Dr. Anthony Ibrahim Sahyoun of Wellesley, August 31, passed away peacefully at the age of 97 with his family by his side. Devoted father of Nayla and Karim (Charlotte) Sahyoun, and beloved Grandfather of Alexandra, Teddy, Julian, Chloe, and Arielle. He was predeceased by his extraordinary wife, Micheline Lakah Sahyoun.
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Born in Haifa, Palestine, in 1922, he was the 9th of 10 children born to Ibrahim and Marie Sahyoun. He obtained his medical degree from the American University of Beirut and arrived in London in October 1945 to receive surgical training at the Royal Postgraduate Medical School under the personal guidance of Professor Sir George Grey-Turner, one of the most renowned surgeons of his time. Dr. Sahyoun was the first Palestinian to become a Fellow of the Royal Colleges of Surgeons. In 1949, he heard on the radio that the British Red Cross was urgently looking for a surgeon willing to go to Jordan to lead the UN effort to provide health care to Palestinian refugees. He immediately answered the call and left London, where he began the work of his life: helping people. As the Medical Director and Chief of Surgery at the Salt Hospital, the first major surgical center in Jordan, and the first major organization to provide medical aid to refugees, he initiated all the medical services for the Palestinians in Jordan. He created a state-of-the art organization, all while administering aid to those in need, training surgeons, and establishing the first nursing program for Palestinian women. He traveled to every refugee camp in Jordan and the West Bank, setting up medical services for refugees. Eight years later, when he decided it was time to leave Jordan, the Jordanian parliament passed a motion asking the King to prevent his departure on the ground that he was a critical national asset. He left Jordan, leaving behind a core group of highly trained surgeons to carry the load. His reputation continues to this day.
He spent the next dozen years tending to both the poor and powerless as well as the rich and powerful first in Alexandria, Egypt and then in Beirut, Lebanon. Convinced that the region was doomed to many years of war and determined that his children would not grow up in an “atmosphere of war and hatred,” he and his wife decided to move the family to the US. At forty-eight years old, this move meant starting over at a time when some of his peers were already slowing down. He was fortunate to have the friendship and support of Dr. Edward D. Churchill of Mass General Hospital and Harvard Medical School. He spent his first year in the US doing research on transplantation techniques and studying for the licensing exams that would allow him to practice in the US. With his license in hand, he began a new phase in his professional life, partnering with his close friend, Dr. Anthony P. Monaco, to help establish the kidney transplant service at the Deaconess Hospital. He simultaneously became Associate Chief of Surgery and Chief of Emergency Services at the Faulkner Hospital and Clinical Professor of Surgery at Harvard Medical School
With the support of Harvard Medical School, the Deaconess Hospital and the Hassib Sabbagh Foundation, he established programs that brought young Palestinian doctors to train in Boston, and critically injured Palestinian patients in need of major operations. As reflected by his unlikely friendship with the famed Israeli General Matti Peled he felt strongly that Israelis and Palestinians were much more alike than they were different and dreamed of seeing a fair and humane resolution to the conflict.
He was a true humanitarian, and a soldier of peace. He defined what it was to be a gentleman, an intellectual, and a master of his craft. More than anything, he was a remarkable father, grandfather, and friend. He was incredibly proud of his family, and he will be deeply missed by all who loved him.
A Celebratory Mass will be held at St. Paul’s Church, 502 Washington St. (Rt. 16) WELLESLEY, on Thursday September 5, 2019 at 10AM. Relatives & friends kindly invited. Interment will be limited to his children and grandchildren. In lieu of flowers, expressions of sympathy may be made in Dr. Sahyoun's memory to Médecins Sans Frontieres/Doctors Without Borders.