A Libyan Success Story. How Surgeon Hani Shennib Introduced Robots in Surgical Operations

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Libya Review puts light on the story of a prominent Muslim scholar and international Libyan surgeon, named Hani Shennib, who has pioneered surgical procedures in the United States and Canada.

Shennib’s short biography:

Hani Shennib is a direct descendant of the House of Shennib, the eldest son of Ahmed Fouad Shennib, a writer, politician, and Libyan statesman. His father was a pioneer of the education movement in Libya and his mother, Mrs. Ibtisam, is the daughter of Omar Shennib, a prominent resistance fighter (mujahid) against the Italian occupation. Omar Shennib contributed to the independence of the country and became a Minister of Defence within the first national government of Libya.

Originally from Derna, Shennib was born in Tripoli. In his early childhood, he moved from country to country due to his father’s work. As his father studied at the Sorbonne University of Paris and then went to Belgium to complete his career in the field of educational curriculum and academic psychology, Hani became fluent in French. Then the Shennib family moved to the United States where Hani’s father was appointed cultural attaché of the Libyan Embassy in Washington. Experiencing the lifestyle of America’s political capital through banquets and prestigious meetings, the family’s stay in the US had a clear impact on Shennib’s character from an early age.

In 1963, the family returned to Libya, where his father was appointed Minister of Education. Shennib remained in Libya until the late sixties, when he left for Egypt to practice medicine. After Gaddafi took power, Shennib became a vocal opponent of the Gaddafi regime, which forced him to leave Egypt and travel to London to complete his studies. The government’s pursuit of opposition members forced him to emigrate further to Canada and apply for asylum there.

In Canada, Hani Shennib joined McGill University to complete his specialisation in surgery in 1984. He later specialised in cardiovascular surgery in 1987, followed by a fellowship from the University of Toronto in the field of cardiovascular diseases in 1988.

He received an American Board Certificate in Thoracic Surgery, and a Master of Science in Experimental Surgery from McGill University. Adding to his educational prize list, he also got a Fellowship from the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada and another one from the American College of Surgeons.
Professor Hani Shennib became a Professor at McGill University as well as the University of Arizona — College of Medicine in Phoenix, in its Department of Surgery.

His constant research and innovations since the 1980’s allowed him to perform the world’s first robot-assisted heart surgery in 2000, in Manhattan. In traditional thoracic and heart surgeries, the surgeon must incise the chest with a wound of about 30cm in length, remove the ribs, and perform the required intervention. Using the robot, the surgeon needs only three small incisions to undergo surgery. This reduces the risks associated with surgery and reduces the recovery period after the operation. Professor Shennib is considered a world leader in the field of lung transplantation, having performed dozens of operations in this field.

He has published more than 200 confidential research papers in his field of specialisation such as surgical interventions in treating arteries, techniques, and multiple kinds of research on lung transplantation. Overall, he patented over 17 tools like vascular litigation tools and other devices to help surgeons stop their patients’ bleeding and conduct heart valve repair operations.

With these remarkable achievements, Professor Shennib continues contributing to the enrichment of the specialty of Cardiovascular Surgery. This is through his active presence on various committees and advisory boards of companies pioneering technological innovation, and chairing many of the research conducted at the National Institutes of Health on Lung Cancer.

Professor Shennib is a North American representative and member of the Executive Board of the World Society of Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery. He is also a former member of various committees of the American Association of Thoracic Surgeons (AATS) and a member of the European Society of Cardiothoracic Surgery.

Shennib established the National Council for US-Libyan Relations to promote American engagement in Libya, for a successful democratic transition and effective state-building. In this capacity, he has provided American institutions and decision-makers accurate information about relevant political, cultural, and economic aspects in Libya.

With these high-profile relations, Professor Shennib was able to assume many prestigious positions such as chairing the National Council for Arab-Canadian Relations, which is a national charitable organisation, whose aim is to enhance Canadians’ knowledge of the social, economic, political, and cultural history of the Arab world. He also received membership at Concordia University – Montreal, which represents the supreme administrative body of the university, responsible for setting up the legal and administrative framework for the university. The professor provided consultations to countries that want to develop their health sector, including the UAE, Kuwait, Kazakhstan, Bosnia, and Libya.

On a personal level, Professor Shennib inherited a love of literature from his father, which is noted through his writings, as he publishes articles on Libya, and the implications of world affairs on Libya. He wrote personal notes on the July 23 revolution, the deviation of the Arab mind, Britain’s exit from the European Union and its impact on Libya.