Neurosurgeon Mayshan Ghiassi, who journeyed from Iran to Chattanooga, touts importance of brain care

Photography by Matt Hamilton / Dr. Mayshan Ghiassi at CHI Memorial campus in August.

Mayshan Ghiassi's recent move from Jacksonville, Florida to Chattanooga represents only the most recent leg of a remarkable journey.

A neurosurgeon, Ghiassi joined CHI Memorial Hospital's Stroke and Neuroscience Center earlier this year. Trained at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, he'd worked previously in Arkansas, Kentucky and most recently, Florida.

But his story begins in Iran, where he was born in 1979, during that country's Islamic revolution. Because his family was of the Baha'i faith, they became religious refugees, fleeing the country when he was a child.

"Mom was a schoolteacher in Iran and dad was a mechanic," he says. "They both valued education and instilled that in my (younger) brother and me, to make something of the opportunity we'd been given after the life experience we'd had."

Ghiassi says he and his brother, Mahan, went to Martin Luther King Jr., "a great magnet school in Nashville," followed by seven years together in undergrad and medical school at Vanderbilt.

"Surgery intrigued me," he says, "and my neurosurgery rotation really piqued my interest. I couldn't get enough brain surgery."

And he adds that he did some of that surgery alongside his brother, a fellow neurosurgeon currently living and working in Louisville.

"It's surreal," Ghiassi says. "As brothers, you each have an innate understanding of what the other is thinking. You anticipate one another, like a choreographed dance, and it helps with patient care."

Ghiassi says he was working in Jacksonville when renowned neurosurgeon Thomas Devlin called to talk about a program he was building at CHI Memorial.

"I was recruited by Dr. Devlin, whose reputation is very well known," Ghiassi says. "It felt like a good challenge -- being in the 'Stroke Belt' ... where the number of strokes per capita is highest in the nation."

Today, Ghiassi is a member of the Congress of Neurological Surgeons, American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS), AANS Cerebrovascular Section and the Society of Neurointerventional Surgery (SNIS). Since 2015, he's performed thrombectomies, removing clots blocking blood flow in the brain of a stroke patient. As part of that, he's seen patients go from being paralyzed to complete recovery "in a matter of minutes, right before your eyes."

But, he adds, there's no substitute for taking the best possible care of the body's only organ that doesn't regenerate.

"The brain isn't an organ that sustains injury easily," Ghiassi says. "... Your brain is delicate -- protect it. Be healthy. Don't smoke; and don't drink too much alcohol."