In today’s episode, Ryan talks with Dr. Antonio Webb, an Orthopedic Surgery resident in San Antonio who wrote about his amazing journey in his book, Overcoming the Odds.
Growing up in Shreveport, Louisiana, he went through a very challenging childhood being raised around a lot of gangs, drugs, and violence. Seeing his friends or relatives going to prison wasn’t that unusual, but he took the opposite route and joined a medical magnet program in high school. He simply fell in love with it and the rest is history.
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Get a chance to win Dr. Antonio Webb’s book, Overcoming the Odds by leaving a comment below and tell us what odds you have overcome on your journey this far, regardless of which phase in your life you are right now.
Here are the highlights of the conversation with Dr. Webb:
What got him to getting into medical school:
- Consciously made the decision to avoid certain crowds when he joined the medical magnet program back in high school
- At 17, he joined the military and served for 8 years
- After military, he got into medicine
Getting involved in medicine in the military:
- Assigned as a medic and an EMT
- Went to Iraq in 2005 as a combat medic
Transitioning from the military to undergrad:
- Signed up for classes on-base and started school while in the military
- Started applying to medical school after graduation
Describing the application process:
- His greatest obstacle was his test-taking abilities
- Applied to medical school 3 times before he eventually got accepted
How he strengthened his application:
- Analyzed where he messed up and how he can improve himself in the future
- Contacted schools and had them take a look at his application and ask for feedback
- Majority of the school he consulted advised that his MCAT score was the main setback
- Focused on extra preparatory courses, tutoring sessions, and studied harder for the MCAT
- He basically took the MCAT 3 times
On racism in medical school…
How to fix a huge decrease in the number of black men and women applying to medical school and becoming physicians:
- More programs like the medical magnet program to inspire kids
- Dealing with the cost of medical school: Look at it as a long-term investment ; an investment in yourself
- It will definitely pay off in the end
- Dr. Webb suggests joining the military to get educational support (lean towards the reserves or the national guards)
- (Ryan took the HPSP scholarship and had the air force or military just pay directly for medical school)
On writing his book, Overcoming the Odds:
- He wanted to inspire kids who have the same background as he had
Dr. Antonio Webb’s words of wisdom:
“Whatever you do in life, you’re going to be faced with obstacles and failures. What matters most is how you react with those obstacles. Try to analyze what caused you to fall short and what you can do to better yourself in the future.”
Links and Other Resources
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Know more about Dr. Antonio Webb and visit www.antoniowebbmd.com or get the book on Amazon.
Follow him on Instagram/overcomingtheoddsbook
Dr. Ryan Gray: Hello and welcome to the Medical School Headquarters Podcast; where we believe that collaboration, not competition, is key to your premed success. As always I am your host, Dr. Ryan Gray, and in this podcast we share with you stories, encouragement and information that you need to know to help guide you on your path to becoming a physician.
We have a very special guest today, Dr. Antonio Webb who is an orthopedic resident in San Antonio right now. He has an amazing journey that he wrote about in his book, ‘Overcoming the Odds.’ Stay tuned after the interview with Antonio to find out how you can win a copy of his book.
Antonio, welcome to the Medical School Headquarters Podcast. How are you today?
Dr. Webb: I’m well, thank you for having me.
Dr. Ryan Gray: Not a problem. I want to know, what are you doing right now in your career? Where are you at in your training?
Dr. Webb: So right now I’m an orthopedic surgery resident at the Health Science Center here in San Antonio, Texas. I’m in my second year currently, and my future plans maybe to do joint surgery or spine surgery.
Dr. Ryan Gray: Okay so orthopedic residency, just kind of common knowledge, it’s a five year residency?
Dr. Webb: Yeah, five years and then most people do an additional year of fellowship.
Dr. Ryan Gray: Okay and you’re interested in spine or joints.
Dr. Webb: Yeah, that may change in the next year or two, but I think that’s where my mind is set so far.
Dr. Ryan Gray: Alright, so now we know kind of where you’re at right now. It’s been a long journey- or to say it’s been a long journey is kind of an understatement, wouldn’t you say that?
