2016 Top Doctor: Nolawi M. Mengesha, M.D.

Written by Editorial Staff Category: Profiles Issue: April 2016
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Internal Medicine
Med School/Year Graduated: Albany Medical College, 1995

Years in Practice: 18

photography by Steve Craft; Nolawi M. Mengesha, M.D.This is your 14th peer-selected Top Doc honor. Why do you think your fellow doctors hold you in such high esteem?
I strive to provide thorough, compassionate and evidence-based care. I’m fortunate to be recognized by my colleagues – unlike many others who are just as worthy of recognition. I believe humility is an important virtue in this noble profession. Despite the challenges of healthcare today, I still feel privileged to do what I do.

Who were some of the people who inspired you to pursue medicine?
My father was a plant geneticist, my mother a sociologist. They were both professors and [were] accomplished in their respective disciplines of the sciences and humanities. They are a source of profound inspiration. Medicine seemed to be an ideal blend of the sciences and humanities. Dr. David Metzler, my biochemistry advisor at Iowa State University, always urged me to remain a true scientist.

What is the most challenging part of your job? Most gratifying?
The seemingly endless bureaucracy of practicing medicine today, and the over-dependence on electronics can be a challenging distraction from medicine. For a long time, my then-6-year-old daughter could not be convinced that I was a doctor – “my dad works with computers.” I find gratification in the sanctity of the doctor-patient relationship, and also in the continuity of care. I hope these aspects of healthcare will be valued more as our healthcare system continues to evolve.

Within the field of internal medicine, which sub-discipline do you find most interesting?
Infectious disease, rheumatology and allergy/immunology. My month as a medical student on the AIDS floor at Albany Medical College in the early ‘90s was a profound experience. The relationship between infectious disease and the immune system, and the nature of autoimmune disease, fascinates me.

You speak Amharic (Ethiopian). Do you have a favorite Ethiopian restaurant in the Valley? Best dish?
Café Lalibela in Tempe is the original Ethiopian restaurant in the Valley and still a favorite. We also really like the newer Gojo Ethiopian Restaurant in Phoenix, conveniently close to our office. My favorite dishes are generally a medley of different items: shiro (ground pea/bean and chickpea sauce), misir (lentil) and gomen (collard green sauce) on injera (the traditional Ethiopian fermented crêpe-like bread made with pure teff). I couldn’t leave out doro wat (chicken sauce).

In your Banner bio, you say you enjoy hiking. Where are your favorite places to hike in the Valley?
I love hiking. West Fork Trail in Oak Creek is my wonderful wife, kids’ and my favorite trail. The Spur Cross Ranch Conservation area is a glorious celebration of the Sonoran desert. Tom’s Thumb Trail is like a fantasy world of granite boulders. Trail 100 and Lookout Mountain in Moon Valley is really fun, our most frequented trail and right in our backyard! There are so many other great trails, but the most exciting trail is always the new one that remains to be discovered.

“If I wasn’t a doctor, I’d be...”
A geologist. Geology was actually my initial declared major at Iowa State University. I’d be surveying geological rock formations deep in some Arizona canyon.