatient and outpatient pediatric cardiac care services to infants, children and teens with congenital heart defects, diseases and other cardiac-related problems. It is dedicated to providing diagnostic and therapeutic techniques for the treatment of heart disease while promoting public awareness and governmental support for children with CHD in Lebanon and the region. During the past 20 years, the CHC has lead the way through innovation in research, and the provision of outstanding training for future doctors.

The Children’s Heart Center has a comprehensive, multidisciplinary team comprised of more than 50 physicians, nurses and allied health care providers. It includes subspecialties of leading pediatric cardiologists, pediatric surgeons, intensivists, anesthesiologists and cardiac nurses who provide advanced family-centered care for simple and complex heart conditions.

Major research breakthroughs achieved by the team include performing the first Lebanese non-surgical trans-catheter implantation of a pulmonary valve “Melody”, the discovery of a novel mutation in the GATA4 gene in patients with Tetralogy of Fallot and the discovery of the role of NFATCI gene which causes defects in the human heart valve.

The celebration was attended by AUB President Fadlo Khuri, members of the Board of Trustees at AUB, AUBMC faculty and staff, friends of the CHC, and several dignitaries. During the conference, speeches were also given by president of the Pan-Arab Congenital Heart Disease Association (PACHDA) and recorded video message from President of the AEPC. ​