US-based Saudi doctor is first winner of Great Arab Minds awards

Dr Hani Najm honoured by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid for innovating new ways of operating on patients with complex heart conditions

Dr Hani Najm is credited with developing a gradually self-expanding heart valve for children, which spares them the need for repeated surgery for valve replacement. Image:   Cleveland Clinic
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A US-based Saudi surgeon has been named as the first award winner of the Great Arab Minds initiative.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, said Dr Hani Najm won the Great Arab Minds Award in Medicine because he innovated new ways of performing operations on patients with complex heart conditions.

The Great Arab Minds initiative was set up by Sheikh Mohammed in January last year, to identify the brightest minds in the Arab world and harness their ideas.

Dr Najm, who works in Cleveland, Ohio, was honoured "in recognition of his outstanding contributions and pioneering innovations in the field of heart surgery for children and adults", the award announcement said.

The congenital cardiac surgery specialist has successfully performed thousands of operations, the announcement added.

Dubai's Museum of the Future is a base for the Dh100 million ($27.22 million) Great Arab Minds programme, which is overseen by four cabinet ministers.

"A year ago, we launched the Great Arab Minds initiative with the aim of honouring Arab scientists and celebrating Arab minds, and motivating Arab creatives in sectors such as medicine, engineering, economics, literature, the arts, and others," Sheikh Mohammed said on X, formerly known as Twitter.

"Just as the world celebrates scientists with the Nobel Prize, we celebrate Arab scientists with this award to be the Arab Nobel."

He said Dr Najm has specialised in cardiac surgery for children and adults and "developed innovative and exceptional surgical practices through 10,000 operations".

"All the best to Dr Hani Najm and to all the distinguished Arab doctors who contribute to the development of medical knowledge and contribute to alleviating human pain and develop, innovate and pave new ways for those who come after them," he said.

Dr Najm is credited with developing a gradually self-expanding heart valve for children, which spares them the need for repeated surgery for valve replacement, the award announcement said.

"Dr Najm is also recognised for developing a novel surgical technique, termed the "ventricular switch", to repair one of the most complex congenital heart conditions in children," the announcement added.

"Dr Najm was the lead heart surgeon in a large team that performed a rare and complex lifesaving surgery to remove a heart tumour in a 26-week-old foetus."

After graduating from King Saud University, Riyadh with a medical degree, Dr Najm took up cardiothoracic residency at Ottawa Heart Institute, the Toronto Hospital and the Hospital for Sick Children.

He served as consultant adult and paediatric cardiac surgeon from 1999 until 2015 at King Abdulaziz Cardiac Centre in Riyadh. In 2016, he was appointed chair of of Pediatric Cardiothoracic Surgery at Cleveland Clinic.

Dh100 million budget

The initiative has a fund of Dh100 million to support and empower innovative and talented Arabs, providing opportunities for success, creativity, and achievement in their respective countries.

It is intended to curb the growing trend of brain-drain in Arab nations by encouraging talented individuals to stay in their home countries and make the most of the available resources.

The intitiative seeks to help Arab thought leaders, scholars, and scientists translate their ideas into real-life breakthroughs and solutions.

It also strives to empower a cluster of Arab scientists and thinkers, as well as build a network of exceptional talent in various fields.

Six categories

Candidates are required to meet specific criteria to qualify for the Great Arab Minds Awards.

They are required to show a constructive representation of Arab identity in their community, display creative and inventive ideas, demonstrate proficiency in their field and serve as a positive influence and mentor for Arab youth.

A judging committee has been formed to evaluate nominations in six categories, which are natural sciences, architecture and design, engineering and technology, economics, literature and arts and medicine.

KPMG, with sector-based specialists, have been commissioned to oversee the selection stage.

Updated: November 25, 2023, 12:40 PM