Tribute to Professor Sirus Naraqi
Professor Sirus Naraqi came to the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Sydney in 1998 as Associate Dean of our Western Clinical School at Nepean Hospital. He has an enviable international reputation with more than 100 published scientific and medical papers and publications in areas of clinical virology, infectious diseases and internal medicine, and over 70 scientific presentations. All this in spite of consistently heavy teaching and clinical loads.
His motivation and commitment to health care, research and training have been underpinned by his Baha’i faith, a religion whose fundamental aim is the promotion of the oneness of humanity and which considers work in the spirit of service to others as equivalent to worship to God. Listing the splendid array of Professor Naraqi’s interests and achievements is impressive in its spread and depth, but such a list alone is inadequate to convey the full range of his activities, his influence and his zest for living.
His professional awards and achievements are vast and diverse in scope, with an interest in infectious diseases and an equally strong humanistic desire to serve in areas of greatest need, such as Papua New Guinea, where he took up the Chair of Medicine at the University in 1983, following an initial stint there in the late seventies. During his time at the University of Papua New Guinea (UPNG) major research projects were conducted on severe forms of malaria, snake bite and meningitis, resulting in the international recognition of the Faculty PNG doctors and publication of numerous scientific papers in international journals. The legacy of Professor Naraqi’s leadership and inspiration at UPNG over 15 years included enormous progress in the number and quality of local consultant physicians, top University and Health Department positions reached by PNG nationals and an increase in medical registrars.
For this service to PNG’s health needs he was awarded a CBE (Commander of the British Empire) in 1998.
Born in Persia on September 30, 1942 he worked for a short time as general practitioner for the army to fulfil his military obligations before immigrating to the United States in 1969, where he completed postgraduate training at The University of Chicago and The University of Illinois, followed by numerous consultant physician and academic appointments.
Professor Naraqi is many things to many people. First and foremost he is the husband of Mitra and father of four – Ladan, Naysan, Anisa and Gulita, who grew up in PNG. The elder children have undertaken postgraduate studies in America, one following in his medical footsteps, the other in communications and media.
He is also a well loved academic among medical students who have respected his dedication to his profession and his generosity of spirit in the training and mentoring of professionals. He didn’t do this for effect or popularity – he just believed in the worthiness of the work and the value of the human engagement. That’s the sort of world citizen he is – he gave respect spontaneously and received it in turn.
His involvement in community service has included consistent participation in public debate; services to the World Health Organisation in the areas of tuberculosis, malaria, AIDS, research and rural health issues facing PNG; literacy, international human rights, hygiene and nutrition for the underprivileged.
Professor Naraqi has received many awards recognizing his professional excellence including Best Teacher of the Year, Best Attending Physician and Fellow of both the American and the Royal Australasian College of Physicians and member of the American Board of Infectious Diseases.
As a leader of institutions and organisations he has served on countless committees. Sirus’s focus was able to range easily from global through to small scale local concerns. He made special efforts to encourage emerging health and research professionals in developing countries to build upon their own national strengths and heritages.
From the very beginning of his academic life when Sirus was ranked number one student from over 80,000 candidates at his university and medical school entrance exams to his final position of Professor and Associate Dean at Western Clinical School his natural integrity, humanity and enthusiasm was evident in every action. Fundamentally he has a humanist belief in the ability of people to transform their world through courage, creativity and good will – he has been an optimist and a motivator. His Baha’i-inspired moral values and social principles suffused all his endeavours, whether with family, patients, educators, students or the lay public.
Professor Naraqi had the visionary eye, seeing better futures as being realisable. At this sad time in his life, due to illness; and to mark his retirement, we, his family, University friends and colleagues and students join in celebrating a life well lived in the perpetual service of others. His great contribution to medical research, training and knowledge will live on for generations to come.