Updated: Feb 20, 2019
By Heval Kelli
The wounds of my journey have left scars that many people perceive as reminders of suffering, but I look at them as an inspiration to be there for the underserved and to prevent the wounds of others. It is one of the reasons I chose a career in medicine: to prevent diseases and the progression of them.I focused on the heart as my specialty, as everyone must have a healthy one to live. Today my mission is to prevent heart disease while healing the soul of our world.
Persecuted by the government for being Kurds, our family fled from Syria to Germany in the early 1990s, where we ended up in refugee camps. We spent six years there trying to find our place. During that time, my wounds from the trauma we suffered in Syria festered as I never found acceptance or the foundation to rebuild myself and my family. Life seemed hopeless until we found an opportunity to come to the United States of America.There was a glimmer of salvation, then 9/11 happened and it looked like we were never going to find a true home. Yet we never gave up faith that a better life was possible. God answered our prayers and two weeks later, we arrived in Clarkston, Georgia. As happy as we were to have such a chance, I worried that my wounds would become wider and deeper as a Kurdish Muslim refugee arriving in the USA—in the deep South—a few weeks after 9/11.
America and her people healed our wounds. We were welcomed by Southern Christians from All Saints church a few days after our arrival. They had a party for us and helped my family integrate into the community. Random Americans visited and dedicated their energy to teach us English and help us find jobs. I always wondered what drove them to invest their time and compassion in refugees like us—brown Kurdish Muslims who could barely speak English. The answer is what defines the true meaning of America.This country—now my country too—is built on the idea of welcoming people from all backgrounds and allowing them to pursue their dreams. This foundation helps us to overcome our fears and heal our wounds. Americans showed me that serving others is the way of serving the world and humanity. With the support, guidance, and love of my new community, I went from washing dishes in a restaurant to becoming a cardiologist. Everything I do now is driven by the kindness that Americans have showered upon my family since we arrived to the USA.
As I am healing hearts on daily basis, I am also trying to heal the heart of our nation during this time of fear and polarization. When I was introduced to Chris Buckley, I saw the wounds that he suffered along his journey into and out of the Ku Klux Klan. I felt his struggle and I was motivated to be there for him during his process of change. I wanted to help him and the small town he lived in as a way to return the favor to America and its people for helping me to be where I am today.Chris and his neighbors go on about how wonderful it is to have my help, but honestly I am just lucky to be an American, and to have the ability to serve our country.