American College Of Surgeons - Inspiring Quality: Highest Standards, Better Outcomes

International Exchange Scholar Sees Similar Residency Challenges in Lebanon Amongst Unfamiliar War Challenges

David Hampton in Lebanon

Everything I learned about the modern day Middle East was through my college textbooks and the nightly news. Even though I had numerous friends and acquaintances who emigrated from the region, I never fully appreciated their stories. I was fortunate to receive the RAS-ACS International Exchange Program. Though there were other countries to select—Italy, Ireland, and Australia—Lebanon was my first choice. Compared to my European and East Asia travels, this location was unique. Aside from cultural roots that predate most Western countries, the early Phoenicians advanced the fields of science and engineering rivaling the neighboring countries.

I was hosted by Dr. Jamal Hoballah, Chairman of the Department of Surgery at the American University in Beirut (AUB) Medical Center. Over the course of my experience, I participated in daily patient rounds, attended clinic, and observed several surgical procedures. Daily hospital activities were conducted in English. Even though Arabic is the predominant language in Lebanon, AUB is an American institution. To my envy, most of the surgical residents I encountered spoke three languages: Arabic, English, and French. Similar to my home institution catering to multiple nationalities, cultures, and religious affiliations, the AUB surgical residents encountered the same obstacles, which made delivering care challenging. However, the constant threat of large-scale violence was not something I encountered daily during residency. Due to this concern, the basement, a fortified location whose entrance was manned by security services, housed all the AUB operating suites. Aside from the differences in our hospital’s architecture, the AUB surgical residents and I had similar educational and career concerns: conforming to the 80-hour work week, logging major cases, obtaining a good fellowship, and finding time for family members.

During my visitation, I attended The XVIII European Society of Surgery meeting and The 17th Spring Annual Congress of the Lebanese Society of General Surgery. This joint conference was an effort to increase Lebanese surgeons’ exposure to the European surgical community. It was a pleasure to meet the European residents, to see their work, and to present my research.

The cultural highlight of my experience was visiting the Mohammad Al-Amin Mosque in Martyrs’ Square. The structure was funded by Rafic Baha El Deen Al Hariri, the former Prime Minister of Lebanon, who was, unfortunately, assassinated in February 2005. He spent his political career ending civil strife and re-establishing his country’s financial standing. His personal story, sense of nationalism, and dedication to the populous, paralleled many American politicians and philanthropists activities.

Representing the American College of Surgeons (ACS) overseas was an honor. This one-week opportunity piqued my interest to return and to learn more about their approaches to patient care. Continued resident exchanges through the ACS will strengthen our country’s academic and professional ties with overseas institutions such as AUB. Even though there continues to be cultural and political differences between our countries, the passion for surgery and the well-being of our patients were common themes.

About the Author

David Hampton, MD, is a surgical critical care fellow at the University of Maryland.