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Adel Kassem Afifi


Posted By: Sarah Fletcher (email)
Date: 10/25/2021 at 09:59:44

Adel Kassem Afifi, born October 19th, 1930 in Akka (Acre), Palestine, passed away on October 18th, 2021, in his home in Iowa City, surrounded by his daughter, Rima, and son, Walid.
He had deep roots in three primary places: his hometown of Akka, and his adopted homes of Beirut, Lebanon, and Iowa City, Iowa. Forced to escape his home in Palestine during the Nakba (1948), he graduated with a Medical Degree (MD) from the American University of Beirut (AUB) in 1957 and a Master of Science (in Anatomy) from the University of Iowa in 1965. His post-graduate medical education in Neuroanatomy, Neurology and Anatomy included Fellowships at the University of Iowa, the New York Neurological Institute, and Johns Hopkins Medical Center. In 1965, he returned to the AUB to take a position as an Assistant Professor of Neuroanatomy and Neurology. In the 19 subsequent years as a member of the Faculty of Medicine at AUB he founded the Department of Human Morphology, rose to the rank of professor, and served as chair of three different departments (Anatomy, Human Morphology, and Neurology), spanning 15 years of consecutive service. During this time, Adel successfully persuaded the AUB administration to purchase one of the first electron microscopes in the Arab world, helping make the AUB Medical Center a leader for training on this technology.
He also served as Associate Dean of the Faculty of Medicine at AUB, was the first Arab Dean of the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Jordan, and was recruited for short-term visiting professorships at medical schools in Jordan, Bahrain, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Iraq.
In 1984, at the height of the civil war in Lebanon, he returned to Iowa City where he joined the faculty of Medicine as Professor of Pediatrics, Neurology and Anatomy in the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics (UIHC). There, he continued his illustrious career as a teacher, mentor, and clinician. His service included a role as acting Director for the Division of Child Neurology. He developed exchange programs between the UIHC and several countries of the Arab world. He retired in 2007. During his “Last Lecture,” students, staff, and faculty honored him through a variety of skits, songs, and speeches that highlighted his broad impact.
Adel was the recipient of several awards including the UNRWA scholar award, the AUB Penrose Award, a Fulbright Scholar Award, the AUB Distinguished Alumnus Award, along with the University of Iowa Regents Award for Faculty Excellence, the Carver College of Medicine Teaching Excellence Award, Teacher of the Year Award, and the Educator Extraordinaire Award.
Throughout his career and onto his retirement, Adel led projects to support and build health systems in the Arab world, particularly in his beloved Palestine. He was a member of several non-governmental organizations working in Palestine, including a lead role in the Welfare Association program committee.
He was well known for his practice of humanistic, patient-centered medicine and his advocacy for his patients. He had a reputation as a passionate teacher, a prolific researcher, a caring physician, and as someone who cared deeply about those around him. He inspired countless students and was role model to many. He was centered in commitments to justice and access to health for all, and was strongly invested in the wellbeing of the people of the Arab world.
Adel published over 120 scientific journal articles and chapters, as well as over 15 books. His last two were completed in the past three years of his life and were personal accounts of his journey. The first, entitled “Glimpses of My Life and Career and The People Who Made Them: A Palestinian Story”, was a salute to those to whom he felt indebted for his life and personal successes. The second, entitled “My Hometown: Pre-Nakba Akka, Palestine Memoirs, 1930-1948”, was a personal historical account of his early life.
Later in his life, Adel developed a passion for painting, initially inspired by drawing diagrams of the brain. His most common subject was cultural and naturalistic settings. He was also an avid reader; his library included upwards of 1000 books spanning history, medicine, religion, politics, and Palestine.
Adel married Larry Anna Patten in 1960 in Beirut, and they remained in a loving and caring marriage for 56 years until her passing in 2016. As she developed Alzheimer’s disease, he took on the role of her primary caregiver, dedicated to keeping her in her home environment for as long as possible. After her passing, their enduring love story was reflected in his weekly visits to her gravesite and his regular placement of white and red roses throughout the house in her honor.
Adel embraced with vigor his roles of husband to Larry, father to Rima and Walid, father-in-law to Tammy, and grandfather to five granddaughters (Leah, Loulwa, Tala, Leila, and Rania). Much of the joy in his life came from spending time with family and friends, in Iowa City and across the world. He was intentional in connecting with them. He modeled kindness to everyone, including strangers, and was known for his love of (dark) chocolate, which he distributed with abandon. He made everyone feel important, heard, and uniquely seen.
He is survived by his children, grandchildren, nieces, and nephews. He will be greatly missed, but we take solace in knowing that his impact will be long lasting.
A private family ceremony and graveside took place. Donations in his memory may be made to Iowa City Hospice (https://iowacityhospice.org/donate/) or the Cedar Rapids Mother Mosque (https://mothermosque.org/donate/).

Lensing Funeral & Cremation Service

Johnson Obituaries maintained by Cindy Booth Maher.
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