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Lamees El Nihum received the Outstanding Engineering Graduate Student Award for her extensive work and dedication to both engineering and medicine.
Lamees El Nihum received the Outstanding Engineering Graduate Student Award for her extensive work and dedication to both engineering and medicine. | Image: Courtesy of Lamees El Nihum

Lamees El Nihum received the Outstanding Engineering Graduate Student Award from the Texas A&M University College of Engineering at the virtual engineering student awards banquet held on Thursday, Nov. 5. It is given to graduate students who have demonstrated excellence in their field and comes with a $5,000 scholarship.

“At times, it is almost surreal to be on the crossroads of engineering and medicine, as if I am on a bridge between worlds,” El Nihum said. “Had it not been for the Engineering Medicine (EnMed) program and its rerouting me through a year of research in the midst of medical school, I may never have experienced the chance to apply my undergraduate knowledge of pipes and fluids to the more nuanced and complex world of human vasculature.”

In addition to fulfilling her academic requirements as a master of engineering student in the newly created Department of Multidisciplinary Engineering, El Nihum is also a fourth-year medical student in the Texas A&M College of Medicine. As a pilot student in the EnMed program through the multidisciplinary engineering department, she helped refine the curriculum for this budding program, a collaborative endeavor between Houston Methodist Hospital and the Texas A&M University System, involving personnel from both the College of Engineering and the College of Medicine. Established in 2017, EnMed is a new initiative that develops innovation-trained health care professionals with prior academic training in engineering.

“El Nihum is a passionate, driven and motivated student with an amiable personality and professional attitude,” said Dr. Debjyoti Banerjee, professor in the J. Mike Walker '66 Department of Mechanical Engineering, James J. Cain '51 Faculty Fellow and a fellow of the EnMed program. “She demonstrates selfless service in her extensive mentorship to premedical and medical students and demonstrates leadership in the EnMed program as its first pilot student.” 

The first education track of its kind, students in EnMed earn both M.D. and M.E. degrees in four years and are required to pursue the design of innovative medical technologies. El Nihum’s curriculum differs slightly from that of her fellow EnMed students in the inaugural class. El Nihum is a participant in the college of medicine’s robust and visionary M.D. Plus program, in which several five-year dual-degree programs are offered to medical students. She will obtain her M.E. in spring 2021 and M.D. in spring 2022.

El Nihum is also one of five research scholars recently selected to participate in the Texas A&M University Academy of Physician Scientists program ($2.5 million grant) with support from the Physician Scientist Institutional Award ($12.5 million) granted by the Burroughs Wellcome Fund. She is conducting various forms of research at Houston Methodist to gain insight into heart disease and develop her knowledge of the cardiovascular system for her future as a surgeon.

“In having the unique opportunity of simultaneously being an EnMed pilot student and Burroughs Wellcome scholar, I have reaped the engineering mentorship of my EnMed faculty, the clinical mentorship of my interventional cardiologist and cardiovascular surgeon mentors at Houston Methodist, and the tutelage and guidance of the many physicians and research scientists who dedicate their invaluable time, knowledge and efforts to the Burroughs Wellcome Fund curriculum, all of whom I am deeply indebted to,” said El Nihum.

“El Nihum is well on her way to achieving her dream of deploying innovative engineering tools while also becoming a heart surgeon,” Banerjee said. “She is dedicated to enhancing her skills in engineering research for advancing the fields of cardiovascular surgery and interventional cardiology.”

El Nihum received her bachelor’s degree from the Artie McFerrin Department of Chemical Engineering at Texas A&M, but always had the ultimate goal of attending medical school. An aspiring congenital heart surgeon, she is using EnMed’s unique partnership to research and pursue the development of diagnostic tools that can be used to treat patients with cardiac diseases.

“My research team and I at Houston Methodist have two invention disclosures in the works, both centered on catheter intervention techniques for cardiovascular surgery and interventional cardiology, particularly geared toward congenital heart lesions,” said El Nihum. “We are further studying the hemodynamics of the geometrically complex right ventricle through 4D MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) and CFD (computational fluid dynamics) toward co-validation of acute and chronic flow patterns in the right heart and, ultimately, diagnostic and therapeutic applications.”

El Nihum has earned her title as an outstanding student through her dedication to both engineering and medicine. As she continues to push toward her goals, she is continually in awe of the opportunities and people Texas A&M has aided her in finding.

“I am but one small part of a colossal effort, surrounded by individuals of all walks of life and equally passionate about their work and their role in striving, by the grace of God, to make the world a better place,” she said.