Dr. Ali Mehrizi, a pediatrician who practiced for four decades on the Eastern Shore after conducting pioneering research on congenital heart disease during the 1950s and '60s, died Jan. 9 at Johns Hopkins Hospital of complications after undergoing gall bladder surgery. He was 81.Dr. Mehrizi, who lived in Bozman and practiced until the week he fell ill, was born in Mehriz, Iran. His mother died when he was young, and he was raised mainly by his father on a farm.
He worked at a children's hospital while he studied medicine at the University of Tehran, according to his wife, the former Behjat Shapouri, whom he married in 1950.
Dr. Mehrizi came to the United States as an exchange student in 1952, completing internships and a residency at hospitals in Detroit. In 1958, he moved to Towson and began doing research for Dr. Helen B. Taussig, who pioneered the so-called "blue baby" operation with Dr. Alfred Blalock in 1944. The surgery, now common, corrects what was once a fatal congenital heart condition in infants, according to the National Library of Medicine's Web site.
Mrs. Mehrizi said Hopkins officials helped her husband secure a green card, and he later became an American citizen.
Dr. Mehrizi co-authored two editions of a book titled The Neonate with Congenital Heart Disease, Major Problems in Clinical Pediatrics, which was published in the late 1960s. He also wrote more than 50 medical papers, his wife said.
Although Hopkins officials asked him to stay, Mrs. Mehrizi said, her husband grew tired of research and in 1966 moved his family to Royal Oak on the Eastern Shore. He opened a practice in Easton the following year.
"He wanted to be in contact with people," his wife said. "When you do research, you don't see people. He wanted to come here and help the children."
Before his arrival, pediatricians were scarce in the area, ensuring that Dr. Mehrizi was always busy, family members said.
"He gave out his home phone number to everybody," said Dr. Mehrizi's son, David Mehrizi of Easton. "It didn't matter if it was Saturday, Sunday. He would see these people Sundays, anytime they needed to be seen. He was amazing. ... He was a real, real country doctor."
He took ample time with each patient, sometimes frustrating his wife - who doubled as his receptionist and had to work hard to prevent backlogs. During the 1960s and 1970s, many of his patients didn't have the money to pay for treatment, but family members said he never turned anyone away.
"We used to get oysters and crabs and crab cakes for payment," David Mehrizi said. "It was funny - Dad, he was never one of those people that demanded payment. Back then it was watermen and people that didn't have a lot of cash so we got some of the best seafood."
Their 10-acre Royal Oak homestead was a testament to Dr. Mehrizi's rural childhood, and he enjoyed tending to the goats, chickens, ducks, pheasants and peacocks he kept there. In 1983, the family moved to Bozman.
"He loved trees and plants and all that stuff," his son said. "And I think he fancied himself a farmer."
Dr. Mehrizi also enjoyed collecting antiques, and silver in particular. "Every antique dealer on the Shore knows him," David Mehrizi said.
Dr. Mehrizi never retired and saw 10 patients at his practice Jan. 4 - the last day he worked before falling ill, his wife said.
A public memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday at the Harbourtowne Golf Resort and Conference Center in St. Michaels.
In addition to his wife and son, Dr. Mehrizi is survived by three daughters, Jasmine Shriver of Baltimore, Susan Allen of Silver Spring and Nancy Hoover of Spokane, Wash.