A black doctor saving lives amid the COVID-19 crisis is a medical student based at the very same hospital where he once worked as a security guard.
For five years Dr. Russell Ledet, 34, worked as a security guard at the Baton Rouge General Medical Center in Louisiana.
Inspired to become a doctor himself, he studied on note cards and asked doctors at the center if he could shadow them.
While most told him they were too busy to help, Dr. Patrick Greiffenstein, the chief surgery resident, took him on as a mentee and jumpstarted his career.
Now Ledet, who is also a US Navy veteran, has a PhD in molecular oncology from New York University and is enrolled in both the MBA program and medical school at Tulane in Louisiana.
‘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,’ Ledet said to Good Morning America.
Ledet says he returned to the same hospital where he started his medical journey with the hope of helping patients of color and being a mentor for the next ambitious prospective student hoping to enter the world of medicine.
He also said serving the community, not so far from his ‘humble beginnings’ growing up in nearby Lake Charles, was important to him.
Despite the great strides in his career, Ledet says he still has worries given the tense racial climate in the country in the wake of police violence and the Black Lives Matter movement.
His wife of 14-year years encourages him to not leave the house without his white coat in his car.
‘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,’ Ledet said.
‘These kinds of things are happening and no matter how much education I have, society doesn’t see me as a human,’ he added.
At medical school Ledet organized a photo shoot among black students from Tulane’s Student National Medical Association wearing white coats in front of Whitney Plantation, a former slave plantation and museum.
‘The idea of the photo was to illustrate our presence essentially, and the history behind where we are today,’ Ledet said.
‘I’m from Louisiana. 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?’ he added.
He says those photos are now being used as ‘cultural imagery’ as inspiration for the generations to come.
Today an organization called The 15 White Coats was established and provides opportunities for minority medical students around the world to achieve their goals.