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CentraCare M Physicians Orthopedics Surgeon Fled Bosnian Civil War at Age 9

Published in Orthopedics, For the Health of It Author: Ivan Kamikovski,MD,MSc,FRCSC Author: CentraCare

Fleeing a Bosnian civil war at the age of 9 gave CentraCare M Physicians Orthopedics Surgeon Ivan Kamikovski, MD, his drive to succeed in the medical field thanks to the courage he observed from his parents.

“My parents realized it was becoming extremely unsafe,” Dr. Kamikovski described. “My mom woke me and my brother up in the middle of the night and we escaped to Belgrade.”

It was 1992 when an armed conflict started in Bosnia and Herzegovina over the breakup of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

Dr. Kamikovski and his family left behind the only life they had known and sold their possessions to seek asylum in Canada.

“It was scary,” the surgeon remembered. “I don’t think at 9 you quite comprehend the situation. My parents had a much harder time, but I have vivid memories of escaping.”

The orthopedic surgeon and his family stayed in various places with family and friends as they awaited their immigration papers. The Kamikovskis had applied for immigration to several countries and were finally cleared to fly to Canada.

“My dad was a civil engineer and my mom an accountant,” Dr. Kamikovski emphasized. “When we came to Canada, my dad washed dishes and my mom worked as a lady who checks out your groceries at a supermarket in Toronto.”

His dad worked two jobs and his mom worked one job to support their family of four so they could rent an apartment in Canada.

“It was extremely hard for them,” Dr. Kamikovski sympathized. “It was a new culture, new life, new city and new language. My dad was fluent in English, but my mom couldn’t speak a word. In fact, my brother and I couldn’t either.”

Dr. Kamikovski took English as a second language in school and caught on quickly. “I had to, there was no other option,” he maintained.

As a child, he excelled at math and science but admits becoming a doctor was not something that was on his radar.

“I did not have any aspirations to become a doctor when I was 10 or 12. As an undergrad, I received my biochemistry degree. I had a few mentors who were doctors — that is when I became interested in medical school.”

He reminisced about his parents encouraging him to pursue higher education early on.

“They would say, ‘we’re immigrants’,” Dr. Kamikovski echoed. “‘School is the only way forward. You only get one shot. If you screw it up, you’re done — the family is done.’”

Dr. Kamikovski and familyDr. Kamikovski decided to get his master’s degree in biomedical engineering from the University of Toronto. He spent time learning the mechanics of bones, shadowed orthopedic surgeons in the operating room, and was fascinated by it.

“I went to medical school knowing I needed to go into orthopedics,” he asserted.

Orthopedics is one of the hardest specialties to get into, but once the surgeon made up his mind, he didn’t let anything stop him from pursuing that goal.

“My parents influenced me a great deal in that way — working two jobs to support my brother and me. It’s a huge motivator. I didn’t want to disappoint them,” he disclosed.

All the Kamikovski family money was initially poured into medical school — failure was not an option. Dr. Kamikovski followed his passion all over North America including Toronto, New York, Michigan and Ottawa. He even briefly lived in the Caribbean.

He was introduced to CentraCare M Physicians Orthopedics Surgeon Kyle Martin, MD, when he was in Canada. Dr. Martin told him about the orthopedic clinic in St. Cloud and how he wanted to turn it into a beacon of medical care in Central Minnesota.

“I have a great group of partners whom I work closely with,” he explained. “I like the idea of building a young practice with young surgeons and growing it. That’s what excites me. We have the talent, and we have the training and the attitude to get there.”

Dr. Kamikovski has overcome many obstacles in his life, and he feels adversity helps him better relate to his patients. “I didn’t grow up with a wealthy family. I grew up a little bit differently. I gained a more well-rounded perspective.”

It’s that perspective that he carries with him on the job every day and allows him to excel in his field.

“A lot of my accomplishments are nothing compared to what my parents did,” he insisted. “It’s not even close.”