Thursday, 15 October 2015 15:43

2015 Foedus Award Acceptance Speech

June 26, 2015
Rome, Italy

Published in Cancer

March 24, 2006
Plaza Hotel, Rome

I would like to begin by thanking my friend, Mario Baccini and Foedus for the great honor they have just bestowed upon me. I am not sure I deserve it, but I certainly accept it with great joy and I promise to work hard to earn it. This is a moment of joy and I shall cherish it for the rest of my life. Tonight, I am accompanied by my wife, Wedad, who has been my only wife for the last 33 years, and one of my secret achievements is the fact that she has not yet run away. I owe her a great deal, and without her I would not have been here tonight. Also with me here is my eldest brother, Elie and an extended family of friends. My life friend, George Zakhem, and his wife Lisa, have come from London; Samia Shami has come from Beirut, Lebanon; Peter Indari has come all the way from Sidney, Australia, and Dr. Khalid Jabboury has come from Houston. Also, I am very glad to see that many of my great friends from Italy are also here tonight. I want to thank each and every one of them. Last, but not least, I wish to thank the "unknown soldiers", my great staff at the Salem Oncology Centre.

Tonight is the opportune time for me to admit in public my love story with Italy. I am not only in love with the beauty of the land, but more importantly, I am in love with the beauty and the creativity of its people. This is a country where you make real friends for life. This is a country where you make memories you cherish forever. This is a country that gives life meaning. I cannot tell you how proud I feel to have so many friends who are Italians. In addition to being the land of beauty and art, Italy has produced many great scientists, and it has been a privilege for me to know and befriend two of these scientists who are in cancer medicine and research: Drs. Gianni Bonadonna and Umberto Veronesi. 

Ladies and Gentlemen, I dedicated the last 38 years of my life chasing a vicious enemy, cancer. Every single day has been a continuing flux between pain and joy, but as you surely know, pain always weighs more heavily than joy. In my daily war against this disease, I have frequently failed, but I have occasionally succeeded. Failure has taught me humility. It has also taught me perseverance, and that nothing can be achieved without the will to push forward and the will to advance. The greatest lesson is to never give up. Success has taught me that nothing is impossible; that the capabilities of the human mind are only limited by our own imagination; that curing one human with cancer is like curing all humanity. In my professional life, I have always believed that research is the key to the advancement of knowledge and science. Without it, knowledge and the sciences remain stagnant. Research is, in fact, the salvation of science.  I must admit that I have been very privileged to have had the opportunity to conduct research. We should never forget that the ultimate objective of research is not only to expand knowledge, but more importantly to expand the human mind, which is the miracle of life. Many years from now, students of medical sciences will remember me as the man who first explored the relationship between infection and cancer. That cancer produces infection is common knowledge, but for infection to cause cancer had been considered a heresy until a few years ago. My research on infection as a cause of cancer began at the American University of Beirut 35 years ago and I continued this research at the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston and currently at St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital. In the first few years of my research, I was astonished and thrilled at the same time to find how a chronic repeated infection in the small intestine eventually leads to a process of inflammation, which if left untreated, would deteriorate into frank malignancy and cancer. More significantly, I was thrilled to find that if the inflammation was treated with antibiotics before it becomes cancer, the whole process leading to cancer would be reversed. This research work, which has been recently recognized by the Nobel Prize Committee, was first acclaimed by the Italian Association of Pathologists in 1981 in a conference which was held in Lecce, South Italy. This was the first international recognition for my work. 

In September 1991, when I left the MD Anderson Cancer Center and established the Salem Oncology Center in Houston, I made a new friendship with an American of Italian descent, Dr. Paolo Angelini. Paolo referred the first Italian patient to me and an additional bond was established with Italy. This time, the bond was not related to research, but was related to Italian men and women who were afflicted by cancer. Since then, I have treated more than 500 patients from this beautiful country.  Some of these patients have been cured and a few of them are here tonight. Ladies and Gentlemen, I must admit that there is no pleasure or joy that supercedes curing a cancer patient. Giving in any form is, of course, beautiful, but I have learned that the highest level of giving is to give life. This is why I have always said that the relationship between the cancer doctor his patient is partially divine. 

