MY TOUGHEST CASE: Dr. Jibran Atwi
Dr. Jibran Atwi has dedicated his medical career to the service of children in a long journey that has taken him from the Middle East to Cajun country.
It’s hard to think of something more heartbreakingly vulnerable than a sick child. Not only is the child distressed, the parents are anxious and eager for their son or daughter to recover and be themselves again. They turn to pediatricians for help. As a pediatrician, Dr. Jibran Atwi has been making children’s and parents’ lives better since 1991.
Dr. Atwi is the director of the Pediatric Group, a network of 32 physicians in 14 hospitals in and around Acadiana. His work is now primarily in pediatric immunology and allergy treatment. He is affiliated with numerous hospitals, including Lafayette General Medical Center.
When asked about his most challenging case, the 57-year-old Dr. Atwi recalled a patient he first met in 1995. The patient was a 6-month-old boy. He had chronic diarrhea, he wasn’t growing, he had recurrent respiratory infections and his bone marrow wasn’t making enough white blood cells. Dr. Atwi was able to diagnose him with hypogammaglobulinemia, an immune disorder characterized by a reduction of all types of gamma globulins, including antibodies that help fight infection.
The disease was treated with monthly infusions of immunoglobulins. While the boy still had side effects from the disease, he was able to carry on with his life. Dr. Atwi treated him for 15 years and became close with the patient’s family. The combination of helping the boy and forming a personal relationship with him and the family was immensely rewarding.
Other challenging cases Dr. Atwi sees include children who have severe cases of eczema, a chronic skin condition that can cause painful inflammation and itching. It can also cause social embarrassment when it’s prominent on the face or hands. Sometimes, it’s exacerbated by food allergies. In these instances, Dr. Atwi is able to help the patients get some relief from the eczema.
“Every now and then, we get a stunning success,” said Dr. Atwi. “It’s very gratifying to see how relieved the family is after an intervention."
Thankfully, most cases are not hair-raising. Most of Dr. Atwi’s work involves children having simple issues that can be resolved without much difficulty.
“The bulk of what we do is small things,” said Dr. Atwi. “They have an acute problem that is easy to solve. The parents are reassured, the child bounces back and everyone’s relatively happy.”
Dr. Jibran Atwi was born in Lebanon. He did his undergraduate work and earned his M.D. at the American University of Lebanon. He continued his training in the United States in New York City and Philadelphia, where he met his wife, Celina. While training in the United States, a civil war ravaged his native country of Lebanon (he would be unable to see his parents for close to 10 years). Eventually, Dr. Atwi and his wife, also a doctor, chose Louisiana as their home base. They have nine children and three grandchildren. When he’s not enjoying the company of his family, Dr. Atwi is also an avid gardener.