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BMJ. 2007 November 3; 335(7626): 943.
PMCID: PMC2048857

Seyed Abdolmajid Rooholamini

It can only be said of a few men that their accomplishments in their medical careers helped progress the practice and knowledge of medicine in their native country, but Seyed Abdolmajid Rooholamini was one such man. A highly respected radiologist, he was affectionately known as the “father of radiology” in Iran.

Born in the southeastern province of Kerman in Iran, he qualified from the highly competitive Tehran University School of Medicine in 1962. Like most of his peers in that decade, after his internship in Iran he left to do an additional year of internship at Queens Hospital Medical Center in New York and it was here that he developed his lifelong passion for radiology. His thirst for knowledge, his highly accomplished skills as a clinician and his infectious enthusiasm enabled him to enter the much coveted residency training programme in radiology at Yale University Medical Center, training under Dr Richard Greenspan from 1964 to 1967. This was followed by a fellowship in cardiovascular radiology at Stanford University from 1967 to 1968 and an appointment as senior registrar in cardiovascular radiology at the University of Cambridge and United Cambridge Hospitals in the United Kingdom from 1968 to 1969.

Being passionately in love with his homeland, he returned to Iran and initially taught as an assistant professor of radiology at the Mashad University Schools of Medicine and Dentistry, before his unique talents were recognised and he was appointed consultant and chairman of the Department of Radiology at the Queen Pahlavi Foundation and Queen Pahlavi Cardiovascular Medical Center in Tehran in 1970. A series of increasingly prestigious appointments followed, each in recognition of his outstanding talents and contributions to the advancement of radiology in Iran, culminating in his appointment as consultant and chairman of the Department of Radiology of the Ministry of Health of Iran in 1975. During this time, he transformed the affiliated Shafa Yahyaian Hospital into the most prominent orthopaedic centre and orthopaedic radiology unit in the country and established a modern radiology training programme for the Ministry of Health.

Teaching eventually became his passion, and he devoted endless hours of his time planning and ensuring the residents rotated to other centre scattered across Iran. With his friend and mentor, Dr Issa Yaghmai, he founded the prestigious Iranian Radiological Society, which brought the Iranian radiology community together, holding annual meetings and inviting guests who were renowned in the field of radiology from the United States and Europe. Many distinguished radiologists—namely, Drs.Benjamin Felson, Richard Marshak, Gerald Dodd, Jack Edeiken, and Arthur Clement from the United States, Clement Forré from France, and Anders Lünderquist and Erik Boijsen from Sweden—helped to elevate these meetings to international status. The aim of these meetings was not only to learn about radiology but to introduce the West to the warm and hospitable people of Iran, to the beautiful landscapes and culture of Iran, and to its rich history spanning over two and a half millennia. These meetings fulfilled Professor Rooholamini's two passions: his love of medicine and his love of his homeland. Consequently, many lasting friendships were forged from these gatherings.

Professor Rooholamini also served tirelessly on numerous professional and scientific bodies in Iran, including the Iranian Medical Council and the Ministry of Health, as well as the Ministry of Higher Education. Throughout this time he continued to publish many papers and wrote extensive book chapters in highly respected radiological texts.

In the late 1970s turbulent and uncertain times were to hit Iran, resulting in a fundamental change of political regime and social environment. Whereas many of his peers and colleagues abandoned their homeland to seek refuge from the turbulence abroad, Professor Rooholamini stayed loyal to Iran and his countrymen. However, the Iran-Iraq war and an increasingly difficult, and even hostile, environment in Iran forced him his family to leave their homeland once again in 1984, initially to Sweden, where he completed a visiting fellowship in radiology at Lund University Hospital for one year before relocating to the United States.

From 1985 to 1989 he served as associate professor of radiology at the University of Iowa College of Medicine until he and his family made their final move to California in 1989, joining his old friend and colleague Dr Yaghmai at Olive View-UCLA Medical Center. Before long, in recognition of his outstanding knowledge and talents, he was appointed professor and director of the residency and then fellowship training programme, positions held until his demise. With Dr Yaghmai, he established the North American Iranian Radiological Society (NAIRS), which held regular meetings to bring the Iranian radiological community together, forging collaborations and exchange of ideas. He warmly embraced his adopted homeland of the United States, which in turn bestowed many honours on him in deserved recognition of his numerous professional achievements, including appointment as fellow of both the American College of Radiology and the American College of Chest Physicians. He was co-author of 47 peer reviewed publications and 11 book chapters, with an additional seven manuscripts in preparation, as well as 113 abstracts and exhibits, at the time of his death.

Professor Rooholamini was an accomplished physician, a knowledgeable scholar, a superb teacher, and a first rate radiologist, but above all he was a noble and kind man who strove continuously to advance the cause of the common good for his people and for the profession he had chosen. To those who knew him, his humility was humbling. On a more personal level, he will be remembered for his gentle, kind, and softly-spoken manner, his sharp sense of humour and delightful wit, his masterful proficiency at telling jokes, his vast knowledge of Persian prose and poetry, and his genuine and enduring pride in his heritage. Ischaemic heart disease was a curse that had fatally afflicted several members of his family, including his parents and eldest brother. He survived a myocardial infarction and coronary artery bypass operation in 1993, but the disease struck again and he succumbed to a cardiac arrest in February 2007. He is buried near his dear friend, Dr Yaghmai, in his adopted homeland, a country that welcomed him back with open arms and which embraced his talents and achievements and bestowed on him due recognition. He is survived by his wife and companion of almost 30 years, Fatemeh, and his beloved and cherished daughter, Sahar, a medical student at Stanford University.

Notes

Professor of radiology Olive View-UCLA Medical Center, Sylmar, California (b Kerman, Iran, 10 January 1938; q Tehran 1962), died from cardiac arrest due to ischaemic heart disease on 1 February 2007 in California.


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