Dr. Webb: Yeah, I would definitely agree.
Dr. Antonio Webb’s Background
Dr. Ryan Gray: Why don’t you take us back to your childhood, what it was like growing up leading up to when you decided to join the military?
Dr. Webb: Okay, yeah I grew up Shreveport, Louisiana. Very challenging childhood in a place where a lot of not necessarily good things come out of it. Raised around a lot of drugs, a lot of gangs, a lot of violence. A lot of my family members went to prison when I was growing up, a lot of my friends did. So just being around that type of environment and then getting to the point where I am today, I’m just really blessed.
Dr. Ryan Gray: What do you attribute to yourself that allowed you to avoid- at least for the majority of your life a lot of those problems? To let you join the military, to let you obviously get into medical school and now be an orthopedic resident? What was it about you, or your surroundings that allowed you to do that?
Life-Changing Magnet Program
Dr. Webb: I would say it’s a couple things. I would say one is my father, he was in the military himself. He served twenty years in the Air Force, and my older brother went into the Army and then got out of Shreveport that way. Secondly I would say it was a magnet program that I was luckily accepted into which got me interested in medicine. After that point, I knew I wanted to do that so I tried to stay out of trouble and I really watched who I hung around, and watched a lot of friends that way. But I’m glad I made that decision.
Dr. Ryan Gray: Okay so you consciously made that decision to avoid certain crowds once you had this bug of medicine.
Dr. Webb: Yeah absolutely, I agree. I think if it wasn’t for that program I’m not sure what I would be doing today. I’m actually going back probably in November to speak to the entire school where that program is located in Shreveport.
Dr. Ryan Gray: That’s awesome. Can you remember how you found out about that program?
Dr. Webb: Yeah, a lot of people ask me about that all the time. Honestly I don’t remember the details, I just remember that I did the program. It was back in early 2000. I know I did it for two years, we took a bus from my regular high school and went to another high school and it just taught us about medicine, and public health. It just kind of introduced us to medicine. There was actually one point a couple years ago where they tried to close the program down. I’m glad they didn’t because I believe that’s a good thing for the city of Shreveport, and people really need to see there’s life outside of Shreveport.
Dr. Ryan Gray: Yeah, that’s good. So you got this bug. What was the decision to join the military instead of trying to go on from high school to college to start your premed career?
Decision to Join the Military
Dr. Webb: Yeah I think one of my best friends, we were both in high school together, and we did that same magnet program. He actually came to me one day and said, “Hey let’s fill out some scholarships and go to college.” And for some odd reason I just was tired of school, I didn’t want to go straight from high school and go to school again to college right away. So I told him I was joining the military, and that’s exactly what I did. At age seventeen I joined, ended up doing eight years in the military, and then got out and went to medical school. He did just the opposite. He went to college, medical school, and now he’s in the military as a physician. So it’s really funny how our two separate paths led to the same goal, which is both to become physicians.
Dr. Ryan Gray: That’s good. So it’s interesting, you said for some odd reason you decided you didn’t want to go to school anymore. I don’t think that’s an odd reason, I think a lot of students are in that situation, especially younger or graduating high school students that are kind of done with school, and aren’t really sure what they want to do with their life. You kind of knew though, so that was more of the interesting reason. But you were lucky enough to in the military be involved in medicine. What was your job in the military?
Dr. Webb: Yeah, so when I signed my contract with the Air Force I signed to be a medic, which is like a medical technician, work in the hospital, ICU, or on the wards. They train us also to be EMTs, so I thought that would be a great segue to my eventual goal which was to become a physician.
Dr. Ryan Gray: Yeah, so you were 4N in the Air Force?
Dr. Webb: Yes, 4N.
Dr. Ryan Gray: Awesome. For all those Air Force people listening. Did you ever get to do any flight medicine?
Dr. Webb: I didn’t, I wanted to do the critical care air transport team, the CCATT.
Dr. Ryan Gray: CCATT, yeah.
Dr. Webb: Just didn’t work out. My whole objective when I was in was actually to go to school, so I went to school at nighttime and on weekends. So flying and being on the flight status I’m pretty sure would have pushed my schooling back a little bit further. But I wish I could have done that, that would have been really fun.
