‘Brain on Fire’ doctor to head advanced neuroscience institute at Abu Dhabi hospital


Abu Dhabi-headquartered Burjeel Holdings and New York’s largest healthcare provider Northwell Health have joined forces to open an advanced neuroscience institute here led by renowned neurologist Dr Souhel Najjar.

The new institute, located at Burjeel Medical City (BMC), will provide state-of-the-art care for patients with neurological disorders, including autoimmune brain disorders, epilepsy, Parkinson’s and movement disorders, paediatric neurology and multiple sclerosis.

Dr Najjar, professor and chairperson, department of neurology, Donald and Barbara Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell, and executive director and senior vice president of the Northwell Health Neurology Service Line, will head the institute in Abu Dhabi which bears his name as well.

Dr Najjar was the first physician in New York University history to identify the interaction mechanism between the immune and central nervous systems. He was featured in The New York Times’ best-selling novel Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness, a memoir by New York Post reporter Susannah Cahalan. It was Dr Najjar who diagnosed Cahalan with anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis – a rare autoimmune disease, which caused her body to attack her brain. The title is taken from ‘a brain on fire,’ which is how Dr Najjar reportedly described Cahalan’s condition to her parents. In 2016, the book was made into a film, Brain on Fire, which became popular on Netflix.

“Northwell Health and Burjeel Holdings’ decision to build a neuroscience institute in the UAE demonstrates their synergistic culture of innovation and commitment to bring advanced, innovative, and compassionate neurological care to the UAE and the entire Middle East. On a personal level, I am proud of this relationship as it allows me to bring my Northwell Health family closer to the beloved UAE,” said Dr Najjar.

The establishment of the ‘Dr Najjar Neuroscience Institute’ was formalised at a ceremony held at the Northwell Health corporate headquarters in Manhattan, New York City. It was attended by Burjeel Holdings’ founder and chairman Dr Shamsheer Vayalil, CEO John Sunil and non-executive director Dr Mohan Chellappa, along with Dr Najjar, Northwell Health’s president and CEO Michael Dowling, vice president (Neurology Service Line) Dinelia Ortiz, senior project manager (Neurology Global Patient Services) Serena Najjar, senior vice president and regional executive director western region Kevin Beiner.

Dowling noted: “This collaboration is an exciting opportunity to deliver world-class care to the communities of Abu Dhabi. Dr Najjar has long been an example of clinical excellence for our health system, and we are incredibly proud to see his team’s services offered across the globe.”

Sunil added: “The partnership is another important step in Burjeel Holdings’ commitment to delivering unmatched healthcare excellence in the region and greatly improving patient outcomes. The collaboration with Northwell Health and Dr Najjar aligns with the Group’s endeavours to provide complex care and access to the newest treatments and technologies for patients across the region.”

Northwell Health is New York State’s largest healthcare provider with 21 hospitals, about 900 outpatient facilities and more than 12,000 affiliated physicians. Burjeel Medical City is a 400-bed leading quaternary care facility with cutting-edge medical technology and employing internationally recognised and published physicians.

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