Fred’s medical career started in his native Iran, but after a year of medical school in Tehran, he decided to continue his training in Berlin, against his father’s wishes, but—as he said—“19-year-olds don’t listen to their fathers.” This was in 1941—wartime—but he was determined. His mother being German, meant he spoke the language already.
Fred enjoyed his time in Berlin, despite the Allied bombing. He got a night job as an air raid warden near a factory in the suburbs where he would help women and children to the shelters. When the bombing stopped, it was his duty to look for incendiary bombs, which he then had to cover with sand.
When the bombing got worse, he continued his training for a time in Freiberg, and then finished in Vienna where he stayed on for 2 years of postgraduate work. He had a lot of surgical experience, as many of the Austrian doctors had fled.
In 1947, he went home to Iran and started military service; he was sent to Azerbaijan. By the time this stint was over, he found that he had adequate experience in medical and surgical practice, but in pediatrics he was, in his words, tabula rasa. He decided on a specialty course in Britain, conducted at the Great Ormond Street children’s hospital in London. Attending the same course was Katharine, from Canada, who was to become his wife.
Fred’s first Canadian experience was in London, Ontario, where he spent 2 years, in house staff positions before coming to Vancouver in 1953. He was one of only six residents in the pediatric program at that time; the first class of medical students at UBC was still to graduate, and there were only a few pediatricians in town.
After a few months of general practice, he joined an older pediatrician for a while and then opened his own office on Granville Street, which was to remain his base for the next 42 years.
Much of his early work was in primary care, many of his patients being German-speaking Mennonites from countries such as Prussia and Paraguay. He became increasingly busy as a consultant, particularly in Richmond where no pediatricians were based at the time. He was on the active staff at the Health Centre for Children in the VGH and at the old Children’s Hospital, where he was an enthusiastic participant in their traveling clinics. He was highly respected by his colleagues as a clinician and he was an excellent clinical teacher, eventually appointed professor emeritus at UBC.
Noting the growth of sub-specialization often focused on one or the other body orifice, he said his orifices of choice became the ears (for listening to concerns), and the mouth (to offer advice to a large number of young families, many from Iran). His patients adored him.
Fred always kept up-to-date with medical progress. He was a faithful attendee at pediatric grand rounds where there were few occasions on which he did not contribute to the discussion, typically tying in a penetrating observation with some anecdote or proverb.
He read widely beyond medicine, having an extraordinarily broad appreciation of history and literature in several languages. With an amazing memory, he had a pertinent quotation for every situation. His sense of humor was proverbial.
With Katharine (who was an active physician as well as serving as president of the Vancouver School Board), Fred brought up five children in a close-knit family group.
He maintained links with the Iranian community in Vancouver and, as a result of the family’s generous contribution, The Fereidoun and Katharine Mirhady Endowment for Iranian Studies was founded in collaboration with Simon Fraser University. The third annual lectureship took place shortly before Fred’s death early this year.
Fred Mirhady was a fine man who is sorely missed by his family, many colleagues, and friends.
—Robert Hill, MD
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