10 Oct He Fixes Brains
“Black Men in Medicine” Pt. 2
–Who is Dr. Oluwaseun O. Akinduro?
I’m just a God-fearing guy who happened to become a neurosurgeon. I was born in Nigeria, but my family moved to England when I was two years old, and we were literally the only Black people in the area. Then, my family moved to New Jersey, and faced the same situation. I can remember being made fun of at times because of my skin color and name. A few years later, we moved to Dothan, AL. Even in the South, with more Black people around, I still felt out of place; most people there had never even heard of Nigeria. I didn’t fully fit in with Black people or White people. In the third grade, I was asked what I wanted to be when I grew up and my answer was “A brain doctor.” I can remember a few kids in the back laughing. Most of them wanted to be a fire fighter or a teacher or something that seemed more feasible.
Sadly, I can remember a few times I was called the N-word at school. It was never to my face, of course, usually from around the corner or among a crowd. The only role models I consistently saw were rappers, athletes, and dope dealers in the city. A lot of these factors drove me to want to be a different kind of role model for kids. It’s extremely important to have someone to aspire to be like.
–Tell us about your position as a neurosurgeon.
I wake up in the morning and go to work at around 5:30-6:00 a.m. or so to make my initial rounds and see all of my patients. Surgeries in the operating room (OR) typically start around 7:30 so I have to make sure all my notes are done and patients are stable before then. Neurosurgeons work with brains, the spine, and peripheral nerves. We open the skull to treat brain tumors, aneurysms, bleeds, vascular malformations, Parkinson’s disease, and many other things. Spinal cases could be things like fixing a fracture from car accident, correcting a spine with severe scoliosis, or taking tumors. We also do epilepsy cases in which we may remove a portion of someone’s brain causing him or her to have seizures. I know you probably have heard how hard neurosurgery is and that neurosurgeons have no life. Neurosurgery is hard work and requires individuals to sacrifice a lot of their time, but I have a great life and spend plenty of time with my wife and friends. I personally was discouraged from pursuing neurosurgery when I heard about the lifestyle, but trust me when I say it’s not as bad as you think and it’s definitely worth it.
–Inform the readers on why it is so profound that you have reached this level as a doctor.
Neurosurgery is one of the most competitive specialties to match into after medical school. My program at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, FL, only takes one resident per year, and gets over 400 applications every year. I was far from the model child/adolescent, and got in a lot of trouble in my youth. To me, this is a true testament to the God we serve, perseverance, and hard work.
–Any advice for the young men that may want to pursue the medical field?
My advice to Black males: find someone doing something that you think is worth pursuing and connect with them. Finding a mentor is one of the most important steps to attaining a goal. Truly embrace mentorship. Allow them to help you, and make sure you approach them correctly or they’ll automatically write you off. None of my mentors fell in my lap. My medical school didn’t even have a neurosurgeon; I had to actively seek out a mentor. You can’t do everything on your own, so utilize classmates and form a bond with people who have similar goals. Two of my line brothers were also pursuing medicine (all three of us made it!!), and we pushed each other at all times. Ego is huge for Black males; put your ego aside and look for help. Medicine isn’t an easy field; you will have to learn how to sacrifice and prioritize. Your boys may be kicking it, but unfortunately, you will have to sit some of those parties out to study. Have fun and enjoy college, but never lose sight of the end goal.