Ross University Blog

ALUMNI PROFILE: The Chillemi Brothers

November 07, 2014

When he was a child, Salvatore Chillemi hated going to the doctor. That was before he actually became one, of course.

"Once I got to high school, I realized I was really interested in helping people who are sick,” he remembers. “So I did rotations at a hospital early in my college education—and I loved it.” Now Salvatore, a 2007 Ross University School of Medicine (RUSM) graduate, is a practicing nephrologist at North Georgia Kidney Specialists in Marietta, Georgia.

There’s more: Salvatore isn’t the only Chilliemi who gravitated toward medicine and found success at RUSM. His younger brother Filippo Chillemi, MD, is a 2009 RUSM graduate and orthopedic surgeon specializing in sports medicine at the prestigious Andrews Institute in Gulf Breeze, FL. “I chose Ross,” says Filippo, “because my brother was there. He was two years ahead of me and he’s such a great guy. I didn’t apply anywhere else.”  

“One of the Best Decisions of My Life”

And from the way Salvatore tells it, Filippo didn’t even have to. 

“I was studying in the library at the time of his interview,” says Salvatore, recalling the day of his brother’s interview. “I heard all the profs interviewing him, and they were just dying laughing. He walked out of the room and I said, ‘What just happened? You were in an interview, not a comedy show!’ All the professors came out as happy as can be, and the next thing you know, he’s class valedictorian and a successful orthopedic surgeon at Andrews. I’m very proud of him.” 

Salvatore chose Ross because his best friend and former undergrad roommate at Mercer University in Georgia, Dr. Shonak Patel, was attending RUSM at the time. “He knew I was a little bit down because I was waitlisted at a medical school in Georgia, so he suggested I look into it,” Salvatore says. "I applied, had my interview and the rest is history. It’s probably one of the best decisions of my life.”

A New Opportunity

Like Salvatore, Filippo discovered his interest in medicine in high school. “I was an All-American soccer player in high school,” says Filippo. "I was in the Top 20 in the country and played for the U.S. National Team. We represented the U.S. all over the world.”

On every journey, the boys were accompanied by an orthopedic surgeon. “When I was 15, I was on an airplane with 20 other kids but I’d talk to him and he introduced me to the operative side of sports medicine, which I really didn’t know existed.”

Filippo went to University of Notre Dame on a full athletic scholarship, dual-majoring in arts and letters and in economics, with a minor in pre-med studies. “My game plan at the time was that if I played professional soccer, after my career, I’d join the business world with my econ degree, and if for some reason I did not play soccer, I’d go to medical school. I got injured during my senior year and was no longer able to play, so Plan B took effect and I went to med school. There was a residency available in orthopedics so it seemed like a no brainer for me to pursue sports medicine.” 

Salvatore chose the medical rather than surgical route for two reasons. He half-jokingly says, “Reason number one: my brother is crazy to have to wake up so early in the morning! So it’s a quality of life issue for me. Reason number two: nephrology patients are your patients for life because most of them have chronic kidney disease as a result of diabetes or hypertension. So instead of a surgeon or critical care doctor who may see a patient once or twice and never again, I’m able to establish a rapport with my patients; a relationship and a friendship with them.” 

The Importance of Never Giving Up

Salvatore fondly remembers Dr. Calogero Tumminello of Wycoff Heights Medical Center, who mentored him during his clinicals and rotation. “He had the biggest impact on me. I related to him because he’s Italian American like me. We bonded as we discussed each patient and the findings. He really walked me through it and showed me the beauty behind medicine.”

“I learned the most from Dr. Laura Welke,” said Filippo. “She taught neuroanatomy, and she did it with so much enthusiasm. I had no interest in brain anatomy at all, but I still remember everything because of the way she taught it.”

In addition to his medical degree, Filippo left RUSM with a fiancé. “I met my wife the second day of med school. MaryLynn Epsten. We sat together for every lecture and we did every rotation together except for my two orthopedics. She’s a pediatrician.” They married during their residencies and have a young daughter and son, Eliana and Francesco. 

Salvatore and his wife Maria have a brand new baby boy, Luca. 

The brothers agree on the most important thing they learned at RUSM. “Sacrifice and perseverance,” says Salvatore. “In any field, you need to sacrifice. You need to study. And you need to learn to never give up, no matter what.” 

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