Obituary: Mamoun Moses Nazif / Nationally renown pediatric oral surgeon

Dec. 1, 1939 - March 26, 2014

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Across the more than 30 years he worked as a pediatric oral surgeon and program director at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC, Mamoun Moses Nazif treated more than a quarter-million children and mentored countless student residents, some who are now in their 60s.

Brian Martin, chief of the Division of Pediatric Dentistry at Children's, said the man who trained him when he was a resident taught him many important lessons. Above all, that it is a privilege to take care of someone's child.

"He was absolutely fantastically devoted to Children's Hospital," including his patients, their families, the educational pursuits of his residents and research, Dr. Martin said. "This is a man who gave a very significant portion of himself into everything he did."

Dr. M.M. Nazif, of McCandless, died Wednesday of cardiac arrest at his second home in Denver, N.C. He was 74.

Born in Damascus, Syria, in 1939, Dr. Nazif had always been interested in medicine and finished dental school at age 21. After a stint as a doctor in the Syrian Army, he moved to New York City in 1965 for a yearlong dentistry fellowship.

He came to Pittsburgh next for a four-year program at Children's Hospital that specialized in pediatric dentistry. There, he met 17-year-old Dianne Orndorff, a secretary in the dental department, and the two wed in August 1969.

According to Mrs. Nazif, her husband intended to move back to Syria, but the government refused to let him teach dentistry there because he'd studied the subject in the United States. By then, the couple already had one child.

"I was so in love with him, I didn't care where we went," she said.

A friend helped Dr. Nazif land a job at a children's hospital affiliated with Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, but he soon returned to Pittsburgh for a teaching position at the University of Pittsburgh and then accepted the role as head of pediatric dentistry at Children's.

He loved caring for children and would turn down no one, even those suffering from AIDS at a time when little was known about the disease.

"He would double his gloves and say a prayer," said his daughter Sousan Nazif Panizzi.

Throughout his career, he traveled, giving lectures all over the world. At one time, a tenth of the pediatric dentistry program directors in the country had been trained in Pittsburgh by Dr. Nazif, Dr. Martin said.

Family members also recalled how Dr. Nazif showed everyone respect, whether he was speaking to a custodian or a company executive.

"He knew every single person's name," his son Aaron Nazif said. "There was no difference in how he treated people."

In 2003, Dr. Nazif retired and began traveling often between Pittsburgh and Denver, N.C. He stayed active, playing racquetball, skiing and flying planes -- his other great love. He also watched the conflict in his native country closely before his death.

Dr. Nazif is survived by his wife; sons Aaron, of New Kensington, Ziad of Denver, N.C., and Sy of Los Angeles; his daughter Sousan of Sewickley; sister Hala Nazif Sudki of Damascus; and five grandchildren.

Services are scheduled for 11 a.m. April 12 at Christ Church at Grove Farm in Sewickley.


Molly Born: mborn@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1944.


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