Most people graduate from high school before starting an undergraduate program. Karam Atli knew at a young age that she wanted to eventually become a doctor and had the capacity to do it sooner than most. Through a dual-enrollment program, she earned her bachelor’s degree from Florida Atlantic University in 2014, a year before graduating from high school and went on to spend a year in Taiwan studying Mandarin before starting a biotechnology master’s degree at Johns Hopkins University.
After graduating from that program in 2017, Atli worked for a medical research lab in Hong Kong over the summer and started at Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) School of Medicine in the fall. At age 23, Atli is now one of the youngest students to graduate from the school.
“I was five when I first decided I would become a doctor,” Atli said. “My father was chronically ill with a kidney disease and did dialysis at home. I understood early on how disease effects patients and their loved ones and knew I belonged on the healing side.”
Atli has loved her time at CWRU, remarking that the school’s flexible curriculum provided time for her to pursue her interests. Passionate about medical research and medical education, Atli led numerous projects ranging from medical curriculum design to surgical outcomes and international multi-institute prospective clinical trials.
During her time in the surgical theater at University Hospitals, she constructed a 3D model of the brain from CT and MRI scans, giving her the ability to “fly around” looking at structures inside the brain such as tumors to determine the best treatment for the patient. From that experience, she built a one-year elective—Introduction to Neuroanatomy and Neurosurgery—using the surgical theater platform and published a paper about using virtual reality for brain studies.
Atli will be leaving for St. Louis next week to begin her residency with the Department of Anesthesiology at Washington University. She hopes to continue research in perioperative management and its interplay with postoperative patient outcomes, drug discovery, virtual reality and device innovation while in residency and through her career as an anesthesiologist.