A woman wearing a coat standing in front of a building.
Sarah Chwairy said her experience at the VCU College of Health Professions has been “transformative and enriching.” (Tom Kojcsich, Enterprise Marketing and Communications)

Class of 2023: Sarah Chwairy embraces the mission of new health services program

College of Health Professions student sees administration and geriatrics as outlets for honoring family.

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Family is a strong influence on Sarah Chwairy’s life. They opened her eyes to a world of possibilities while growing up in Burke, Virginia.

Her parents had emigrated from Beirut, Lebanon, to give Chwairy and her two siblings a better shot at education, and her family members were passionate about their work in health care.

“Their dedication inspired me from an early age,” Chwairy said. “I knew that I wanted to follow in their footsteps and make a meaningful impact in the health care industry.”

Chwairy is graduating this semester with a degree in health services from Virginia Commonwealth University’s College of Health Professions and a minor in human resources management from the School of Business. (Her twin sister Maya is graduating with a degree in information systems.)

Nursing was originally in Chwairy’s plan, as medical careers came to mind when she considered the health care field. That vision framed her dream toward the end of high school and in her first year of college, but then her lens broadened.

“As I progressed in my studies at VCU, I was exposed to a different dimension of health care that I hadn't considered before: the managerial and health care administration aspect,” Chwairy said. “I realized that this pathway felt just right for me. It resonated with my interests, skills and personality.”

She switched her major to health services. The program launched in fall 2021, with Chwairy being one of the first students to join. The transition from the Monroe Park Campus to the MCV Campus had its challenges, but she had a strong network to lean on.

“All of the staff, including professors, were extremely supportive. ... I felt in complete control of my educational decisions, and [they] supported me every step of the way,” she said.

Chwairy’s initiative led to her becoming the president of the Bachelor of Science in Health Services Student Advisory Board. She said the organization was established recently to amplify student voices, and program administrators have been encouraging. A rewarding experience was implementing several projects, including the creation of a platform through which students can share concerns and suggestions anonymously.

“These projects have been successful in enhancing our program's experience and fostering a positive and inclusive environment,” Chwairy said. “It has been a privilege to work alongside my fellow executive leaders and board members to implement these initiatives.”

Chwairy is also a member of the College of Health Professions Executive Student Council and is a part of UNICEF at VCU. Her local volunteer work included Feed More, the leading Central Virginia hunger-relief organization, and “the sense of fulfillment and satisfaction from giving back to those in need has been truly rewarding.”

Chwairy now plans to pursue a master’s in health administration and work in senior care. She interned at Commonwealth Senior Living last summer, and she said her management focus will offer “valuable insights into the unique challenges and opportunities in geriatric care.”

Reflecting on her undergraduate experience, Chwairy is grateful for her personal and professional development.

“My experience at the VCU College of Health Professions has been transformative and enriching,” she said. “It has pushed me to step outside of my comfort zone, explore new opportunities and exceed my growth expectations with the support and resources provided by the college.”

And Chwairy never loses sight of the importance of family.

“My parents deeply emphasized the importance of education throughout my entire life,” she said. “I owe my success to them. They both have made numerous sacrifices in the best interest of their children.”