John was born and raised in a middle class home in Miami Florida, the third and youngest child of Michaelas (mother) and Yomi (father) Ogunlade. Along with his older siblings, Elizabeth and Michael, they were the first generation of his Nigerian rooted family to be born and raised here in the United States. Both his parents worked two to three jobs to put a roof over their heads and food on the table. Early in his youth, his parents made it clear to all of them that in order to be successful in any walk of life, education, humility and faith in God must be the key ingredients in our personal foundation. John attended MAST Academy, and graduated in the class of 2005. It was during the four years at MAST that his interest for mathematics and science exponentially developed into a passion. Through the magnet electives offered at MAST, working with his hands matured from a simple hobby to purposeful enjoyment. With the school being more than 15 miles away from his home, John quickly learned to be independent, self reliant and nearly completely autonomous so that he could participate in after school extracurricular activities, such as Basketball, Track and Field, Jazz band, steel drum band, Wa-tu-wazuri (multicultural club), and 5000 Role Models. As a senior in high school, he completed his internship at Jackson Memorial Hospital’s Ryder Trauma Center, assisting nurses with patient care, maintaining charts, answering phones and delivering prescriptions. By the end of high school, John knew that he wanted to pursue a career where he could use his knowledge to help others.
The decision to go to Nova Southeastern University was motivated by their Dual admissions program for Pharmacy school. At this point, John knew that he wanted to help people improve their quality of life, but he was not certain of how he would reach that goal. At the time, Pharmacy school seemed to be the most promising career choice, while being a medical doctor was an impossible dream. While pursing his bachelor’s degree in science, John maintained a full course load, worked two to three jobs, and remained active in the community through extracurricular clubs; most importantly the Pan-African Student Association (PASA), the Multicultural Association of Pre-Health Students (MAPS), and the Pre-Medical Society. At the start of his junior year, John began working in the Anatomy Lab of NSU’s Health Professions Division; this job opportunity gave him another perspective on his career choices as a health care professional.
Ultimately, he made the decision to become a doctor, knowing that it was the best avenue for him to effect change, help others and make a difference in communities both local and distant. “I found my independence at a young age, and the idea of being self sufficient was a driving force that would propel me through life to places I would have never imagined, and accomplish things I’ve never dreamed of. My mother tells me that I’ve always been a hard worker, that I would not eat dinner, watch tv or go outside to play until all my work was done.” Dr. Ogunlade’s hard worker mentality helped him achieve both his undergraduate and Doctorate in Osteopathic Medicine degree at Nova Southeastern University. John is currently a 3rd year Neurosurgery Resident At Riverside University Health Systems Medical Center in Southern California.
Co-Chair of the Publications Committee – Jonathan R. Batson:
Dr. John Ogunlade, thank you for joining me to answer questions about your career path and journey in medicine for our premedical and medical students as a part of the Journal of the Student National Medical Association’s Your Story Matters interview series focused on the state of black males in medical education!
1. What inspired you to pursue a career in medicine as a physician?
My inspiration to pursue a career in medicine stemmed from my enjoyment of public service. I grew up in a church family that was very involved in the community, and through community outreach, we helped many people make life altering achievements. In my opinion, a career in medicine is a continuation of public service, and through medicine, I help people take ownership of their health and improve their quality of life.
2. What challenges did you face as an undergraduate student? Was there ever a time when you felt discouraged or someone discouraged you from being a doctor? How did you handle that?
As an undergraduate student, I faced many challenges, but the most significant challenge came from myself. I had to overcome the self-doubt that has been systemically ingrained in me as an African American male pursuing higher education. Despite my honor awards and perfect attendance, the dogma which portrayed the young African American male as a hoodlum or thug existed and still exist in the minds of many Americans… including the minds of other African American males. As a result, the idea that black males are intellectually inferior to their counterparts of other races continues to plague our society and I was not impervious to its effects. In undergrad, I out performed many of my classmates, but my achievements were often dismissed or overlooked. It was through my involvement with multicultural organizations such as the Black Student Union and the SNMA, that allowed me to meet mentors who faced the same challenges and provided encouragement and guidance that allowed me overcome the self-doubt. This lead me to believe I was capable of achieving the goals I had set out to achieve.
3. How did you balance the demands of medical school with additional obligations and challenges?
Time management… Finding a balance between keeping up with your personal life and advancing in your professional education is not an easy task. It takes a lot of discipline and sacrifice, and often, no one will understand why you’re absent from their life milestones. Your tireless hours of studying will often go unnoticed, and you will often feel like life is moving on without you. The key to surviving is prioritizing, and unfortunately, what may have once been a priority may have to take a back seat to the less enjoyable demands of medical school. When you get experienced at time management and balancing, you will find that your priority list is never in set order and can change in an instant. Knowing how you adjust to these fluctuations in priorities will preserve your sanity. Keep up periodically with friends and family and every once in awhile, find something that you love to do that is not academic… and dedicate time to that at least once a week. Taking a break from work will help refresh your mind and when returning to work, you will notice that being rejuvenated gives you an opportunity to reflect and remind yourself of why you chose to pursue medicine in the first place.
4. Did you partake in any summer academic or research programs as an undergraduate student?
Since my elementary school days, summer breaks were always an opportunity for me to get ahead in school, and undergrad was no different. I spent a lot of my free time studying Anatomy and Neuroanatomy in the Anatomy lab at my undergraduate job. I also took summer classes to complete my 2 minor degrees. I recommend if you have an opportunity to participate in a summer project, internship or research project, take advantage of it! You never know what other doors it may open.
5. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges report, Altering the Course: Black Males in Medicine,
“In 1978, there were 1,410 black male applicants to medical school, and in 2014, there were just 1,337. The number of black male matriculants to medical school over more than 35 years has also not surpassed the 1978 numbers. “
What do you think attributes to the decrease of black males pursuing medicine and what do you think is necessary to improve those numbers in the next 10 years?
This is a multifactorial problem. These factors include self doubt, generational disadvantages, systemic oppression, and lack of role models and mentors. Diversity is important in all walks of life, and this is no different in the world of medicine. It is imperative for the development and progression of minority communities to have leaders that they can look up to, and also take pride in seeing someone that has faced the same disparities and discrimination to overcome said obstacles. From a medical standpoint, diversifying medicine improves the overall quality of care by adding different approaches to patients, their beliefs and cultural practices.
6. Why does diversity and inclusion matter in medical education and academic medicine?
Because diversity breeds progression, innovation and solutions. We have all heard the saying “Great minds think alike.” I think great minds more often think differently. Time and time again, history has demonstrated that the greatest discoveries and inventions were created by people who thought differently than others of their time and weren’t afraid to go against the grain of what was accepted as the “social norm.” The same applies in academic medicine. Diversity leads to different approaches, styles of thought, and solutions to the same problem which ultimately will keep advancing the field of medicine.
7. If you can write a note to your younger self about what you know today, what would you say?
Enjoy every moment in your journey.
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