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August 23, 2012

Overseas heart surgery team reaches out to Egypt

Twenty-eight members of the Loma Linda University Medical Center overseas heart surgery team recently traveled to Alexandria, Egypt, to demonstrate a number of cardiothoracic procedures to that nation's physicians and surgeons. They also conducted a course on pediatric critical care to update Egyptian doctors, residents, and nurses on current best practices.

The Loma Linda team, which included medical, technical, and administrative support personnel, was in Egypt from April 26 to May 11. Members of the Loma Linda delegation included:

  • Richard H. Hart, M.D., president of Loma Linda University
  • Leonard L. Bailey, M.D., chair of surgery at Loma Linda University Medical Center, surgeon-in-chief at Loma Linda University Children's Hospital, and pioneering infant heart transplant specialist
  • Shamel A. Abd-Allah, M.D., chief of pediatric critical care at Loma Linda University Children's Hospital and associate professor of pediatrics at Loma Linda University School of Medicine
  • Aijaz Hashmi, M.D., a cardiologist at Loma Linda University Medical Center and Loma Linda University Children's Hospital who specializes in adult congenital heart diseases and pediatric cardiology
  • Nahidh Hasaniya, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of cardiovascular and thoracic surgery, and associate professor of pediatrics, at Loma Linda University School of Medicine
  • Jim Eguchi, M.D., assistant professor of pediatrics at the Loma Linda University School of Medicine and pediatric critical care physician at Loma Linda University Children's Hospital
  • Mudit Mathur, M.D., assistant professor of critical care medicine at the Loma Linda University School of Medicine. Along with Dr. Abd-Allah, Dr. Mathur taught the last two days of the pediatric critical care course.
  • Jerry Daly, M.A., M.S.L.S., associate director of the Global Health Institute at Loma Linda University
  • Jan Zumwalt, M.S., M.B.A., associate director of the Global Health Institute at Loma Linda University

According to Adam Shaban, M.D., a physician licensed in Egypt and studying for his California licensing boards in Loma Linda, the team performed 12 to 14 difficult procedures--surgeries that had seldom been performed in Egypt before--on infants. An average of 10 to 15 Egyptian medical students or residents observed the operations. He notes that the overseas heart surgery team last visited Egypt in 2008.

"The potential for educating the next wave of Egyptian physicians and surgeons was tremendous," Dr. Shaban said. He pointed out that pediatric cardiology surgery is not an established specialty in Egypt.

"Here in the U.S., we have many luxuries that we take for granted," he said. "But in Egypt, adult cardiologists routinely operate on pediatric patients. We're trying to change that."

For his part, Dr. Abd-Allah made sure the pediatric critical care course was not taken lightly.

"The students had textbooks and he gave them an exam at the end of the course," Dr. Shaban said. "They had to pay attention and a lot of them did well."

One of the highlights of the trip was a banquetin honor of the Loma Linda delegation sponsored by Al-Orman, a charitable organization dedicated to eradicating poverty, and improving medical and social conditions in the Middle East. Dr. Shaban pointed out that Dr. Hart was able to attend the banquet.

"Although his schedule did not allow him to be with us the entire time, he was able to meet with Osama Ibrahim, M.D., president of the University of Alexandria; Ashraf Saad, M.D., dean of the Faculty of Medicine; and Khaled Karara, M.D., chair of the cardiothoracic surgery program," Dr. Shaban said. "They presented medals to Dr. Hart and other members of the team."

While Dr. Shaban views international cooperation as an important way for Loma Linda University Medical Center to share its mission "to make man whole" with individuals in other parts of the world, he noted that for himself and other trip participants, the greatest reward was seeing what great improvements their work made in the lives of their little patients.

"Each patient became like family to us," he said. "We weren't going to rest until the patient walked out the door. That was something that amazed me. Without these operations, the babies would have had short-lived, poor-quality lives. Watching them leave, knowing they could now look forward to normal, healthy lives, was just incredible!

"We were also reunited with some of the patients from the previous trip in 2008," he said. "To see them four years later, living healthy lives, was a true blessing. It was great to learn that the Egyptian physicians and surgeons had successfully performed so many complex procedures that we taught them on previous trips. They have now trained at least four generations of residents, so you can imagine how many people have already benefited. It's very exciting to be part of this!"

This story was originally published in the July 27, 2012, edition of Today.

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