Local doctor has wide range of experiences


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Hani Elkadi fiddled with a white napkin as he spoke about his life. A plastic, rainbow-colored bracelet on his wrist shook as his hands moved.

"I describe myself as a man who is searching for the truth that he could never find," he said.

Although still seeking the "truth," Elkadi says he's found answers about human emotions through art.

Art has stayed with the artist-author-surgeon-teacher throughout his life, though, as that description suggests, he's passionate about many subjects.

The 60-something art instructor in continuing education at Kirkwood Community College has been involved many professions, including being a surgeon and a high-school teacher.

The native of Istanbul, Turkey, moved to Alexandria, Egypt, when he was very young, thanks to the demands on his Egyptian diplomat father.

Elkadi grew up in Egypt and during his university years studied art in Italy and the Netherlands and received two medical degrees, one from the University of London and the other from Cairo University.

After practicing medicine for a few years in London, Saudi Arabia, Cairo, and other African cities, Elkadi's life took a turn. A side hobby — translating American poetry into Middle Eastern languages such as Arabic — was recognized by the Pulitzer-Prize winning poet Stanley Kunitz, who had come to Egypt for a reading.

"I couldn't believe that the guy I had been translating was in front of me," Elkadi said.

Kunitz was also impressed with Elkadi. He told him he was amazed with the way Elkadi was able to capture the meaning of the original poem in a different language.

The surrealist poet then told Elkadi about the Iowa Writers' Workshop and said he could recommend him for a spot.

"He told me, 'I guarantee you, you will be accepted. When it comes from Stanley Kunitz, it's an order,' " Elkadi said.

A few weeks later, Elkadi received an invitation to come to Iowa and after accepting, flew from Africa to Cedar Rapids.

Elkadi met his wife just two months after his September arrival in Iowa City. He was giving a poetry reading, and Ewa Bardach — a recent psychology graduate from the University of Iowa and 13 years his junior — started a conversation with him.

"It was love at first sight," he said smiling. "The magic of Iowa."

But Bardach has different feelings about that first meeting.

"I thought he was sort of conceited," she said. "And [he] didn't know much about art and culture."

However, once Bardach got to know him, she realized his ego wasn't as big as it seemed.

"It was love at second sight," she said.

The couple married in Egypt just four months after they met, because Bardach's stepmother refused them to live together without being married

They stayed in Egypt until Elkadi was put under house arrest for being considered a rebel by the Egyptian government.

After two difficult years, Elkadi moved back to the United States and has lived in Iowa City ever since. Upon his arrival, he began working in the Department of Surgery and Department of Anatomy at the UI as a visiting professor. He picked up medicine again, after three years of not using a scalpel.

The modern-day Renaissance man leaves a deep impression on those he meets.

Phil Hemingway, a candidate for the Iowa City School Board, has known Elkadi for almost 30 years. The two became friends through their wives.

"Hani is a genuine spirit," he said. "I have always had the highest respect [for him]."

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