Akron, Ohio —Whenever his two little girls play doctor, and dream of becoming one someday, 48-year-old master mechanic Carl Allamby is flooded with the feeling of deja vu.
You wanted to be a doctor?
“Oh yeah,” Carl said.
But that wasn’t realistic.
“Not where I came from, no. I grew up in East Cleveland which is a very impoverished city,” Carl said. “We were on welfare. I remember the powdered milk, the government powdered milk.”
And because they were so poor, young Carl quickly set aside his professional aspirations and focused instead on becoming the best auto-mechanic he could be.
“So this is the parts store where I got all my customers from,” Carl said.
So you would work on cars in the parking lot of the parts store?
“Oh, yeah, sometimes ’til 1 or 2 o’clock in the morning,” Carl said.
Eventually he got his own shop – and for 15 years, he did OK. Until one day, he decided to ratchet things up.
In 2006, Carl enrolled here at Ursuline College. His intention was to get a business degree – to help him manage his repair shop. But there was 1 hurdle – a biology class. He couldn’t understand why he had to take it and he put it off as long as possible.
“I’m a business major, what do I care about biology?” Carl said. And in the first hour of being there, I knew what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. All those ideas of wanting to be a doctor just came rushing back.”
And to make a long story short – the car doctor is now a doctor-doctor.
Last spring Carl graduated from Northeast Ohio Medical University – and today he’s an emergency medicine resident at Cleveland Clinic Akron General.
By all accounts, Carl is already an exemplary doctor. Partly because, according to his supervisors, he worked so long in a garage.
“You’d be shocked, actually, I think it’s some of the customer service,” said Dr. Rebecca Merrill.
But could you imagine, right now, going and learning auto mechanics?
“No, but Carl said he’ll do our oil changes,” she said.
Fortunately, Carl now has more important repairs on his mind. But this old auto mechanic also knows that, whether you’re working under a hood or staring down a hatch — your success hinges on your drive.
“I would hear people say, ‘Carl, it’s going to take 9 years to become a doctor.’ And I’d say, ‘Well, 9 years is going to pass anyway.’ So I’d rather be some place I want to be, than some place I could have been,” Carl said.
And there’s the prescription — for the I-can’t-do-it blues.
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