Home sweet home

Nicholas Kondoleon, M.D., ’20, OUWB, set to return as cardiology fellow at Corewell Health’s Royal Oak campus

An image of Nicholas Kondoleon

Nicholas Kondoleon, '20, OUWB, poses for a 2022 picture in Mallorca, Spain. (Submitted photo)


icon of a calendarApril 27, 2023

icon of a pencilBy Andrew Dietderich

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A chance encounter with an elementary-age student in Detroit may be a blip in the youngster’s memory, but for Nicholas Kondoleon, M.D., it was life-changing.

The reason?

Before the member of OUWB’s Class of 2020 even started medical school, the interaction opened Kondoleon’s eyes to the impact doctors can have in a community.

It helped him make the decision to become a doctor — one who is near the end of an internal medicine residency at Cleveland Clinic Foundation, and set to return July 1 as a cardiology fellow at Corewell Health William Beaumont University Hospital in Royal Oak.

To this very day, says Kondoleon, he often thinks of the time he helped deliver desperately needed health care and winter clothes to the youngster and his mother.

“That experience really stuck with me and showed me how really impactful we can be as doctors,” he says.

‘The breadth of what you can do’

Kondoleon grew up in Troy, Michigan, where he attended Troy High School. He took Advanced Placement classes, loved sports, was a member of the National Honor Society, and volunteered with his church and others.

He would go on to earn an undergraduate degree in biology from University of Michigan.

The idea of becoming a doctor emerged between his second and third years at Michigan.

“I ended up working with an organization in downtown Detroit that was operated by a physician from Henry Ford (Health System),” says Kondoleon. “He had transformed two RVs into mobile clinics…stripped down the interiors and put in exam rooms, and would drive from school-to-school, community centers, and so on, and provide care to kids.”

Kondoleon says the experience showed him “the breadth of what you can do as a physician and the impact that you can have on a community.”

One day in the middle of winter, for example, a young patient visited the clinic and was being checked for asthma so that he could get the inhaler treatments he needed. Because it was cold, the clinic also was giving out winter jackets.

“The mom came into the clinic and just started bawling because they didn’t have the resources to get the coats or care that they needed…and the clinic was a safety net that allowed them to have the assurance that they were going to be OK,” says Kondoleon.

It opened his eyes to the possibility that could be afforded by a career in medicine.

He started volunteering in hospital settings to help others and learn more about the different areas of medicine.

By the end of his third year at Michigan, it was official: Kondoleon wanted to become a doctor.

An image of Kondoleon in front of one of his posters

Kondoleon poses near a poster he presented at the American College of Cardiology Annual Meeting in Washington D.C. last year. (Submitted photo)

‘Opportunities are basically endless’

For Kondoleon, one of the most appealing aspects of OUWB was how close it was to what he called home.

But there was an even bigger reason.

“There’s a lot of talk about community on Interview Day — and you may hear it at a lot of places — but at OUWB, it holds true,” he says. “It’s not something that they’re trying to sell you on. They truly care about the applicants, the students…they truly care about the experience and building community around the school.”

“I still have friends that I will have for a lifetime from my time at OUWB,” he adds.

He also had plenty of opportunities to get involved.

Kondoleon was on the executive board for the ophthalmology student interest group. As part of the med-peds student interest group, Kondoleon also helped run a holiday gift drive for community members in December.

Between second and third years, he spent the summer at the University of Pennsylvania for the Foundation for Anesthesia Education and Research (FAER) as a FAER Research Fellow.

He also volunteered frequently at the Gary Burnstein Community Health Clinic, where OUWB students coordinate and run Student-Run Free Clinics for members of the community.

“The opportunities are basically endless,” he says. “Even if the opportunities aren’t there, there are opportunities to create what you want.”

But for all of the opportunities at OUWB, a global pandemic put severe limitations on most things as Kondoleon and the rest of the OUWB Class of 2020 were preparing to graduate.

‘Thrown into the fire’

The first big impact to the OUWB Class of 2020 was early that same year, when they were taken out of clerkships in early March.

The in-person Match Day celebration had to be cancelled, as was commencement.

“We went from spending all of our time with fellow classmates to isolating and not seeing anyone,” says Kondoleon. “It felt like there wasn’t really a hard stop to fourth-year acknowledging that we were done…it was just ‘All right, let’s go to work.’”

Having matched at Cleveland Clinic, Kondoleon says he started at a chaotic time. Regular nursing floors, for example, had been transitioned to COVID-19 units. An education building across the street from Cleveland Clinic’s main campus also was converted to treat patients with COVID-19.

Additionally, there was a huge learning curve for everyone about the virus.

Kondoleon says new physicians like himself did what they could to help, and “roll with whatever is going on.”

“Because there was a lot of COVID, our first experiences were being thrown into the fire…helping with staffing and coverage issues and everything else that was going on,” says Kondoleon.

After about 18 months, a sense of normal had returned.

Kondoleon says he’s grateful for his residency at Cleveland Clinic.

“It’s been great,” he says. “I’ve had an amazing experience. It’s a tertiary center so we get referrals from all around the world. I’ve seen patients that we read about in textbooks during medical school and had the opportunity to be part of the team taking care of them.”

Looking ahead

In December, Corewell Health William Beaumont University Hospital posted to a social media message of congratulations to its Class of 2026 cardiology fellows.

Kondoleon was one of the four.

“I’m super excited,” he says. “It’s kind of full circle…I was convinced to do internal medicine and cardiology while on my internal medicine rotation at Beaumont, and now I’m heading back there for fellowship and to train for three years.”

Kondoleon says he believes the culture in the department is “unmatched” and that they “truly care about the fellows and education.”

It’s the latest in what already has been a rewarding career for Kondoleon — one that traces directly to that day he helped the young patient and his mother in a converted RV.

“The most rewarding part of being a doctor is having the ability and the blessing of spending time with patients to form relationships that will allow them to trust you in their most vulnerable times,” he says.

“And it’s not just for one moment, but even when they leave the hospital and you see them in an outpatient setting. Those lifelong relationships are what I enjoy most.”

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