Mitzi Perdue: The surprising story of Dr. Khaled Hasan

If you were to pass Khaled Hasan walking on the campus at the University of Maryland, Eastern Shore he’d probably look to you pretty much like any American you might encounter. Well, maybe he’s a little different because he is a tad more handsome than average.

Still, his clothes, his walk, even his expressions do not give away the fact that this man and hiDr. Khaled Hasan_UMES visiting research professor_1s family have an extraordinary story to tell. They’re also a blessing to our area.

Professor Hasan is a rock star scientist and the research he’s engaged in has the potential, (even the likelihood), of drastically lowering the price we pay for blood pressure medications.

In the United States, the costs associated with high blood pressure are approaching $50 billion a year.

His research subject is the hormone leptin. Its impact includes not only cardiovascular disease but also cancer, and possibly, obesity. Finding substances that stimulate the body’s production of leptin can benefit people with cardiovascular disease, and finding substances that inhibit leptin may be helpful in the treatment of cancers.

On top of all this, leptin is “the hunger hormone.” Hasan’s research may eventually even help play a role in our nation-wide epidemic of obesity.

If Hasan’s research pans out, we’re talking about potentially saving countless lives and many billions of dollars. But even this isn’t the end of the story.

Hasan’s work in the UMES School of Pharmacy is likely to produce medications with fewer side effects. That’s because the target hormone, leptin, is something that we produce naturally in our own bodies.

His research is being accepted for the American Heart Association Meeting in September. That’s a tremendous feather in the cap for all of us who live on the Eastern Shore and particularly for UMES.

How does it happen that we have such an eminent researcher here among us?

The answer is that the civil war in Syria is touching our lives. Nearly a quarter-million Syrians have died as a result of the tragedy in Syria, and Hasan has seen many of his colleagues and friends tortured and killed.

His life was in danger and so were the lives of his wife and two sons. Fortunately for him — and for us as well — a U.S. organization, the Institute of International Education has a program to rescue scholars such as Hasan. (Full disclosure, your author is a volunteer for the IIE).

The IIE pays to locate scholars in safe locations in the United States, and other countries as well. The IIE knows that saving the lives of scholars means that two of the most important functions of civilization can be met: adding to our store of knowledge and teaching future students.

This is particularly true in the case of Dr. Hasan. Imagine the loss to mankind if research on improved medications for blood pressure, cancer, and obesity were lost because of the unspeakable tragedy going on in Syria.

Professor Hasan has only been in this country five months, but he and his family are grateful every day to live in safety and to contribute to their new country. They are enriching our lives by their presence.

His two sons are now part of the Somerset County public school system. His wife, Hanaa, a dentist, is hoping to have volunteer work, or a part time job of shadowing in dental surgery because of her experience for 18 years in her private clinic and health center. She’s also hoping to earn some additional money by tutoring people in Arabic* as she works on perfecting her English.

Professor Hasan is one of two IIE rescue scholars in our area. In the coming weeks, look for the story of Adib Sha’ar and his family. Professor Sha’ar is currently teaching at Salisbury University, and his field is mathematics and cryptology.

As is the case with Hasan, Sha’ar also has a fascinating story to tell.

Contact Mitzi Perdue at mitziperdue.com.

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