Dr. Manny Nazarian, leading heart surgeon in North Texas, dies

Posted Thursday, Aug. 15, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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More information Memorial service 1 p.m. Sunday at Trinity Valley School, 7500 Dutch Branch Road, Fort Worth. Burial: He was buried July 23 in Mission Hills, Calif.

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Before Manucher “Manny” Nazarian arrived in Fort Worth, cardiac patients often had to be sent elsewhere for surgery.

Dr. Nazarian, whose patients included Lyndon B. Johnson and Julia Child, was the lone cardiothoracic surgeon in Fort Worth when he started his solo practice in Fort Worth in 1972.

What that meant for thousands of patients is they could stay close to home during their hospitalization.

“He was the real start of being able to do cardiovascular surgery in Fort Worth,” said Dr. Bobby Brown, a retired Fort Worth physician. “He was the one who came with adequate training. He did thousands of cases with tremendous skill. He was just a terrific asset, not only to the medical community but to Fort Worth as well.”

Dr. Nazarian, 76, died July 20 in Fort Worth of complications of lymphoma, which was diagnosed in October, said his son, Dr. Michael Nazarian, who has taken over his father’s Fort Worth practice.

He was born in Kermanshah, Iran, on March 21, 1937, the Persian New Year’s Day (Noh Rooz).

Very early in life, Dr. Nazarian decided to be a doctor. With a large family, someone was always sick and quality healthcare was limited in rural Iran. In a Star-Telegram interview in 1977, his father, Elihou Nazarian, recalled that his father had died of pneumonia because there were no doctors.

“From that moment on, I always hoped that my children might consider the medical profession,” Elihou Nazarian said. Of his eight children, Manucher was the first of four to become physicians.

The family moved to Tehran, where Dr. Nazarian continued his education. He graduated from Tehran University Medical School and came to the United States in 1962 for training in surgery at Beth Israel Hospital in Boston, which is affiliated with Harvard Medical School. He didn’t speak English but used his knowledge of French to pass the written exam for admittance to the program, Michael Nazarian said.

In 1968 Dr. Nazarian moved to Dallas for specialized training in cardiac and thoracic surgery at what was then the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School. And then in 1971, he moved to Fort Worth and began practicing with Dr. Clive Johnson. He started his solo practice in 1972.

After establishing his practice in Texas, he returned to Iran to find a wife. He married Lili Bottehsazan on April 21, 1978, in Tehran.

Dr. Nazarian helped establish three major heart centers in Fort Worth and helped lead the way in the introduction of off-pump coronary surgery, interventional vascular surgery and thoracic surgery. During his career, he performed more than 35,000 procedures on more than 28,000 patients, according to his son. Dr. Nazarian was also selected by the White House to operate on Lyndon B. Johnson, and Julia Child was a patient. Also, he was in charge of the care of the Shah of Iran’s wife during the birth of their child.

He even operated on his friend and colleague Bobby Brown.

“He operated on me three years ago,” Brown said. “He’s the reason I’m walking around today.”

In 2013, Dr. Nazarian received the Dr. Truman C. Terrell Award at Baylor All Saints Medical Center for his contribution to the lives of patients.

He was on the founding committee of Congregation Ahavath Sholom and enjoyed playing piano and watching baseball.

In addition to his wife and son, survivors include daughters Rachel Nazarian of New York and Rebekah Nazarian of Fort Worth; three brothers, Jamshid Nazarian and Kamran Nazarian, both of Los Angeles, and Cyrus Nazarian of New York; and two sisters, Odette Nazarian and Nahid Nazarian, both of Los Angeles.

Bill Hanna, 817-390-7698 Twitter: @fwhanna

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