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Student Spotlight

Arif Sarwari

Arif Sarwari

Doctor from Pakistan and Uganda loves Morgantown

British colonial history has had a strong influence on the life of Dr. Arif R. Sarwari. 

His father, Abdul Khaliq Khan Sarwari, an English and history teacher, was born in India/Pakistan under British rule. When England needed teachers for its colony in Uganda, Africa, he packed up and moved to Africa, where Sarwari was born in 1965. 

Uganda gained independence from Britain in 1962, the same year Sarwari arrived, but political ferment led to a military coup by armed forces commander Idi Amin Dada. Amin declared himself president with absolute power. 

Arif, a teenager during the 1970s, remembers the fear of those who were not from Uganda. "Amin wanted everyone who was not of indigenous descent to leave," said Sarwari, an Executive MBA student who will receive his degree in December. 

"I was born in Uganda, but that did not automatically make you a citizen, unlike in the U.S.," he said." Our family did leave Uganda for nine months in 1972-73, because of these security concerns. We transiently moved to Nairobi, Kenya where my mother's family resided. Our biggest concern was not deportation, but physical harm." 

Sarwari eventually went to Pakistan to attend college and earned a medical degree in 1989. He came to West Virginia University Hospitals for residency training, and attended the University of Maryland for fellowship training and a master's degree in epidemiology and preventative medicine. He returned to Morgantown to become an assistant professor of medicine in 2000. 

He and his family like living in Morgantown. "My wife and I loved the idea of bringing up our two daughters in Morgantown –a safe, peaceful, scenic, and culturally diverse setting. The presence of the university helps provide for the diversity, and the faculty and staff here are amongst the friendliest people I have ever met," Sarwari said. His daughter, a graduate of Morgantown High School, will be a freshman at WVU this fall.

He enrolled in the EMBA program "to better understand the language and principles of business, especially as they apply to health care," he said. Incorporating business training into medical school simply wouldn't be possible, he explained, because the field of medicine is so large and advances so quickly that there is no room for teaching business, too. 

"I believe there will be physicians that at some point in their careers will want to improve upon skill sets that allow for a career in hospital administration or other health care related entrepreneurial activity. It is here that I believe the EMBA program is very helpful," Sarwari said. "I have enrolled in it at a mid-career stage, and that has particularly helped apply what I learn to what I do day-to-day." 

He said he is especially pleased with the team-building and teamwork skills he has learned in the EMBA program, and the skills he has learned in negotiations, statistical analysis, and information technology. 

"Learning about the fundamentals of health care delivery as a service industry and how it differs from, say a manufacturing industry, also helps me better understand the outcome and quality indicators as they start getting rigorously applied to health care delivery," he said. 

Sarwari misses his home countries, but he believes that as an infectious disease physician and epidemiologist, finding ways to fight infectious diseases is best pursued in the United States. "The decision to train in the United States was based on the general recognition that post graduate medical training here is probably the best organized and structured in the world. While I do not have any training experience in other countries, I wholeheartedly agree that the training I received here was excellent."