The next milestone in my love story with Italy is when President Scalfaro bestowed upon me the honor of Commendatore of the Order to the Merit of the Italian Republic (OMR). I received this honor at a ceremony held in Houston on the National Day of Italy, June 4, 1998. My beloved friend, Sebastiano Salvatore, then the Consul General of Italy in Houston, handed me the award.    Since then, the bond has become much stronger and my Centre has established a major network of doctors and friends in Italy in an attempt to provide the Italian cancer patients with the very best possible medical care, and thus, the best chances for cure.

As we witness the emergence of the new era of globalization, I would like to emphasize that the need for globalization is most urgent and most important in medicine, as medicine transcends geographical, political, religious and ideological boundaries.  Its target is universal; it is man, irrespective of who this man is and where he lives. I do not believe that there is a profession which is more selfless and more noble than that of healing and curing the sick. To me, it has been a great privilege to be a cancer doctor. One of the greatest challenges in the 21st Century is to make sure that medicine will never deteriorate to a job, because in essence medicine is a mission; a calling. Also, we should make sure that we will never look at the sick as a client, or a consumer, or a disease entity. The sick is a weak, but sacred human who should only be treated with dignity, love and knowledge. After 41 years of being a doctor, of which 38 years were devoted to cancer medicine and research, I have come to believe that all mankind is my family, that my church is my clinic and that my sincerest prayer is my work. I am closest to God when I am closest to my cancer patient. 

May God bless you, bless the world and bless this beautiful country, Italy. Thank you.

Published in Cancer

HOUSTON (October 16, 2007) - Philip A. Salem, M.D., Director of Cancer Research of the Cancer Center at St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital, received a $200,000 research grant from the American Cancer Society in Dallas, Texas, on September 29, 2007. Presented at the Society's annual Cattle Baron's Ball in Dallas, the grant will support research programs at St. Luke's Cancer Center.

Dr. Salem expressed appreciation to the American Cancer Society and Cattle Baron's Ball members by saying, "In my professional life, I have always believed that research is the key to the advancement of knowledge and science. Without it, knowledge and the sciences remain stagnant. I am very privileged to have the opportunity to conduct research and we should never forget that the ultimate objective of research is not only to expand knowledge, but more importantly to expand the human mind, which is the miracle of life. I am most honored to receive this generous grant for cancer research at St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital."

Programs at the Cancer Center that will benefit from this grant include:

  • Clinical trials relating to the treatment of pancreatic and ovarian cancers, exploring the role of genetic therapy and immunotherapy;
  • Breast cancer prevention;
  • Studies on the combination of radiation therapy and genetic treatment for prostate cancer - a relatively new approach to treatment with extremely encouraging preliminary findings;
  • Clinical trials relating to the treatment of malignant melanoma, for which there is currently no treatment;
  • Exploration of the clinical usefulness of new target therapy agents in the treatment of lymphomas and a variety of neoplastic diseases.

Dr. Salem is a physician, researcher and educator with over 40 years of experience in cancer research and treatment. Dr. Salem was a professor of cancer medicine at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center before he was appointed Director of Cancer Research in 1991 at St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital.

"St. Luke's is proud that renowned physicians such as Dr. Salem are working in such a vital research field. He is certainly deserving of such a prestigious award that further encourages his contribution to cancer research at St. Luke's," said David C. Pate, MD, JD, CEO of St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital. St. Luke's is establishing the Philip A. Salem Chair in Cancer Research in recognition of his contributions to St. Luke's and to cancer research.

With regular appearances in America's Top Doctors, one of his greatest contributions to medicine is the discovery of the link between infection and cancer. He established in the early 1970's that an infection in the gastrointestinal tract can develop into cancer if left untreated. His research was considered the gateway for research that captured the Nobel Prize in Medicine and Physiology in 2005.

Dr. Salem has also received the Ellis Island Medal of Honor by the National Ethnic Coalition Organization (NECO) and was named "Scientist of the Year" by the Italian Foundation for Promotion of Science and Culture. He is also a recipient of the Senatorial Medal of Freedom from the U.S. Congress for his contributions to science and medicine.


