Heart Surgeon Dr. Andreas Kamlot Finds His Way to Where People Need Him Most


Zoë Griffin

From developing artificial organs to natural disaster emergency care, heart surgeon Andreas Kamlot has dedicated his life to helping others. “I am the living proof that you can make anything happen with passion.”

Andreas Kamlot is living proof that you can accomplish anything and everything you put your mind to. Co-creator of the first artificial liver and currently a head of a heart surgery department in the San Francisco Bay Area, Kamlot has spent decades developing cardiovascular treatments and inspiring others to help the less-privileged around the world. Having been a professional soccer player in Germany and national German kickboxing champion barely crosses his mind when he contemplates his life achievements, which says everything you need to know about his genuine passion for putting the welfare of others above himself.

Coming from humble beginnings – his father a salesman and his mother a nurse – Kamlot knew from the age of four that he wanted to become a doctor. He stayed focused and went to medical school in Frankfurt, Germany which he says he approached with a genuine fascination. Following his studies, he found his place in the United States at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles before completing his heart surgery training at the University of Southern California.

Q: You trained as a heart surgeon, so how did you come about working on other organ transplants?

A: Even though I was on the heart transplant track, I was also involved with transplants of other organs, and was lucky enough to work with five other doctors much smarter than me to develop the first artificial liver in the world. It works like a device outside of the body, meaning it doesn’t get implanted. 

Interestingly enough, a lot of the first people we treated were 18-19 year old girls. They tried to overdose on tylenol leading to liver failure, to which we hooked them up on the machine. Normally they’d need a liver transplant or they’d die, but now we were able to support their own liver for a couple of days until it regenerated, so they were able to survive without a transplant. 

Once it went through an FDA trial, it was approved and became available worldwide. The biggest transplant center in Europe was in Paris, so I went down there for six months to perform liver transplants and to show them all how to use the machine.

Q: What has been most fulfilling for you after all those years of training?

A: I returned to the U.S. to continue working in emergency services when the earthquake struck Haiti in 2010, killing 240,000 out of the 2 million that lived in the nation’s capital, Port-au-Prince. 

I figured, hey, that’s something to do, and I felt some kind of God’s calling to do something with all the tools I have. So I flew down to Haiti and I was there for a couple of weeks operating day and night, just trying to put people back together.

My time in Haiti is something that changed my life, realizing my own privilege and how fragile life is, and how much need there is in places unseen. 

I flew back the following year and started the first heart program in Haiti, because they had nothing of the kind. I operated on mostly younger citizens, women with heart conditions and 5 kids at home, whom without treatment would die and leave orphans behind.

10 years later, we have been able to support the local hospitals while a Catholic nun has supervised building an additional 300 homes for the surrounding community.

Q: Was there a moment where you regretted becoming a heart surgeon, or not pursuing a different kind of medical career?

A: No. Never. The key is passion. If you don’t have passion about it, don’t do it, regardless of what it is. You’re always going to be second best if you’re unsure or you just like to think you’d make a lot of money, whatever the motivation might be. 

70% of Americans do a job which they are not passionate about, that they do not enjoy. That’s pretty pathetic. You can imagine that it’s financially terrible, for the first 30 years of my life, I lived like a pauper. But if you’re passionate about it, it’s all worth it. Remember that true happiness comes from inspiring other people around you.