I remember when I was a child, I used to break my toys to see how they were working. I
continued to do so even after my mom started complaining about it. Despite this, she was an
educated woman and knew why I was doing so: it was the Curiosity. I have always been
interested in knowing how things work, who makes them, where they come from, and how people
use them; therefore, I would to ask the people around me lots of questions. As I grew up, it never
left me, even up to now. To fulfill my knowledge thirstiness, I started to add more ways to
increase my understandings, such as reading books, following science news, create discussion
and learning groups with my friends, and so on. I was and still am a regular member of Herat
Public Library. Such level of motivation and interest, made me being called “Encyclopedia” by
friends. I remember sometimes my information was more updated than the topics we were
learning at the class. I always excelled in scientific subjects such as math, chemistry and physics.
Despite living in harsh conditions as migrants in Pakistan, I was fortunate enough to
study in a private school, for I was in a highly educated family (father being a doctor and mother
a teacher). Soon after returning to homeland, I attended the best governmental school in my city:
Sultan High School. However, problems didn’t stop to appear: shortage of proper educational
materials, lack of professional and even sometimes non professional instructors, and insecurity
are a few examples out of many. Lack of teachers was among challenges difficult to deal with.
Shortage of teachers in subjects such as Chemistry, Biology, Physics and Math in my school was
a big obstacle before student’s progress! To fill this gap, I decided to team up with some school
fellows, in order to share our understanding and learn things by ourselves. In addition, I managed
to hire a private instructor, too. My interest on one hand and lack of teachers on the other had me
to volunteer for teaching mathematics to other students. These experiences, later on, become of
help in my future activities, and in passing the university entry exam, so I could enter in my first
choice school, medical Faculty, getting the highest grade from the entry exam in the western
region. Not to forget that I was the top student in the class during the 12 years of studying at
school. Due to my interest to language and computer, I started learning English and computer
programs, managing to learn both almost at an acceptable level.
During the 7 years of my medical school, I was always among the top students in the
class; graduated from the medical school with a high average of scores, (last semester 91.2%, and
86% overall) combined of grades from both theory and practicum. During this period, I was
involved in some extra-curricular academic and nonacademic activities. For instance, teaching at
a governmental hospital (physiotherapy & Immunization wards), taking part in initiation of the
Medical School Students Association, the aim was to build and strengthen relationship between
the students, the faculty and the administrative board. Also, I worked as a part time translator in
Educating in the Context of Crisis and Transition research project, run by Columbia University
scholars Dr. Dana Burde and Dr. Leigh Linden in Western Afghanistan, and in close coordination
with Catholic Relief Services organization. The aim of the project was to conduct household
surveys in 40 villages of Herat and Ghore Provinces. This experience had provided me with three
big opportunities. Firstly, to become practically familiar with some of the research methods; it
was very important for me since I have deep interests in research field from childhood. Secondly,
I found a chance to interact with people from different cultural background, especially with
research scholar. Finally, it brought me back to the mathematics which I missed for a period of
Soon after graduation from medical school, I found a great employment opportunity:
working in health services as Hospital Management & Monitoring Officer. My job was to
supervise and monitor the technical aspects and operational activities of two District Hospitals
(Shindand & Ghoryan), and 24 other health clinics. It was a very high demanding and
challenging job with so many responsibilities, but challenges bring opportunities: as a health
programmer, I found a chance to communicate with many people, and enhance my knowledge
and skill basis. These achievements resulted in my selection as Public Health Trainer & technical
monitor in Health Technical Support Unit (HTSU) in a relatively short time, as I am currently
employed there. My job is to conduct technical workshops, assist health trainees both
theoretically and practically, monitor & evaluate the health projects, conduct & design statistical
surveys, and prepare educational materials. I even used my experiences from Columbia
University research project to design a survey, entitled as “Advocacy for better Health”, seeking
public opinion about their level of satisfaction on health services; conducted in the western and
northern regions.
Born into an educated family, I have been fortunate to be able to meet the challenges of
primary, secondary, and higher education reasonably well though under harsh circumstances in
Afghanistan & immigration. My graduation from a prestigious school like medicine with
excellent academic record enabled me to go through various great employments prior and after
graduation. While studying, I got a part time job with Columbia University (CU) Research project
which gave me opportunities to develop both skill and interest to research. My work with public
health institutions and HTSU further increased my Public Health capacity and knowledge, and
prepared me for the current job. My medical education and my experiences from the three useful
research & public health related employments combined with my interests have inspired me to
pursue my studies in public health with a focus on Biostatistics through a master’s degree.
Mohammad Yaser Anwar