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M.O.M.: Mediterranean on a Mission
by Chris. Salboudis
It is with a heavy heart that the family and friends mourn the passing of Dr. Nadine E. Sabbagh, M.D. (b. Sept. 10th 1947, d. July 30th 2021), beloved daughter, sister, cousin, mother, grandmother, physician, mentor and friend. Nadine passed a few weeks before the celebration of her 50th year as a proud U.S. citizen. Within her 50 years in the US, Nadine imparted immeasurable wisdom and joy to all those in her path, dedicating time and effort to learn several key languages needed to address non-English-speaking clients.
Throughout her lifetime, Nadine helped countless individuals in the process of overcoming remarkable strife, having survived her own challenges with wisdom, grace and dignity. To her last days, Nadine served as a staunch advocate for those in need, not only as a celebrated medical professional but as a philanthropic Christian. Her fierce faith was equaled only by her great love for humanity and ability to unlock the potential of others.
In her own private and professional life, she overcame adversity and sociological bias, tackling every project and challenge with a vengeance and with the certainty that God would provide the strength and wisdom she needed to work past whatever obstacle was placed in her path. She is most known for saying, “to a valiant heart, nothing is impossible.”
Nadine attended the Ecole des Soers Franciscains de Marie and the Mere de Dieu academies in Cairo, Egypt for the duration of her elementary education followed by the Sacre Cœur (Sacred Heart) Academy for her secondary education. She was one of the first of 15 women to complete the full medical (MD) program the University of Cairo (Kasr AlAiny School of Medicine) and went on to complete specialized training in pediatric surgery through a fellowship at the Cite Universitaire in France. She later returned to Cairo to serve in the Doctors Without Borders initiative and completed a variety of advanced medical training and certifications before being recruited to St. Vincent’s Hospital in New York City for her residency and fellowship in pediatrics and allergy. Ever the diligent student and aspiring physician, Nadine maintained first place throughout her academic path.
Nadine pushed the professional borders for women and young professionals around the world through her medical and administrative work, her public speaking engagements and more. She served as a role model to future generations of Women in STEM and mentored countless young professionals to help them meet their professional and academic goals, to strive for excellence in all aspects of their lives.
She dedicated her life to helping others as a physician specializing in pediatrics and allergy. In this capacity, she served the communities at St. Vincent’s Hospital, St. Clair’s Hospital, and the Hotel Union; she also engaged in pro bono rotations at six other local hospitals and clinics across the five boroughs of New York in addition to running her own private practice in pediatrics and allergy.
In the years to follow, Nadine was recruited to work for the New York City Department of Health & Human Services (NYC DOHHS), where she was the first woman to hold each of the following titles: Medical Director of Quality Assurance, Head of STD Control, Deputy Commissioner, Acting Assistant Commissioner. In these capacities she (1) managed the resolution of several major defects in the city-wide healthcare system, (2) created a sustainable checks and balances on examinations and reporting that are still used today, (3) she worked vehemently to the alleviation and rescue of those who had fallen victim to AIDS/HIV, sexual assault, and more, (4) spoke at several elementary and secondary schools as well as prominent colleges and universities to educate youth on preventative medical protocols, etc.
Nadine earned several special recognition awards throughout her career, including a plaque for her outstanding efforts in the medical industry from former President George H. Bush.
Life in the bustling city was never easy, but Nadine was always determined to infuse a burst of joy into every day even during the darkest times – especially during the darkest times. With her beloved family scattered across various continents for diplomatic and professional services, Nadine’s first 9 years in the US were exceptionally challenging. Despite this and her many substantial trials, she cared for and protected hundreds of thousands of young people through her work as a pediatrician, successfully cared for her parents and children, and kept in frequent contact with her siblings and extended family across North America, Europe and North Africa with the optimistic perspective that the oceans separating them was “just a bit of water and not enough to deter familial solidarity.” Above all, she made sure to instill the value of faith, family spirit, unity and love in her daughters so they would grow to understand that these are the sword and shield needed to combat any form of strife. This life lesson is the greatest legacy Nadine has imparted to her daughters, Chris Salboudis and Anne-Marie Sabbagh, and to her beloved grandchildren, Keegan and Zoe.
She was widely known to all as a generous spirit. Everyone who knew her was always made to feel welcome at her table, welcome to confide, and welcome to seek refuge or assistance. Like the widow in Mark 12:41-44, she gave everything that she was, body mind and soul, to the service of her family, friends and the greater community. Through every word and action Nadine truly imparted the values of faith, courage, wisdom and attentiveness in work and in life.
While one would expect to feel a great loss at her passing, the past months of grieving, story-sharing and laughter has brought about a new level of unity – and with it the ultimate fulfillment of her life’s goal to spread love and joy to others, to offer a helping hand, a patient ear, a bit of adventure… and of course the continual presentation of fantastic mezze and special dishes for every occasion. She will be deeply missed but always remembered for her kindness, creativity, wisdom and intuitiveness.
As a staunch advocate for families and youth in the U.S. and beyond, Nadine has requested that in lieu of flowers and tributes donations be made to Philo4Thought Inc., the Hellenic Mentoring Initiative (https://philo4thought.org/sponsors), which was inspired by the philanthropic and professional work of Nadine and her parents, Elie and Annette Sabbagh.