Dr. Russell Ledet is currently working toward his MBA and MD at Tulane University while working at Baton Rouge General Medical Center

By Joelle Goldstein
August 18, 2020 02:25 PM
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Dr. Russell Ledet with his wife and daughters
Courtesy Dr. Russell Ledet

A Black doctor in Louisiana is reflecting on his "humble beginnings" after becoming a medical student at the same hospital where he once worked as a security guard.

Dr. Russell Ledet was employed as a security guard at Baton Rouge General Medical Center for about five years before he was given an opportunity to shadow the chief surgery resident, Dr. Patrick Greiffenstein, Good Morning America reported.

Prior to that life-changing moment, Ledet, 34, told the outlet that he would often study content on note cards and ask passing doctors if he could shadow them. To his disappointment, many said they didn't have the time — but that wasn't the case for Greiffenstein.

Since being granted the ability to shadow, the Tulane University student — who completed his Ph.D. in molecular oncology in 2018 and is now working toward his MBA and MD, according to his LinkedIn — has been helping patients amid the coronavirus pandemic, while also making strides for Black doctors around the nation.

"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 GMA, noting that working a hospital near where he grew up in Lake Charles often reminds him of his "humble beginnings."

Dr. Russell Ledet
Courtesy Dr. Russell Ledet

Readers might remember Ledet from a viral story back in December. He had gathered a group of his Tulane School of Medicine classmates to pose for a photo on a former plantation where Black people were enslaved in order to illustrate their "ancestral resiliency."

"I think we did something right and 50 years from now, people will still talk about this image," Ledet 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," he added. "There are still systemic issues that prevent [the] full flourishing of all people in America."

To dismantle some of those issues, Ledet co-founded The 15 White Coats, which aims to influence cultural imagery and visibility in K-12 classrooms nationwide, assist people of color while they apply to medical school and create "culturally-adept" content for the future generations.

The students from Tulane University’s School of Medicine on the slave plantation
Sydney Labat

Ledet told GMA that he and his family have recently felt alarmed by the current racial climate.

It's even gotten to a point that his wife of 14 years has encouraged him to never leave the house without his white coat in the car, for fear of being attacked due to his skin color, Ledet explained to the outlet.

"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."

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Though he's had his own ups and downs through the years, Ledet — who was formerly in the military and even once believed he couldn’t go to college as he’d never known anyone who’d attended — vowed to keep fighting for equality.

"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?"

To help combat systemic racism, consider learning from or donating to these organizations:

• Campaign Zero (joincampaignzero.org) which works to end police brutality in America through research-proven strategies.

ColorofChange.org works to make government more responsive to racial disparities.

• National Cares Mentoring Movement (caresmentoring.org) provides social and academic support to help Black youth succeed in college and beyond.