CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Two successful doctors, originally from other parts of the world, have been recognized for their contributions to their adopted home: West Virginia.
Dr. Kishore Challa of India and Dr. Mohammad Yousef of Pakistan met in West Virginia more than 20 years ago. Their friendship blossomed at South Charleston Cardiology, where they continue to practice.
Challa, 54, came to the United States in 1982 and completed his medical residency and cardiology fellowship in New York.
"I've been in Charleston since 1989. I had a good opportunity. I was going around for interviews. This was my first and last stop. I didn't go anywhere else," Challa said.
Yousef, 55, was in Baltimore before completing his cardiology fellowship at Marshall.
"During the fellowship, I was assigned rotations here for almost nine months to a year. I never left since. I joined Dr. Challa, who was here a year or two ahead of me. And I've enjoyed every moment since then," Yousef said.
They both recently received Distinguished West Virginian awards from the governor. The award was created to honor those who have contributed significantly to West Virginia or West Virginians and have brought positive attention to the state. Yousef was additionally honored with the Heart of Gold from the American Heart Association.
"That shows you how similar we are and how we work together; both of us received it at the same time. Our work ethic, everything is almost identical," Challa said.
The duo joked that Indian-Pakistani friendships are uncommon but said the close bond they developed contributed to their success.
"Our language is the same, our interests are the same, our dress is the same, jewelry is the same, food is the same," Yousef said.
"Not only just both of us, but even his wife and my wife are the best of friends," Challa said. "We really work so much together, and our kids also, we have the same kind of attitude, personality. We even went to Washington to see a Bollywood dance not too long ago, the four of us."
"Our professional relationship is really remarkable," Yousef said. "We have a very identical way of practicing, and you don't find that very often. The way he thinks, I think. The way he does his work is the way I do my work. It's really a gift between two partners."
That closeness may stem from a common passion for cardiology.
"I was interested in cardiology from day one of medical school. You get instant gratification from somebody who basically comes in dead to the hospital, and you save their life," Challa said.