After practicing obstetrics and gynecology for four decades and delivering nearly 15,000 babies, Dr. Jean B. Samimy transcended the confines of his Miami practice.
Samimy’s son Roland said when people hear the family name, they sometimes share that they were delivered by his dad. Roland’s son attends Ransom Everglades High School, and he, too, often hears from teachers, classmates and friends who make the connection.
“Turns out a boy who is a senior was delivered by my dad,” Roland Samimy said.
Dr. Samimy died April 3 at the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa. He was 75. His legacy as a trusted and caring OB/GYN practitioner lives on.
When Samimy helped deliver the baby of one of the Bee Gees it was an enormous deal to everyone but him, Roland remembers. “He had no idea who the Bee Gees were,” Roland said. “He said ‘They’re just like anyone else.’ ”
“Whether you were super-famous or some unknown person — he didn’t care,” Roland Samimy said. “Once they started with him they never left. It became like a little family. They would never want to go see anybody else. He was delivering the children of children he had delivered.”
Samimy’s devotion to giving back to the community stemmed from his Baha’i faith, his son said. “Compassion, passion, humanity, humility — all of that ties back to his faith,” Roland Samimy said.
The monotheistic religion, which was founded in Samimy’s homeland of Iran in 1844, emphasizes the belief that humanity is of one single race. The faith’s principles, including equality of women and men and a life dedicated to service, shined through in everything Samimy did, said his oldest daughter, Yasmine.
“His faith really drove him to who he was,” Yasmine said.
So did his upbringing in Tehran.
Born in 1938 to an Iranian agricultural engineer and a French schoolteacher, Samimy learned about the importance of education at an early age. Samimy’s parents moved to Paris where the young Samimy attended the Paris Academy of Sciences and Medical School, becoming one of the youngest students in the school’s history. There he met his childhood friend from Iran and future wife, Lina Zargar, who was also studying medicine and later became a pathologist.
After the birth of his first child, Yasmine, and three years of OB/GYN training at various university hospitals in Paris, Samimy turned adventurous. In 1965 he moved his family to the United States and accepted a residency position in New York City. There, he completed four years of OB/GYN residency and two years of fellowship in oncology and reproductive endocrinology and infertility, and had two more children, Roland and Annabel.
But the travel bug would bite Samimy once again.
“He always had this love for warm climate and sailing,” Roland Samimy said. So eight years after arriving in the United States, Samimy and his family moved to Miami where he started a private practice with a group of like-minded doctors. In Miami, Samimy became a diplomat of the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology and a fellow of the American College of Obstetrics. He also served as chairman of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology during his tenure at Mercy Hospital and became part of the medical staff of South Miami Hospital in 1974.
“He was extremely dedicated to his profession,” his son said, adding that he still would always make time for his family. Roland remembered his father taking time off from work to sit in his car and watch his son windsurf.
When he wasn’t caring for his patients or his family, Samimy tended to his other passion: charity.
Together with a childhood friend, who was an architect, he established a primary school in Haiti. Samimy also was a major supporter of Smile, an organization that treats children with cleft palates in developing countries, and Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders).
After Hurricane Andrew hit South Miami-Dade in 1992, Samimy tapped into his father’s agricultural roots when he started a lychee grove in the Redland with the help of family and friends. “It was a fun thing for the family,” Roland said. “And we carried it on.”
In 2000, Samimy was diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndrome, a type of cancer in which the bone marrow does not produce enough healthy blood cells.
“His initial diagnosis was maybe he’ll make it five years,” his son said.
But the dire prognosis did not deter Samimy. “He never once gave up,” Roland said. “They went through multiple trials with many drugs; sure enough, it worked.”
The cancer went into remission, but later came back with a “leukemia twist,” his son said.
Nonetheless, Dr. Samimy kept up the fight and lived nine years longer than doctors initially said he would.
“And all this time he continued practicing medicine,” Roland Samimy said of his father, who treated patients up until December.
“He was just a fighter,” Yasmine said.
Samimy is survived by his wife, Dr. Lina Samimy, his three children and four grandchildren, Layla, Perry, Gabriel and Luka. A memorial service to celebrate his life will be held at 6 p.m. April 22 at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden in Coral Gables. The family asks that donations be made to the Moffitt Cancer Center or the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.