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Special Features

Iranian Women you Should Know: Parvaneh Vosough

September 2, 2016
IranWire Citizen Journalist,  
3 min read

The following article was written by an Iranian citizen journalist on the ground inside the country, who writes under a pseudonym to protect her identity.

For years, residents of Tehran’s Zafar Street and people living next to Mahak Hospital were used to the sound and sight of Parvaneh Vosough’s Volkswagen Beetle. A kind and devoted doctor, several times a day she would drive from her clinic on Palestine Street to the hospital to visit children suffering from cancer and make their day a little more cheerful by offering them colorful candies.

Parvaneh Vosough was born in 1935 in the town of Tafrash in central Iran. She graduated from Tehran University’s School of Medicine in 1963, and in 1964 went to the United States to continue her medical studies. She studied in Cambridge (Massachusetts), Illinois and Washington, specializing in pediatrics, oncology and hematology. She returned to Iran in 1971 and began her medical practice at Mofid Children’s Hospital and Children’s Medical Center alongside her former professor, Dr. Mohammad Gharib. Dr. Vosough also created specialized hematology and children’s cancer courses at Tehran Medical School.

The board of trustees of Shahr Azad Children’s Hospital invited Vosough to set up the center’s oncology and hematology ward. With Vosough at helm of the unit, the hospital, a medical charity founded in 1964, became one of the most important pediatric centers in Iran. After 1979’s Islamic Revolution, the hospital changed its name to Ali Asghar Hospital, and Dr. Vosough stayed in post.

For more than half a century, she lovingly dedicated her life to children with cancer. She never married and never had children of her own. According to her colleagues and friends she lived on her salary from the hospital and from visits to her clinic, and never asked for or accepted extra fees for her work.

When Saeedeh Ghods and other philanthropists founded the Institute for Supporting Children with Cancer (Mahak) in 1991, Vosough was one of the first physicians to volunteer, and she established the institute’s hematology ward. She was elected as the president of the board of the trustees of the institute and until the last days of her life was active in this position. At the same time, she taught at Tehran’s Medical School, while continuing to treat children suffering from cancer.

Iran’s Mother Theresa

She spent hours in the hospital with children and never forgot to bring them candy, chocolates and dolls she had knitted herself. If the family of a sick child had difficulty paying for  treatment, Vosough did everything in her power to help them. This is probably the reason many people refer to her as “Iran’s Mother Theresa.”

Her most difficult hours were when she realized that she could do no more for her little patients, and she was often seen weeping along the parents of dying children. She said once she never got used to losing them.

Her colleagues say that she was offered many high-paying jobs from European and American medical centers, but she was never tempted. She preferred to remain in Iran and help children there.

Despite her busy schedule practicing and teaching medicine, Dr. Vosough managed to write more than 100 books and papers on blood diseases and children’s cancer. She was also active in international associations and specialized programs including the International Society of Pediatric Oncology (SIOP), the International Network for Cancer Research and Treatment (INCTR), and the Middle East Childhood Cancer Alliance (MECCA).

After a bout of illness, Parvaneh Vosough died at age 78 on May 20, 2013. The medical community and the children who had grown into healthy men and women thanks to her selfless work saw that she received a state funeral. After her death, the City Council of Tehran named a street — where she had spent most of her time with her young patients — after her.


Tahereh Taslimi, Citizen Journalist


Leon Nitram
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Leon Nitram
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