Passionate and optimistic: Jeannette Hallab representing the Ramialison Group and ARMI at the Lebanese Order of Physicians conference.

15 Oct,2017

Passionate and optimistic: Jeannette Hallab representing the Ramialison Group and ARMI at the Lebanese Order of Physicians conference.

In an exciting opportunity, Jeannette Hallab was invited to be a member of the Australian-Lebanese Medical Association (ALMA) health delegation from Australia to Beirut in July 2017.

Jeannette Hallab (third from right) meeting with Lebanese President Michel Aoun and Prime Minister Saad El Hariri (seventh and fourth from right respectively).

It’s easy to see Jeannette’s passion and love for a good challenge. Even over the long weekend, Jeannette has been hard at work with the Ramialison Group here at the Australian Regenerative Medicine Institute (ARMI).

After graduating from the University of New South Wales (armed with a degree in Medical Science with first class honours), Jeannette made the move from her hometown of Sydney to join ARMI in 2014. Since then, she’s made her new home here in Melbourne and has become an invaluable member of the ARMI team. Even admitting, sheepishly that: “… I do prefer Melbourne over Sydney in many ways”.

As a research assistant / lab manager with the Ramialison Group, Jeannette works as a molecular biologist using zebrafish in order to understand the role of the Elk1 gene in heart development. Working closely with bioinformaticians, the Group aims answer the tricky questions concerning the genomics of heart development.

Jeannette’s research as part of the Ramialison Group concerns the fundamentally challenging field of congenital heart disease, one of the most common birth defects in the world. The causes of such heart defects remains largely unknown.

“I love research because there are new challenges around every corner, and we have the rare opportunity to contribute new knowledge and facts”

In July this year, Jeannette was invited to join the Australian Lebanese Medical Association (ALMA) by the national president, Dr. Walid Ahmar. Subsequently, Jeannette was honoured to be asked to represent her Group and ARMI in Beirut, Lebanon, where she spoke at the Lebanese Order of Physicians (LOP) and International Lebanese Medical Association (ILMA) conference.

Over two weeks, ALMA and Jeannette enjoyed a productive and successful trip to Beirut, which involved a major conference at the LOP, meeting with charitable groups (including one NGO specifically focused on fundraising for CHD surgeries) and visiting hospitals all over Lebanon. This allowed them to locate hospitals in greatest need of Australian medical equipment donations. A nice bonus included meetings with several highly esteemed professors and government officials including the Lebanese President, His Excellency Michel Aoun and Prime Minister, his excellency Saad Al Hariri for discussion of healthcare system-related matters.

Meeting with the Lebanese Prime Minister, Saad El Hariri (middle) and presentation with a plaque from ALMA.

Jeannette Hallab and the team meeting with the parliamentary health committee in Beirut, Lebanon.

This conference was a great opportunity for Jeannette, her Group and for us at ARMI to gain exposure to the Australian and Lebanese government and share our research in congenital heart disease. For Jeannette, it was a great chance to discuss with clinicians the research that was being conducted at ARMI and by the Ramialison lab. “It was a great opportunity to establish professional ties with Lebanese pediatric cardiologists and surgeons”, said Jeannette. “We shared our scientific vision and are quite excited about the potential benefits to Lebanese CHD patients and international CHD research in the future”.

“The purpose of the trip was to provide a rundown of what we do currently and what we would like to do in the future. Most importantly, it gave us direct contact with physicians and the opportunity to communicate the necessity and urgency of our research using the medical and scientific facts”

Following Jeannette’s presentation at the LOP conference, she was invited to meet with highly esteemed pediatric cardiologists and surgeons at the Children’s Heart Centre within the American University of Beirut Medical Centre to discuss potential collaborations. Following on she also had further meetings and established connections with other Doctors and Professors, including Dr. Elie Sawan, the principle pediatric cardiothoracic surgeon at Hotel Dieu de France, one of the most prominent hospitals in Beirut.

“We have seen keen interest from Lebanese physicians and we have agreed that (funding permitting) we wish to use our genomics expertise in the context of Human congenital heart disease patient samples”

The trip has been a major success for Jeannette and the Ramialison lab, who hope that, with the efforts of researchers across the globe and collaborations such as these, between physicians and scientists, new diagnostic and treatment options may become available to those suffering from congenital heart disease in the future. In the meantime, Jeannette will keep challenging herself, this time by writing a grant application in anticipation of securing funding for this valuable research. We at ARMI wish her the best of luck with her work and look forward to what the future holds in her research.

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