St. Luke's Episcopal Health System comprises the flagship St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital in the Texas Medical Center, founded in 1954 by the Episcopal Diocese of Texas; St. Luke's Community Medical Center-The Woodlands, opened in 2003; St. Luke's Episcopal Health Charities, a charity devoted to assessing and enhancing community health, especially among the underserved; and Kelsey-Seybold Management, LLP, overseeing 21 area clinic locations. St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital is home to the Texas Heart® Institute, founded in 1962 by Denton A. Cooley, MD, and consistently ranked among the top 10 cardiology and heart surgery centers in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. Affiliated with several nursing schools and two medical schools, St. Luke's serves as the primary adult teaching hospital for Baylor College of Medicine. St. Luke's was the first hospital in Texas named a Magnet hospital for nursing excellence, and the Health System has been recognized by FORTUNE as among "100 Best Companies to Work For" and by Houston Business Journal as a top employer in Houston for three consecutive years.

Published in Cancer
Tuesday, 24 June 2008 09:00

ACCEPTANCE SPEECH OF THE ALMA AWARD

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA
February 25, 2006

I would like to start by thanking the president of the American Lebanese Medical Association, Dr. Paul Wakim, the organizing committee of this convention, and the board of the association, for bestowing upon me tonight this great honor. I am not sure that I deserve it, but I happily accept it, and I will certainly work hard to earn it.   What is dear to my heart in this honor is the fact that it comes from people who are the descendants of a sacred land, Lebanon. I am here in America and America has been extremely generous to me. I am grateful, thankful, and I acknowledge allegiance to it. There is nothing that I wouldn't do to promote its prosperity and greatness, but at the same time, when I look into my own deeper self, I realize that my identity is Lebanese. There is no contradiction whatsoever in being a devoted Lebanese and a grateful citizen of the United States of America. In fact, people like me who came from distant lands appreciate America and American values more than those who were born and raised here. In my office in Houston, I have a branch of an olive tree from my land in Lebanon and on my desk, there is a bottle of oil from El-Koura, and a vessel that contains soil from my village, Bterram. Also, the license plate on my car is Lubnan. This is not to remind me from where I came, but to remind me of who I am. Khalil Gibran said that "if Lebanon where not my country, I would have made it mine." I say "that if Lebanon were not my country, I would not know who I am." Let us all pray for a quick resurrection of Lebanon from Death.

One of the big challenges for the American Lebanese Medical Association is to contribute to Lebanon. We should try to reverse the brain drain and put our talents and our resources in the service of Lebanon, not only in the area of medicine and medical care, but also in areas that would eventually shape the new Lebanon we aspire for. It is not true that the Lebanese talents in diaspora go to waste. The Lebanese in diaspora should be a major resource to the new Lebanon that we want to build. Also, they should be an integral component of the Lebanese population and should not only contribute in finance, medicine, engineering, science, and in arts, but they should also have the right to contribute to the new political formula that should emerge.

Also, I would like to remind you that our major commitment to America is to contribute to it. In medicine, we can contribute enormously. In the area of quality of medical care, we should infuse the American medical culture with the values that we brought with us from Lebanon: mercifulness, compassion, caring, loving, and humaneness. These are values which are unfortunately fading away in the everyday practice of medicine in America. Only when the patient is considered sacred to us, are we worthy of taking care of him. Medicine is not a business. The patient is not a client. Medicine is a mission and the patient is a sacred human being who deserves our best care and our utmost love. Also, we need to contribute to the science of medicine and to expand the frontiers of medical knowledge. This cannot be done without research. Only research leads to knowledge and I would like to encourage every one of you, whether you are in private practice or in academia, to be involved and engaged in one way or the other in research. The objective of research is not only to expand human knowledge, but also to expand the mind. I want you to remember that when you contribute to research and you bring about new knowledge, this new knowledge is not only a gift to America, but it is also a gift to the whole world. The great Lebanese who contributed to America indeed did not contribute to this country alone, but to the whole world.   The writings of Gibran, the innovations of Michael DeBakey, the mission of St. Jude's Hospital of Danny Thomas, are all gifts to all mankind.

May God bless you, bless our sacred land of Lebanon, and bless America.

Published in Cancer
Tuesday, 09 March 2010 08:00

Cancer Pioneer

St. Luke's official announcement of
Philip A. Salem, M.D. Chair

St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital (St. Luke’s) announces the Philip A. Salem, M.D., Chair in Cancer Research, established to honor Dr. Salem’s contributions to cancer medicine. “We are enormously gratified to announce that St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital has formally established the Philip A. Salem, M.D., Chair in Cancer Research to serve as a lasting tribute to his leadership and vision in the field of oncology.  He has spent his professional life overcoming challenges that others only dreamed of conquering and this chair recognizes his contributions to advances in cancer treatment.” Said Margaret M. Van Bree, CEO, St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital, and senior vice president, St. Luke’s Episcopal Health System.

