Dr. Mirmanesh wanted to be a physician for as long as he could remember. As a child growing up in Tehran, he was inspired by an uncle who became a surgeon. It was the 1960s, and his uncle had been recruited from abroad to study at the Medical College of Pennsylvania. In his uncle, Mirmanesh saw "how much you can help and do good things" as a doctor. When Mirmanesh was 18, he left for America with this goal.
The painting of the Statue of Liberty that hangs in the office was a gift to Jay Mirmanesh from his son Michael.
In the United States, Mirmanesh parlayed a love for soccer into some ability with street hockey. He learned English through these pick-up games. "I was getting used to the country, getting used to different things," he says. "When you are young, you acclimate very quickly."
Mirmanesh procured a student visa and began his studies at Camden County College in New Jersey, transferring to Temple University after two years. "There were many obstacles I had to overcome," he says, laughing. To earn money, he drove a cab in Philadelphia. This was in the mid-1970s. "You have to know where you are," he comments, referring to the city. He once parked near a church, assuming a sacred space would be safe. It wasn't. The taxi window was smashed. "You learn very quickly," he deadpans.
Making Things Happen
With his eye on medical school and carrying an undergraduate course load, Mirmanesh was also working toward another goal, bringing his parents and four siblings from Iran. About a year after he arrived, he brought over his 16-year-old brother; three years later, a sister, and so on, until the whole family was here. Although Mirmanesh did well in chemistry, math and physics, his beginner's English hurt his overall GPA. Undeterred, he applied to and was accepted by Ross University School of Medicine on the island of Dominica. During his third-year clinical rotations, he found pediatrics.
Mirmanesh returned to Philadelphia in the mid-'80s for his residency in pediatrics at MCP. "It was an absolutely great experience," he says. While he praises the school's faculty and staff, he firmly attributes his positive experience to his residency cohort. "Everybody got along so well. Everybody worked so closely together. We were on call so often — even with that, everybody was happy." He also rotated through St. Christopher's Hospital for Children during his second and third year. "We worked hard, but the work was good," he says.
Michael Mirmanesh, MD '14, shakes hands with his proud father before turning around to receive his hood.
Following his residency, Mirmanesh completed a fellowship in neonatology at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. The next few years brought administrative roles. He helped open the first neonatal intensive care units at Memorial Hospital in Burlington County (now Virtua Memorial) and Easton Hospital, becoming medical director of the NICU each time. This professional shift prompted him to pursue his MBA through an executive program at the University of South Florida. By 1994, he was opening his own pediatric practice. He now has offices in Voorhees, Marlton and Sicklerville, New Jersey.
Joy in His Work
For Mirmanesh, the ability to heal children is an amazing feeling. "I love what I'm doing so much," he says. "Every day is a great day." He acknowledges that some aspects of his work are difficult. "Recently I had a little one, a newborn, whose sutures [fibrous material that connects the bony plates of the skull] had closed too early. We made the diagnosis and told the parents the baby would have to have surgery. The whole family was very upset. Surgically, it's not a big deal — the end result is going to be very good — but that was of course upsetting."
Mirmanesh's joy in his practice inspired his two sons to follow him into medicine. "I like it so much, I got my kids to pursue it. That's such a great feeling," he says. His older son, John, is in practice with him, and his younger son, Michael, MD '14, is a resident in plastic surgery at the University of California, Davis. Mirmanesh's wife, Lisa Ann, works with him as the Voorhees office administrator.
In recent years, Mirmanesh has opened his practice as a preceptor for Drexel medical students during their pediatrics rotation. Not only does he enjoy engaging with the students over the course of the workday, but also, he says, the parents of his patients appreciate the students' presence, since more information is communicated in a teaching environment than might be during a traditional visit. "They're a lot smarter than we were," he says of the Drexel students. His attitude is, "You're teaching me more than I'm teaching you."
Still More to Do
"I have been so impressed by Drexel and their students, their knowledge, their outlook," he elaborates. That and having seen his son's experience at the College have prompted him to become more invested in the school. "I really want to be involved," he says. When he was invited to become a member of the College of Medicine Advisory Board, he readily accepted.
Mirmanesh overcame many obstacles to achieve his vision, and he brought others along with him. The first brother who joined him here graduated in biomedical engineering from Drexel. Their sister and the two youngest brothers are doctors. Considering his personal and professional arc helping others, inspiring his family, and teaching, Mirmanesh reflects, "I love what I'm doing, and I get paid for it, too. It can't get any better."
When he tells his sons he will one day retire — leaving them to take over — he says they respond, "'No, Dad. You're going to come around in a wheelchair and tell us, "Do this … do that."' I love it," he laughs.