The 34-year-old medical student, who is a father of two, has returned to his humble beginnings in Louisiana to serve.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published on August 21, 2020. It has since been updated.
Most people work hard to get where they are today but for some people, life is harder. They come from a childhood and background that made success difficult but yet, they made it with their perseverance.
One doctor from Louisiana is talking about his beginning now that he is a medical student at the hospital where he once worked as a security guard. Dr. Russell Ledet used to work at Baton Rouge Medical Center as a security guard almost five years before he received the opportunity to learn in detail about medicine. He was able to shadow the chief surgery resident, Dr. Patrick Greiffenstein, Good Morning America (GMA) reported.
Russell, 34, said that he used to study from note cards and would ask passing doctors if they would allow him to shadow them, but most said they didn't have the time. However, Greiffenstein was not like most people. He was willing to be a mentor to Russell.
"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 told GMA. He is a U.S. Navy veteran, has a Ph.D. in molecular oncology from New York University, and is currently enrolled in both the M.B.A. program and medical school at Tulane. He worked hard to turn his life around and he is continuing to do so.
After all these years, he has returned to the same hospital to help patients and to inspire other young students of color to study medicine. For him, being able to treat patients close to where he grew up in Lake Charles is a reminder of his "humble" past life.
This doctor has done more for his community and to raise awareness previously. In December, he had gathered some of his Tulane School of Medicine classmates for a photograph on a former plantation where Black people were once enslaved. He wanted to showcase their "ancestral resiliency."
"I think we did something right and 50 years from now, people will still talk about this image," the doctor 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.'"
He hasn't stopped at that. The father-of-two wants his children to have a safer future and instead, he finds himself constantly worried about the racial 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," said he to GMA. "These kinds of things are happening and no matter how much education I have, society doesn’t see me as a human," he added.
The pained father now has an organization called The 15 White Coats to provide opportunities for minority medical students around the world. They would like to start a high school in Louisiana that helps children prepare to become doctors in the future.
He has become an inspiring figure across the world with his positive efforts and message, not just to people of the Black community but every single minority student. He paves the way to show that when we work hard towards our goals, our dreams do come true.
He once thought that he would never go to college because he never knew anyone who had gone. He has faced many hardships but he wants to keep fighting for equality for everyone. "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?"