“It is very humbling to receive such an honor,” said Dr. Salem, director of St. Luke’s Cancer Research Program. “I’m thankful and privileged for the opportunity to treat cancer patients and conduct cancer research.  I hope this endowment will pave the way for future physicians to do more research and discover new treatments.  Research is the key to diminishing human suffering.”

For patients such as Dallas businessman Daryl Snadon, Dr. Salem’s knowledge, commitment and compassion offer extended years of life and hope. Snadon, who received pancreatic cancer treatment more than 10 years ago at St. Luke’s, now leads a cancer-free life, thanks to Dr. Salem.

“It’s hard to find a doctor like him,” said Snadon, the principal fundraiser for the Salem Chair in Cancer Research. “His concern and unique approach to patient care is inspiring to others. I’m grateful that he and his team helped me become cancer-free. I hope his legacy will help other physicians and patients.”

Dr. Salem began treating cancer 42 years ago. He received his medical degree from the American University of Beirut College of Medicine in 1965. He began his career in cancer research and treatment as a fellow in medical oncology at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York in 1968. After two years at this center, he moved to Houston and spent an additional year of fellowship at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.

In September, 1971, Dr. Salem returned to Beirut and joined the American University of Beirut Medical Center where he established the first cancer research and treatment program in the Arab world. He continued to serve on the faculty of this university until 1986. In January, 1987, Dr. Salem joined the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas, as professor of cancer treatment and research.  In September, 1991, he joined St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital as the first director of its cancer research program.

“Dr. Salem’s vast experience in cancer research is a great testament to the extensive body of knowledge that the St. Luke’s medical staff is known for worldwide,” said Dr. Van Bree. “St. Luke’s is fortunate to have such an accomplished physician as Dr. Salem.”

Dr. Salem has been recognized for his contributions to cancer medicine all over the world.  In the early 1970s he was among the first researchers to demonstrate that a chronic repetitive infectious insult to the gastrointestinal mucosa would eventually lead to inflammatory changes that left untreated would progress to malignancy.  In addition, he discovered that treating these infections with antibiotics at an early stage could actually prevent and reverse the development of cancer.  His work on Immunoproliferative Small Intestinal Disease (a form of intestinal cancer that starts as a benign process and deteriorates into malignancy), and the relationship between infection and the development of cancer in the intestine has become a classic in modern medicine.  His pioneering work with chemoprevention (reversing the course of progression from benign to malignant disease), has led to some of today’s major research breakthroughs and concepts that focus on isolating and treating such precancerous infections and conditions.  The pioneering work conducted by Dr. Salem and others during the last 30 years was part of the process that led to the Nobel Prize winning research linking a bacterium called H. pylori to stomach cancer.  That prize was awarded to two Australian scientists in the year 2005.  Dr. Salem says “The concept that a regular simple infection could eventually lead to malignancy and if this infection is treated and eradicated early, cancer can be prevented, was considered heresy 20 years ago, but now is recognized as one of the major achievements of modern cancer research”.  He adds “The awarding of the Nobel Prize for research linking cancer to infection and the development of the cervical cancer vaccine has set the stage for the new era. In the last 50 years, research has focused on treating established disease, and that was good.  However, it is time now to promote research for disease prevention. The impact of the latter research will be enormous”.

In 1992, as director of St. Luke’s Cancer Research Program, Dr. Salem led a team of St. Luke’s investigators in collaboration with the Texas Community Oncology Network from M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. The alliance resulted in the introduction of more than 30 clinical cancer research trials.  He was the St. Luke’s principal investigator for the national study on chemoprevention of breast cancer.  That study eventually led to the recognition that breast cancer is indeed preventable.  These trials confirmed that women at high risk for breast cancer can reduce their chances for developing the disease in the future if they receive drugs like raloxifene or tamoxifen.  This was a milestone in research on breast cancer and its prevention.

In addition to the above, Dr. Salem was responsible for defining the role of one of the major and most commonly used drugs in cancer therapy, cisplatinum.  Cisplatinum was discovered in the early 70s as an agent of potential use in cancer treatment, but was extremely toxic when given in one single dose.

