Reem S. Abu-Rustum, MD
Institution: University of Florida
Title: Associate Professor
Medical School: University of Florida
Residency: University of Florida
Tell us about someone who had an influence on you as child. My father, Sameer, was an Ob/Gyn and my idol. I grew up in Tripoli, Lebanon during the civil war and I spent school vacations and school closures with him in the office, delivery room, and the OR.
What was your first job and how did it prepare you for your current position? My first job(s) were during college when I worked as a babysitter, tutor, and librarian. Those experiences reinforced within me patience and nurturance, key characteristics in every aspect of my daily life: with my family, patients, co-workers, and learners.
Was there a mentor who inspired you? I have been blessed with the most inspiring mentors who have been the driving force in my life: my father, Sameer, my mentor from my first breath; Drs. Keith Stone, Patrick Duff, and Amelia Cruz who I first met in my third year medical school and who taught me the true art of healing; and Dr. Alfred Abuhamad who inspired and mentored me as I embarked on a journey of marvel into the world of fetal imaging.
How did the diversity (or lack of diversity) in your medical educators shape your training? Though we lacked diversity in medical educators during my years of training, our patient population was replete with patients from all ethnicities, races and socioeconomic backgrounds. My mentors taught me how critical it is to strive for equitable healthcare, whereby those of all races, ethnic backgrounds, and genders feel included under our care. As racial injustice remains as palpable as ever, in both the medical field and society as a whole, we as physicians must establish trust and a deep connection with our patients, providing them with a safe space and ensuring a holistic healing process.
How has your cultural background shaped you as an Ob/Gyn? I grew up in the Middle East (Lebanon) and left at the age of 17, studied and trained in the U.S. (undergraduate education through Ob/Gyn residency training), returned back to Lebanon, and practiced there for 21 years before coming back full circle and returning to my alma mater, the University of Florida. My experiences in the East and West have shaped me into the physician that I am; ever in awe of my patients, their resilience, and perseverance. I have been most privileged to advocate for and serve women who have suffered great disparities and social injustices whether due to culture and gender inequity, war and displacement, or other unimaginable forms of social discrimination. I have served in the Lebanese Outreach Setting (SANA Medical NGO) where I took care of underserved Lebanese women and Syrian and Palestinian refugees. I have also had the honor to serve on outreach missions to Sudan with ISUOG. I have been empowered by every interaction with these stoic women around the globe, who rise above all adversity and carry on as our role models nurturers.
Tell us about one of your most memorable patient encounters. Early on in my career, I happened to deliver my daughter immediately after I delivered one of my patients with her first born, a son. Her died soon after due to congenital heart disease. I still recall the first Mother’s Day I celebrated. She called me to wish me a happy day after having lost her son. My most memorable encounter was reassuring her of the wellbeing of her fetus in a subsequent pregnancy.
Tell us about an MFM colleague who has been an important part of your MFM career. The MFM fellows - past and current - that I have had the honor of working with since my return to UF: Drs. Kathryn Patrick, Kendra Sylvester-Armstrong, Callie Reeder, and Marcella Rodriguez. They inspire me with their brilliance, perseverance, and dedicated passion to this noble specialty.
What role has SMFM played in your career? I attended my first SMFM meeting, the 22nd Annual Meeting, in New Orleans in 2002 and I have rarely missed one since. The Society has influenced every aspect of my practice: from serving as the “gold standard” source for standards of care, to the cutting-edge translational research, the role models and the advocacy: not only for the patients but for the providers, as well.
If you had to live one day in your life over and over (think Groundhog Day 1993 Movie), which would you pick? Seeing and holding my daughter and son for the first time.
I’m excited to wake up every day and practice Maternal-Fetal Medicine because…with the ultrasound probe, a window into the womb opens and I am privy to the magical world of the developing fetus.
If I could solve one problem in MFM it would be…inequity.
The best day I ever had as an Ob/Gyn was…providing the priceless reassurance of a normal scan.
The hardest day I ever had as an Ob/Gyn was…breaking the news of a fetal anomaly incompatible with life.
I might be the only Ob/Gyn who…received for a birthday gift, at age 11, the opportunity to attend a delivery with my father who taught me how to suture on a cotton napkin that I still have.
My colleagues would be shocked to know…I wished to major in theater and perform live Shakespearean plays.