Dr. Heval Kelli is a Refugee, Cardiologist & Former Dishwasher!
Dr. Kelli is truly a special individual—from Syrian Refugee struggling to make ends meet to successful American cardiologist mentoring refugee youth, Dr. Kelli’s pursuit of the American Dream has inspired others to chase their dreams.
“We are always in debt to America for giving us a home and a foundation to pursue our dreams. I am truly lucky and blessed to return the favor by investing in underserved communities and serving people in need.”
Dr. Kelli remembers how his hands would prune from being underwater for too long while working at his first job in the US as a Syrian Refugee. He would wash dishes on nights & weekends to support his family because his father was too sick to work. At only 17 years old, he would trek 6 miles from the small town of Clarkston, GA to his dishwashing job at a local restaurant.
"I would see all the [Emory] students come in to eat and hope to one day be a college student myself," he says. "I always wanted to be a doctor. The prestige of being a doctor was a motivator. That was my American Dream."
Dr. Kelli remembers his childhood, when the Syrian government threw his father, a prominent civil rights lawyer, in jail for helping the oppressed Kurdish community. Forced to flee, he eventually arrived in the US just two weeks after September 11, 2001.
Life was a struggle for him—especially as a young Muslim man in post 9/11 America. Alone & afraid, Dr. Kelli did his best to adjust to life in Georgia. Speaking no English and not knowing anyone in the States, he was forced to figure things out on his own. Eventually, family was able to join him, but they always struggled to make ends meet.
Nevertheless, he persisted. Dr. Kelli continued to support his family by washing dishes and put himself through college & medical school with the help of great mentors along the way.
More than a decade later, Dr. Kelli is a cardiology fellow at Emory University. Ironically, the restaurant where he used to wash dishes is only a block away from where he currently works as a doctor.