In Memory of Ali Madani





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Ali Madani

Dr. M. Ali Madani, 88, of Kingston, New York, passed away in his home, on the afternoon of September 19th, 2020, in the presence of family. He was born in December 1931, in the desert city of Kerman, Iran. Ali was the beloved fourth son of the learned and compassionate Talat Madani and the calligraphy artist and notary scholar Mohammad Reza Madani. By the time Mamalu (Ali’s childhood nickname) was born, his mother was hopeful to add a daughter to her brood. She was understandably disappointed to see that she had given birth to yet another son. However, according to family lore, when she took her first look at Mamalu she exclaimed, “With that face, we are very fortunate that he was born a boy.” Despite her initial worries, Mamalu grew to be both handsome and eternally devoted to his mother. Ali was raised amongst the pistachio farms and pomegranate gardens of Rafsanjan, Sirjan, and Kerman. As a young child, he emulated his older brothers and followed them around everywhere. He even insisted upon accompanying his third brother, Ahmad, to elementary school everyday for two years. By the time Mamalu was old enough for school himself, he had already learned the same curriculum as his brother. His family decided that he would continue to learn with Ahmad for the rest of his primary school years… much to his elder brother’s embarrassment. Ali moved to Tehran with his mother and older brothers as a teenager. After briefly considering a career in engineering, it was there that he commenced his study of medicine at Tehran University of Medical Sciences. Upon graduating at the age of 24, he decided to pursue a career in the United States. He was accepted for a rotating internship at New York’s prestigious Hospital for Joint Diseases and the Brooklyn Jewish Hospital. In 1956, he made his way from Tehran to Manhattan via ship, train, and bus. Armed with little more than a poor command of English, a hospital address, and some money to pass a few nights at a YMCA, a kind and charmed fellow shipmate invited Ali to stay at his home instead. This cemented Ali’s view of the generosity of Americans and seeded his love for his adopted country. Ali was the embodiment of the expression “Never give up.” He showcased his tenacity by tirelessly applying and reapplying to medical programs, surgical societies, and hospitals that initially overlooked his applications. He persisted despite numerous rejections and saw each failure as a stepping stone towards his ultimate, myriad successes. Ali often regaled his family and friends with stories of how he would take whatever job was available at his medical institution of choice. This once entailed accepting a pathology residency before he could transition to a general surgery residency a year later, at Beth Israel Hospital in Newark, N.J. A few years later, Ali worked as a custodian (the only available job) at a local hospital, while waiting for his cardiovascular surgical residency to commence at the University of Toronto. Around the same time, he also picked up an additional BS in Surgery at the University of Pennsylvania, despite already being a licensed surgeon. Ali was always looking for ways to learn and grow and he found opportunities in spaces that most people would not consider. Along the way, his kindness, humor, and humility endeared him to those he interacted with, which ultimately opened doors to greater opportunities. In 1968, Ali moved to Kingston, N.Y. where he ended up serving the community for over 40 years. Working tirelessly at the Kingston Hospital, Benedictine Hospital, and his own private practice, Ali served as a jack-of-all-trades surgeon. Trained in cardiovascular surgery at the University of Toronto, thoracic surgery at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, and cardiothoracic surgery at Montefiore Medical Center in New York, he brought a level of surgical expertise to his community that allowed his patients to be cared for locally, rather than at distant medical institutions. In Kingston, he cultivated a reputation for having an impeccable bedside manner, ambidextrous surgical precision, and for respecting all hospital staff. He prided himself on his longer-than-average surgical procedures and on how his immaculate surgical hygiene prevented post-surgical infections. He preferred sutures to staples and bemoaned the move of many surgical practitioners towards robotic surgery. He also emphasized the importance of knowing when NOT to perform a surgery when it failed to serve his patients’ best interests. In the mid-1970’s, Ali met his future wife, Dr. Jaleh Shariat-Panahi, via a blind date arranged by mutual friends in Birmingham, AL. Impressed by her combination of brains and beauty, they soon married and Jaleh settled with him in Kingston to build their family. They raised four noisy children and worked at the same medical office on Hurley Avenue. In his role as husband and father, he routinely bought Deisings bagels and cookies for his children on the weekends. He peeled pomegranates in the fall, cooked Ahb Goosht (lamb stew) all year round, and tunefully hummed Iranian music as he took care of mundane chores. And he told stories. Many, many, many stories. Stories that his family could recite by heart. There is hardly a family in the Kingston area who hasn’t been touched by Dr. Madani’s surgical skills. The community trusted him to perform a wide variety of medical procedures, from emergency life-saving neonatal operations to the more mundane pacemaker surgeries. Unflappable under pressure, he even performed surgery on his own family members; he successfully removed his wife Jaleh’s breast tumor, his brother Mehdi’s lung cancer, and suspicious moles from two of his daughters. While Kingston was lucky to have Dr. Madani, he was likewise lucky to have Kingston. Throughout his career, Ali meticulously collected pathologic and photographic documentation of his unusual cases. During his retirement, he used these documents and resources to write a surgical textbook. Using only his two pointer fingers, he spent several years typing up his ideas and experiences. In 2019, he finally published his book, Compendium of Rare and Unusual Surgical Cases. During this writing period, Ali also split his time with his family in Kingston and his brother Mehdi’s family in Maryland, including his close nieces. Unfortunately, soon after the publication of his book, Ali became ill with advanced prostate cancer. He was determined to defeat it. Even during his last month of life, he discussed his plans to write another textbook. During his last week of life, he still rallied energy to share stories and memories with family and friends. During the entire span of his life, he survived two potential plane crashes, a massive heart attack, and retirement. But cancer was the ultimate foil to this remarkable man. Dr. Ali Madani is survived by sister Batoul Madani of Tehran, Iran; sister Zari Madani and husband Hamid Fahimi of Tehran; brother Hossein Madani and wife Shookoofeh Rostami of Tehran; sister Mehrasa Madani and husband Roozbeh Safa of Kerman; sister-in-law Maryam Tabrizi of Houston, TX; sister-in-law Parvaneh Tehranian of Ellicott City, MD; daughter Leila Madani and husband Gene DeCastro of New York, NY; daughter Mina Madani of New Orleans, LA; daughter Susanne Madani and husband Victor Maroun of Montclair, NJ; and son Cyrus Madani of Kingston, NY. Ali is also survived by five adorable grandchildren; Blake, Kai, Roxana, Zahra, and Kian. Dr. Ali Madani is predeceased by his wife Dr. Jaleh Shariat-Panahi of Kingston, NY; mother Talat Madani of Kerman, Iran; father Mohammad Reza Madani of Kerman, Iran; brother Kazem Madani and wife Tabandeh Kohestani of Tehran, Iran; brother Admiral Ahmad Madani of Denver, CO; brother Mehdi Madani of Ellicott City, MD; and brother-in-law Ahmad Abousaidi of Tehran, Iran. It was Dr. Madani’s wish that condolences take the form of donations to an international humanitarian surgical nonprofit. The nonprofit IVU not only provides life-saving surgeries and treatment to thousands of people worldwide, but also provides medical and surgical education to physicians and nurses to increase the capacity of local medical facilities. A Zoom Memorial for Dr. Ali Madani will be held on the evening of his birthday, Sunday, December 20, 2020. Anyone who knew him and would like to attend should email Leila Madani for details and links at: the_princess_leila[at]hotmail[dot]com for details and links. The Madani family has entrusted the Gilpatric-VanVliet Funeral Home, 339 Broadway, Ulster Park, Town of Esopus, NY in assisting with memorial arrangements and obituary for Dr. Madani.