April 03, 2024

Celebrating National Arab American Heritage Month

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AAHeritageIn recognition of National Arab American Heritage Month, the Heersink School of Medicine Office for Diversity and Inclusion is proudly commemorating the contributions and achievements of Arab Americans in the field of medicine and science.

Arab Americans bring a rich cultural heritage and significant impact to the health care and scientific discovery.

According to the Arab American Institute, there are an estimated 3.7 million Arab Americans living in the U.S. with diverse backgrounds from 22 Arab countries. Arab Americans have excelled in various fields of medicine, contributing to advancements in healthcare and improving patient outcomes.

The Arab America Foundation stated that the President of the United States recognized the month of April as National Arab American Heritage Month with a special commemorative letter to their organization in 2023.

"By celebrating Arab American Heritage Month, we commemorate the unique perspectives, experiences, and expertise that enrich our medical and research communities," said Leisha Hultgren, Ph.D., director of the Office for Diversity and Inclusion. “We appreciate their impact to advancing hope and healing, and honor their contributions throughout April.”

Highlighting a historical contribution to the field of Surgery

Arab Americans have made many contributions to the fields of medicine and science. One groundbreaking achievement lies in the field of Surgery.

The History Channel notes that Michael DeBakey—whose lineage was Lebanese—and his colleagues developed special units dedicated to providing surgical care for soldiers who were wounded near the frontlines. The units were deployed during World War II and in the Korean and Vietnam wars.

“DeBakey’s surgical contributions continued for the next several decades and included performing the first successful removal of a blockage of the carotid artery (1953), developing the concept behind coronary bypass surgery (1963), pioneering the field of telemedicine with the first demonstration of open-heart surgery transmitted overseas via satellite (1965), and being the first to use a partial artificial heart (1966),” the History channel wrote.

Three ways to celebrate Arab American Heritage Month

To commemorate Arab American Heritage Month, the Heersink School of Medicine Office for Diversity and Inclusion put together three ways to support and celebrate in April.

1. Read a book by an Arab American author

The Arab American Book Award List recognizes Arab American authors who have won the annual award, and notes honorable mentions, spanning from 2007-2023. 

The fiction award winners for 2023 were “The Stardust Thief,” by Chelsea Abdullah and “If an Egyptian Cannot Speak English,” by Noor Naga.

The nonfiction winners for 2023 were “Muslims of the Heartland,” by Edward E. Curtis IV and “Hadha Baladuna: Arab American Narratives of Boundary and Belonging,” edited by Ghassan Zeineddine, Nabeel Abraham, and Sally Howell.

Check out more winners in the categories of Poetry, Young Adult, and Children’s literature.

2. Watch the Arab Film Series

This year, from April 25-28 and June 27-30, a curated, virtual program of contemporary and classic films will be shown by the Arab American National Museum, Arab Film and Media Institute, and ArteEast.

Each series will be followed by discussions with Arab, Arab American, and diasporic filmmakers. The series is free with a small suggestion donation and will be streamed online only.

Learn more about the film series.

3. Explore a one-of-a-kind Arab American oral history project

Hosted by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, the project, “Voices from the past: Arab American oral histories,” was a decades-long passion by Historian Alixa Naff, Ph.D.

She used her scholarly expertise to document the lives of everyday men and women who left their homes in Lebanon and Syria and traveled to the U.S. to start a new life. At the time of its conception, in the 1960s, documentaries and oral history projects were innovative and new. Naff’s work recorded the experiences of a generation “in their own words.”

Read the full story.