Dr Jude Interview: Part 1 - Journey to becoming a T&O surgeon and being a black man in Medicine
I sat down with Dr Jude just before 2020 came to a close, and it proved to be a valuable conversation.
For those who are not aware, Dr Obi Jude Nzeako is a Trauma and Orthopaedic Surgeon and a YouTuber, who has over 35,000 followers across all social platforms. We spoke about his journey to studying Medicine, the profession itself, and some of his reflections about being a black male in the field.
Dr Jude is also unique in the aspect that he practised abroad and completed a fellowship in Canada, we dived deeper into his decision and uncovered his reasons as to why he took this next step.
We end with his advice for medical students, as well as some personal finance tips!
AK: So Dr Jude, could you tell us a bit more about what you do currently?
DJ: Ade thank you for having me man, my pleasure. As you've probably seen on my YouTube channel, a lot of what I do is about trying to inspire black doctors of the future. When I was coming up, there were a few of us [doctors], but we were not connected. We didn't have social media to the same degree, so we were all going through the same thing but in different parts of the country, and we felt that this was a bit of an individual struggle. So by coming together to share our journey, we hope to inspire many others.
In terms of what I do professionally, I have CCT'd [Certificate of completion of training] 2 years ago in London and completed my training in trauma and orthopaedic surgery. I then did a fellowship at the University of Toronto in trauma, which was amazing. I'm back [in London] doing a second upper limb fellowship in Guy's and St Thomas' Hospital. At the same time, I'm networking and interviewing and trying to move on after this into a consultant post. Obviously, COVID has slowed down networking and the interviews. A lot of it is on Zoom and [Microsoft] Teams, but I hope the next step will be the consultant role after the two fellowships!
AK: With the consultant role, I've heard that when surgeons become consultant surgeons, they drop the title [of Dr] and become a "Mr"! Is that something you'll be doing?
DJ: I already did! As soon as you pass your exams, you technically become a "Mr". At work, I'm already a "Mr", but I've worked in Canada where everyone is a "Dr", and I think I prefer that because it's not confusing. Sometimes people call me "Dr" by mistake, and they apologise! I tell them that I'm good with either. When I'm doing social media content, I use "Dr" because it lends to the story you're trying to tell. If you tell people you've been to medical school and you're working as a surgeon, and your name has "Mr", it can be confusing on the international front.
AK: Yeah, I think it's one of those weird UK traditions that I recently learned about! Surgeons used to be known as barbers, so many of them didn't have the title of a doctor.
DJ: Yeah, it's historical because you had separate training to become a surgeon, which kind of is still the case! Back then, it was an apprenticeship, so you would stay at a surgeon's practice and learn from them, and you would then undertake that practice, and you wouldn't go to medical school. It wasn't until later on that it joined with the medics and then they went to medical school and became surgeons. I'm not sure why but the [title "Mr"] is supposed to be some badge of honour showing that you've finished training. They do the same thing in Australia, but it's confusing for the rest of the world!
AK: Earlier you spoke about your YouTube channel, I'm really interested in how that journey to starting your channel began? What inspired you to take that step?
DJ: It actually started from a love of making videos. Completely aside from Medicine, I liked making videos and photography. I've been creating videos for as long as I can remember, I even think I had the first-ever video camera! When I was at school, I had this Motorola, which used to have the camera on the bottom and shoot these grainy little videos. Even when I went on holiday, I took my iPod with me, and I created videos, and my friends would love it!
As technology got better, I started making better videos. My friends knew I could make videos so they would invite me places to shoot my typical cinematic videos with the soundtrack and I would do it and put it on YouTube so that everyone who was at the wedding or function could see the video. Then people started to say "Oh, you're a doctor, can you talk to us about X?". Then [YouTube creation] found its own momentum. After I finished my orthopaedic exams, I realised that I've been through so much and have a lot to share. I want to share the pathway so that it becomes clear for others because I did not really know it before entering, I took multiple steps and worked backwards, and it was all confusing! As black doctors, we also don't get the same mentorship as our counterparts (I didn't, I knew that for sure), a lot of things I had to do myself and stick with the odd person who showed me some guidance.
I try to be a "virtual mentor" for younger students. I put everything out there for you, and I've noticed people start to send me messages all day, every day! I've probably got about 60 unread messages right now and its from people all over the world. Someone would say "I've just done my MBBS in India, what would you recommend for the next step?" I try not to give my particular recommendations, but everything has just snowballed. I make a video and then get questions from there and make videos in response to those questions, and the cycle just continues. I'm trying to serve the people what they need and inspire, motivate and guide them.
AK: I'd just like to say that you're definitely doing that and that term "virtual mentor" sums it up. I see you as my virtual mentor, and I go to your videos to learn more about those next steps and also the entrepreneurship side to Medicine. Not many doctors are showcasing the money side to Medicine, and that's something I've found out from you. In Medicine, we tend to shy away from talking about money due to our passions for serving the people, so I think it's great you're doing that on YouTube!
DJ: You're absolutely right; doctors don't talk about money partly because doctors are notoriously bad with money. Previously, this didn't matter because they were well paid compared to the national averages, but they are not anymore. Secondly, the public doesn't like to see doctors talking about money as to them we're public servants and should feel that we should want to work for free. Good intentions don't pay the bills! We're also in a transition period where doctors are no longer well paid, and that's a difficult pill for many doctors to swallow. A lot of doctors went to private schools and had some of the best educations, but the difficulty now is allowing your children to have that life. Especially if you live in London, finding safe neighbourhoods for your kids and giving them the upbringing we were fortunate to have, requires money! Hence, from the jump, you're required to be savvy with your salary. There are certain things that I'm learning that I tell younger doctors. For example, knowing your fixed salary is important to allow you to plan. From this, you can even think of ways to supplement your salary from the beginning. This is really important especially for my audience because a large number of them are minorities and it's even more critical that we take finance into our own hands