CLARKSTON, Ga—It was serendipity when Dr. Heval Kelli, a Syrian Kurdish refugee, found his medical mentor while working at a Decatur restaurant washing dishes. Now Kelli, a Georgia State University alumna and cardiologist at Emory University Hospital, wants to give that type of mentoring connection to other immigrants and refugees through a new “Doctor for a Day” event.
“I was lucky to find a mentor — so I wanted to make access to medical mentorships and networking an opportunity for all,” Kelli said. “It should not just be a matter of luck who you know.”
Now, he is working to fulfill that goal.
Recently, in the first “Doctor for a Day” event, 75 students from metro high schools and local colleges — including Perimeter College — spent a Sunday at Georgia State’s Indian Creek Lodge, talking to doctors and medical students about what it takes to be a physician and work in health care.
The program was coordinated by Kelli, along with:
- UBeyond, a professional networking program for underserved communities.
- Dr. Mary Helen O’Connor of the Center for Community Engagement at Georgia State’s Clarkston Campus
- The Mentoring Initiative for New Americans (a Georgia State initiative that matches college student leaders with new Americans to provide academic and social support needed to pursue a college career)
- Medical students from the metro Atlanta Young Physicians Initiative, and
- Georgia State’s Center for Advancement of Students and Alumni.
Encouraging immigrant students from underserved communities to pursue medical degrees — and to come back to serve their own communities — is important, said O’Connor, who works with refugee and immigrant students at Perimeter College.
“I think this program should be replicated across medical professions,” she said. “For many of these students from these underserved populations, there are no networking opportunities to provide these types of experiences where they can be mentored and find out what health care pathway they might be interested in.”
“We are very excited to have created something like this and hope to be more inclusive of all minorities and underserved youth interested in medicine,” said Seema Mustafa, who is a third-year medical student and member of UBeyond.
The group hopes to host an expanded event on the Clarkston Campus in the fall.