Hector Warnes: Hassan Azima

Hector Warnes’ complementary comment

I am indebted to G. J. Sarwer-Foner a colleague and friend of Azima and his family for additional information on his background. Azima was born on June 28, 1922 and died on June 26, 1962. I would like to quote a profile of Azima written by his friend: “He was a quiet, thin man of moderate height, of medium complexion, dark hair and eyes and an intent look. Modest of demeanor, he had a gentle approach, a polite manner, a friendly but intense way of speaking; a fine intellect and a personal sense of humor. He was warm, kind, and human; extremely devoted to his patients, and to his profession. One could depend on him, whether he was asked to contribute a favor, a personal kindness, or to offer a scientific or professional act. His profession, his wife, and his children dominated his waking hours, although he still had time for friends and for his hobbies. A particular but striking feature of his personality was his integrity and intellectual honesty. These qualities were based on great personal courage. Nothing illustrates these better than the great courage with which he faced his death. He knew for more than a year prior to his death that he was fatally ill” (p. 214).

Professor Sarwer-Foner used the word courage, later the word hardiness was used in psychosomatic research and now the word resilience has gained prominence. I must add that he was not an ordinary man nor an ordinary doctor. He excelled in most of the fields he undertook with such a passion and fervor along with erudition and I would say superior intellect because he was conversant with history, philosophy, art, poetry (he even wrote poetry), the humanities and sciences. It was my first experience of being listened to attentively when I presented a case. He was not critical or dismissive; on the contrary, he had a way to see where complex ideas fit into the whole pattern. At times he was allusive, curious and ironic without hurting anyone´s feelings. His intense glance had a touch of tenderness and sadness. As I wrote before, he was married to a prominent psychologist Fern Cramer-Azima. Their marriage resulted in an ideal professional productivity in research and in raising two children, a boy named René and a girl named Andrea.

`Prof. Hassan Azima was born in Teheran as the youngest child of Dr. Hassan Azima and Princess Djan Ara. His father abandoned Medicine and became a lawyer, reaching the heights of his profession when he was appointed Chief Justice of the Iranian Supreme Court. The older sibling of Prof. Azima had a twin sister named Zari. Mohsan his older brother obtained a PhD in chemistry from Stanford University and was Medical Director of Don Baxter Medical Laboratories in Teheran. Prof. Azima received his B.A. from the University of California Berkeley in 1946 and his M.D. from the University of Kansas. He did his internship in surgery and started his psychiatry residency in Paris studying with Jean Delay and Henry Ey. In 1955, he graduated from the Diploma Course in Psychiatry at McGill University in Montreal and held a M.Sc. from the same University. He was chief of the Section of Psychopharmacology at the Allan Memorial Institute and was in the first group of trainees in Psychoanalysis of the Canadian Institute of Psychoanalysis. He was promoted to Associate Professor of Psychiatry at McGill University on account of his numerous research, scientific publications and outstanding teaching career. In his short but creative career he published 80 scientific papers and chapters in 12 books.

Prof. Sarwer-Foner one of his closest friends paid tribute to Prof. Azima by citing a poem Prof. Azima wrote himself in April 1962 just a couple of month before his demise which he called Epistemological Closure:

“And the heat invades after the breeze forsakes the burning corners of the day;

And the breeze blows out after the flower has faded away;

And the flower sparkles after the dew has dried,

And the dew after the dawn has gone,

And the dawn after the shadow has been washed on the ocean still calm,

And the shadow after the reverie has lost its impeccable charm,

And I-

Who from far came to seek the clouds of the heat, the breeze of the day,

The dawn of my dream, and dream of my rose,

Who came to find the needle of Wisdom to awaken the beatitude of benightment, and the vintage of Might to inebriate the awarders

 Of Juvenility, and the chorus of Ambition to harmonize my body with the flight of luck...” (p. 216)

It is indeed a grieving poem on the transiency of life,  an Heraclitean sense of becoming ‘you never step twice on the same river’,  of the flux of life, of the poet’s own perception of the chance happening of events, of a sense of finitude, of the impossibility to harmonize his mortal body with a flight of luck. He was out of luck.



Sarwer-Foner GJ. Memorial to Hassan. In: Wortis E, editor. Recent Advances in Biological Psychiatry. vol. VI. New York: Plenum Press; 1964, p.


Hector Warnes

June, 9, 2016