As a young Syrian refugee washing dishes in a restaurant to support his family, Heval Kelli could not know that many years later he would be a distinguished fellow in cardiology at a university less than one mile from where his journey in the United States began. Facing a steep language learning curve, a monthly rent payment, and mountains of dirty dishes, Heval knew things could be much worse. He and his family fled persecution in Syria where his father was beaten and imprisoned by the police.
As members of the Kurdish minority, the family had few choices and paid a smuggler to get them out. A circuitous route of migration finally brought them to the United States where they were assisted by members of All Saints’ Episcopal Church in their adjustment and resettlement in Clarkston, Georgia. Through a network of caring community members, Heval was introduced to Dr. Omar Lattouf, an Emory cardiothoracic surgeon who took an interest in mentoring him through his undergraduate pre-med work at Georgia State University and his admission to Morehouse School of Medicine where he graduated cum laude. He finished his internal medicine residency training at Emory University and received recognition as resident of the year as well as honorable distinctions in social and inpatient medicine. Dr. Kelli is currently serving as a Katz Foundation Fellow in Preventative Cardiology.
Dr. Kelli’s research focuses on utilizing mobile health technologies to bring health education to underserved areas. In collaboration with his lifelong mentor Dr. Omar Lattouf, he has launched a global initiative to combat cardio metabolic syndrome through hosting seminars in the United States and around the globe. Dr. Kelli is launching a mobile application that allows patient self-risk stratification for cardiovascular diseases. He is the co-editor of Complex Cardiac, an on-line cardiac textbook, co-editor of an on-line live webinar channel TEDNETS, where speakers give live interactive lectures to learners around the globe.
His current academic mentors include world-renowned cardiology professors Dr. Arshed A. Quyyumi, Dr Viola Vaccarino and Dr. Laurence Sperling. He is conducting and leading several research projects focused on the impact of socioeconomic status on cardiovascular health and the role of disparity in oxidative stress and inflammatory markers. As a disparity fellow on the METRIC NIH funded grant, he is studying the impact of neighborhood features and socioeconomic status on cardiovascular risk factors. His research progress was featured in global medical news in the American College of Cardiology and Medscape. Dr. Kelli publishes and presents nationally and internationally with a focus on utilizing mobile health technologies to bring health education to underserved areas.
As a result of his life experiences, Dr. Kelli is a steadfast advocate for serving communities in need especially immigrant and refugee communities. He is a co-founder of several non-profit organizations focused on edical education (Young Physician Initiative & You4Education), mentorship (U-Beyond) and healthcare outreach (You4Prevent). He is the co-founder and president of the Kurdish American Medical Association, an organization focused connecting Kurdish American doctors with medical and college students. Dr. Kelli volunteers his medical expertise at the Clarkston Community Health Center which provides free medical care to uninsured individuals in the community where he grew up. He was recently named chairman of the Service Committee at the World Chamber of Commerce.
President Obama recently wrote of Dr. Kelli, “Your resilience and dedication reflect the best of the American spirit. Your experience offers a shining example of the American dream.”
His story and his work have been featured and shared on national and international news including CNN, Emory University magazine, Associated Press, TEDx, VICE, Atlanta Magazine, NBC News, TONIC, Creative Loafing, Emory News, American College of Cardiology, Rudaw, Atlanta Journal Constitution, MDJ, 1H2L, Atlanta Intown, Voice of America, NY times, Washington Post and more.