Cherokee doctor embarks on lengthy journey to become brain surgeon
GALVESTON, Texas – Medical school graduate and Cherokee Nation citizen Dr. Adam Carlton has embarked on a multi-year journey at the University of Texas Medical Branch to become a neurosurgeon specializing in brain and spine surgery.
“From an early age, I knew I wanted to be a surgeon, but after working in a neuroscience research lab in high school and college, I knew that neurosurgery was what I wanted to do,” he said.
An advocate for Native health care, Carlton, 29, grew up in Dallas. He obtained a degree in biology at the University of Texas before attending Rosalind Franklin University’s Chicago Medical School. There, he completed his master’s degrees in biomedical sciences and health care administration, along with a doctorate in medicine.
He now attends UTMB in Galveston as a neurosurgery resident – a doctor who has graduated from medical school and is training in a specific medical field, he said.
“Neurosurgery residency is a seven-year training program where I learn the art of taking care of patients and how to perform brain and spine surgery,” he said. “The hours are long and I sacrifice a lot of time with family and friends, but I find it exceptionally rewarding to take care of this patient population. They range in age anywhere from unborn to 100 or more years old, and may have been diagnosed with a brain tumor, aneurysm, severe trauma or just normal low back pain.”
Carlton plans to practice in Montana, Idaho or Wyoming when he completes his neurosurgery training.
“My hope is to be near a tribal reservation where I can be involved in Native health care and give back by mentoring Native students interested in becoming physicians,” he said. “I am always happy to provide guidance and mentorship to any Native students interested in becoming a physician of any kind, not just aspiring neurosurgeons. I firmly believe encouragement and opportunity are the greatest assets in encouraging students to reach their full potential.”
As an Association of American Indian Physicians member, he hopes “to become more active in that, as well, to advocate for Native health care at the federal level.”
Carlton’s mother and her side of the family in Stilwell, Oklahoma, are his “linkage to the Cherokee tribe.”
“Even though we lived in Dallas, we frequently went back to Stilwell to see family,” he said. “I have very fond memories of Christmas there, as well as the Strawberry Festival, and try to make it back at least once a year.”
Carlton attributes a “love for giving back to my family, community and tribe, as well as for nature and the outdoors” to his Cherokee heritage.
“People are often curious when they find out (I am Cherokee), and it is fun for me to share my knowledge and interest in Indigenous culture with them,” he said.