Thanks to a Norfolk physician, several people from Iran are standing a little taller these days.
Dr. Allen Sossan, an orthopedic surgeon, recently returned from a medical missionary trip to Tehran, Iran, where he performed a number of surgeries to correct back ailments, including scoliosis.
Sossan, a native of Iran, said the chief of the country's orthopedics and spine organization asked him to come home to do the surgeries and help train some of residents from the university's medical school.
Surgery to correct scoliosis is complicated, Sossan said. The procedure often involves putting rods in the back to correct the curvature of the spine, which is the trademark ailment of scoliosis.
"It's the most complex spine surgery you can do," Sossan said. "It can often take up to six hours."
Despite the rigors of doing surgery in unfamiliar surroundings, Sossan said the work was gratifying on a number of levels.
First of all, he said, there's the satisfaction of helping people in need.
"Nothing like seeing the look on a 14-year-old's face when they can walk again," he said.
He's also satisfied in knowing that he's helping to train local doctors to serve the 8 million people living in Iran's capital city.
"Even here, there are not enough doctors doing spine surgery," he said.
Although Sossan's travel expenses were paid, he was not compensated for the the work he did while in Tehran. Instead, Sossan said, he considers it an honor to have been asked to help some of the "underserved" people in his homeland.
Sossan was born in Iran and has lived in the United States for 35 years. He was raised in New York and attended high school and college in Florida and medical school in Des Moines, Iowa. He practiced in New York before coming to Norfolk four years ago.
Here, he performs typical joint and hip surgeries and is one of the few area doctors who does spine surgery. His office is located in Norfolk, but he also does surgery at hospitals in several surrounding communities.
The same doctor who asked him to make this trip to Iran has already asked him to come back in a few months. He's considering the offer.
In fact, Sossan is asking any other medical personnel interested in going along to get in touch with him.
"It's spiritually rewarding . . . and a way of giving back to society," he said.