Nadine Al-Naamani, M.D., was inspired to become a doctor after growing up in Beirut during the civil war in Lebanon. She knew then that she wanted to help people around her. Today, she treats people with pulmonary hypertension (PH) and other serious lung conditions at Penn Medicine and conducts PH research. She is an assistant professor of medicine at University of Pennsylvania Hospital, a Pulmonary Hypertension Association-accredited PH Care Center. She originally shared her story with Pathlight, PHA’s quarterly member magazine.

By Nadine Al-Naamani

I was always fascinated by pulmonary disease, ventilatory mechanics and pulmonary hemodynamics. After a clinical elective at Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital, I joined the lab of Steven Kawut, M.D., as a post­doctoral research scientist. I led his first National Institutes of Health-funded clinical trial in pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH).

I had little experience in PH prior to my work on that trial, but I quickly learned more about it. The trial gave me the opportunity to interact with people afflicted with this disease. I soon realized that I wanted to be part of the team to improve their lives.

To continue my training as a physician scientist, I repeated my internal medicine residency training in the U.S. and completed a pulmonary and critical care fellowship at Tufts Medical Center. Before coming to the U.S., I earned my bachelor’s and medical degrees at American University of Beirut and completed a three-year residency in internal medicine at the American University of Beirut Medical Center.

At Tufts, I gained further clinical expertise in PH from leaders in the field, including Nicholas Hill, M.D., Ioana Preston, M.D., and Kari Roberts, M.D. I also continued to pursue my research projects.

After my fellowship, I completed a master’s degree in clinical and translational science at Tufts University before joining the University of Pennsylvania in 2016.

In 2017, I was lucky to receive the Aldrighetti Research Award for Young Investigators from the Pulmonary Hypertension Association (PHA), as well as an NIH career development award. The funding allowed me to dedicate time to conduct my PH research, which focuses on the association of body weight and obesity on clinical outcomes.

In December 2020, the Annals of the American Thoracic Society published the results of a study that I led on patients enrolled in the Pulmonary Hypertension Association Registry. The study found that about two-thirds of patients were overweight or obese. Overweight and obese patients with PH experienced worse quality of life and higher rates of hospitalization. The results highlight the importance of addressing specific issues to improve quality of life for people with PH who are overweight or obese.

When I’m not focused on my research or clinical work at the hospital, I like to unwind by spending time with my three daughters and my husband. We love being outdoors whether we’re spending time on the beach or hiking a new trail in the Poconos.

I also enjoy cooking and baking with my daughters, and the COVID pandemic has provided us with a lot of time together at home to try out new recipes.

I am proud to be a member of the PH community and the PHA Registry steering committee. With the support of the PHA and other organizations that fund PH research, I am hopeful that we will be able to make a difference in lives of people with PH.

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