The life of MO. K.: Q&A with Dr. Khalil

Dr. Mohammed Khalil, “MO. K.” His nametag is short and sweet, populated by only three letters; a simple “MO. K.” But Dr. Mohammed Khalil, USC SOM Greenville’s Histology guru, is a man of many letters. He sports a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) and two master’s degrees in veterinary anatomy. After a year of practice, that wasn’t enough so Dr. Khalil added a PhD in human anatomy and a third master’s degree in educational technology from Purdue University. I caught up with this scholar, gentleman, and student favorite for a few minutes to hear more about his journey to Greenville and his passion for education.

As we started the interview:
“I am happy today, do you know why? It is Match Day, and many of my students from UCF, they have messaged me, telling their results. One is going to Johns Hopkins, one to Mayo Clinic, and one is coming here. Very soon, that will be the M2’s, and then you.

On his work before coming to Greenville, SC:
“After finishing my PhD in anatomy, I went to FSU and was part of the learning systems institute. You should be happy you know, back in the day, it was a lot, details of the details,” he says with a chuckle. “I joined UCF in 2008, and we accepted medical students in 2009… Starting from scratch it is fun, but challenging at the same time. It is an opportunity to do something different, to be innovative.”

On joining USC SOM Greenville in 2012:
“I have the same excitement over starting something new. At the old, established schools change is not an easy thing.”

What is your favorite part of the job?
“I have been in the educational system as a student, teacher, TA, all of that. As you go farther, you discover yourself, and the thing that comes to mind as my best time is when I’m with a student; it is the most enjoyable part. When I moved here from Sudan, I missed my family at the beginning; it was not an easy thing, but when I was with the students, all of those worries melted away.”

Several students wanted to know, after your experience in veterinary medicine (practicing for one year before deciding to enter academia) what is your favorite animal?
“Horses. They are smart and very pretty; I love horses, very very smart”

What do like to do in your time away from the medical school?
“I have two kids you see, 12 and 14, and I try to be with them all the time. We go to the gym together; we play soccer together. Also, this is what I’m trying to explore more in this area, because I don’t know, but we used to go fishing together.”

Dr. Khalil then turned and pointed to several images adorning the wall of his office. “That’s what I do. I love drawing and painting. I always loved color as a child, that may be some of what drew me to anatomy and histology…You see that skull, if you look close, you can find anatomical correctness,” he says with a chuckle and a satisfied smile. A few of Dr. Khalil’s beautiful oil on canvas works are included in this post.

Another student curiosity, What’s your favorite food?
“I don’t know, food seems to me OK. I eat anything. Seafood, I like, especially shrimp. But before I moved here, if you asked me about shrimp, I would tell you I didn’t know what it was.”

Finally, what advice would you give incoming medical students?
“Most of the time when medical students come, they have their own perceptions of what medical school will be. Sometimes this perception matches reality and sometimes it doesn’t.

The first thing they need to know is that it’s going to be different, but different in a good way, because they’re going to learn about something they like. But the rate and the load, the quantity will be more than what you’re used to. The important part is how you adjust. You need to adjust very fast. If you can do that, and most students can, then you’re fantastic, because you must learn to adapt.

If you manage your time and prepare week by week, you will be fine. You’re going to enjoy it, you won’t feel the stress, and everything will work fine.”

Translation for current M1’s and M2’s: Med school? It is easy. I will show you.



Ben DeMarco

Ben DeMarco

I’m a first year student who grew up in the small Pee Dee town of Marion, South Carolina, before heading up to Durham, North Carolina, for an undergraduate education (and a few basketball games) at Duke University. After a year working in community health at Duke, I was primed to begin the study of medicine. USC School of Medicine Greenville’s attention to communities and commitment to teamwork brought me back to South Carolina (the amazing facilities didn’t hurt either). I’m interested in primary care and thinking about how physicians’ moral frameworks affect their practice of medicine. Most of all, I’m excited to be part of this new school and look forward to reflecting together with my classmates as we make our way through these formative years.

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