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Mehraban Shahriari, (1909-1948)
The humanist Medical Doctor

Prominent Zarathushtis


Farshidi,Dr. Bahram



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[i] Dr. Farshidi was asked to write a brief biography of his beloved maternal uncle, the late and long- remembered Dr. Mehraban Shahriari. With permission from his noble son, Dr. Darioush Shahriari, and assistance from relatives and others familiar with his life and times, Bahram embarked on this effort.

Dr. Mehraban Shahriari

Mehraban Shahriari's journey through life had three distinct phases.

The Formative Years:
The first phase of his life, which undoubtedly influenced his character development and choice of future path in life, was his childhood through his graduation from high school. It was during this period that his experiences living in society riddled with injustice, discrimination and man-conceived social barriers against a backdrop of semi-feudal socio-economic reality touched his consciousness and influenced him very profoundly. All these factors resulted in his maturing into a human being with an unselfish desire to lend a helping hand to all his fellow man in need of social justices.

For the benefit of the readers, some background information relative to the socio-economic realities of the 1500+ strong Zoroastrian community of Kerman, Iran of the early 20th century would be appropriate.
[ii] During the first half of the twentieth century, Zoroastrians in Kerman were mostly farmers, with a few merchants, businessmen or government bureaucrats in their ranks. The social atmosphere of the city dominated by Islamic religious-based thinking,  created difficult conditions for minorities. For instance, a Zarathushtrian was not allowed to touch any edible item at a store before purchasing the item, or they were not allowed to leave their homes on rainy days, as the Moslems believed the rain drops washing off the minorities would defile the earth. It was under such socio-economic conditions and mindsets that Dr. Mehraban Shahriari was born in a Zarathushtrian family in Kerman of 1909. While growing up in Kerman, as a student in elementary and high school and then as a teacher for 2-3 years, he observed and assimilated the pain and suffering of all members of the community resulting from lack of medical care as well as poor socio-economic conditions driven by injustice and prejudice. It was hard to find a family that had not lost a child to a simple infection or to find a child bearing mother who had not lost a baby during childbirth. His sensitive nature must have been profoundly touched by witnessing such conditions.  He was also inspired by the accomplishments of his mother’s cousin, Adorbad Kermani, MD who had graduated from a British medical school and was practicing ophthalmology in India.  Mehraban Shahriari set his mind on pursuing his education in medicine and was accepted at Tehran University School of Medicine that had been established just a few years earlier. [iii]

Mehraban Shahrian (right) at Medical school; Professor Jahanshah Saleh at the center

Professional Growth:
The second phase of Dr.Mehraban Shahriari's journey through life was shaped not only by his medical school education but also by the opportunity to collaborate closely with scientific and intellectual elites of Tehran such as Dr. Jehanshah Saleh, [iv] Dr. Mir,[v] Professor Shams[vi] and Professor Pour-Davoud,[vii] whose friendships lasted long after completion of medical school. [viii] Dr. Shahriari was amongst the first group of medical doctors to graduate from Tehran University Medical School in 1939.[ix] Upon graduation, Mehraban Shahriari returned to his birth city of Kerman. Dr. Saleh’s request and urging that he stay in Tehran and teach at the Medical School could not keep him from his desire to return to his native town and to be an agent of change. This period of his life, not only empowered him with the knowledge and skills of a physician but also solidified his determination and dedication while strengthening his moral character to embark on his personal quest to serve his community on a scale that had no precedence in the preceding centuries and that has not been witnessed in Kerman to the time of this publication.

Unprecended Service:
The third and final phase of his journey through life began almost immediately after his return to his birth place, as the first returning native son who had studied modern medicine at an Iranian university. Dedicated to the cause of helping people with his newly acquired professional knowledge and skills Dr. Shahriari set on a life of self-less service to his fellow man.
In the short span of time before his premature death, Dr. Shahriari’s accomplishments left a legacy of unsurpassed humanitarian and professional dedication to the welfare of all humans that he  reached. His memory continues to be cherished half a century after his death.

The legacy of Dr. Shahriari’s unselfish caring for others has been an inspiration for three generations in Kerman where countless number of people were touched by him. There are so many examples of the lives he saved from infections and other illnesses, of how he would leave money under the floor mat of the poor patients he visited at their homes so they could afford to buy food and medicine. Examples abound of how he would routinely make calls at the home of the sick people he had come to hear about without being called for, so he could help them get well. He was an angel of change who broke the social and community barriers by caring for all people regardless of their creed, religion, social status or ability to pay. He was loved and respected by all who knew or heard of him. His service to the citizens of Kerman when an epidemic broke out in the aftermath of WWI was exemplary.

His dedication to the cause of helping sick people was fueled by his firm belief in compassion for fellow humans and his professional adherence to the “Hippocratic” oath he had taken. Dr. Shahriari was married in 1945 to Parvin Shahriari, and his only child, a son, Darioush, was born in 1946. Ironically, Dr. Mehraban Shahriari passed away in 1948 of complications of appendicitis three days after he underwent surgery at the hands of Dr. Wild, a British surgeon practicing in Kerman. His friends in the capital, high ranking officials including Dr. Saleh, had dispatched a governmental airplane
[x] to Kerman to transport him to Tehran for treatment but it was too late.

His son, Darioush, was sent to Germany at age 9 carrying the spiritual support and legacy of his father with him, and became a physician and a cardiopulmonary specialist in his own right.

