The ProspectiveDoctor Podcast

Never Say Never – A Story of Perseverance from a Breast Fellow

Dr. Erkeda DeRouen talks to Dr. Adam Johnson, a general surgeon who has recently matched into a breast surgical oncology fellowship. They talk about his passion for breast oncology and how he overcame the setbacks in his medical journey.

  • [00:58] Introducing Dr. Adam Johnson
  • [05:22] Early Medical School Selection Program at Boston University
  • [09:44] Medical School & USMLE Step 1
  • [14:55] Surgery Rotations
  • [16:53] Failing the USMLE Step 2
  • [24:27] Matching into Surgery
  • [33:21] The Power of Never Giving Up

Why Breast Surgical Oncology?

Dr. Johnson’s family had a history of breast cancer that has afflicted his grandmother, mother, and aunt. His sister had to go through a mastectomy after finding out that she carried the BRCA1 gene. From an early age, Dr. Johnson saw and experienced the huge impact that breast cancer has on the patient and their family. As such, he is passionate about the prevention and treatment of this disease.

Despite Failure, Never Give Up

Dr. Johnson’s journey was full of challenges. He recalls failing a class every year in medical school. But instead of being discouraged, he changed his studying habits. When it was time to take the USMLE Step 1, he passed but his results fell short of the average score for surgery residency. Even though he was disappointed, he didn’t give up.

During his surgery rotation, Dr. Johnson enjoyed it so much that he felt validated to continue to pursue surgery. Some people encouraged him to consider other options since surgery was highly competitive, but he was determined to match into his chosen field. Unfortunately, he failed the USMLE Step 2. But again, this didn’t stop Dr. Johnson from trying even harder. After enrolling in a prep course, he passed the USMLE Step 2. Eventually, he was able to match into a surgery residency program.

Never Say Never

If you have a dream you’d like to pursue, don’t let anybody talk you out of it. The important thing is to believe in yourself. Recognize your strengths, but also admit your weaknesses so you can work on them. Take care of your mental health by cultivating good relationships and self-care habits. Talking to a coach or therapist can also be very beneficial.

You can reach Dr. Adam Johnson by sending an email to [email protected] or by reaching out on Instagram.

If you are in need of support or someone to talk to about your mental health, please call the 988 Suicide and Crisis hotline or the Physician Support Line (888) 409-0141. You may also visit


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Dr. Erkeda’s Instagram:


Erkeda DeRouen

Dr. Erkeda DeRouen is a graduate of Hampton University with a B.S. in Biological Sciences, followed by completing medical school at the Boston University School of Medicine. She then completed residency at The University of Maryland Family and Community Medicine Program. After that, she worked at an underserved community health center, and currently is an Associate Medical Director of a telemedicine company. She recently became one of the first 1,000 lifestyle medicine certified physicians in the world! Her areas of interest include: health equity and eliminating health disparities, service of underserved populations, HIV management, transgender care, mentorship, and lifestyle medicine.

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