Head shot of a young man with short brown hair smiling in front of a gray background, wearing a black blazer, white shirt, and blue and silver striped tie.

Dr. Ira Leeds

Job Title
General Surgery Resident
Company
Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
University
Princeton University
Emory University School of Medicine
University of Oxford Said Business School
Corps Year: 
2006
Corps Region: 
Memphis

By the end of his corps experience, Ira Leeds had a very different perspective on student learning. Addressing the different challenges his students faced meant he had to adapt his plans to meet each one where they were. Not only did teaching develop skills that are critical to his medical career, Ira credits TFA for showing him there are historic injustices and social obstacles facing many communities, and disparities in education, as well as in health care, contribute to persistent poverty. Ira will continue to serve high-need communities as a colorectal surgeon focused on underserved populations.

Career Path

Princeton University
Ira graduated with honors as a top pre-med student but decided to defer his acceptance to med school to refocus on the reasons that motivated him to become a doctor: serving underserved communities.
Teach For America: Memphis Corps
He taught biology and science in a school with a large population of English-language learners and refugees, and realized he would need to shift his teaching approach on a daily basis to be effective.
Emory University School of Medicine
Graduated summa cum laude and had many leadership roles, including Chairman of the Global Health Institute Student Advisory Committee.
University of Oxford: Said Business School
MBA with distinction, focused on identifying business research methods (decision science, operational process mapping) to improve clinical medicine at the bedside.
General Surgery Resident: Johns Hopkins
Ira deeply believes in a civic-service healthcare model, and has future plans for a colorectal fellowship focused on underserved populations with colorectal disease.

Q & A

Q
How did your corps experience influence your medical career?
A

It showed me how disparities in healthcare are tied to educational outcomes, and colored what kind of residency program and what kind of clinical training I wanted. My wife and I feel strongly that we want to work in a service-oriented healthcare model in underserved communities.

Q
What are some of the lessons from teaching do you utilize as a surgeon?
A

I don’t think I’d have the same mindset or perspective on the world without my TFA experience. I also talk more, which helps me communicate with patients about their surgical procedures. And I learned how to adapt to change and adversity with grace.

Q
Why did you decide to defer your med school acceptance to teach in the corps?
A

By the end of my senior year, I felt burned out on pre-med work, and lost track of my motivations for going into healthcare. I knew I wanted to pursue meaningful work and have an impact on people’s lives, and teaching allowed me to re-focus my motivation and reconnect with my values.

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