Amazing Students

Sarah Jarwar

Sarah Jarwar has “enjoyed the quintessential college experience” at UGA and is well on her way to becoming a pediatrician with a desire to serve medically underserved communities.

Hometown:

Conyers, Georgia

High School:

Salem High School & George Walton Academy

Degree objective:

B.S. Biology, B.S. Psychology

Expected graduation:

May 2018

University highlights, achievements, awards and scholarships:

Many people spend years on a path of self-discovery trying to find what truly makes them come alive in this world. We hope this path aligns with our natural talents and sensibilities along the way. If we’re able to find a community that fosters our aspirations and encourages growth, we are among the lucky ones. This community is exactly what I found in my time at the University of Georgia. When I first arrived, I wanted to be a part of a community built on serving others. There have been several organizations, such as Uplift Abroad, Roosevelt and the Muslim Student Association that allowed me to do work bigger than myself. One such organization deserves special mention: First Book UGA.

What’s not to love about a group that provides free books to those in their community who need just a bit of extra help in this world? For the past two years, I have been serving on the executive board as treasurer. UGA’s Sustainability grant allowed First Book and ASHA to fund Downtown Academy’s library and purchase software that eased the process of tracking and lending books. Last year, we funded eight schools and organizations with our grants for them to buy new children’s books. Access to books is one of the major barriers to childhood literacy. There is an old saying, “A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one.” Books offer children a loyal friendship and allow them to live lives very different than their own. First Book has allowed me to bring these friends to kids all over the Athens community.

Another organization close to my heart is one that has allowed me to balance on the unique line of two different cultures. From the coverage on the news to Pakistan being named Newsweek’s “most dangerous nation” in 2007, the narrative of being a Pakistani has always been written for me. Serving as treasurer of the Pakistani Student Association allows me to write my own story. I have the autonomy to show UGA students the sides of Pakistan I have always known and why Newsweek relabeled Pakistan as the “World’s Bravest Nation” in 2010. Furthermore, Pakistan and India are two nations with similar histories and cultures that, now more than ever, need to work together in this political climate. As students, we must set an example and cultivate an environment where we facilitate discussions about Pakistan-India relations. In doing so, I proposed that we partner with the UGA Indian Cultural Exchange to collaborate for a South Asian week, consisting of cross-cultural events. The weeklong event is tentatively scheduled for this March.

In addition to these organizations, I am a family head in MEDLIFE and an active member in Refugee Outreach. Since freshman year, I have lived MEDLIFE’s mission to deliver quality medicine, education and development to low-income families everywhere. During my junior year, I decided to join Refugee Outreach after attending their refugee simulation. Shuffling from room to room and being told I wasn’t welcomed was an uncomfortable, dehumanizing, yet incredibly powerful experience. Refugee Outreach did not shy away from showing the struggles and degrading experiences refugees face each day. This year we collaborated with the Undocumented Student Alliance to host Freedom University students. An amazing young woman joined me in attending my marine biology class. She is a bright, insightful Freedom University student who unfortunately cannot attend the University of Georgia. Spending time with her reminded me of the plethora of opportunities and privileges we take for granted each day.

As a college student, it’s easy to become so absorbed in the daily happenings on campus that we forget about the larger community around us. But a wise person once said, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” Volunteering has allowed me to not only engage with the Athens community, but to learn more about their difficulties. I have come across a plethora of problems such as food insecurity, inaccessible health care, homelessness and childhood illiteracy. Being a part of organizations that tackle these issues head on and provide support to the surrounding community has allowed me to widen my lens of the world and my place within it.  While I have had the privilege of serving in such places as the Athens Areas Homeless Shelter and the Food Bank of Northeast Georgia, a few experiences have stood out among the rest.

Through my First Book experience, I have connected with several elementary schools offering a multitude of volunteering experiences. At Alps Road Elementary I helped students put on a production of “Polar Express.” We were delighted to see the kids recognize their creative potential and eagerly embrace different personas. At Barrow Elementary, I mentored children on their reading comprehension skills. I also joined UGA MathCounts to work on improving and sharpening a student’s arithmetic skills. I have always loved working with children and enjoy making a small impact on their education. There is a golden moment that occurs when a child begins to read words with more fluency or finally solve a difficult problem. I get the privilege of viewing these moments every week.

