It’s never too late to live the life of your dreams. Carl Allamby’s recent shift as an expert car mechanic to an emergency medicine doctor at the age of 47, is proof.
In 2006, after running a successful car repair business for decades, Allamby decided to take night classes in pursuit of a business degree that would help him expand his operations. However, a required biology class ended up changing the entire trajectory of his life.
A fateful encounter with a teacher, Dr. Micah Watts, who was also a resident in interventional radiology at the Cleveland Clinic, provided Allamby with the visual inspiration he needed to shift gears.
“He just lit up when he walked into the room,” Allamby said in an interview with Cleveland.com. “After the first hour of class, I was like, ‘This is what I want to do. I have to go into medicine.’ It was like a light switched on.”
A resident of East Cleveland, Allamby was 1 of 6 siblings and grew up in a household trying to make ends meet. He got his first job when he was 16 years old at an auto parts store and that naturally progressed into what would become a thriving car repair business for the next 18 years.
“Through high school, I don’t remember a single person talking to me about college, it was mostly going and finding a factory job or go to the military,” Allamby said. “I ended up finding a job.”
At age 40 he started night classes at Ursuline College as a way to gain information to grow his auto mechanic business. That one biology class with Dr. Watts and his eventual friendship with two other Black doctors gave him the motivation to pursue a career in medicine that he thought was impossible.
After earning a second undergraduate degree from Cleveland State University, Allamby went on to enroll in the Partnership for Urban Health’s program, which works to find and train minority doctors to work in urban communities. Ultimately auctioning off his business in order to balance medical school with his family and student loans was no small feat. But Allamby pushed through, getting exceptional grades, serving as the student rep for the school’s Board of Trustees and eventually landing a three-year residency in Emergency Medicine at Cleveland Clinic Akron General Hospital at 47 years old.
His people skills and business background turned out to be the perfect breeding ground for his new life as Dr. Allamby. But the icing on the cake was that he was a Black man. Research shows that there are just not enough Black doctors with the Association of American Medical Colleges reporting that less than 6% of med school graduates identify as Black. A number that’s even lower for Black male doctors, reports showing that the number of Black males in medical school has not changed since 1978.
Programs like the Partnership for Urban Health, run by Dr. Sonja Harris-Haywood, seek to “undo the damage done by structural racism” and change these statistics. Studies show that Black patients receive better care with Black doctors. Allamby hopes to inspire the next wave of Black male doctors. “There are so many times throughout the different hospitals where I will walk in and [a Black patient] will say, ‘Thank God there’s finally a brother here,’” he said.
Dr. Carl Allamby is living proof that you can do anything you put your mind to.