"An Albanian-American Dream: From hardship to Nobel Prize"

Brooklyn, New York

In the oak paneled Robert F. Furchgott Library full of manuscripts and scientific devices encased behind glass that only a scientist could appreciate, SUNY Downstate Medical Center welcomed Nobel Laureate Dr. Ferid Murad. For me, and many of my colleagues, this was a dream come true: we were about to meet a Nobel Laureate! However, this meeting held a deeper meaning and significance than just the adrenaline rush of being in the presence of this sage.

Besides our mutual love for science and medicine we shared a greater commonality: our Albanian heritage. Dr. Murad recants his humble roots by explaining “My father was a shepherd with only a fourth grade education yet he spoke seven languages and was a hard worker who came to this country to seek a better life”. Despite of our differences in age and experience, our histories paralleled each other as it does for so many first generation Americans.

His story reminded me of my parents, who also arrived on U.S. soil with no education, money, or certainty of what lay ahead of them. They just took a risk in the hopes of creating a better future for my brother and I. The case of Dr. Murad is the epitome of many American success stories. He not only became a scientist, doctor, and pharmacist, but he became one of the best. What is not so obvious, are the sacrifices and hardships that he encountered along the way while pursuing his passion of science. “In order to put food on the table for my children, I had to sell a pint of blood every so often”, describes Dr. Murad of the days gone by many years ago when he was an aspiring young scientist with many household obligations.

Benevolence is not an intention but should rather be an obligation. This notion is held near to my heart since it is not only a mere belief, but also testament to attaining my dream of becoming a doctor. Dr. Murad demonstrated this ideal by explaining to us how he helped his nephew, now a practicing surgeon in Skopje, Macedonia, complete medical school all over again in Macedonia as his Albanian medical credentials were not recognized by the Macedonian healthcare system.
In a room full of cardiology fellows Dr. Murad mentioned that he was the honorary chairman of the Albanian American Medical Society and was happy to hear the progress being made in the Balkans as well as efforts of the AAMS to foster cooperation and communication between professionals in the United States and abroad.
When asked by one audience member,

“How has your life changed since being awarded the Nobel Prize?” Dr. Murad replied, “Being awarded the Nobel Prize brought great notoriety, fame, and respect from my peers, but also has brought much unwelcome attention as well. It has left me and my name a target for people wishing to capitalize on my achievements such as finding myself on billboards falsely advertising herbal medicines and beer with out my permission. ”A legacy is not something that can be bought or found; it must be built. We all were reminded by Dr. Murad that we create our own destiny and along with that, come great professional and ethical responsibilities such as keeping our names as doctors untarnished and the field of medicine noble. After a long day spent with a morning meeting with SUNY Downstate Medical Center President, Dr. LaRosa, round table discussions with the cardiology fellows, and a talk about his research Dr. Murad concluded his day at our hospital with an informal discussion with students and residents. There he showed us a short educational video which explained his work with nitric oxide and the Nobel Prize. His final message to us before completing his visit was to “Study hard, don’t be afraid to take risks, and remain modest.”

It was not immediately certain to me at the time of which impressed me more; the fact that I had actually met a world renowned scientist or that this well accomplished man proud of his humble roots was still just as passionate about his work as a recent graduate eager to apply himself. I found it very encouraging, both professionally and personally, to have had the opportunity to meet this extraordinary Albanian-American scientist in person and to realize that he is not only an inspiration to the members of the Albanian American Medical Society, but millions around the world.

-Ismet Lukolic, MD
State University of New York Downstate Medical Center


  1. urime aoteri murad

  2. Very Inspiring indeed... Im glad you call yourself an Albanian Ismet.. But its really hard for me to call you albanian when you have a turkish name with a slavicized surname.. atrue albanian would have nto betrayed his roots or his ancestors like so...no disrespect, but lets get real; if you cant tell an albanian by his name than how can you expect him to retian his identity

  3. Who are you to say someone isn't Albanian because of their name? Many Albanians have slavicized surnames due to our history, and having a foreign first name is no different, and does not matter. This is hardly 'betraying his roots' and that is an utterly stupid thing to say. Is every Albanian with a foreign name now not Albanian? You need to grow up.

  4. A name doesn't make someone less Albanian. Many Albanian Catholics have Italian and Spanish names, does that make them less Albanian as well. You should try to brush up on your Albanian history before you make a statement. While Dr. Lukolic is in Albania speaking to hundreds of aspiring Albanian doctors, you can continue judging people over the computer. While Dr. Lukolic is helping his fellow Albanians seek medical attention, you can call him less of an Albanian.

    Anyway, to comment on this article. I think it's wonderful that there are people like Dr. Murad and you Dr. Lukolic that give back to your community. We need more people to inspire the younger generations. Good job!


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