When he was younger, Kamil Amer’s dad used to tell him he would make a great doctor. When Amer came home from school every day, his dad would greet him by saying, “Here comes Dr. Kamil.”
“I knew that this was something that I wanted from a young age,” said Amer, a fourth-year medical student. “I loved math and science, and I wanted to get my family out of our financial mess.”
Amer and his family moved to Paterson, New Jersey from Jordan when he was 12 years old, without much money or any knowledge of the English language.
“Our biggest struggle was the constant battle we fought against poverty,” Amer said. “My mom worked almost 16 hours a day for our family, and I have always wanted to repay [her] for being our hero.”
Amer worked as a tutor 30 hours per week to pay off his family’s debt during his time at Temple’s Lewis Katz School of Medicine. To give back to others, Amer also co-founded the Al-Shifaa Muslim Student Organization, which brings together dental, podiatry, pharmacy and medical students with medical professionals. It offers free health screenings to homeless people in Philadelphia and refers patients to free medical centers for treatment.
After high school, Amer received a full scholarship to The College of New Jersey through the New Jersey Educational Opportunity Fund — which financially supports students from economically and educationally disadvantaged backgrounds.
While away at college, Amer said he didn’t forget about his mother, who was working three jobs and had given up everything for him to go to school.
He began tutoring biology students during his undergraduate studies, which helped him review the material on which he was also being tested. After he graduated, Amer took two years off to continue tutoring so he could save money to send to his family in Paterson.
“It’s my number one motivator in life,” Amer said. “To be able to look at my mom and see a smile on her face is what I live for.”
But Amer still dreamt of becoming a surgeon. After being accepted to Temple’s Lewis Katz School of Medicine, Amer moved to Philadelphia in 2013. During his second year of medical school, he founded AMSO.
It has since seen more than 3,000 patients at community centers and churches like the United Muslim Islamic Center and Masjid Mujahideen in South Philadelphia. AMSO has identified cases of diabetes, foot ulcers, tooth issues and other health issues.
“We have been called angels and so many love what we are doing,” Amer said. “We have received so many calls from community centers asking for us to come back.”
“I tell my kids to be like Kamil,” said Dr. Aisha Chaudhry, a podiatric surgeon and 2004 medical school alumna who has worked with AMSO. “He is an exceptional human being who has such a compassion for patients. He’d give any of them the shirt off his back.”
As a professional, Amer said he wants to continue his volunteer work by opening up free health clinics and traveling the world to offer medical aid to impoverished areas.
“He’s not going to be just an average surgeon because he has big dreams,” Chaudhry said. “He will publish books and push research, and I have no doubt that he will be very successful.”
“The main reason I became a doctor is to help people out,” Amer said. “And that is what I will continue to do.”
Patrick Bilow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.