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The Value of Open Doors (A New Year's Message)

January 01, 2024
by Mark David Siegel

Hi everyone,

Years before becoming Program Director, I journeyed with Heide and the girls to Iran, where I was invited to lecture at a pulmonary conference. It was just after 9/11, and America was fighting its “war on terror.” Our extended family thought we were taking a huge risk traveling to the Middle East, but two Iranian friends, Drs. Asghar Rastegar and Vahid Mohsenin, assured us we’d be safe.

We landed in Tehran in the middle of the night, and as we disembarked, friends of the Rastegars met us with lush bouquets. Dr. Mohsenin canceled our hotel reservations and whisked us off to his brother and sister-in-law’s apartment, where we were greeted with hugs and platters of fruit and nuts before we finally went to bed.

After the pulmonary conference, the trip was largely unplanned. I rounded with residents in Tehran University’s main hospital, where the team introduced me to an emaciated woman with TB and an ICU patient with a tracheotomy tube fashioned from a plastic syringe. The residents’ workroom had no computers, but they did have a dog-eared copy of Harrison’s, which had clearly been read hundreds of times.

Before leaving the capital, I was interviewed on government television and asked to share my views on Iranian medical care. I said I was impressed by the physicians’ exceptional clinical skills and encyclopedic fund-of-knowledge. Over the next two weeks we traveled to Isfahan, Shiraz, and Yazd. We ate delicious food flavored with saffron and pomegranates, hiked steep hillsides, drank tea above a grand square, crossed the desert in an old van, shopped in bazaars, visited calligraphy studios, strolled across ancient bridges, purchased spectacular rugs, hunted wild boar (unsuccessfully), and wandered through narrow alleyways. New physician friends invited me to teach at their hospitals, where trainees spontaneously congregated as word spread of an American physician visiting.

The trip taught me a lesson about rising above fears and misconceptions. Despite what we’d been told by the American media, every Persian we met was thrilled to welcome us. Cab drivers eagerly showed us around, and when they learned I was Jewish, they guided us to vendors selling religious paraphernalia. Nearly twenty years later, I continue to appreciate how misinformed many of us are about people we’ve never met in countries we’ve never visited. The truth is that most people everywhere are thrilled to meet strangers.

As Program Director, I’ve applied this lesson by opening our residency to international medical graduates, including a daughter of the Iranian pulmonologist who hosted us at the conference. Our IMGs enrich us with their unique perspectives, talents, and resilience. In today’s troubled world, our diverse community teaches us the value of open doors- a lesson which is available to all those who open their minds and hearts.

In the spirit of our shared humanity, I wish you all a Happy, Peaceful New Year.


P.S. Our annual collection of international New Year’s greetings!

  • Juan Batlle: In the Dominican Republic we say "Feliz año nuevo".
  • Samantha Sithole: Happy New Year in Shona (a Zimbabwean language) is “Makorokoto gore idzva”.
  • Kevin Kim: In Korean, 새해 복 많이 받으세요 = saehae bok mani baduseyo. Meaning, I wish you have best of luck in new year.
  • Laura Onuchic: We say: “Feliz Ano Novo”, and I’m wishing you and your loved ones a “Feliz Ano Novo” directly from Brazil 😊!
  • Spyros Konstantinis: “Happy New Year” in Greek is “Καλή Χρονιά!”
  • Evi Vemmou: In Greece, we say Καλή Χρονιά(means to have a good year), and we typically get together on NYE and cut a pie called Βασιλόπιτα that includes a hidden coin. The person who gets that coin is supposed to have the best luck for the coming year.
  • Ilias Nikolakopoulos: Καλή χρονιά!
  • Stephanie Allen: With my family in Hawai’i, we say … Hau'oli Makahiki Hou! When we are saying Happy New Year!
  • Mitchell LeFebvre: Bonne année! (French)
  • Ahmed Ibrahim Ahmed: Here is how we say Happy New Year in the two most common languages back home:
  • Gabriel Garcia Castro: ¡Feliz Año Nuevo! or ¡Le deseamos un próspero Año Nuevo! in Spanish.
  • Matheus Simonato dos Santos: Feliz ano novo (Portuguese)
  • Baha Simsek: Mutlu yıllar (Turkish)
  • Lucia You: 新年快乐!Xin Nian Kuai Le (Happy New Year in Mandarin)
  • Abdelrahman Abushouk: Arabic (Egyptian): Translation: Best wishes for a happy new year. “كل عام و أنتم بخير”
  • Saeed Soleymanjahi
    • Turkish: Turkish: Yeni yılız daha mutlu
    • Persian: سال نوتون مبارک باشه!
  • Laelia Benoit: Here are the languages of my two countries of origin:
    • Bonne année (French)
    • Feliz ano novo (Português - Brazil).
  • Adebayo Bello: In Yoruba: A ku odun titun
  • Ayesha Butt: In Urdu we say: نیا سال مبارک ہو (Naya Saal Mubarak Ho)
  • Sebastian Sanchez: Feliz año nuevo! (Spanish)
  • Tejasav Sehrawat: Punjabi: ਨਵੇ ਸਾਲ ਦੀ ਲੱਖ ਲੱਖ ਵਧਾਈ !
  • Talal El Zarif: In Arabic we say: كل عام و انتم بخير which translates to "I wish you goodness every year".
  • Paul Tran: In Vietnamese, we say "chúc mừng năm mới!"
  • Julio Nunes: Feliz ano novo (Portuguese)
  • Luis Meza Contreras: In Peru we say “ ¡Feliz Año Nuevo!” (Spanish)
  • Zeynep Zengin: In Turkish we say “Mutlu Yillar”
  • Chang Su: We say "新年快乐” for New Year's and "新春快乐” or "春节快乐” for Lunar New Year.
  • Deborah Proctor: Próspero Nuevo Ańo! (Spanish)
  • Shaili Gupta: In Hindi, we say 'Nav Varsh ki Shubh-Kaamnayein' (Good wishes on New Year). Special notes from Dr. Gupta:
    • New Year begins at different times amongst different cultures during the Gregorian calendar year. India being a widely diverse country has at least 6 different new year dates depending on the region, and in addition celebrates Diwali as the beginning of 'financial new year'. Around the world, the majority of new year celebrations are centered around harvest seasons, and so occur either in the spring or the fall.
    • In the spirit of celebration, I'd like to share that the IMG committee has decided to host a multicultural New Year celebration to welcome 2024 on Jan 11 at the Harkness lounge ballroom. We will share details soon. There will be a diversity of foods to sample, and clothing to highlight identity, culture and origin will be welcome!

Submitted by Mark David Siegel on January 01, 2024