Dr. Mohammad Abdul Bari
By Masood Haider and Afzal Usmani
Dr. Mohammad Abdul Bari, a very senior Aligarian and a physician whose devotion to Staten Island's seniors made him an integral part of the borough's health care system, and an early pioneer of the borough's Muslim community, died on October 31, 2008 at his home after a prolonged illness.
He came to the United States from Karachi in 1959 for an internship at Harlem Hospital in Manhattan. A year later, he came to the Island to complete a residency at the former Richmond Memorial Hospital in Prince's Bay. After completing specialty residencies in the Bronx, and in Halifax, Nova Scotia and serving as the chief resident in cardiology at St. Michael's Hospital in Newark, he returned to the Island in 1966, and joined the medical practice of Regan & McGinn, M.D., P.C., New Dorp, now known as Island Medical Specialists.
Dr. Bari was a pioneer in catering to the needs of special patients. He founded Staten Island's first geriatric center in 1972, at Richmond Memorial Hospital, and advocated for important ancillary services, such as free transportation. He organized a Thanksgiving Dinner for 25 years at which he, hospital administrators and other physicians would serve dinner to seniors who weren't able to be with relatives.
In 1983, Dr. Bari was selected by ‘People to People International’ to join a team of geriatric medicine specialists from the U.S. to exchange expertise with leading geriatric specialists in Australia and New Zealand. He is also credited with founding a special care clinic for Staten Island's developmentally disabled communities.
Throughout his lifetime, he received scores of awards and citations from local and national civic organizations and politicians for his volunteer and community services. He was honored as Physician of the Year by the Richmond County Medical Society and the Islamic Medical Association, and received the Physician Recognition Award for Service to the Community by the American Academy of Medicine of Richmond. Last year, he was recognized for 50 years of service by the Richmond County Medical Society.
Dr. Bari was a charter member of Masjid-al-Noor Muslim Majlis of Staten Island, originally located in Tompkinsville, now in Concord. He was also a founder of the Pakistani Student Association of North America, an organization whose purpose was to encourage medical researchers. It is known today as the Islamic Medical Association, a 1,500-member worldwide organization; Dr. Bari served as president of its North American chapter.
He was active in the American Muslim Alliance to educate the Pakistani community about the American political system in an effort to transform Pakistanis into Pakistani-Americans, and was invited to the White House by former President Bill Clinton for his efforts.
He also was active in encouraging dialogue between the FBI and the Pakistani-American community on Staten Island following the terrorist attacks of September 2001. He was an active member of the American Muslim Alliance/Staten Island Chapter and the Pakistan Cultural Society. He also served on the editorial board of ‘Al-Majlis’, Staten Island's Pakistani community magazine.
‘Dr. Bari was one of the pioneers of the Muslim community of Staten Island’ said Imam Ghulam Rasul, the spiritual leader of Masjid-al-Noor. ‘Among the Muslim population he held a much esteemed position, and he was just as popular with non-Muslims. It's a great loss for the Muslim community and the Staten Island community’. Dr. Bari was active in supporting education in his homeland, leading scholarship efforts for hundreds of medical students and collecting medications for shipment to Pakistan and India, where those supplies were unavailable.
He was a member of the New York Medical Society, New York State Medical Director Association, American Society of Contemporary Medicine and Surgery, American Academy of Medicine, Society of Internal Medicine and the Richmond County Medical Society. He was also a past president of the Staten Island Chapter of the Society of Internal Medicine, and was a fellow of the American Geriatric Society, American College of Angiology and International College of Angiology. Dr. Bari was a world traveler who visited many countries in Europe, all of the Middle East, as well as Morocco, New Zealand and Australia. He told a magazine, Advance during an interview in 2001 that no matter where he went, he was always able to find a mosque.
When the Aligarh Alumni Association of the New York Tri-state area was reborn in 1998, Dr. Bari was one of its founding members and was unanimously chosen as the President of the revived association. He was greatly respected, revered and loved by all who worked with him and by consensus remained the undisputed leader of the association till his death. He was scrupulously honest in his dealings with his friends and associates and in the words of an admirer was straight as an arrow in the best traditions of Maulana Hasrat Mauhani and Quaid-e-Azam Mohammed Ali Jinnah. He never spoke ill of anyone and had no patience with petty rivalries and indecorous behavior. Whenever any personal spats and squabbles erupted within the association, he handled them with a deft combination of cajoling and admonishing and was able to keep the core group of founding members together, a remarkable achievement, through thick and thin for ten years. Whenever the association ran into red, which was practically every year and needed to be bailed out, he could be counted on for his generous financial support.
He is survived by his wife of 40 years, Sarwath Bari, and his two daughters, Samina Bari Neale and Huma Bari.He would be sorely missed and would be impossible to replace. May his soul rest in eternal peace.