Economics Major is Neurosurgeon-in-Training

Oglethorpe Junior Allen Zow in his scrubs.

To some, Allen Zow ’14 is the nice guy who rings you up in the OU bookstore.  But, in about 10 years, he’ll be Doctor Zow to everyone.

At least that’s the plan, according to Allen, who has had his sights set on becoming a neurosurgeon since the age of seven. Allen, an economics major, was first inspired to pursue the profession after reading Gifted Hands, an autobiography about the life of Ben Carson, one of the most well-known neurosurgeons in the world.  Carson, an African-American doctor who battled racism, learning difficulties, and a troubled inner-city upbringing, eventually became the Chief of Pediatric Neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, MD. 

“Although I was young, reading the book really inspired me.  Dr. Carson had so many obstacles in his way and so many hurdles to climb…so I thought, if he could do it, so can I!”

With that, Allen set himself up to pursue one of medicine’s most rigorous and consuming fields—by researching the path to becoming a doctor and connecting with medical professionals in his hometown of Savannah, GA.  At age 12, he seized the opportunity to shadow a robotics surgeon.  And, when he was 16, after a long interview process, Allen began working in the operating room at St. Joseph’s/Candler Hospital in Savannah—a job that he held throughout  high school and continued during his summers at home from college.  He works as an ancillary services technician, and has been given increased responsiblity thoughout the years.  His primary duties are to keep the operating room sanitized and clear of clutter during a procedure, retrieve blood from the blood bank, maintain the instruments, and shadow the doctors.  Allen is quick to point out that he’s not a nurse, but his job is just as necessary for the operation to run smoothly.

“I am often on-call through the night,” said Allen.  In high school, I once worked an 18-19 hour shift because we were needed at 2 o’clock in the morning.  It’s a very hands-on job, and I’ve learned so much from actually being in the operating room and seeing what the doctors are doing.  They will even explain what they’re doing and why…I think it’s the best way to learn whether it’s something you really want to do or not, and it’s certainly reinforced my goals.”

So, why the undergraduate major in economics?

“I’ve talked to a number of doctors who’ve told me that they wish they would have learned the business side of it more, so that they can better understand their finances,” said Allen, who wants to volunteer his medical skills internationally in the Doctors Without Borders program.  “I don’t think my degree will be a problem…I’ve even met one doctor who was an Art major in college.  So what I really want to do is be familiar with the whole spectrum of my profession, not only the medical side but also the business side.  But, above all, my passion is helping people.”