Dubai: 'Arab Nobel' for medicine conferred on US-based Saudi heart surgeon

Just as the world celebrates scientists with the Nobel Prize, we celebrate Arab scientists with this award, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed said

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Angel Tesorero

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Dr. Hani Najm. — Supplied photo
Dr. Hani Najm. — Supplied photo

Published: Sat 25 Nov 2023, 5:41 PM

Last updated: Sat 25 Nov 2023, 9:42 PM

A Saudi specialist heart surgeon based in the US – who has performed numerous successful heart surgeries, including a lifesaving operation on a foetus inside a mother’s womb – has been named on Saturday as the inaugural winner of the Great Arab Minds Award for Medicine.

Dr. Hani Najm from Saudi Arabia, head of the Department of Adult and Pediatric Cardiac Surgery at Cleveland Clinic Hospital in Ohio, US, was commended for his distinguished medical achievement.

Launched last year by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of UAE and Ruler of Dubai, the Great Arab Minds initiative is aimed at looking for and recognising exceptional Arab talents in the fields of medicine, engineering, economics, literature, and arts. It is dubbed as Arab world’s version of the Nobel Prize given to notable individuals “who have conferred the greatest benefit to humankind.”

Announcing the award on X, Sheikh Mohammed tweeted: “Today, we proudly announce the first winner of the Great Arab Minds Award for Medicine, Dr. Hani Najm from Saudi Arabia, who serves as Chair of Pediatric and Congenital Heart Surgery at Cleveland Clinic, Ohio, US, in recognition of his outstanding contributions and innovations in his field, having performed over 10,000 successful heart operations on patients with complex heart conditions.”

“Just as the world celebrates scientists with the Nobel Prize, we celebrate Arab scientists with this award — the Arab Nobel,” he added.

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Life-saving surgeries

Among the thousands of successful heart surgeries performed by Dr. Najm, one outstanding medical wonder was the successful removal of tumour attached to the heart of a 26-week-old foetus inside his mother’s womb.

It was done at Cleveland Clinic two years ago and was only the second and very rare and complex lifesaving fetal surgery of its kind. That time, Dr. Najm, commented: “I am happy that I was able to remove, along with the surgical team at Cleveland Clinic, a cancerous tumour from the heart of the foetus in his mother’s womb and return the foetus to the womb, to complete the pregnancy until birth."

The American mother continued with her pregnancy for another 10 weeks and delivered by C-Section a healthy baby boy weighing 2.83kg on July 13, 2021.

Self-expanding heart "valve"

Another medical achievement by Dr Najm is the development of a gradually self-expanding heart valve for children that spared them for the need for repeated surgery for valve replacement. He is also recognised for developing a novel surgical technique called ‘ventricular switch’ to repair complex congenital heart conditions in children.

Best outcomes

In his bio, Dr Najm said: “I believe my greatest strength as a heart surgeon is my ability to offer the whole spectrum of heart surgery from the first day of life all through adulthood, including procedures that range from simple to the most complex, all with the best outcomes.”

Dr Najm received his medical degree from King Saud University’s College of Medicine. He also studied general surgery at the University of Ottawa in Canada, as well as cardiothoracic surgery at the University of Toronto. He completed fellowship programme at the Pediatric Cardiac Surgery at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. He holds a master’s degree in cardiovascular sciences from the University of Toronto.

Dr Najm has received several awards for his contributions to medicine, including the Order of King Abdul Aziz of the First Degree in 2008.

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