A letter from Dr. Taybi, a refugee from Iran, before he dies
The Rev. Joanna J. Seibert: Dear Joanna (please call me Hoosh),
Thank you very much for very kind email. Your encouragement is most appreciated. I have accepted my illness and have no trouble dealing with the situation, thanks primarily to the support of my loving wife Alice and my children.
I am so thankful for all the opportunities I have been given by my mentors, friends and many times strangers in this country. Your kindness and reading your email brings me back to 1946 when I was a practicing pediatrician in the city of Hamedan in Iran. An American missionary had a small hospital and clinic headed by a young American, Dr. Frame. I told him one day I was planning to go to America and get more education. A son of a missionary, he spoke Farsi fluently. I told him I wanted to learn "American." He taught me a few words in "American." (English.) When I left Iran Mrs. Frame gave a letter to deliver to her parents, the Andersons. I arrived in New York City in December 1948, just before Christmas and found my way in Manhattan to the Anderson's apartment. Mr. Anderson took me to New York University, met with Professor Tobin, the Dean of Students and enrolled me in English class. Andersons were missionaries having spent many years in South America's jungles. Their kindness did not end here. Many times they invited me to their home and I spent the 1949 Christmas at their home in New Jersey. The Frames moved back to USA and Dr. Frame had a practice in New York City. It was in 1964 when we gave a course in Pediatric Radiology at Indiana University Medical Center. I sent an invitation for Dr. Frame to come as my guest and attend the course. He was not able to come but in a nice note stated: I see your "American" has much improved, referring to my use of American instead of English in 1948!! This type of kindness is unforgettable. To the end of my life I shall remember what they did for a man from another land and another culture. Two of the Anderson photographs from my album are attached.
I appreciate very much your family remembering meeting this old friend. Please extend my regards to them and I hope we meet again at another SPR gathering,
As I say prayers today for refugees and those trying to immigrate to our country in face of the recent travel ban, I find this note from Dr. Hooshang Taybi from 2006. It is written three weeks before he died in response to my note about the news of his terminal illness. If you are a radiologist or a pediatrician, you will remember Dr. Taybi, best known for his study of children with difficulties that become part of a syndrome. He was professionally noted for his encyclopedic memory of the more than 100 journals he read leading to his classic textbook, The Radiology of Syndromes, but what I most remember is his kindness, humbleness, and caring for others, empowering others, never too important to spend time with you. A colleague shares a phrase from Dr. Taybi’s favorite Persian poem, “The best way to show your gratitude for a having a strong arm is to extend a helping hand to the weak.”1
I see a life of a brilliant man who close to his death still expresses gratitude for those who helped him over 50 years before. Dr. Taybi empowers us still today by telling stories, stories of children with illnesses, stories of how he was empowered, gratitude for all who touched his life even to the end. I continue to see daily the difference gratitude can make in a person’s life. Today I will try to remember and give thanks for those who empowered me and pray that I can pass empowerment and gratitude on to others. I also want to remember Dr. Taybi’s story of what a difference the strangers who helped him made in his life. I hope to try to do this for those who come to our country like Dr. Taybi for a new life.
I also remember that if the present travel ban had been in place, Dr. Taybi would never have come to his America. I think of all of us whose lives would not have been touched by his, but especially the children and their parents who would have missed his medical expertise.
1Ron Cohen, Charles Gooding, “Memorial Hooshang Taybi,” AJR, 187:1382-1383, 2006.