At M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, and with his team, Dr. Salem worked on the fractionation of the dose of cisplatinum and instead of giving the whole dose over a period of 1-2 hours; the dose was given over several days.  Fractionation of the dose made the drug significantly less toxic and more efficacious.  Due to his work, cisplatinum is now used safely all over the world. 

Besides his contributions to medicine, Dr. Salem made major contributions to America.  In May, 1994, he received the Senatorial Medal of Freedom which is the highest honor that members of the U.S. Senate can bestow on any one.  In May, 1998, he was awarded the Ellis Island Medal of Honor by the National Ethnic Coalition Organization (NECO) for his exceptional humanitarian efforts and outstanding contributions to American science.  In March, 2006, he was honored in Rome as “the Scientist of the Year” by La Fondazione Foedus Cultura Impresa Solidarietà (National Italian Foundation for the Promotion of Science and Culture).  A book on his life and ideas has been published and two other similar books are in production.  Dr. Salem continues to serve as Director of Cancer Research at St. Luke’s and principal investigator for many of the research projects at this hospital, including those on the prevention of breast cancer.  Lastly, St. Luke’s would like to salute his pioneering spirit which is critical to the way cancer will be diagnosed and treated in the future.  This Chair is “an investment in landmark advancements for generations to come” says Dr. Van Bree.

Published in Cancer
Tuesday, 02 November 2010 13:00

MY MESSAGE TO THE GRADUATES

Nearly half a century ago, I graduated from The American University of Beirut and began my career in medicine. From that time to this day it has been a long journey.  A journey which was abundant in pain and joy, and was also rich in success and failure. I am not here today to give you advice but I have come to share with you what I have learned from success and failure with the hope that this will illuminate the road ahead of you.

I have learned that knowledge is the power that frees us from slavery and that ignorance is the most extreme and powerful kind of slavery. Thus, do not repeat the popular proverb, “I’m a slave to the one who taught me a letter,” but rather say, “The one who taught me a letter has freed me from my slavery.” No power can break the chains that enslave you like knowledge can. Also I say to you the deeper you delve into knowledge, the closer you get to God. And the closer you get to God, the more you become one and the distances that separate you diminish.

Here in our land, in Lebanon and the Middle East, there are two conflicting cultures struggling to survive and compete: The culture of knowledge of which you are its product and the culture of religious and ideological extremism. While religious extremism freezes man and draws artificial boundaries between him and his fellow man, knowledge comes and eliminates all these boundaries. Sectarianism divides while knowledge unites. Sectarianism pulls you down and makes you smaller while knowledge pushes you up and makes you taller. That is why we must insist on the separation not only between religion and state, but also between religion and education. The Lebanon we want will not rise from its ashes unless we free it from the chains of sectarianism.

I have learned that creativity and excellence are not possible if you do not love your work. Love is the force that converts work from something you do and remains outside of you into something you do and becomes you. "Work is love made visible," said Gibran.  Also I dare to say to you, the type of work you do is not as important as how much you fill that work with love and how much you commit yourself to it.  I would also like to emphasize to you that love is not just necessary to succeed at work but it is also necessary for a more important kind of success, success in life. If you want to fill your life with meaning, fill it with love. All shadows of Love. Love between you and your family, you and your friends, you and your country, and “When you love,” said Al-Mustafa in “The Prophet”, “you should not say, God is in my heart, but rather, I am in the heart of God ".

I have learned that the road to success always is paved with failure and that you cannot reach success without passing through failure. This is why those who are afraid of failure can never achieve success. Failure is not a sin. The sin is not to learn from it; as failure may be the greatest teacher you ever come to know. However, the largest sin is to blame others for your failure. It has been said “A man can fail many times, but he does not become a failure until he starts to blame others.”

I have learned that money, glamour, authority and fame are major powers. But, the biggest challenge is how you use them and how you tame them so they never work against you, but always remain power for you. Many reached the high peaks but also quickly tumbled to the bottom of the abyss. They tumbled because they were unable to tame success. Success is like riding a very wild horse, if you cannot reign it, you will fall from its back. To avoid tumbling to the bottom, you need to remember that humility is the highest summit you may reach within yourself. Also you need not forget that your success will not be success for you if it is not also success for others. 

