If you met Elmahdi Elkhammas during his normal work day, he might greet you with “Marhaba,” which means “hello” in Arabic.
Elkhammas, a surgeon at Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center, says his inspiration to go to medical school came from his father. Growing up in the small village of Abu Eesa in Libya, Elkhammas lived across the street from the building where his father worked as a nurse. It was not uncommon for him to hang around the medical center there while working on his homework.
“I saw the doctors helping patients, and how they were respected, and knew that’s what I really wanted to be,” Elkhammas recalls.
One day, Elkhammas noticed a long line of students outside of the medical center waiting to interview for medical school and decided to turn his dream into reality.
“I stayed there until they finished all of their assigned students,” Elkhammas explains. “I’m a student, I’d love to be a doctor, but I was assigned to engineering school and I think I’m just going to drop out,” Elkhammas told the interviewer.
“The interviewer asked me to sit down, asked me a lot of questions, and four or five days later, I was told I was accepted to medical school,” he recalls.
Elkhammas completed his medical degree at Garyounis University in Benghazi, Libya. He then took a great interest in liver transplantation during his surgical residency at Ohio State. Elkhammas is now a specialist in liver, kidney and pancreas transplantation within Ohio State’s Division of Transplant Surgery. Since 2009, Elkhammas has been named among the “Best Doctors in America” in Surgery by Best Doctors, Inc.
“I love the liver transplant because of the challenge of it. It’s really challenging and each case is different from the one you did before,” Elkhammas says.
With the challenge comes the opportunity for great rewards for the patient and for the surgeon. Elkhammas explains that it is very gratifying to him knowing that he can help provide a new, improved quality of life to a person through liver transplantation.
And Elkhammas hasn’t lost that awe and respect for medicine and its practitioners that he first developed as a boy outside of the medical center in a small village in Libya: “We cannot guarantee life, but when our patients live 20 or 30 years after the liver transplant – that’s just amazing to me.”
Learn more about Dr. Elkhammas' journey to Ohio State at go.osu.edu/Elkhammas.
About Journey to Innovation
Diversity in people and ideas is a core value and strength of The Ohio State University and its Wexner Medical Center. The video series “Journey to Innovation” shares the stories of 12 foreign-born physicians who made Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center their destination. Follow the series in Insight and online at youtube.com/OSUMedicalCenter (search “Journey to Innovation”).
“Journey to Innovation” was made possible by a grant from the OSU Medical Alumni Society; Ismail Nabeel, MBBS, MPH; the OSU Wexner Medical Center Diversity Council; and the Department of Marketing and Strategic Communications.