Hani Najm, M.D., Cleveland Clinic Children’s Chair of Pediatric and Congenital Heart Surgery, has been named the first winner of the Great Arab Minds award in medicine in recognition of his outstanding contributions to pediatric and adult cardiac surgery, including his innovations to surgically treat congenital heart diseases.
The Great Arab Minds awards – announced by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President of the United Arab Emirates, Prime Minister, Ruler of Dubai – acknowledge accomplishments across six categories: engineering and technology, medicine, economics, architecture and design, natural sciences, and literature and arts.
The gala presentation of the first Great Arab Minds awards was on January 8, 2024, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
Saudi surgeon, Dr. Najm, has been widely covered in international media for his life-saving procedures, which have included a novel way to revascularize an infant’s heart, thereby eliminating the need for a future heart transplant; and a remarkable surgery involving the removal of a large heart tumor from a fetus still in its mother’s womb. He also designed and developed a growth-compatible heart valve that can be implanted, adjusting as the child grows, avoiding the inherent risks of multiple surgical procedures. He has performed more than 10,000 complex heart surgeries on newborns, children, and adults.
“On behalf of my country, my family, and all my colleagues – past and present – it is a tremendous honor to be recognized by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President of the United Arab Emirates, Prime Minister, Ruler of Dubai, for the excellence of my professional work over several decades,” Dr. Najm says. “I have said many times that we work so hard for our patients’ improved outcomes, not ever for our own recognition. However, it is nice to be recognized for the pioneering work that I have done, and, more importantly, I hope to be the shoulders for my colleagues to stand on to improve the field of cardiac surgery.”
After training in Canada in general surgery, cardiothoracic surgery, and pediatric congenital heart surgery, Dr. Najm spent 17 years as head of heart surgery at the Heart Center of King Abdulaziz Medical City in Riyadh, where he was a pioneer in his field, constantly pushing the boundaries of innovation.
“I had a very successful practice in Saudi Arabia, so I was well trained and thoroughly prepared to take on my new role at Cleveland Clinic. The environment here is conducive to creativity, and this is what I have focused on over the past eight years. It has enabled me to make significant innovations and contributions,” Dr. Najm says. “The Cleveland Clinic culture of teamwork is inspiring. I am always surrounded by talented people who trust each other. As a surgeon with extensive experience, I had the courage to take on challenging cases based on science, and to take calculated risks – these are a key component of my success.”
In 2016, Dr. Najm joined Cleveland Clinic Children’s as the Chair of Pediatric and Congenital Heart Surgery and is currently a member of many national and international professional organizations, including the Gulf Heart Association, the Board of Trustees of the American College of Cardiology, and the European Society of Cardiothoracic Surgery.
“I always wanted to contribute a lasting legacy to my specialty of cardiac surgery. This passion for excellence has led me to constantly innovate to improve the care of patients. A great example is the ‘ventricular switch’ – a concept I created a few years ago and which is now common practice in our field,” says Dr. Najm.
“In addition, I have always believed that Cleveland Clinic – in line with its mission to treat the ‘sickest of the sick’ – would be the ‘last stop’ for patients. I have always been aware of the pressure of being a patient’s last resort or last stop, so to speak,” Dr. Najm adds.