I have learned that one will not find happiness and contentment unless he is free from his outer rusted shells. Thus I came to tell you that if you don’t free yourselves from your false shells, you would never reach your truth, and those who do not reach their inner truth cannot be the masters of their lives, and hence, they constantly live in a state of psychological distortion and self deception. Thus, I say to you if you do not peel your masks off your faces and you stand naked before the face of God, your quest to achieve happiness will remain a mirage.

This is some of what I have learned, dear graduates, and I put it in your hands hoping it might be useful to you. But tonight I have to confess to you that I am worried about you. I am also concerned about man’s future throughout the world, as man’s greatest attributes are diminishing day after day, and man’s greatest virtues are being crushed by the daunting and harsh progresses of science and technology. I am afraid that a day may come whereby anything that cannot be programmed into a computer will be considered non-existent. This will be an enormous tragedy as the most important things in life cannot be entered into the computer. Love, compassion, affection, kindness, mercifulness, tolerance, pride, magnanimity, dignity and nobility... these are all attributes that define the greatness of the human experience but they clearly remain outside the realm of technology. Already, In the West, they laugh at you when you speak of nobleness, and I will not be surprised if one day our children search the word ‘nobleness’ in the dictionary and do not find it. Dear graduates, I am the son of science and technology and I am a proud student of medical scientific research but I am afraid that a day may come when the mind assassinates the heart and man becomes heartless. For then, life would lose all meaning and darkness would fall upon the world.

Also, I would like to address something which means a lot to me, loyalty. Loyalty to your parents, to your teachers, to those who have helped you and above all loyalty to your country. It is no secret that the Lebanese wars were not the result of our failure to build a strong and sovereign state, as much as they were the result of our lack of loyalty to our country. I want to ask you for forgiveness because our generation failed to build a Lebanon worthy of you. We hope your generation will build a new Lebanon; a Lebanon which is as great as its history and as great as its imposing worldwide presence.

When we look at this Arab Middle East, what do we see? We see deserts of frozen thoughts and political regimes that do not respect the greatness of the individual and do not believe in his freedom. We see the emergence of religious extremism and violence. These so-called “revolutions” of extremism and violence constitute the most significant threat to modern civilization and to man. They are actually revolutions against man and his dignity, as they cripple the mind, crush the individual, and assail God. Tomorrow you must rebel against this reality and change it.

Dear graduates. Go, work, sow the soil and follow your dreams but do not ever forget who you are, where you come from, who your parents are and which land is your homeland. Eight thousand miles away from here, on my desk, in my office in the city of Houston, there is an olive branch from my tree, a bottle of oil from my olive grove and a handful of soil from my home village. This is not only to remind me of where I had come from, but also to remind me of who I am.

Tomorrow, you begin a new chapter in your life and you will be busy with your daily work, but please set aside a few minutes every day to pray to God. Thank Him for all His blessings and ask Him to protect your parents and loved ones from harm. Also for Lebanon, please pray and ask Him to “look down from heaven, and see; have regard for this vine, the stock which Thy right hand planted.”

May the Heavens bless you.  As for the Land, our homeland, it calls upon you and asks you, "Abide in my love as I have abided in yours."

May the peace of God be upon you, and may your parents’ prayers be with you.

 

Speech delivered at the commencement ceremony of the Lebanese American University (LAU) in Byblos, Lebanon on July 1, 2010. Dr. Salem was the commencement speaker and on this occasion LAU bestowed on him an honorary doctorate in Humane Letters. The speech was subsequently published as an editorial on the front page of Annahar daily news paper in Beirut on July 15, 2010.

Published in Cancer
Saturday, 18 December 2010 18:07

The invitation to the AUB Founder's Day (144th)

On the 144thAmerican University of Beirut (AUB) Founder’s Day, Thursday, December 9, 2010, the university alumni commemorated the event in a reception held at the Bristol Hotel in Beirut. In collaboration with Nelson House for publishing, the alumni celebrated the launching of a new book on the most distinguished 25 professors of the university over its life span of 144 years.  These faculty members excelled in academia and many of them served in extremely important posts at the university or outside it. Of the 25 faculty members depicted in the book, only 5 are still alive and they are Salim El-Hoss, Kamal Salibi, Elie Salem, Tarif Khalidi and Philip Salem.

