Photo of Karam Atli

Karam Atli graduates from the School of Medicine at 23 years old

Most people graduate from high school before starting an undergraduate program. But not Karam Atli.

Knowing at a young age that she wanted to eventually become a doctor, she started on her path 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.

She then went on to spend a year in Taiwan studying Mandarin, then started a biotechnology master’s degree at Johns Hopkins University, which she completed in 2017. 

That fall, Atil started at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in its MD program—but not after spending a summer in Hong Kong working for a medical research lab.

When she graduated from the School of Medicine in May, she was just 23—making her among the school’s youngest alumni in history.

“I was 5 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.”

She’s had significant experience while at Case Western Reserve, 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 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 soon begins her residency with the Department of Anesthesiology at Washington University in St. Louis. 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.