His Legacy:
The legacy of Dr. Mehraban Shahriari goes beyond that of a caring physician. He helped transform a society ridden by religious bigotry and intolerance into a more compassionate and unified society and gained unprecedented respect and love for his fellow Zoroastrians from the Moslem majority in Kerman. He helped the various communities to open their hearts to each other, and influenced their thinking as human beings. When the news of his demise spread, the entire city shut down in mourning and the Moslems claiming him as one of their own demanded to bury him according to Islamic rites and in the Moslem cemetery. Reluctantly, they accepted the wishes of the family that Dr. Mehraban Shahriari be buried in the Zoroastrian cemetery. It seems as though the entire city turned up to pay their last respects to the city’s favorite son and home grown hero.

Dr. Mehraban Shahriari, the self-less care giver and the social agent of change, was instrumental in opening people’s mind to a higher level of humanity and human caring than was known before him. The following short stories demonstrate Dr. Shahriari’s influence on the people of his time and subsequent generations.

  1. On one occasion many years after Dr. Shahriari had departed this life, the author’s older brother Dr. Ardeshir Farshidi came to discover to his pleasant surprise the level of admiration, respect and inspiration instilled in others by his late uncle. After completion of his medical schooling in Iran, Dr. Ardeshir Farshidi was slated to start his national service (Sepah Behdasht), [xii]  when he was contacted by the Deputy Secretary of Health’s Office in regards to local health policies. Upon meeting Ardeshir, the Deputy Secretary of Health, Dr. Dadgar,  manifested a recognition of the family relationship between Dr. Farshidi and the late Dr. Shahriari. Dr. Dadgar had previously spent many years practicing medicine in Kerman. Thus he was quick to recall Dr. Shahriari’s compassion, kindness and generosity demonstrated through his extensive humanitarian work within the community distinguishing him as a true leader and role model for an entire generation.
  2. This author recalls when he was in the first year of medical school at Tehran University, a professor asked the freshman class to state their reasons for choosing to study Medicine. A female student who later became an ophthalmologist, explained that her father, a native of Kerman had told her the life story of the legendary physician of Kerman, and had encouraged her to follow in the foot steps of the legendry Dr. Mehraban Shahriari. It was a pleasant surprise for the author to witness the spirit of Dr. Shahriari filling the room with inspiration and influencing the younger generation even more than twenty-two years past his death.

Mehraban Shahriari (3rd from right) at Medical school; Professor Mir at center

His Ideal:
Dr. Mehraban Shahriari’s spirit lives on in all the caring social workers who have chosen to follow his example. He drew his life’s pleasure in helping others, a theme emphasized by the tenet of his Zarathushtrian heritage that

“Happiness is to the lot of him who works for the Happiness of others” (Y43.1)[xiii]

Mehraban Shahriari’s life was a personification of the above Gathic ideal. May the spirit of service, compassion and self-less giving manifested by him inspire others.

[i] Dr. Farshidi was asked to write a brief biography of his beloved maternal uncle, the late and long- remembered Dr. Mehraban Shahriari. With permission from his noble son, Dr. Darioush Shahriari, and assistance from relatives and others familiar with his life and times, Bahram embarked on this effort.

[ii] In the first half of the 20th century, the Qajar Dynasty was replaced by the Pahlavi Dynasty.  Reza Shah the first Pahlavi introduced a lot of reforms aimed at modernizing the country.  His aim was to restore Iran to its once proud position in the world.  However age old habits were lingering on.

[iii] Tehran University school of medicine was the first modern school to be established in Iran by the decree of Reza Shah, the founder of the Pahlavi dynasty in the first half of the 20th century.

[iv] Dr. Saleh MD was an OB/GYN specialist from United State of America. He helped create and chaired the first OB/GYN Department at Tehran University. Dr. Saleh served as head of Tehran University, Secretary of Health and Education, and personal physician to the Royal Family. Retiring from his university position, he accepted a senatorial position while continuing his private practice. For his work, the administration at Tehran University named the women’s hospital after him, Saleh Women’s Hospital. Dr. Saleh was also a member of many European science academies.

[v] Dr. Mir, MD specialized in surgery in France. As chair of the surgery department, he trained many young physicians. One of Tehran University’s lecture halls has been named after Dr. Mir, Talar e Mir.

[vi] Professor Shams specialized in Ophthalmology in France. Dr. Shams began and served as chair of the Ophthalmology Department at Tehran University. Many prominent Ophthalmologists have been trained by Dr. Shams.

[vii] Professor Ibrahim Pour-Davoud was a leading Iranologist, and the first chairman of the department of Ancient Iranian studies at Tehran University.

[viii] A rare photograph of this group with Dr. Shahriari in author possession was unfortunately misplaced during his move from Iran to the U. S.

[ix] His final thesis (registration number 123) can still be accessed in the Archives of Tehran University Medical School.

[x] The dispatching of a government plane for this purpose was rarely done and only happened for the Royalty and high ranking governmental officials.

[xi] Likewise, Dr. Shahriari’s grandson, Mehrshad, is also following his forefather’s example and studying medicine in Northern Ireland. Dr. Shahriari’s three nephews, including the author, and his two brothers also studies medicine in Iran and became respected medical professionals in their own rights.

[xii] Sepah Behdasht was a subdivision of the military service for which medical professionals were mandated to spend up to 18 months in remote villages in Iran providing medical care to the local populace after completing their training.

[xiii] Excerpts from Dinshah Irani’s translation.