During my time in Athens, I volunteered at both St. Mary’s Health Care and Piedmont Athens Regional. Through my clinical volunteering and shadowing, I realized how vital both accessible and preventive health care are to patients. I witnessed firsthand that while many issues target those of minority and/or low-income populations, issues such as opioid abuse transcend race, age and socioeconomic status. I also learned about the risks people face if they are uninsured, live in a medically underserved area, or come from a low-income background. Comforting patients, speaking to them about their ailments, and working with health care personnel empower me to one day serve medically underserved populations and collaborate with patients in creating a healthier lifestyle for themselves and their families.

Last year, I distributed hand-made Valentine’s Day cards to a few senior care centers in Athens. Seeing the joy such a small act brought to the residents encouraged me to serve at one of them. Currently, I volunteer at Arbor Terrace of Athens, an assisted living home. Spending time with the residents and bringing a smile upon their faces offers support and comfort to those who may not see many new visitors. Arbor Terrace of Athens has given me a network of individuals with a vast amount of experience and wisdom. They always have more stories and insights waiting for me each time I visit.

Aside from my campus involvement and service projects, I joined a biomaterials lab as an undergraduate research assistant in the spring semester of my sophomore year. The field of engineering has always piqued my interest. From a young age, I was fascinated by how medical devices are used to improve one’s quality of life. I decided to pursue engineering through conducting research in Dr. Handa’s biomedical engineering lab, where we work to eliminate the issues of thrombosis and infection dealing with the implantation of medical devices. As a result, I received the Center for Undergraduate Research Opportunities Research Assistantship.

All my accomplishments recorded above are due to immense mentorship and support from my family, professors and peers. Thus, as a senior I wished to give back and share the insights and experience I gathered over the years. Currently, I serve as a mentor in both the International Student Life Language Partner Program and the Honors Program Student Council Peer Assisted Leadership Program. LPP is designed to assist international students in assimilating at UGA, while PAL works to introduce Honors students to both UGA and the Honors Program. The University of Georgia is a huge school and sometimes all the remarkable opportunities can be a bit overwhelming. It’s heartwarming to know that I can somewhat alleviate their troubles and help guide their paths at one of the best schools in the nation.

Family Ties to UGA:

I am the first of my family to attend UGA, but hopefully not the last!

I chose to attend UGA because…

… of all the wonderful opportunities UGA has to offer. From over 800 organizations, to workshops, sports, service opportunities and undergraduate research, there is something for everyone. UGA provides students with ample opportunities to discover our passions and natural abilities. I have enjoyed the quintessential college experience and UGA has turned me into a more compassionate, disciplined, and well-rounded student. One who is not only ready for new challenges, but enjoy them as well.

My favorite things to do on campus are…

… going to different types of events such as workshops, discussion forums, guest lectures and even service opportunities. Outside of normal classes there are many events in which one can learn valuable insights, discuss current events with like-minded individuals, and hear about another’s life experiences. Listening to Loung Ung speak about her novel, “First They Killed My Father,” was a poignant, once in a lifetime experience I will never forget.

I also enjoy studying or reading a book on Herty Field. I like to take a break from my day and enjoy a beautiful, serene day on campus.

When I have free time, I like…

… to volunteer. I try to fill gaps in time with service projects at a variety of places. I’ve always wanted to help people in some way, and have discovered a way toward this goal through the different service opportunities around Athens. Volunteering genuinely makes me happy and has given me certain skills, experiences and a network I would not have had otherwise. I have always wanted to make an impact on the world around me and volunteering allows me to make a small difference one day at a time.

I also cherish spending quality time with my friends and family. My friends and I support one other through every difficult course and exam. We also like to stay active and I have participated in two intramural sports: Ultimate Frisbee and soccer. I’m also quite lucky that I live only an hour away from UGA and can visit my family whenever I miss home.

