When someone graduates from the University of Iowa or pursues career opportunities elsewhere, each person is told, “You will always have a home here.” The Department of Internal Medicine has been delighted to prove that to Dr. Nabeel Hamzeh, former resident and Chief Resident of our program. Late last summer, Dr. Hamzeh returned to Iowa to join the Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care, and Occupational Medicine, as an Associate Professor.
Dr. Hamzeh first arrived in Iowa City as a recent graduate of medical school at the University of Jordan. He entered the residency program with his wife, Dr. Diana Jalal (introduced last September here). It was during Dr. Hamzeh’s time in residency that he first became interested in pulmonary as a subspecialty. “I blame Dr. Joel Klein for that,” he said, with a laugh. While rounding in “what used to be called the IPCU” (now, the RSCCU), he remembers starting to think pulmonary was what he wanted to do. “I think what attracted me to it was the physiology and pathology of the pulmonary system.”
After his residency and a year as Chief Resident, Dr. Hamzeh next went to Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, for a fellowship in Pulmonary, Critical Care, and Sleep Medicine. This was followed by a faculty appointment at the University of Texas Health Sciences Center in Houston, which he held for about two and a half years. There, he began to develop a program in sarcoidosis, a multi-system inflammatory disease with potential significant morbidity. Out of the desire to build a clinical and research career in sarcoidosis, Dr. Hamzeh sought an opportunity at National Jewish Health in Denver, Colorado.
Dr. Hamzeh first joined the Pulmonary Division, and then moved over to the Division of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences. Dr. Hamzeh evaluated and managed patients with sarcoidosis and other granulomatous lung diseases, such as beryllium disease and hypersensitivity pneumonitis, both of which resemble sarcoidosis. During his time at National Jewish Health, the sarcoidosis program grew further and Dr. Hamzeh was awarded his first National Institutes of Health (NIH) grants focusing on the disease.
As satisfying as his work at National Jewish Health was, earlier this year, Dr. Hamzeh took what he calls a “reality check” on his long-term career prospects. Dr. Jalal took a similar look at her own position. Though the institution is renowned and though he had been given the space to develop his knowledge and experience in sarcoidosis, Dr. Hamzeh felt there was still an aspect missing, the teaching component. His and Dr. Jalal’s first, and only, feelers were sent to Iowa City. “We didn’t go looking around at other places. We said, ‘Let’s see what Iowa has to offer.’”
Iowa was ready to offer Dr. Hamzeh the ability to balance his work across the tripartite mission.
Here, he will continue his research through the NIH R01 grants. In collaboration with his colleagues, he is studying the epigenetic modifications of T-cell immunity in sarcoidosis and is one of the principal investigators on a new project investigating the longitudinal changes in the immune response in sarcoidosis patients and its relationship to disease course. He is also interested in developing his clinical and research interest in cardiac sarcoidosis through collaborations at the University of Iowa and beyond. As the director of the interstitial lung diseases (ILD) program, he is teaming up with Dr. Alicia Gerke, Dr. Lakshmi Durairaj, ARNP Sara Krause, and new faculty member Dr. Kamonpun Ussavarungsi to grow and expand the sarcoidosis and ILD program. He will also soon begin to work closely with fellows in the Pulmonary and Critical Care Fellowship, assisting fellowship program director Dr. Jeff Wilson.
Colleagues within the department are pleased to be working with him. “Dr. Hamzeh is not only a national presence as a research scientist in the field of sarcoidosis,” Dr. Gerke says, “he is a kind and caring physician who is focused on improving the entire burden of disease that patients experience from sarcoidosis. . . . We are very excited to have him back to Iowa and know that he will be making a difference in our University and community.”
Dr. Hamzeh is happy to be back in Iowa City, as well, and excited about the opportunities ahead. As he and Dr. Jalal both settle into their work here, their three children (ages 14, 11, and 8) are also settling into their schools. Their oldest (Tamara) has been excited about the academic opportunities at West High School and has joined their swim team. Their middle child (Serene) is part of a competitive soccer club in Iowa, and their youngest (Faisal) joined the IFLY swim team, a university-sponsored swimming club. All three were happy to learn that they could cheer on the Hawkeyes without feeling guilty about also still supporting the Denver Broncos. And after years of Colorado winters and skiing, they all feel pretty prepared for the coming change in seasons here. The Department is glad they are here to see it.