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Heritage Month: Arab Americans in Medicine

posted on: Apr 8, 2016

BY: Patrick Nahhas/Contributing Writer

There is a well-known stereotype that if you’re an Arab American, you have at least one relative or close friend who is working in the field of medicine. Some believe the opportunity of wealth available in the field is what attracts Arab Americans, but in reality, the reason is mostly attributed to family tradition. Arab Americans have been entering the field of medicine and making major strides for at least a century now.

One of the most prominent Arab American doctors is Algerian radiologist and medical researcher, Dr. Elias A. Zerhouni. In 2002, President George W. Bush appointed Dr. Zerhouni as director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), where he served for six years. During his tenure at the NIH, Zerhouni developed the NIH Roadmap – a program supported by Congress that identified opportunities for research, re-rengineering, and pathways to discovery.

Another significant medical figure is Dr. Nawal M. Nour, a Sudanese American graduate of Brown and Harvard Universities. Dr. Nour is known for being the founder and director of the African Women’s Health Practice at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston – the only one of its kind in the country. At age 37, she was the recipient of the MacArthur Foundation Fellowship Award, often called the “Genius Award,” for her dedication to African women’s medical empowerment.

No discussion on the field of medicine can be without the mention of Dr. Michael Ellis DeBakey, the world-renowned Lebanese American cardiac surgeon and medical educator. The late Dr. DeBakey is a distinguished doctor and innovator whose medical inventions helped many doctors save countless lives.

These three examples are just some of many that are improving the medical field. The number of local achievements by thousands of Arab American doctors across the country is too many to count. These impressive doctors have taken after their Arab ancestors, who, since the Middle Ages, have been pioneering discoveries, such as using poppy in morphine – a centuries-old discovery still widely used today.

Today. Arab American doctors practice up to 35 different fields of medicine from Oncology to Allergy Immunology in nearly every state. So while there is a stereotype about Arab Americans as doctors, it is a stereotype to embrace and take pride in because without these doctors, the U.S. may not have as many medical advances that the nation relies on today.

See all articles about National Arab American Heritage Month here.