Dr. Ryan Gray: Air space medicine is the best job. I’m a little biased as a flight surgeon.
Dr. Webb: Yup, I agree.
Dr. Ryan Gray: Alright, so you go through high school, you find this magnet program which is awesome. You join the military. After the military you obviously had this goal in mind, and you kept that goal in mind. What was it like transitioning from the military and then going back into undergrad to finish all your pre-req’s, or were you able to get all that before you left the Air Force?
Transitioning from Military to Undergrad
Dr. Webb: As soon as I got to my first duty station, I actually signed up for some classes on base. They have a couple community colleges that come to the base and they teach us. So I did that and got started in school. It took me I would say my whole entire military career just to complete my degree. After I got out I had one more semester, and I graduated then started applying to medical school after that.
Dr. Ryan Gray: Okay, that’s interesting because there are a lot of active military people that listen to this show, and those that have recently separated or retired. And I think they find that the military is a hindrance to them completing their pre-req’s, but for you it was the opposite. Again that seemed like another conscious decision to keep your mind focused on the end goal, and kind of stay away from the crowds that were out doing other things, and focused on your schoolwork.
Dr. Webb: Yeah, and I wouldn’t say that’s necessarily the norm. A lot of people do it, I think I just went above and beyond. I took full time courses every semester, and working forty, fifty hours in the military. So I really didn’t sleep much, but I knew I wanted to complete my Bachelors, and then eventually apply to medical school. So just something I had to do, and I had to sacrifice a lot to get through that.
Dr. Ryan Gray: Yeah. What was the application process like for you? Obviously kind of a nontraditional- not kind of, you are a nontraditional student recently out of the military. How did admissions committees find your application? Were they intrigued by it, or did you find a lot of people turned off by it?
Dr. Webb: Yeah, they were definitely intrigued. I would say my greatest obstacle was my test taking abilities. I haven’t always been the greatest test taker, so I always struggled with that growing up. So I think that kind of held my application back a little bit, but they were definitely intrigued by my Air Force experience, the fact that I went to Iraq in 2005 as a combat medic. I did apply to medical school three times before I eventually got accepted. Just goes to tell me that there was really nothing that was going to really stop me from reaching my goal, and I would have done anything I could to reach it. If I had to apply four or five times, I would have did that.
Dr. Ryan Gray: That’s good. I interviewed one person that’s applied probably four times, took the MCAT nine times.
Dr. Webb: Wow.
Dr. Ryan Gray: So there’s a lot of people in your shoes, but the question is it always comes down to what continued to motivate you to apply the next year, and then the next year?
Motivation to Keep Applying
Dr. Webb: I just fell in love with it when I had that magnet program in high school, and a lot of people say I can’t think of anything else that I would rather do than medicine. I just love helping people, and something since that point in high school, I just wanted to do. So I would say just seeing people around me in Shreveport who were really not doing necessarily the right things when I was growing up and I wanted to be different. And just seeing my best friend, he went through the same process and seeing him go through it, so he kind of motivated me along the way also.
Dr. Ryan Gray: That’s good you had that kind of friend there to help you through it, and motivate you, and almost be a mentor because he had been through it already.
Dr. Webb: Yeah, exactly and he mentors me to this day.
Dr. Ryan Gray: Good, that’s awesome. What were you doing in between these application processes to strengthen your application, and what kind of feedback did you seek out when you weren’t accepted to find out how to strengthen your application? Who were you turning to?
Strengthening His Application
Dr. Webb: That’s a great question, I think any failures you have in life, I always try to analyze it and see where did I mess up and how can I improve myself in the future? So I think you can apply that same principle to applying to medical, applying to nursing school, law school, PA school. Basically I contacted the schools and had them take a look at my application. Say, “Hey what can I do to be a more competitive applicant?” I think the majority of the schools stated that my MCAT score, that was the main reason they were kind of hesitant. So that’s what I tried to focus on. I took extra preparatory courses, I got some tutoring sessions, I just studied harder. Actually after I got out of the military I quit my job that I had and focused exclusively on the MCAT, and it definitely paid off in the long run.
