August 11, 2023

New member profile: Pathology professor supports medical education in the Middle East, US

One of the newest members of the Pathology Department brings extensive partnerships in the Middle East as well as with Michigan’s Arab American Community.

Ali-Fehmi with NAAMA NextGen members at the organization's 2022 national meeting.
Dr. Ali-Fehmi (center, front) with NAAMA NextGen members at the organization's 2019 national meeting.

Professor of Pathology Rouba Ali-Fehmi, MD, comes to Michigan Medicine from Wayne State University where, over the past 20-plus years, she has hosted dozens of visiting post-graduate students from Jordan, Lebanon, and other countries for extended clinical research experiences. Closer to home, the national student organization she founded supports Arab Americans pursuing careers in the health sciences.

“Mentorship is so important to me because I myself had such wonderful mentors. When I left Syria, I never thought I would be in Academia or do research, but I was fortunate to have mentors who encouraged and taught me how to carry out projects from the design phases all the way to writing,” said Ali-Fehmi, who specializes in breast and gynecologic pathology. “I understand the critical role mentorship can play in someone’s career.”

Ali-Fehmi in Lebanon
Ali-Fehmi visiting colleagues at Amel Association International in Beirut, Lebanon.

Ali-Fehmi is also the past president of the National Arab-American Medical Association (NAAMA) and the founder of the affiliated NAAMA NextGen, which supports and empowers Arab American students pursuing careers in the health sciences. NAAMA NextGen launched in 2018 with chapters at Wayne State and U-M and has since expanded with more than 30 chapters at major universities across the country. Student members have been engaged in a number of mentored clinical research projects on subjects ranging from obesity, HPV, and vaccine hesitancy among Arab American populations.

“NextGen has been one of the most gratifying things I’ve been involved with. The students are so proud of their heritage and passionate about engaging with their communities,” she said. “Their energy is an inspiration.”

Abroad, Ali-Fehmi is engaged in philanthropic efforts in her native Syria and has extensive partnerships across the Middle East region, including at the American University of Beirut as well as King Hussein University in Jordan, along with ongoing collaborations with many other institutions and academic centers. Many of the post-graduate trainees Ali-Fehmi has hosted in the department of pathology have come from these institutions, and this exchange program is expected to continue at U-M. A trainee from AUB is expected to arrive in Ann Arbor this fall.

“I am enthused about engaging with global health colleagues here at the U-M. The breadth and depth of partnerships—the passion for the work—is on a whole different level,” Ali-Fehmi said. “I’m proud to be part of this community.”