The ceremony started with Mr. Ibrahim Khoury of AUB press and information department speaking on the meaning of the Founder’s Day. The president of the alumni, Mr. Muraby welcomed the audience and in particular Mr. El-Hoss who was the only one of the 25 faculty members able to attend the ceremony. Mr. Bakhti , the president of Nelson House for Publishing said “it is very befitting that we are here to remember and celebrate the genius of these faculty members and to remember the message of AUB.  We are celebrating their contributions as they were responsible for the educational, cultural and scientific renaissance at AUB, Lebanon, and the Arab world”.  At the end, the president of the press syndicate in Lebanon, Mohammed Baalbaki, spoke about the role of AUB and how AUB survived the war in Lebanon, and how important the message of AUB is, not only to the Arab world, but also to the whole world.  Mr. Baalbaki said “contrary to the dark state of politics in this part of the world, these graduates and faculty members of AUB have contributed immensely for the advancement of mankind”.  He spoke about “Mr. El Hoss and the other scholars in politics who refined the art of political debate” and he also spoke about “the Khalil Hawis who transformed Arabic literature, and the Philip Salems who transformed medicine and who alleviate human suffering every day.” 

The book is authored by Mr. Michel Jeha, a professor of Arabic literature, and a graduate of AUB.

The above piece was published in Arabic in Annahar newspaper of Beirut, Lebanon, Saturday, December 11, 2010.

Published in Newsletter
Thursday, 05 April 2012 13:00

Rene Moawad Foundation Award

Dr. Philip Salem, Professor of Cancer Medicine and Research, Director of Cancer Research at St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital was awarded the Distinguished Lifetime Achievement and Outstanding Community Service Award on Saturday, March 31,2012. The award was presented to him at a gala dinner hosted by the Rene Moawad Foundation held at the Omni Hotel in Houston. The Rene Moawad Foundation is a non-political and non-profit organization with the objective of serving the needy in Lebanon. On this occasion, the Ambassador of Lebanon, Antoine Chedid, had sent this message:

On this memorable event, I am pleased to join all members of our community and friends in expressing my warmest congratulations to Dr. Philip A. Salem who will receive the RMF Distinguished Lifetime Achievement Award. As a remarkable physician, educator, scientist and international statesmen in cancer medicine, Dr. Salem has excelled in his profession through his determination and hard work and has received numerous awards for his exceptional humanitarian efforts and outstanding contributions to Medicine, Science, Arabic Literature and Philosophy.

Thereafter, the Master of Ceremonies, David Ward, read a statement written by Selma and Lois DeBakey, the sisters of Dr. Michael DeBakey. The statement spoke of the great and unique relationship that bonded their brother, Dr. Michael DeBakey, to Dr. Philip Salem. Both shared the legacy of Lebanese heritage and both shared the legacy of academic excellence.

After reading the statement by the DeBakey’s, David Fine, President and Chief Executive of St. Luke’s Episcopal Health System introduced Dr. Salem, and he spoke about Dr. Salem, the researcher, the physician and the intellectual. Dr. Salem had resigned in September, 2012 as Director of Cancer Research after he served in that capacity for 20 years, but in his speech David Fine announced the decision by the board to grant Philip Salem Director Emeritus of Cancer Research at St. Luke’s Hospital. In addition to the major achievements Dr. Salem made in research, David Fine emphasized the humanitarian approach of Dr. Salem to medicine, and the semi-divine relationship he has with his patients. Dr. Fine has travelled extensively with Dr. Salem abroad and he was most impressed by the love his patients have for him. During David Fine’s speech, the speech was interrupted to insert a video by Dr. Salem:

I’m Dr. Philip Salem and I am the President of Salem Oncology Centre. I established this centre in September, 1991 when I was Professor of Medicine and Cancer Research at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center here in Houston. I felt then the need for a private center of excellence and I also felt very strongly that scientific knowledge alone in cancer treatment is not enough. It takes a lot more than knowledge to cure the patient. I am a believer in the power of love and compassion. My motto has always been and will ever remain “The doctor who does not love his patient, cannot cure him”. I am also a believer in the power of courage and perseverance. The road to the cure in cancer is long and brutal. Should the doctor lose courage, the patient will certainly fall. In addition and above all I’m a believer in the power of hope. To me treating cancer is not a job. It is a calling. It is a privilege. Every morning when I open my eyes, I thank the Lord for this privilege. I also thank him for the work I do. I cannot possibly think of a work which could be greater or more noble than the work I do here every day.