Dr. Ryan Gray: We often say on here, ‘Respect the MCAT,’ or ‘#RespectTheMCAT.’ So I don’t necessarily joke, I say the MCAT- studying for the MCAT is a full time job and you actually made it your full time job.
Dr. Webb: It definitely, and unfortunately it’s one of those things that kind of weeds out a lot of people. But MCAT is really one indicator of how well you will do in medical school, and a lot of other things that can indicate that as well. But I don’t think that kind of dictates how well a good doctor you will be just based off your MCAT score.
Dr. Ryan Gray: Not at all. The patient never asks what you got on your MCAT score.
Dr. Webb: Yeah, no they never ask that.
Dr. Ryan Gray: How many times did you end up taking the MCAT?
Dr. Webb: I took it three times, yeah and my third time- third application cycle, ended up getting accepted. I actually applied to a post-bacc program at Georgetown, and I heard about it and thought it would be a great opportunity to strengthen my application. So I did that for a year and then was accepted to Georgetown Medical School.
Dr. Ryan Gray: Awesome so you had that linkage there through the post-bacc?
Dr. Webb: Yeah exactly. And a lot of post-baccs around the country; I believe there’s one at Drexel, there’s one definitely at Georgetown, a couple of other ones that it’s something you can do in between applying to application cycles, and something that will strengthen your application.
Dr. Ryan Gray: That’s awesome. What was the biggest challenge for you as a nontraditional student, coming out of the military, having been out of school, out of the military for a couple years now? You obviously did the post-bacc, but what was the biggest obstacle in medical school for you?
Dr. Webb: I couldn’t necessarily think of any obstacles. I think my military experience actually helped me just because of the discipline. I was very disciplined with my studies in medical school and a lot of people sought after me because of that. Just because you have to be very- have a regiment down, and just like the military you get up, and you have a task you need to complete that day, and I didn’t go to sleep until I completed those tasks. So I thought it was actually advantageous to have been in my prior military experience. So I can’t really think of any obstacles that I had along the way.
Minorities in Medical School
Dr. Ryan Gray: Alright. I want to dive into a subject if you will, it’s just kind of timely. The Washington Post just came out with an article talking about racism in medical school. And you’re a black man, we haven’t talked about that. As a black man you checked that box on the AMCAS that you’re an underrepresented minority. There seems to be a huge- and it’s in the news all the time, a huge decrease in black and women applying to medical school and becoming physicians.
Dr. Webb: Yeah.
Dr. Ryan Gray: How do we fix that?
Dr. Webb: I would say just more programs like the magnet program that I went to. I’m pretty sure if it wasn’t for that program, I’m not sure where I would be today, or I wouldn’t know where my best friend would be. We were hanging around people who were doing a lot of bad things, and that program kind of kept us off the streets. So my plan is to start a lot of similar programs through that, underdeveloped cities, just getting out and talking to the kids and students. I go around, travel the US to give talks to colleges and high schools just to let the kids know that I look just like you, and try to inspire them to do the same.
Dr. Ryan Gray: That’s awesome. I think one of the big fears in talking to people involved in medical school and other students and email questions that I get, one of the biggest fears for younger- especially minorities because they seem to come from more disadvantaged backgrounds, is the cost of medical school. How do you tell somebody who’s seventeen, eighteen, nineteen kind of in that pivotal stage of making that decision to be a great premed student, or just go off and do something else. How do you tell them that the $200,000 or $300,000 worth of debt for medical school is okay?
Fear of Debt for Young Applicants
Dr. Webb: Yeah, and that’s I think a big problem with our education here in the US. I know a lot of counties offer free college and free medical school. I wish they did that here in the US. But I try to look at it as an investment, a long term investment. Something you’re investing in yourself, so even though it’s very expensive to go to a majority of the medical schools around the country, there are some like your state schools where they’ll give you scholarships, and lower tuition amounts. But just try to reinforce that it’s an investment. And I know it’s kind of hard for a seventeen year old to grasp, but I think if you look at the long term, it will definitely pay off in the end.
