Carl Allamby (center) speaks to an audience at Cleveland State University.
Screenshot: CSU-Tech

Representation matters.

It’s much more than a mere catchphrase devised to disrupt the status quo, it’s a rallying cry in our quest to survive in a world constructed to malign and subjugate us. It’s also a reminder that manifests every time a black child believes they don’t belong, or that their aspirations are unrealistic, as was the case with Carl Allamby of Cleveland.

According to Cleveland.com, Allamby dreamed of a career in medicine “somewhere through junior high and high school.” But with no black doctors to serve as mentors or role models, the idea was “beaten out of him.”

“Nobody to even to emulate. Just to say, ‘Hey, I know a guy who is a doctor who looks like me and if he can do it, I can do it,’” he told Cleveland.com.

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But citing a national shortage of black doctors, the East Cleveland native finally embraced his fate earlier this year and left his fruitful career as a car mechanic to become a doctor—at 47 years old.

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At 16, Allamby developed his knack for fixing cars and installing parts at his first job working for an auto parts store.

“I just started saying, ‘Hey, yeah. I can take care of you after work in the parking lot,’” he told Cleveland.com.

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He flourished at repairing vehicles, but school wasn’t exactly his ministry. As the son of a part-time photographer who also went door-to-door selling cookware on the side, work always took precedence over education.

“Through high school, I don’t remember a single person talking to me about college,” he said. “For us, it was mostly going and finding a factory job or go to the military. I ended up finding a job.”

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That job blossomed from renting a repair bay to eventually owning his own shop, Advanced Auto Repair in South Euclid, where he both repaired and sold cars for years. He was exceptional at fixing cars but had a lot to learn on the business end. So in 2006, he decided to strengthen his knowledge base by attending night classes at Ursuline College.

“Most people go into business not because they’re good businessmen but because they’re good at whatever their trade is. I was good at fixing cars,” he told Cleveland.com. “I just felt like if I really wanted to grow this and grow it right, I really needed a foundational education in business to really understand it.”

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Which, as fate would have it, included a biology class that reignited Allamby’s passion for medicine.

“After the first hour of class, I was like, ‘This is what I want to do. I have to go into medicine,’” he told Cleveland.com. “It was like a light switched on.”

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Allamby would go on to dissolve his auto repair business so that he could fully commit to school while juggling the demands of his family.

“There were a lot of days where it was like, ‘Oh my God, I have this mound of paperwork to go through, all of this information to understand, how am I ever going to get this down and also spend time with my kids?’” he said. “And my wife would tell me, ‘Hey, we’re OK, go do some studying, do whatever you have to do and get it done.’ ”

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Thankfully, those grueling days of mounds of homework are behind him, as he now spends his days being the change he wanted to see at Cleveland Clinic Akron General Hospital. After graduating from medical school earlier this year, he was selected for a three-year residency in Emergency Medicine.

“It was just incredible, the support they gave me,” he told Cleveland.com. “You can do it, this is totally possible.”

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Of equal importance, Allamby is cognizant of the impact his presence has on both his patients and the next generation of black doctors and physicians.

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“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.