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6 June 2000

University of Heidelberg Enhances its Presence in the Middle East

International surgical congress in the Lebanon assembling top-ranking medical experts from the US, Germany and the Middle East—Heidelberg's Rector Prof. Dr. Jürgen Siebke attended in honour of Michael DeBakey, the nestor of modern-day cardiovascular surgery

Kongresseröffnung in Byblos
International Surgical Congress in Byblos (from the left):
Heidelberg's Rector Jürgen Siebke, LAU-President Riyad Nassar
and famous Heidelberg Alumnus Michael DeBakey
Photo: Saueressig

With its mixture of peoples and religions the Lebanon has always been regarded as the intersecting point between East and West. For the ancient Phoenicians the port of Byblos was the "gateway to the world". It was at this highly symbolic location that top-ranking medical experts from the United States, Germany and the Middle East met for an exchange of ideas and experience in the framework of the "Byblos 2000 International Congress of Surgery". The congress was organised jointly by the Lebanese American University (L.A.U., Byblos/Beirut), the Baylor College of Medicine (Houston) and the University of Heidelberg. Co-initiator was the Heidelberg Alumni International former students' network.

Among the speakers at the conference were internationally renowned surgeons from the US and Germany, including Prof. Michael DeBakey (Houston) and Prof. Christian Herfarth, director of the University of Heidelberg Surgical Hospital. In honour of Michael DeBakey the meeting was also attended by Heidelberg's Rector Prof. Dr. Jürgen Siebke. DeBakey (92) is the nestor of modern-day cardiovascular surgery. The performance of the first-ever bypass operation numbers among his many achievements in this field. Moreover, he is himself a Heidelberg alumnus, having gained his specialist qualifications at the University with Prof. Martin Kirschner in the 1930s. The renowned American surgeon is descended from Lebanese forebears and is at present actively involved (financially and otherwise) in the construction of a new medical centre for the Byblos L.A.U. which when completed is to bear his name.

Siebke: "The University of Heidelberg furnishes proof of just how competitive German medicine is internationally"

"With the presence of its finest surgeons at this prestigious conference, the University of Heidelberg furnishes the proof of just how competitive German medicine is internationally," said Rector Siebke at the event, adding that cooperation between scientific élites is a crucial factor in strengthening Germany's standing as a scientific force to be reckoned with. "German science has been too self-effacing," he concluded. "The Middle East and the Lebanon in particular are of interest to us because many of the scientists here were educated and trained in Germany."

On his visits to various Lebanese universities Siebke was able to experience at first hand the prestige that a German university education enjoys in this part of the world. "Another eminently significant factor is our close links with the numerous Heidelberg graduates displaying such impressive commitment here," Siebke emphasised.

One of the concrete fruits of these links figured prominently at the conference: "", a modern continuing-education project serving medical graduates. "'' is a medical programme on the Internet addressing doctors all over the world who have studied in Germany," said Albrecht Bayer of Heidelberg Alumni International during the presentation at the conference. Heidelberg University is developing this programme in conjunction with other Baden-Württemberg universities in Freiburg, Tübingen, Mannheim and Ulm. The programme is funded by the Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development and the German Academic Exchange Service. The heart of the programme is a huge multi-media knowledge database accessible via the Internet. The presentation at the conference Internet café met with a great deal of interest, not least from the American surgeons, who were impressed by its sophistication.

"We would be very pleased to profit even more in future from the excellent quality of science in Heidelberg," said Lebanese surgeon Dr. Hikmat Rizk, conference organiser and former Heidelberg graduate. The dynamic spirit informing the Lebanese American University communicated itself to Rector Siebke in a variety of exchanges. In connection with the idea of enhancing the presence of the University of Heidelberg abroad he said: "We are thinking of cooperating more closely with this university in future, and further international conferences would be a good way to start." The future Michael DeBakey Medical Center in Byblos is an ideal location, a view shared not least by the politicians: "The Federal Government is the sleeping partner in this undertaking," said German ambassadress Gisela Kaempffe-Sikora at a reception given by the Association of Graduates from German-Speaking Universities under its president Dr. Amin Khalil in Beirut.

Against the background of the latest political events in the Lebanon, Heidelberg's rector concluded by expressing his hope that closer cooperation between the universities might have a beneficial impact on the whole region: "Science forges links between peoples and nations," he said, "and in this way can make its own contribution to peace."

Peter Saueressig

Please address any inquiries to:
Albrecht Bayer
International Relations Office
University of Heidelberg
phone: 06221/542339, fax: 542332

Dr. Michael Schwarz
Press Officer of the University of Heidelberg
phone: 06221/542310, fax: 54317

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Updated: 18.06.2000




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