Dr. Russell Ledet is currently working toward his MBA and MD at Tulane University while working at Baton Rouge General Medical Center, the same place he used to worked at, as a security guard before going into medicine!
While Dr. Ledet now looks back at his security guard history as “humble beginnings,” it was the five years he spent working in that role that led to his fateful decision. As a security guard, he witnessed in person the alarming need for medical staff–and decided that one day, he would help.
As a security guard, he wanted to learn
After graduating from high school, Russell served 2 years in the Navy. Then, he went back to college to study organic chemistry. To support himself during his studies, he worked at Baton Rouge General Medical Center.
During his time there, Russell made friends with staff. He was also eager to learn and asked the doctors who worked to let him shadow them. To his disappointment, many didn’t have the time. Until Dr. Patrick Greiffenstein gave him a chance.
One doctor gave him the chance of his life
The transition began the day he was given the chance to shadow the chief surgery resident, Dr. Patrick Greiffenstein.
“It’s hard not to like him right away,” said Greiffenstein in The Washington Post,explaining why he accepted Russell’s unconventional request.
That day changed everything, and now Russell, who completed his Ph.D. in molecular oncology in 2018 and is now working toward his MBA and MD, according to his LinkedIn —is already helping patients amid the coronavirus pandemic.
This is one of those reflective points when you’re trying to understand how far you’ve come and how far you got to go.Russell Ledet in Good Morning America
Greiffenstein notes just how remarkable Russell’s trajectory to medicine has been. “Especially for a guy who started as a security guard,” he added.
He quit his job as a security guard–but only came back years later
While Russell graduated from college in 2013, subsequently leaving the security job at the Baton Rouge hospital, he didn’t make the decision to become a doctor right away. First, he continued his studies at New York University, where he completed a PhD in molecular oncology in 2018.
While he got recognition for his research on prostate cancer, Russell never quite forgot his days of shadowing at Baton Rouge. Thus, he felt he had to listen to the call of clinical work.
So Russell applied for medical school–and got his reply only an hour after the birth of his second daughter, Mahlina. The Tulane University in New Orleans granted him a full scholarship to medical school. And so, Russell moved back to his home state.
In his third-year rotations, Russell got to put the Baton Rouge General Medical Center as his preferred location. When he got it, he was absolutely thrilled to return to where it all started.
It was just about counting down the days until I could walk into the hospital.Russell Ledet in The Washington Post
For Russell, it’s about resilience
Russell got a lot of media attention in late 2019 when he gathered a group of his Tulane School of Medicine classmates to pose for a photo on a former plantation where Black people were enslaved, as a way of sharing their “ancestral resiliency.”
“I think we did something right and 50 years from now, people will still talk about this image,” Russell told PEOPLE of the powerful photograph at the time. “No matter how you feel about it, it’s a visceral reaction to ‘Here is what our country essentially started with and here’s how far we come.'”
The hope of the image is that people understand we’re trying. No matter what the system was initially set up for, we’re trying to go against that grain.
“There are still systemic issues that prevent [the] full flourishing of all people in America,” Russell continued.
He wants to help others achieve their potential
Russell also co-founded The 15 White Coats, an organization that hopes to influence cultural imagery and visibility in K-12 classrooms nationwide, as well as help people of color who are applying to medical school to create “culturally-adept” content to inspire generations of the future.
Russell is doing all this in the midst of a really difficult climate. “My two little Black girls can turn on the TV, once a week, sometimes once a month, and they see a video of somebody who looks like them being murdered and it’s legal,” he shared with GMA. “These kinds of things are happening and no matter how much education I have, society doesn’t see me as a human.”
Ledet, who once served in the military, is hoping to continue to fight for equality and against injustice where he can.
“I’m from Louisiana,” he told GMA. “Being from here and understanding a lot of the health burdens and health disparities, I know if I’m not loud about it, then who will be?”
Listen to your purpose
“I’m grateful I made it here. I’m grateful that I didn’t give up. I’m grateful that people believed in me,” Russell concludes.
If there is one takeaway from his incredible journey, it’s that we should persevere and listen to our calling, even when everything seems unachievable. Russell never stopped believing. Now he is working on an MBA while finishing off his medical studies.
This world isn’t going to hand anything to you; you’ve got to get it. Time is a nonrefundable resource.Russell Ledet
Take some time to figure out your purpose–and then invest yourself in it.
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