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Dr. Henry Najat: Good deeds, good thoughts and good words
MONROE - Hushang "Henry" Najat may be a long way from where he was born, but the place he calls home today is in the rich soil in rural Monroe, a place where he has spent a career helping people and finding hobbies that have brought him joy, success and teaching moments for the people around him.

Najat was born and raised in the city of Tabriz, Iran, gaining his primary and secondary education there. Today, it's a city of about 4 million people, but when he was young, the population was about half a million. He compares the area to Colorado, very mountainous with local crops of apricots, pears, apples, almonds and grapes.

As a youngster, he was involved in Boy Scouts and a biking club but focused on his studies. When he finished medical school at age 24, he decided to continue his education. His father taught American Presbyterian missionaries and since he was associated with them, they encouraged him to continue his education in the United States.

Najat was 24 years old when he moved to the U.S. in 1957. He passed his English placement test in the American Consulate and through their guidance, he went to Loyola Medical University Hospital in Chicago as a fifth-year medical college intern. After completing the internship, he worked for a year in surgical residency and another year in orthopedics.

He then attended Northwestern University Postgraduate Medical School in Chicago and continued his training in orthopedics at Northwestern University Hospital with about 10 other students in his class.

He took a fellowship in hand surgery and plastic surgery and then took on a one-year fellowship in children's orthopedics. He wrote his thesis about bone graf surgery, earning himself a $3,000 scholarship and allowing him to complete his education at Northwestern.

Najat met his wife, Adair, who was from the St. Louis area, and they were soon married. His mother, who visited from Iran, encouraged her son to stay in the United States because his wife was from here. Not long after, Najat was offered a job at Northwestern Children's Memorial Hospital, where he was on staff for three hospitals.

His office was in downtown Chicago, right in front of the Art Institute. Najat was spending an average of about three hours per day in traffic - and hated it. He wanted to find a smaller place to call home and heard through the grapevine that Monroe Clinic was looking for an orthopedic surgeon.

He came and saw what was a very small clinic at the time. He fell in love with the area. Dr. Nathan Bear, a Monroe Clinic founder, was a general surgeon then and had connections as a former graduate of Northwestern University Medical College.

"The bond developed," Najat said.

Najat brought his wife to town for two days and Bear showed them around - she also enjoyed Monroe. When he received a job offer as an orthopedic surgeon, he took it. That was 48 years ago.

The couple was happy to move into their first Monroe home that was walking distance from the hospital and clinic. It was quite the change from the city, but they were happy to raise their three children in a smaller community.

He spent more than four decades at the clinic and hospital, performing the first hip replacement in 1972 in Monroe. The Monroe Clinic approved two senior medical college students' training from University of Wisconsin-Madison and that encouraged Najat to spend time as a volunteer teacher for the university. He has given scientific programs in state and national medical societies and has published articles in spine surgery and children's orthopedics. He wore a graduation gown four times, he recalls.

Najat is a member of the Green County Medical Society, State Medical Society, American Medical Association, American College of Surgeons, American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons and the International College of Surgeons. He has been part of international programs and has published several articles focusing on the spine and other pieces. He had special training in hand surgery, children's orthopedics, general trauma and joint replacement in adults.

He never performed a surgery through a scope and despite his long career, he boasts no malpractice suits in all of his time there. He spent eight years on the state malpractice panel helping out hospitals in Madison, Rockford, Janesville, Beloit and Monroe.

"The Monroe Clinic is a multi-specialty clinic and everyone did what they could comfortably," he said, noting that after having experience at a bigger hospital, he was always happy in Monroe.

Najat entered the retirement world eight years ago, at age 72, and says he knew it was time and he was ready. He stopped performing surgeries in 1998 and then spent his last years in office work and teaching, helping a younger partner and surgeon learn the ropes.

Even while working at the clinic, Najat took a strong interest in other hobbies. He's always loved roses and began learning and reading about them in earnest The couple had moved to the country, where Najat said they had great soil. At one time, he had the largest rose garden in the state.

Over the years, Najat entered national and state rose shows, earning himself plenty of awards. He then became interested in judging roses and judged nationally and lectured on roses, serving on the educational board of American Rose Magazine and also served as the editor of the Old Garden Roses and Shrubs in the 1970s.

He's a self-taught rose professional and has been featured in several publications both locally and all over the United States. He would find books on roses and learn through trial and error just how to perfect the breed. It was long before the internet came into play, but that didn't stop him.

"I have a huge rose library," he said with a smile.

Lately, he's cut down the number of roses he raises but still works with his youngest son while caring for them.

In 1980, he branched out from roses after a patient began telling him about bees. He found a Belgian writer and philosopher named Maurice Maeterlinck who won the Nobel Prize for studying honey bees in 1911. After reading more, Najat was encouraged to start beekeeping and purchased two bee hives. Gradually, he built up to 14 hives.

Najat still raises a few honeybees today with his son, and donates all of his honey to charities including the hospital gift shop and Olbrich Botanical Gardens in Madison.

Najat and his wife have been married for 54 years. They've traveled extensively, visiting his brother, a retired dentist in Germany 29 times, as well as seeing Russia, Central Asia, Europe, Canada, Mexico and most of the states in the union. He has returned to Iran three times since he left.

He says he continues to live by a philosophy - not a way of life: good deeds, good thoughts, good words.

"I'm an antique," he said with a laugh.