Dr. Hasan Arif is a Drexel nephrologist practicing in Center City Philadelphia. He is board certified in nephrology, hypertension and internal medicine and the Co-Director of the hypertension center at Drexel.
Why did you want to be a doctor?
My sister is my role model. Coming from Pakistan where women are usually not expected to work, she basically broke all the norms and went to medical school where she graduated at top of her class. After clearing her exams, she came to the United States and began her career here. I was inspired by her. We were always told by our parents to do what we want, and she really was able to do it. I wanted to follow in her footsteps.
How did you decide to focus on nephrology?
In 2000 when I started medical school, I did not have much exposure to nephrology because there wasn’t much development in the field in Pakistan. Most of our patients that developed renal failure, unfortunately ended up passing away due to lack of in-patient dialysis. When I came to the U.S. and started looking for observerships and research opportunities, I was fortunate enough to meet Dr. Allan B. Schwartz. It was through Dr. Schwartz that something that I had only read about in a book came to life for me, and I knew from that point on that I wanted to be a nephrologist.
How did you connect with Dr. Schwartz?
I had come here for my clinical skills exam, which is one of the exams we have to clear to be able to apply for residency. I had about ten months before I would have begun a residency and needed something to do. My sister, who was working at Drexel Medicine, knew that Dr. Schwartz’s research assistant was leaving for medical school and he would be in need of someone to fill that position. He was looking for somebody who had a clinical background and was available. It was a stroke of luck. He introduced me to research and nephrology, and helped set the foundation for who I am today.
What do you specialize in?
I am a general nephrologist. I’m trained to deal with the full spectrum of issues that can arise in a renal patient. My specialty is in acute kidney injury, and I’m certified as a hypertension specialist, so I can manage any hypertensive issues that arise as a result of either renal or non-renal causes. I’m proficient in different forms of dialysis, and I am also trained to handle renal transplant patients.
One in three Americans are at risk for kidney disease due to diabetes, high blood pressure or family history of kidney failure. Are there preventative measures that people can take to try to reduce their risk?
In regard to family history, I tell people that just because you have bad genes, it doesn’t mean you will develop the disease. Healthy diet, exercise and regular follow-ups with your physician are important. Just like if somebody has colon cancer in their family history, it’s important to get screened at a younger age. When it comes to high blood pressure and diabetes, prevention is important. We have an obesity epidemic, so it’s important to cut down on sodas, sugary drinks and processed food. It’s important to do everything you can to prevent diabetes from affecting other parts of your body.
What do you like about working at Drexel Medicine?
It doesn’t feel like I’m coming to work. It’s more of a family where everybody’s helping each other out. I get to teach, learn from colleagues and help patients. I enjoy all of it. It’s really a dream job where I get to maximize my strengths.
You’ve received awards for your teaching. What does teaching mean to you?
Anybody who is a physician right now was taught by somebody. For me, the most gratifying part of this job is not the paycheck. It is the spark in somebody’s eye when they suddenly learn how something works. It’s seeing those moments in our students, residents and fellows that keep me going. And it’s a trickle-down effect. What I explain to them, they explain to someone younger than them. If we don’t do this, we’re not going to have doctors.
I love what I do, and I really enjoy being a part of the academic field because it gives me an opportunity to teach. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for my teachers. I am lucky to still have teachers and mentors like Dr. Ellie Kelepouris, who’s our chair of the division. She nurtures us and is still teaching us.
It sounds like there is a lot of team work in the division. Do you find that Drexel Medicine creates a collaborative environment?
Definitely. Within the division, we are hands-down very friendly and very approachable. If somebody needs help, we’re there, and when you know that people have your back, it doesn’t hamper you from reaching out. That attitude helps us to reach out to others outside of our division too. We’ve been able to collaborate a lot, especially with our transplant program where we’ve worked with the Infectious Diseases division. We’re currently collaborating with Rheumatology on gout research, and we’re collaborating with Cardiology on hypertension research.
How do you like living in Philadelphia?
It’s my second home. I landed here in 2007 and have not left. The city has really grown in that time. It feels safe. It’s conveniently located, close to New York, Baltimore, Washington, DC, and Atlantic City.
Do you have any hobbies or interests outside of work?
I’m a big foodie. I love trying new foods. Every weekend that I’m off, I’m in Center City somewhere trying a new restaurant. I have a list of restaurants that I keep checking off each year. The problem is new ones keep on popping up. I also like snowboarding and playing videogames. My favorite game is God of War.