What strategies do you have for the AUB Medical Center (AUBMC) moving forward?
The AUBMC 2020 Vision is a progressive transformational vision for the Medical Center. It is the first of its kind for the Medical Center, AUB in general, and in the region. It will take this entire institution, AUB and AUBMC, to a different level of excellence. This strategy began with Dean Sayegh when he joined AUBMC in July 2009, and set forth the AUBMC 2020 Vision. The focus is on a few clearly stated pillars and objectives, which are truly critical for the healthcare sector in Lebanon. We are setting a trend, and setting a standard about what it is that needs to happen to move forward, not only for Lebanon but also for the region. One of the pillars is to deliver patient-centered care. Regionally, most health care systems operate under the traditional style, whereby the various disciplines (physicians, nurses, and pharmacists, for example) work in silos. We have turned all this around with our multidisciplinary approach to care whereby various members of the treatment work together to deliver the best to our patients. We started with patient satisfaction surveys, and by offering service excellence training to our staff and physicians. We also opened up a Patient Affairs Office. The second pillar is related to the recruitment and retention of staff, which is a major strength for AUB. We added almost 50% to our clinical staff in a matter of one or two years. And almost all of them are trained in the US and were attracted back by our AUBMC 2020 Vision. Hence, many of these people trained in AUB, left to finish their training in the US, and then came back. A third and important pillar of the vision is our focus as an academic institution on teaching and research. We have quite a bit of external funding from outside Lebanon, particularly the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and this is to support a variety of research areas, some of it basic, meaning bench research, but much of it is clinical research.
Why do you feel you have found willing institutions and partners in Iraq rather than Saudi Arabia or Qatar?
In Iraq, the healthcare sector was almost totally destroyed during the war, the needs were tremendous, and the system could not cope with the demand. Therefore, people started going out of the market to places such as India, Turkey, Jordan, and Lebanon. Companies started looking to other countries to help rebuild their services. Many places do not have the comprehensive services we offer. Our Continuous Medical Education (CME) Office works with them and provides training for their staff. People trust us because we are stable, transparent, and have an extensive number of specialties, whereas, in other countries, they might have to go to several hospitals to do that. Here, it is all provided in one place.
Do you feel then that it could be harder in other countries to transplant this model?
It is a philosophy; however, the problem, in my judgment, is relying on the local population is critical for that model to be sustained. You cannot have a sustainable program with long-term performance when your leadership and a large number of the healthcare providers are going to change every three or four years. This is the challenge in many areas. Now, if you look at Saudi Arabia, it has managed to create stability in staff turnover. Saudi Arabia invested in ensuring people who were Saudi nationals went through the training, went abroad, and then came back.