Faculty Feature Amjad Horani

From left to right: Adam, Basel, Lamees, Aya, Amjad and Nadim.

Amjad was born and grew up in the beautiful city of Jerusalem, to a family of educators. Dad is a retired professor of education and a major of middle eastern history. Mom is a retired elementary school principal. Although Amjad and his two younger brothers are Jerusalemites by birth and conviction, their extended family on their father’s side comes from a small village in the Galilee (about an hour north of the city of Nazareth), where his family grows olive groves. Amjad is blessed with nine uncles and aunts on his father’s side and five on his mother’s side, which translates to many, many, first cousins.

Growing in Jerusalem is a unique experience; for no one can beat the tastes and smells of middle eastern delicacies in the old city, and the sense of history when walking through its ancient alleys and streets, especially when one’s high school (College des Frere) is a 145 years old French missionary Catholic school in the heart of one of the oldest cities on earth. Although history is important, Amjad was attracted to the sciences. Amjad’s fascination with science and experimentation started at an early age, initially by just making gooey stuff in the kitchen. However, very fast, this did not fulfill his inquisitive nature, and he soon started performing more ‘interesting’ experiments, like the day he decided to study the effects of air on combustion in sealed environments (i.e a kerosine heater), and almost burnt their apartment, or the time he tested flow of electric current through conductive objects (i.e his hand), which resulted in spiky hair. Thankfully, none resulted in serious injury or harm.

Amjad had a goal of being a scientist since the beginning. Amjad’s decision to become a physician however came much later. Rumor says that it may have been a calling from above, as Medicine was not one of his college application choices, but rather added as an afterthought after meeting with his advisor during his college prep year. Because of this “divine” intervention, Amjad joined the medical school program at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem – a 7-year program. During the third year of medical school, Amjad decided to join the laboratory of Eitan Blumenthal, an ophthalmologist, who was interested in the pathogenesis of glaucoma. It is during this time that Amjad got a real taste of the exhilaration one gets when the numbers turn into a graph and an image tells a story no one saw before. During his time in the Blumenthal lab, Amjad co-authored 8 papers. However, working in one lab was not enough, and soon Amjad joined the lab of Rifaat Safadi, a hepatologist, working on the immunology of liver fibrosis using murine models. For a while, Amjad was working with “eyes” in the morning, and with “cirrhotic mice” in the evening, and in between attended medical school. This allowed Amjad to be exposed to different flavors of the medical sciences, resulting in several first author publications.

After medical school, Amjad joined the Pediatric residency program at the Hadassah-Hebrew University medical center. It was at this time that he met his wife Lamees, the department’s social worker. During residency, Amjad continued working with Safadi, but drifted towards pulmonary research, picking additional mentors on his way, including Eitan Kerem (a world-renowned cystic fibrosis researcher). In 2010, Amjad decided to pursue pulmonary medicine as a career and joined the Pulmonary fellowship program at Washington University. At Washington University, he joined the lab of Steven Brody, a well-known airway epithelial and cilia scientist, who mentored Amjad in critical thinking and writing, and helped set his path as an airway epithelial cell biologist. Amjad joined the faculty at the department of Pediatrics at Washington University in 2014. Currently, Amjad is an assistant professor of Pediatrics, Cell biology and Physiology and continues to work on the biogenesis of motile cilia disease and how mutations in cilia associated genes affect function, in his own lab.

Biking buddies. From left to right: Amjad, Khaled, Adnan and Raheem.

In his free time (whenever that occurs), Amjad enjoys spending time with his four children. He also enjoys biking on weekends, listening to his friend, Kareem Azab, PhD, play the oud while his wife and their friends sing, and fixing things that do not need fixing at home.

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