The craziest thing I've done is…

… having a “Lizzie McGuire” experience on my study abroad trip with my best friend. In the summer of 2016, my friend Noreen and I participated in a Science Maymester Program. We had an amazing time in Europe and fully explored the different cities. We enjoyed the experience the most since we decided to do things our way, or the “Mini & Nunu” way.

My favorite place to study is…

… definitely the law library. I love the architecture, amenities, wide tables, atmosphere and view in the main area. One whole wall of the library is made up of glass windows. I love having such a beautiful scenery of the outdoors while I’m studying.

My favorite professor is…

Throughout my years at UGA, I have had the privilege of meeting professors who continue to exceed my expectations — ones who are always willing to mentor and guide their students, while pushing them to overcome obstacles and thrive as UGA students.

One professor that has played an instrumental part in my college experience is Dr. Morrison, my organic chemistry professor. O-chem is known as an extremely difficult course, but it ended up being one of my favorite subjects at UGA because of his teaching methods. He made class enjoyable and really wanted his students to succeed. I never hesitated attending office hours to ask questions or simply to have a conversation with him. Organic chemistry molded me into a better student and gave me the confidence that I was ready for medical school.

My sophomore year I decided to add on a psychology major and have met a whole set of professors who were as enthusiastic about their field as they were about their students’ education. With Dr. Vratanina-Smoot I learned more about myself in her psychology course than I have in any other class at UGA.

Also, my advisor Elizabeth Fuller has helped me every step of the way during my undergraduate studies. She is always more than willing to offer guidance on any qualms I have regarding my future and has been a huge source of support during my premedical years.

If I could share an afternoon with anyone, I would love to share it with…

… my high school teacher, Coach Head. In his classroom, he taught his students much more than U.S. history. He gave us lessons on life, could always sense who needed a bit more encouragement on a rough day, and tested our hand-eye coordination skills with a game of catch. I still have the ball he gave me from a class trip to Virginia in my room. Unfortunately, he passed away two years ago. He was an extraordinary individual who was one of my biggest supporters in high school. He believed in me and saw a certain potential within me that I hadn’t yet. He never failed to make me smile in the mornings or lend an ear when I needed advice. I wish that I could share my college experiences with him and collect some tokens of wisdom on my future endeavors.

If I knew I could not fail, I would…

One issue I would love to tackle is health care. Americans spend much more money on health care, such as prescription medications and medical procedures, than individuals from other nations. Also, access to quality health care is disproportionally more difficult for those who come from low-income backgrounds. Throughout my years at UGA I have witnessed how issues stemming from poverty such as food insecurity, homelessness and poor childhood development, have devastating effects on one’s health. Patients shouldn’t have to choose between forfeiting a significant portion of their earnings or sacrificing their own or a family member’s well-being. Health care is a right; thus, if I knew I could not fail I would work toward delivering quality health care to all.

If money was not a consideration, I would love to…

… establish a set of clinics in medically underserved areas. According to the Health Resources and Services Administration, over 57 million Americans live in regions that have a shortage of primary care physicians. This group of people, which mainly consist of minority and low-income populations, is at an elevated risk of developing myriad preventable diseases. Creating high-quality primary care clinics that attract physicians would require an overhaul of the health care infrastructure. Thus, if money was not a consideration I would love to create high-quality clinics that offer suitable pay, while training medical students to understand health care disparities and fuel their desire to work in medically underserved areas.

What is your passion and how are you committed to pursuing it?

My passion for medicine, service and social justice has been the driving force behind my years at UGA. There are many issues that plague the health care system. As a physician, I look forward to addressing such inequalities. I’m interested in the primary care field and gravitate toward working with children. I hope to accomplish my career goal of becoming a pediatrician, one who serves medically underserved communities.

After graduation, I plan to…

… continue my volunteering and research, while applying to medical school. I envision my future self as a physician serving disadvantaged populations both locally and abroad.

The one UGA experience I will always remember will be…

… my organization, First Book, winning the Student Organization Achievement and Recognition Award for Organization of the Year. We weren’t expecting to win the top award since we are relatively such a small organization. I cried for joy when they called our name. First Book has become an integral part of my college career and receiving recognition for all the hard work, dedication and time my board members and I have put in was an exhilarating and gratifying experience.

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