Abdul Arafeh

ARAFEH, ABDUL GHANI, Old Tappan, N.J. -Abdul Ghani Arafeh, M.D., 92, an internationally-recognized physician and husband of Najah (Chamsi) Arafeh, died on Saturday, September 28, 2013, at his daughter’s home in Old Tappan, NJ. He died peacefully in his sleep according to his brother, Mehadin Arafeh, M.D., who resides in Middletown, CT. He was born in Damascus, Syria, on August 22, 1921, the son of the late Kamel and Suad (Beiruti) Arafeh. Dr. Arafeh, a prominent Syrian physician and specialist in pulmonary diseases, made the impact of his learning in the areas of clinical care, hospital leadership and state-wide and regional medical care in the Middle East. He graduated from the Syrian University’s College of Medicine in 1947 (now called Damascus University). He later served in assignments for the Department of Health in eastern Syria: Hasaka, Deir Elzor, Kamishly and rural Al-Rakkah, underserved areas of the country. Dr. Arafeh then went to the Sorbonne University in Paris, France, and attended its graduate program in pulmonology, apprenticing in its affiliated hospitals. He developed a passion for working with tubercular patients and spent two years as a resident physician at the Tuberculosis Sanitarium in Mont Blanc, Switzerland, where he gained extensive clinical skills in the treatment of tuberculosis. He also served apprenticeships in England where he achieved fluency in the English language. Dr. Arafeh returned to Syria and was assigned to be Senior Physician at Ibn Nafis Hospital, the only state-operated tuberculosis hospital in the country at that time. His leadership skills were quickly recognized, and he was appointed clinical director and later medical director for years, establishing the hospital as a teaching institution. He was responsible for the development of a number of gifted and dedicated leaders for the program, who were inspired by his example. Not content with limiting his work to clinical practice at the hospital and a private practice in chest diseases he became aware of the need to have more care done in the community. Then he branched out to lead the community program “Rescue”, which also extended treatment care to Palestinian refugees inflicted with tuberculosis. Dr. Arafeh was a consultant for the World Health Organization of the United Nations, serving in Sudan and elsewhere in North Africa for more than ten years. In 1947 he was awarded its prestigious Shousha Award in recognition of his contribution in Egypt during its cholera epidemic. In 1995 the World Health Organization presented him a second award, the Shousha Basha, for his further contributions in North Africa and the Middle East at a ceremony held in Geneva, Switzerland. His dedication to the medical profession led him to work with other physicians solidifying the work of the Syrian Physicians Association, which he also headed for many years. As the country’s Secretary of Health he was instrumental in elevating the Health Department to become the Ministry of Health, and during his long tenure he was instrumental in expanding its public health and preventive programs as well as opening a number of hospitals and clinics in regions of the country which lacked facilities. He advocated for opening a second state-run medical school in the country’s largest city of Aleppo, which established affiliations with the city’s largest teaching hospital. Unlike the medical school in Damascus, which taught primarily in Arabic with English and French as auxiliary languages, the Aleppo school taught in English with Arabic and French as secondary languages. Dr. Arafeh was a strong advocate of safe driving and headed the Syrian Automobile Association (SAA) for more than twenty years promoting tourism of the country. Also, he became a passionate advocate of smoking cessation. He frequently lectured on television and published articles on the subject promoting his ideas on wellness and healthy living by words and personal example. Mindful of the needs of the aging, Dr. Arafeh was a leading figure in establishing Dar Al Hanan (House of Mercy) , a pioneering project for the care of disabled elderly persons. Also, he held an enlightened and progressive view of women’s need for autonomy and helped to establish a number of schools of nursing in several provinces of the country. Three books that he wrote are “Smoking, the Obsession of the Current Time”, “Islam As I See It” and his memoir, “Thoughts from Memory”. He is survived by two sons, Hassan Arafeh and his wife Hanan of San Jose, CA, and Rudain Arafeh and his wife Julie of Hollister, CA, four daughters Sawsan Arafeh presently of Bristol, England, Suad Akkad and her husband Redwan of Aleppo, Syria, Lama Kabakibi and her husband Dr. Riad of Franklin Lakes, NJ, Munana Akil and her husband Louay of Old Tappan, NJ, and a step-daughter Rama Barazi and her husband, Sufyan of Cairo, Egypt, thirteen grandchildren; one great-gandchild, and his two brothers Mehadin Arafeh, MD, and his wife Barbara of Middletown and Abdul Kader Arafeh and his wife Houda of Miscat, Oman and a sister-in-law Mozayan Arafeh of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. He was predeceased by his brother Said Arafeh. He also leaves eleven nephews and nieces. Michigan Memorial Funeral Service of Paterson, NJ was in charge of funeral arrangements and the burial was in Laurel Grove Cemetery, Totowa, NJ.
Published in middletownpress on Nov. 13, 2013