US: Ex-guard of hospital returns there as a medical student
In an immensely encouraging tale of grit and determination, a former security guard at a United States hospital, Russell J. Ledet, has now returned there as a medical student. From watching doctors in white coats sauntering in and out of the Baton Rouge Hospital to being there in a white coat himself, it has been an "ultimate comeback" for Ledet. Here's his inspiring story.
Ledet, 34, who grew up in Lake Charles, Louisiana, is an ex-Navy man. After a brief stint in the Reserves, he was encouraged to take up college by his wife Mallory. After enrolling in the Southern University and A&M College, he took the job of a security guard for financial reasons. He spent four years patrolling the grounds at Baton Rouge General Medical Center.
Growing up with a nursing assistant single mother, Ledet had to largely live off food stamps in his childhood. When he went to college, he wanted to become a social worker but took up a double major in chemistry and biology on a professor's advice. Once he started the job at the hospital, he became fascinated by the place.
After taking in the hospital environment and the 'smart and talented people' who worked there, Ledet wanted to explore the place. One day, he picked up courage and asked one Dr. Patrick Greiffenstein if he could shadow him. Upon receiving a "yes," Ledet started accompanying Dr. Greiffenstein on his rounds to operating rooms, whenever he had free time.
Dr. Greiffenstein said that although he got several shadowing requests, Ledet was the only security guard to have approached him. "It's hard not to like him right away," Dr. Greiffenstein, who is currently a trauma surgeon in the University Medical Center, New Orleans, said.
Ledet then finished college in 2013 and went to New York University where he earned a doctorate in molecular oncology. He also wrote a research paper on prostate cancer which got widespread recognition. Later, he got a full-time scholarship at the Tulane Medical School in New Orleans. Over summer, he started his third-year rotations — at Baton Rouge General Medical Center.
Ever since Ledet started medical school, returning to Baton Rouge was on his mind. "It was just about counting down the days until I could walk into the hospital," he said. "I knew a lot about prostate cancer...but I really didn't understand how to treat a patient. That's a whole different ballgame," Ledet added.
Ledet is also passionate about pertinent issues. Last year, a group of 15 Black physicians including Ledet, had gone to Whitney Plantation, where African slaves lived and worked. Their group photo went viral on social media for its powerful statement. Seeing the reception, Ledet co-founded an organization named "The 15 White Coats," with an aim to raise money for minority medical students.
Despite such a turnaround, Ledet is still dreaming big. He is eyeing a triple-board residency in pediatrics, general psychiatry, and adolescent and child psychiatry. He also wants to open a clinic in New Orleans. For this purpose, he is working on an MBA to learn how to manage business better. Ledet wants his daughters and young people to be inspired by his life.
Ledet also wants the medical fraternity in the US to be more diverse. "When you ask a black kid what a doctor looks like, they're going to tell you a white male," he said, adding that he wants to change that image. He plans to graduate in 2022 and for now, is just grateful people believed in him and that he didn't give up.