Stage 4 lung cancer survivor, disparities researcher appointed as Karmanos’ new associate director

DETROIT–The Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute welcomes Morhaf Al Achkar as associate center director for education.

Dr. Al Achkar brings over 10 years of experience in education and teaching, research, and clinical family. He also brings valuable personal experience to his new role as a seven-year stage IV lung cancer survivor.

“It has been a pleasure and an exciting transition moving from Seattle to Detroit to join the team here at Karmanos,” Al Achkar said. “I have begun building relationships and connecting with colleagues and community members. My responsibilities at Karmanos center around advancing education and training initiatives for the cancer center community. Additionally, I am deeply passionate about enhancing the cancer care experience for our patients and addressing health disparities.”

Al Achkar was diagnosed in 2016 following episodes of shortness of breath. His tests revealed the anaplastic lymphoma kinase rearrangement, or ALK fusion, a genetic alteration linked to lung cancer. Advances in treatment have enabled him to live with lung cancer as a chronic condition.

As the associate center director for Education at Karmanos, Dr. Al Achkar oversees the Office of Cancer Research Training and Education Coordination, is responsible for establishing a vision for the cancer center’s education efforts, and leads professional development across the training continuum from high school students to tenured faculty and health care professionals, throughout the Karmanos catchment area (46 Michigan counties) and beyond. He oversees the integration of education and training into the scientific research programs, assesses a broad range of active training programs, catalogs cancer education activities through the Wayne State University School of Medicine, and advocates for and initiates new research training and development opportunities to enrich the educational environment for the cancer center community.

“The addition of Dr. Al Achkar furthers our research and expands research training and education,” said Boris Pasche, president and CEO of Karmanos. “His broad experience in research, teaching, and practice provides a wonderful base for Dr. Al Achkar to build and develop our scientific research initiatives.”

Al Achkar joins Karmanos following a six-year tenure at the University of Washington in Seattle. During his time there, he served as an associate professor in the Department of Family Medicine, an adjunct associate professor in the Department of Health Services School of Public Health, and was a core faculty member at the AIMS Center within the Department of Psychiatry. Additionally, Al Achkar has spent five years as an attending family medicine physician and assistant professor at Indiana University.

In 2018, Al Achkar received the Pearls Award from the North America Practice Care Research Network for a research study that will impact clinical practice. He has also received the Family Medicine Residency Program’s Faculty of the Year Award at Indiana University and multiple recognitions from the Society of Teachers of Family Medicine.

A Syrian immigrant, Al Achkar completed his medical degree at Aleppo University in Syria. He completed his residency training at Florida Hospital in Orlando and Winter Park, Fla., where he also served as a chief resident. Al Achkar holds a Master of Science in Clinical Research from Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis and a Doctorate of Philosophy in Inquiry Methodology and Education from Indiana University in Bloomington. He’s also board-certified with the American Board of Family Medicine and is involved with the North America Practice Care Research Network, the Society of Teachers of Family Medicine, and the American Academy of Family Physicians.

Al Achkar began his role at Karmanos in September. He also joins WSU as a faculty member at the School of Medicine.

As part of McLaren Health Care, Karmanos is the largest provider of cancer care and research in Michigan. For more than 75 years, the administrative and research headquarters, along with the premier specialty cancer hospital, have been located in downtown Detroit. With 16 network sites, Karmanos delivers care and access to clinical trials throughout Michigan and northern Ohio. The National Cancer Institute recognizes Karmanos as one of the best cancer centers in the nation with a comprehensive cancer center designation. More at

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