Yosef A. Hannun

Born: September 18, 1955 | Dahran, SA
Photograph of Yosef A. Hannun

Yusuf A. Hannun was born in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. Hannun attended the International College in Beirut, where he excelled in science and mathematics. He studied medicine at the American University of Beirut, specializing in internal medicine, then took a subspecialty in oncology/hematology at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina. He studied the connection between protein kinase C and diacylglycerol with James E. Neidel and Robert M. Bell, after which he received a National Institutes of Health Physician Scientist Award and began his work on sphingolipids and protein kinase C. Much of the interview is spent discussing the cultural, social, and political life of Lebanon, the civil war, and Hannun's comparison of life in the United States to life in Lebanon.

The information listed below is current as of the date the transcript was finalized.

			

Interview Details

Interview no.: Oral History 0508
No. of pages: 163
Minutes: 600

Interview Sessions

Neil D. Hathaway
29-30 March and 1-2 April 1993
Duke University Medical Center and Interviewee Home, Durham and Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Abstract of Interview

Yusuf A. Hannun was born in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, though raised after the age of five in Beirut, Lebanon, the eldest of three siblings. His father was a medical officer in the British Army during the World War II and later became a physician at the Arabian-American Oil Company (ARAMCO) stationed in Saudi Arabia and then started his own private practice in Lebanon. Hannun's parents believed wholeheartedly in education; Hannun attended the International College in Beirut for his studies. He always excelled in school and had a broad-based education with an emphasis, and an interest for Hannun, in the sciences and mathematics. He was an avid reader and a competitive swimmer, and he knew from a young age that he was going to pursue a career in medicine, even if it served as a fallback to some other area of study. Hannun began to notice political tensions within the country at the end of high school, and subconsciously decided to undertake his career abroad. He studied medicine at the American University of Beirut, specializing in internal medicine. He decided not to stay in the Middle East and took a subspecialty in oncology/hematology at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina, at which point he decided to focus on biomedical research. He studied the connection between protein kinase C and diacylglycerol with James E. Neidel and Robert M. Bell, after which he received a National Institutes of Health Physician Scientist Award and began his work on sphingolipids and protein kinase C while remaining at Duke. Much of the interview is spent discussing the cultural, social, and political life of Lebanon, the civil war, and Hannun's comparison of life in the United States to life in Lebanon, and some time is spent discussing the Palestinian Liberation Organization. The interview concludes with Hannun's thoughts on labs that combine a structural and functional approach to science; the justification for doing basic research; his Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences award; and the politics of funding. He ends with a discussion of National Institutes of Health peer reviewers; his research on protein kinase C; his family; his collaboration with his wife, Lina Obeid Hannun; and women and minorities in science.

Education

Year Institution Degree Discipline
1977 American University of Beirut BS Biology/Chemistry
1981 American University of Beirut MD

Professional Experience

Duke University Medical Center

1983 to 1986
Hematology/Oncology Fellow
1987 to 1992
Assistant Professor, Department of Medicine
1989 to 1992
Assistant Professor, Department of Cell Biology
1992
Associate Professor, Department of Medicine

Honors

Year(s) Award
1980

Alpha Omega Alpha

1985 to 1990

Physician Scientist Award, National Institutes of Health

1988 to 1992

Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences Grant

1990 to 1995

Established Investigator Award, American Heart Association

1990 to 1993

Mallinckrodt Scholar

1991

American Society for Clinical Investigation

1992

R. Wayne Rundles Award for Excellence in Cancer Research

Table of Contents

Early Years and Reflections on Life in Saudi Arabia
1

Childhood in Saudi Arabia and Lebanon. The Palestinian refugee community. Arab-Israeli conflict. The social climate of Beirut. Quality of education in Lebanon. Attends the International College in Beirut. Growing polarization in Lebanon. Interest in mathematics. Reasons for becoming a physician. Adolescence. More on the social climate of Lebanon. The Palestine Liberation Organization.

College, Medical School, and Medical Research
32

Studies medicine at the American University of Beirut. The premed program. Outbreak of civil war in Lebanon. Discovers biomedical research. His physician father as a role model. Specializes in internal medicine. Decides not to stay in the Middle East. Takes a subspecialty in oncology/hematology at Duke University Medical Center. Decision to focus on research.

Work at Duke and Clinical Research
67

Early clinical research. Working with Naji Sahyoun. Dissatisfaction with clinical Research. Studies the connection between protein kinase C and diacylglycerol at Duke with James E. Neidel and Robert M. Bell. Perceived as a mixed micelle Specialist. Explores the role of sphingosine. Functions of diacylglycerol. National Institutes of Health (NIH) Physician Scientist Award. Current work on sphingolipids and protein kinase C. Research strategy. Areas for new discoveries.

Hannun's Lab, Pew Scholarship, and Reflections on Science
94

Labs which combine a structural and functional approach. Justification for doing basic research. Keeping the focus of the lab on new problems to be solved. Trying to find what turns off cell growth. The bias of biologists against studying growth inhibitors. The politics of research funding. The expansion of the research establishment. NIH peer reviewers. Building support for basic research. Research on protein kinase C. Family. Collaborates with wife, Lina Obeid Hannun. Women and minorities in science. Future plans.

Index
160

About the Interviewer

Neil D. Hathaway