Carl Allamby has traded in his mechanic’s jumpsuit for a white lab coat.
Now, at 47 years old, after a gigantic and unexpected career overhaul, the Ohio native is an emergency medicine resident at Cleveland Clinic Akron General Hospital, according to The Plain Dealer.
Allamby has been an expert diagnostician for years — for cars. Growing up with two brothers and three sisters, Allamby learned early on the importance of hard work, and cars were a natural fit for him. He got his first job when he was just 16, working at a local auto parts shop.
While Allamby wasn’t good at school — he scraped by with less than a 2.0 grade point average — he had a fantastic knack for fixing cars.
He started out renting a bay from a nearby building, where we repaired his clients’ cars. Allamby eventually took over the entire garage, where he ran a business repairing vehicles and selling used cars for nearly 20 years.
One of his former customers, Karen Roane, said, “He’s really smart, he can make a diagnosis on a car like nobody’s business.”
“I’m telling you, this guy worked nonstop. He could fix the cars in his sleep,” said another longtime customer, Tawanah Key.
Then he shifted gears
Because of his success as a mechanic and small business owner, Allamby decided in 2006 — decades after graduating high school — to go to college. He started taking night classes, working toward a degree in business.
There was one class, though, Allamby was avoiding: Biology.
He put off the class for a while, fearful of how he might struggle through it. But, after prompting from his counselor, who assured Allamby he would need it to receive his diploma, he buckled down and enrolled in the course.
It was that class, it turned out, that changed the trajectory of Allamby’s life.
Allamby was particularly struck by the course professor, Dr. Micah Watts, who was a resident at the time in interventional radiology at the Cleveland Clinic.
“He just lit up when he walked into the room,” Allamby recalled. “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.”
Eventually, Allamby wrapped up his business degree with an impressive 3.98 GPA and began taking basic science courses at a community college while he mapped out his future.
One of his chemistry professors told him about a program at Cleveland State University that offered intense undergraduate courses to help students prepare for the difficult Medical College Admissions Test. If they passed the exam, students could be granted a spot at the Northeast Ohio Medical University in Rootstown.
Allamby missed the cutoff the first time, but he buckled down and took more medical classes at his community college.
“It was a steep climb, but he had the intellect,” said Dr. Ormond Brathwaite, whose daughter had just passed the medical school exam. The professor gave Allamby all her books and study materials.
He aced all his courses, completed two years at CSU, earning his undergraduate degree, and successfully completed the NEOMED entrance exam in 2015. Before classes began, Allamby sold his mechanic business to focus solely on school.
That decision really put the pressure on, because he had a wife, Kim, two grade-school kids at home, and two adult children from a previous marriage.
“The stakes were high, like, ‘Man I really can’t fail,’” he said.
He absolutely did not fail.
Dr. Jay Gershen, president of NEOMED, described Allamby as “an amazing man” and “the poster child for this program.”
After graduating with his medical degree, he really impressed the hiring committee at Cleveland Clinic Akron General Hospital, where we was selected for a three-year residency in emergency medicine.
As it turns out, all his work as a mechanic came in handy.
“He’s got people skills most doctors don’t start out with, that customer relations mentality from his years in business,” said Dr. Steven Brooks, chair of emergency medicine at Akron General.
Allamby is also helping address the shortage of black doctors, particularly in urban areas. Dr. Stephanie Gains, an emergency department physician at University Hospitals who served as a mentor to Allamby, told The Dealer doctors have “a special connection with patients when you look like them.”
And Allamby has seen just how true that is.
“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.