When David Fine completed his introduction, Dr. Salem was invited to the podium. Dr. Salem emphasized that this is a moment of thankfulness, gratefulness and humility. He thanked all the people who made the gala a great event; in particular he thanked his assistant Samia Yazbeck. He also thanked his staff at the Cancer Research Program, in particular Elizabeth Walker. Dr. Salem then spoke of his gratefulness and thankfulness to America. He said that when he came to America 25 years ago, he felt that ¾ of him had died and was buried in Lebanon. He felt that he was coming to America with the residual ¼ only to ensure security and safety of his family. Since then, America had embraced him and was extremely generous to him. He said “America will never find me ungrateful or unthankful”. He then spoke about two major concepts that probably constitute some of his major visions towards medicine. He said “In my 47 years as a doctor, I have learned that the sick is not an object, he is not a client, nor a health consumer. He is a human who has family and friends. He is a patient, not a disease”. Then he spoke about the significance of the combination of love and knowledge. He said “Knowledge may be enough in physics, chemistry, and technology, but it is never enough in medicine. The patient wants more than knowledge; he wants love, warmth, compassion and care. He needs a lot of time to speak to his doctor”. Dr. Salem spoke about his motto “In cancer medicine, a doctor who does not love his patient cannot cure him”. He concluded by saying “While the combination of love and knowledge is a great power, the combination of gratefulness and humility is a treasure. It is a human endowment. He said “In such a moment one should remember to be humble. He should remember how little he knows compared to what he does not know. He should remember that his achievements are small compared to others. He should remember the many failures he has been through”. He said “Humility is a prerequisite to learning and is a prerequisite to giving the patient the best treatment”. At the end Dr. Salem thanked each and every one who attended the gala, but in particular he thanked his students and colleagues who had come from all over America to attend this gala. He gave special thanks to those who came from abroad. Dr. Salem was given a standing ovation which was then followed by a fashion show.

Published in Event
Thursday, 05 April 2012 16:00

Cancer Research Reception

St. Luke’s has honored Dr. Philip Salem Director of Cancer Research at St. Luke’s Hospital in a beautiful reception and dinner on Wednesday, April 4 from 6-8 p.m. The hospital had invited all faculty and administrative staff for this event.  Dr. David Fine introduced Dr. Salem.  He said “I have traveled with Dr. Salem and I have seen something phenomenal.  The bond between him and his patient is beyond description.  This is a doctor who is adored by his patients and he, too, loves them like family.  That bond doesn’t exist anymore in this century. Dr. Salem embraces his patients and they become his family”.  He also said “Philip Salem has written a great deal in medicine, but in addition he is a renaissance intellectual and there are three books written about him”. 

In July 2004, a book authored by Australian journalist Peter Indari entitled “Philip Salem – The Man, The Homeland, The Science” was launched.  Two new books about his life and his achievements are in press. The first authored by Lebanese journalist Maha Samara and entitled “Philip Salem – The Rebel, The Scientist and The Humanist”.  The second is authored by Mrs. Frances Mourani, an American journalist, and is entitled “This Man from Lebanon, a Daring Arab Intellectual and a Leader in Cancer Research”.

Also, Dr Fine announced that St. Luke’s has decided to bestow on him the title Director Emeritus of Cancer Research.

Dr. Salem gave a brief speech in which he described his story with St. Luke’s.  After his affiliation for 21 years with M.D. Anderson, he crossed Bertner Avenue in September, 1991 and became the first director of the cancer program and Director of Cancer Research at St. Luke’s.  He described the evolution of this program over the last 20 years and he also described the contributions of St. Luke’s in research.  One of the major contributions is the participation in two national studies on chemoprevention of breast cancer.  These studies are a milestone in the history of medicine because for the first time it was shown that cancer can be chemopreventable.  As a result of these trials, we now know that women who are at risk of developing breast cancer in the future can cut that risk by half if they take Tamoxifen or Evista.  He also spoke about the benign phase of cancer and how this is an opportunity for doctors to intervene therapeutically and reverse the process thus preventing the development of cancer. 

Dr. Salem also thanked St. Luke’s for establishing a cancer research chair in his name.  This is now his legacy.
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