Dr. H.A. Arfaa, a retired plastic surgeon recalled for his devotion to his patients and operating room skill, died of cancer Feb. 27 at his Bel Air home. He was 88.
“He was passionate about his family, his culture and the care he provided,” said Lyle Sheldon, president and CEO of the University of Maryland Upper Chesapeake Health.
Dr. Robert A. Loeb, a colleague, said: “He wasn’t a sea of knowledge, he was an ocean of knowledge of all things. He was steadfast, intelligent, incisive and perceptive about people. He had all the best traits of humanity.”
Born Hosein Ali Arfaa in Shiraz, Iran, he earned a medical degree from the Persia University School of Medicine in Tehran. He later served in the Persian Army and became a lieutenant.
Dr. Arfaa came to the United States in the early 1960s and continued his medical training at Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn, New York.
He completed his residency in general surgery and then specialized in plastic, hand, maxillofacial and reconstructive surgery at New York University Downstate Medical Center, also in Brooklyn, and at the Rutgers New Jersey Medical School in Newark.
Dr. Arfaa opened a specialty practice in plastic surgery in 1973. Medical colleagues and family members said he treated patients who formerly sought plastic surgery in the Baltimore area. They considered him to be a pioneer plastic surgeon in Harford County.
“I’d be working in the emergency room and he’d be there too, sewing up some little kid being bitten by a dog or was in an accident,” said Dr. Vincent Osteria, a friend. “He was making sure that the scarring due to the injury would be minimized.”
Dr. Osteria also said: “He was an upright man and honorable man. As an immigrant, he really followed the medical code of ethics and he felt he owed a lot to this country. He was proud to be an American and to serve his community. He was selfless. Many of his patients had no insurance. He was a giving man and would work pro bono.”
His daughter, Dr. Jennifer Jasmine Arfaa, said: “My father left a legacy of contribution and achievement. He loved his family as much as he loved his patients and their families and his friends.”
Mr. Sheldon, the Upper Chesapeake president, said, “On a personal note, my wife and I have four children who were raised on a working farm. One of our sons wound up needing 70 stitches after being thrown into the air by a horned ram sheep. Dr. Arfaa did the surgery and my son went on to do some modeling work. It was that that good a job of surgery.”
For more than 30 years, he served his patients and families in offices in Bel Air, Fallston and Baltimore.
“My father was a Renaissance man. In addition to being a surgeon, he was a poet, well known in both American and Persian circles,” said his daughter, Jennifer, a hospital administrator in Cincinnati. He was an accomplished musician, philosopher and published author.
“My father was simply a good man — a devoted, loving husband to his beloved wife, a wonderful forever-doting father to his three daughters.”
She recalled him as a gifted leader who had a humble, gentle and graceful manner.
“He had an intense determination,” she said. “Friends told me he had a no-nonsense approach to righteousness.”
Dr. Arfaa was a past president of the Harford County Medical Association and the medical staff at what was then the Harford Memorial Hospital in Havre de Grace.
“He was a towering figure who spoke out for patients’ rights and care,” said Dr. Roger Schneider, a fellow surgeon. “I’d known him for three decades. He had a piercing gaze and an inviolate integrity and soaring intellect. He refused to kowtow to anybody and never suffered fools well.
“His reputation as a master surgeon helped his reputation among his peers. He was a simple, humble soul who wanted to do well for his patients. He was persuasive and reasonable in his arguments, too.”
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“I was just starting in medicine, just out of training, and Dr. Arfaa greeted me with a smile,” said Dr. Myo Min, a Harford County oncologist. “He was a kind man who had a calming manner. He was a perfect doctor, good to his patients and good to the other doctors.”
He had been the Harford County Medical Association Legislative Committee representative to the Med Chi, the State Medical Association.
Dr. Arfaa was also associated with Franklin Square Medical Center in Rosedale and the old Maryland General Hospital.
He was a fellow of the International College of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons.
In addition to his daughter, survivors include his wife of 45 years, Maryam Masoudi, a homemaker; two other daughters, Dr. Jessica E. Arfaa of Bellevue, Washington, and Dr. Jacqueline E. Zamani of New York City; and two granddaughters.