Did you know that the death of a United States senator almost changed the course of Dr. François Abboud’s life? Or that a cardiovascular fellowship training grant he first applied for in the early 1970s has been funding fellows at the University of Iowa ever since? Members of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) now certainly know these things. A profile of Dr. Abboud was recently published in the ESC’s European Heart Journal.
The profile is brisk but dense with information. For example, in 1956, at the end of his residency at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Dr. Abboud and his wife, Doris, were set to return to his native Egypt, despite the ongoing Suez Canal crisis.
…Abboud’s father advised him to stay in the USA if possible. Meanwhile the Dean and faculty at Marquette decided to lobby their Senator from Wisconsin, Joe McCarthy, who introduced a private bill in Congress on behalf of Abboud’s retention as permanent resident in the USA. McCarthy’s sudden death blocked the bill, and it was touch and go for Abboud’s petition. Fortunately, President Eisenhower who was in power at the time and opposed to the invasion of Egypt, recognized the plight of Egyptian nationals and offered to waive the usual visa requirements.
The story of how Dr. Abboud came to the University of Iowa instead of Bellevue Hospital is similarly interesting. This time, it was not a president who intervened, but a mentor who introduced him to Dr. John Eckstein, an investigator who eventually became one of the Carver College of Medicine’s most influential deans. Encouraged by Dr. Eckstein to visit Iowa, Dr. Abboud was less than impressed by some aspects, but “found the people warm and welcoming, with a good work ethic, commitment to science, sound priorities of putting the patient first and a go-ahead attitude.”
The profile is one worth reading, even if you know many of the stories. It connects the dots of a series of impressive accomplishments made by Dr. Abboud. The story of how he and his colleagues built the cardiovascular program and the eventual Abboud Cardiovascular Research Center, and even this department and the college we know today, is a compelling one.