Mon, Sep 13, 2021 at 12:00 PM
Family settling in local area
Marshall Medical’s newest and youngest cardiologist has a different approach to preventing heart disease. He doesn’t just tell his patients to eat right and exercise – he teaches them how.
“I’m very interested in preventive cardiology,” said Dr. Maan Harb, a new face at the Heart Center’s satellite office inside Marshall South. “I go into detail of what eating healthy means and what exercise is. Rather than saving someone in the midst of a heart attack, it would be better if it had never happened. Lots of things can be prevented.”
Lifestyle changes are a big challenge. Dr. Harb encourages his patients to follow a vegetable-based diet and avoid fast food. In the Deep South where folks are accustomed to eating fried foods, it can mean more effort and expense to find healthy options. Artery-clogging foods can seem like a bargain when compared to healthier options – illustrated by the price of a cheap burger over a hearty salad.
“That can make bad decisions more appealing,” he said. “We pay for it later in health costs because hospitalizations are much more costly than basic preventive measures.”
As a new physician, Dr. Harb is trained in the latest developments in cardiology and is very excited about advancements in cardiac imaging. He hopes to keep adding services to the battery of heart treatments now available locally.
Dr. Harb knew early on he wanted to be a doctor, rather than a lawyer like his brothers. The loss of a sister at a young age especially fueled his drive to heal the sick. Science fascinated him as a young man, as did the amazing role performed by the heart, steering him toward a career in cardiology.
“The heart works in harmony with all the other organs,” he said.
Born in Lebanon in the Middle East, Harb studied at the American University of Beirut and aspired to continue his education in the United States. He did his residency at Morristown Medical Center in New Jersey and completed medical rotations in Chicago and California. He fell in love with the country.
“I like how professional everyone is, how advanced the knowledge is here and how readily the knowledge is shared,” he said. “That’s how it should be. I feel very lucky to have had the opportunity to train in this country.”
During a visit to Manhattan, Dr. Harb met his wife Stefana, who grew up in Germany and Serbia, and is studying to be a nurse. She wanted to live in a warm climate and he was accustomed to a hot climate so he looked for a position in the South. As he interviewed, he remembered an advisor telling him to focus on the people because he would be spending so much time with them. Huntsville Hospital’s Heart Center stood out from all the other opportunities.
“They were the best by far,” he said. “They were transparent and straightforward.”
Dr. Harb was happy to be assigned to the satellite office in Boaz with senior partner Dr. George Philip. Dr. Raymond Fernandez, who has a cardiology clinic in Albertville, has performed heart procedures at Marshall South for decades.
Most heart patients are older and find it difficult to commute to Huntsville or Birmingham for treatment. Dr. Harb finds the local people to be similar to the rural folks he grew up knowing.
“The people here share that goodness and willingness to help,” he said. “They are very nice and appreciative. I like to hear their stories, especially those living on farms.”
He also wanted his son Leo, now five months old, to grow up in a rural area similar to the villages where his parents were reared. He enjoys showing off baby pictures and in turn looking at snapshots of his patients’ grandchildren.
Fishing and boating will be new experiences for Dr. Harb and his little family. He looking forward to trying out all that his new home has to offer.
“I’m happy to be here. I’m really enjoying every minute of it.”