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Alan Amedi, graduate Brittain Award recipient, focused on giving back throughout medical school
profile photo of Alan Amedi

Alan Amedi was first attracted to Emory’s School of Medicine because of the wide swath of patients served. He’s focused on making information readily available to the public, especially underserved communities, all while mentoring pre-med students in Atlanta.

— Photo by Kay Hinton, Emory Photo/Video.

During his time in the School of Medicine, Alan Amedi prioritized service and leadership while maintaining a demanding academic load and engaging in research and scholarship. Now, he’s been named the graduate student recipient of the Marion Luther Brittain Award, considered the highest honor presented to an Emory University student. 

“I’m so grateful for everyone who has taken a chance on me. I want to pay it forward and give others the opportunities that I was given,” says Amedi. “I love seeing other students succeed and reach their goals.”

As a first-generation, low-income student, Amedi feared medical school was a distant dream, despite inspiration from his uncle who served as a medic during war, attending to and saving the lives of Kurds amid persecution and violence. Through mentorship from Heval Kelli, a physician and refugee himself (as well as a former Emory resident and cardiology fellow), Amedi saw there was a realistic, if difficult, path to medical school. After graduating from Georgia State University, Amedi worked for two years to support his family and fund his application process to medical school.

This fall, Amedi will head west to begin his residency in general surgery at Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles, California.

In service of humanity

Amedi was born in Clarkston, Georgia, five months after his parents fled the Kurdish region in 1996, and much of his identity remains rooted in his Kurdish background. During the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic — at the start of Amedi’s medical training — he worked to ensure the Kurdish population received information about both the virus and the benefits of vaccination; he has continued to serve this population as a medical translator and is executive vice president of the Kurdish American Medical Association, where he helps connect and mentor Kurdish medical students across the country.

In addition, Amedi volunteers as the college education director of the Young Physicians Initiative (YPI), an organization founded by Kelli to provide guidance to underserved students interested in medicine, focused on a mentorship pipeline.

As an undergraduate, Amedi attended YPI sessions led by Emory medical students; today, he organizes the group’s outreach to five undergraduate institutions in Georgia, including mentorship circles and virtual clinical shadowing.

After building a relationship with one of his YPI mentors, Ehab — who was an Emory medical student at the time and is now finishing his orthopedic surgery residency — Amedi sent him a text that he’d decided not to pursue medical school.

“Ehab called me immediately,” remembers Amedi, “and told me all the reasons why I should apply and how I could realistically be accepted. He gave the encouragement I needed to keep moving forward.”

Now, Amedi has witnessed several of his pre-med mentees be accepted to medical school, a full-circle moment that he celebrates alongside them.

Amedi also serves as clinic coordinator for the Clarkston Community Health Center (CCHC), vice president of his class and president of the Cardiothoracic Surgery Interest Group.

“One of the primary reasons I wanted to come to Emory was because of the involvement with Clarkston, which is where I was raised, and the vast patient population that Emory treats,” Amedi says.

Amedi’s friends and family had gone to the CCHC — a nonprofit organization that serves as a medical home to uninsured individuals in and around Clarkston, a major refugee resettlement area — throughout his life.

“Being able to work there felt like an honor, to be able to give back to my community,” says Amedi, who oversees the schedules of providers to ensure adequate coverage, manages results follow-up and works with the pharmacy for prescription coverage at CCHC.

But the communities Amedi aims to serve stretch far beyond Georgia’s borders.

One of his favorite experiences while at Emory was traveling to the Yantalo Clinic in Peru to provide pediatric surgical care. Amedi went with Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, one of multiple institutions that partner with the Yantalo Clinic. The group worked with local physicians to determine the best course of treatment for patients, and this was the first trip that had been organized since COVID-19.

“We provided surgeries free of charge to pediatric patients who couldn’t get them for various reasons like access to care, cost or other socioeconomic barriers,” says Amedi.

Sunny skies ahead

Amedi says he never expected to receive this award.

“I actually thought I was in trouble,” he says. “I got an email saying to please meet in this room in the student center and I almost reported it as spam. When I eventually got there, they started talking about this award and I thought maybe they wanted my help to break it to a close friend. I was very shocked.

“There are so many amazing medical students and deserving graduates at Emory who have also done incredible things,” Amedi says. “I was very happy, but I was very shocked.”

He’s looking forward to soaking up the sunshine while in L.A., but also wants to become the best surgeon he can be.

“I’m interested in global surgery and want to help organize trips like the one I went on. I hope to stay involved in research to improve current guidelines and hope to pursue a cardiac fellowship after residency … but that’s five to seven years away,” he laughs.

“All the people here at Emory have played a fundamental role, from the surgery department — which organized an intern bootcamp elective course, held mock interviews and supported me through everything — to the mentors and faculty here who always had an open door,” he says.

“I never thought I could become a doctor, and a few months from now I’m going to be starting a surgical residency.”

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