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EMBA Alumnus Spotlight: Imran Khan, PhD, MBA (Metro Chamber '09)

Congratulations to our fellow EMBA grad, Imran Khan, on publishing his first novel! Gambit on the Devil’s Chessboard stars a renaissance man with an iron will who is marked for assassination after contracting with philanthropic billionaires to establish a new paradigm of prosperity in impoverished countries. How will he survive his odyssey through international intrigue? Order the book to find out!

How much of this novel is fact versus fiction, or inspired by true events?

One of the key tools in my MBA training was the daily, ritualized reading of the Wall Street Journal, front to back, as recommended by the then-dean, Dr. Sanjay Varshney—and it stuck. Roughly two-thirds of the book is based on WSJ articles and news. The rest is from other experiences, including my world travels and resulting understanding of diverse cultures. Hence, the book is primarily fact-based but presented as fiction to capture readers’ interest and imagination.

Are any of the characters based on your personal experience in the medical field or as an MBA grad?

Most of the characters in Gambit on the Devil’s Chessboard are ones I have come across in my medical field and the MBA world. The book’s premise that world security is threatened by poverty-stricken countries is based on my research on tuberculosis, which is endemic there. Every year there are 10 million new patients, of which 1.6 million die—the highest number for any infectious disease consistently for many decades. Widespread poverty is not only a cause of many diseases but also of displacement of masses, agitated by hunger and war, rushing toward advanced countries. My novel identifies the root causes of poverty and offers an effective solution.

How did the Sac State EMBA inspire you to write this novel?

In the EMBA program, I learned how to identify problems in leadership, global strategy, general administration, project management, finance, accounting, corporate structure, industrial output, etc., and find solutions and optimize their implementation. Those same concepts are reflected in this novel. It identifies the causes of poverty and political instability in the third world and how it threatens global security—matching solutions to problems and implementing them in an impactful manner. So, you could say the book’s basic design is modeled after MBA education.

How do you balance a demanding full-time job and finding the time to write a novel?

Anyone who has gone through the EMBA program can manage this; that discipline is another way MBA education helped me write this book. I researched and wrote on the weekends and evenings. Yeah, you guessed it right—I have no life!


What advice would you give to aspiring novelists?

Getting the basic fact-based ideas down is rather straightforward but weaving a story with vibrant characters in a manner that compels the reader to keep turning pages requires proper training in fiction writing. I took a six-month class by Jerry Jenkins in thriller writing. My advice: Master the craft.


Dr. Khan is a professor at the U.C. Davis School of Medicine. He earned his PhD from Albert Einstein College of Medicine, New York, and his Executive MBA at Sacramento State University. He founded AppGenex, a biotechnology company that has developed a novel blood test for tuberculosis, which is endemic in countries such as India and Pakistan—all experiences that led to the backdrop of this novel.


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