Russell Ledet back in the day used to work as a security officer at Baton Rouge General Medical Center; a job he held for five years. He said that during that time he would study medicine on note cards and ask doctors that passed by if he could shadow them.
Often the answer he got was that they didn’t have time, but the chief surgery resident was Dr. Patrick Greiffenstein, and he was willing to mentor Russell. Now, Russell has returned as Dr. Ledet to that same facility and is one of the many black doctors working on the front lines during 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,” Ledet told “Good Morning America.” Ledet, 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.
Dr. Russell Ledet, is also looking to pave the way for other young students of colour hoping to enter into medicine. He calls the opportunity to treat Louisiana patients near where he grew up a reminder of his “humble beginnings”.
But he is also painfully aware of the reality of the world he lives in. “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.”
It is so terrifying that his wife of 14 years tells him not to leave the house without his white doctors coat in the car. She’s also worried that some people won’t see a person; but hopes they might recognize the coat. His profession being visible seemingly all the shield he has in her mind.
But this 34 year old wants to change that. He organized an image that has gone viral; its a picture of him standing alongside his fellow black students from Tulane University’s Student National Medical Association all wearing their white coats in front of a former slave plantation turned museum. “The idea of the photo was to illustrate our presence essentially, and the history behind where we are today,” Ledet told “GMA” in December.
Since that powerful moment, the company The 15 White Coats was born, which provides opportunities for minority medical students around the world. The organization’s long-term goal is to start a high school in Louisiana that prepares kids to become doctors.
Additionally, Ledet says that the photos are now being used as “cultural imagery” so that the next generation knows what’s possible.
Russell’s hard work paid off for him, and his attitude may well help many more to come. That’s your Good News Story of the Day, you can find out more about Dr. Ledet and his motivations here. It’s a reminder that people are people, capable of wondrous things, and should be treated as such; no matter where they came from or the colour of their skin. Give everyone equal love and respect.
Story and Image from ABC News.