Dr. Ryan Gray: Would you recommend students- the first question I think before we ask that question is were you able to use some of your GI bill from being in the military for medical school?
Dr. Webb: Yeah, they did take a good portion of my tuition and they gave me a stipend each month while I was in medical school. It didn’t cover the whole amount because Georgetown is very expensive, but it did knock off a good amount of my tuition.
Dr. Ryan Gray: Yeah so the follow-up question to that would be would you recommend to students to kind of follow in your footsteps of joining the military first, and then having that financial support afterwards?
Dr. Webb: Yeah, I think- I don’t have any regrets about the military, it made me the person who I am today. Definitely grew up really fast, a young seventeen year old to becoming a noncommissioned officer in the military. So I think it looks really good on your resume, you do something good for your country, and then on the payback side, they help you with school. So I would definitely recommend it. I would probably lean towards the Reserves or the National Guard unless you’re okay with starting medical school a couple years later. But I think going into the Reserves or the Guard and having some educational support is a great idea.
Dr. Ryan Gray: The other option would be the option that I took, and it sounds like maybe your friend took, would be the HPSP scholarship and have the Air Force or military just pay directly for your medical school.
Dr. Webb: Yeah, I would probably say that the National Guard is probably the best options I would think, HPSP, I actually thought about that for a little bit. Decided not to take it last minute, but that’s actually a great option.
Book: ‘Overcoming the Odds’
Dr. Ryan Gray: Okay, awesome. I want to talk about your book, ‘Overcoming the Odds.’ What inspired you to write the book?
Dr. Webb: Just growing up in Shreveport like I said before, seeing everything that I saw growing up, and I just wanted to put something in writing to inspire kids who come from similar backgrounds as myself, who are faced with similar challenges. Just everyone- I get a lot of emails and feedback from older people, forties, fifties who are in their career and say my book actually inspired them to do whatever they wanted to do in life. So I just wanted to put something in writing so I can tell my story, and hopefully inspire someone to do just the same.
Dr. Ryan Gray: That’s awesome. As we wrap up, what do you say to the young seventeen, eighteen year old, maybe just finishing high school, starting off college that maybe as a minority, maybe not, but just struggling on their path and trying to figure it out and questioning everything they’re doing.
Words of Encouragement
Dr. Webb: Yeah, I would say that whatever you do in life, whether you want to be a lawyer, an engineer, businessman, a banker; you’re going to be faced with obstacles, you’re going to be faced with failures. I think what matters most is how you react to each of those obstacles. And at each point in my life, that’s exactly what I did. I tried to analyze what caused me to fall short. What can I do to better myself in the future? I think if you have that mentality going forward, and you anticipate these failures and these obstacles that you’re going to be faced with, I think you’ll be better equipped to face them.
Dr. Ryan Gray: I love that. We call that course correct. We talk about course correcting all the time. Figure out where you’re at right now and how you got there, whether it was good or bad, and figure out where you need to be going and course correct.
Dr. Webb: Absolutely.
Dr. Ryan Gray: That’s a great method to follow. Where can people find more about you and your book?
Dr. Webb: I have a website, the website is www.AntonioWebb.com. The book is on www.Amazon.com, search ‘Overcoming the Odds.’ I’m on Instagram also, a lot of followers are premed and want to go into medicine. It’s www.Instagram.com/overcomingtheoddsbook.
Dr. Ryan Gray: Alright, there you have it. Again, Dr. Antonio Webb, author of ‘Overcoming the Odds’ and current orthopedic surgery resident. Thank you Antonio for coming on, and sharing your wisdom, sharing your story.
If you want to win a copy of one of Antonio’s books, go to www.MedicalSchoolHQ.net/148 for the episode number 148, and leave us a comment, and tell us what odds you have overcome on your journey thus far. Even if you’re just a premed, if you’re a medical student listening to this, if you’re a high school student; we’ve all overcome odds in one way or another. Go leave a comment, let us know what odds you’ve overcome, and we’ll pick a couple winners from there.
If you haven’t done so, go check out www.PremedLife.com, our partner magazine. They have amazing articles, amazing stories. Go check them out, www.PremedLife.com.
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