10 Celebrities Who Went to Medical School
1. Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara, Universidad de Buenos Aires (UBA)
You’ve probably heard of the famous Argentine revolutionary Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara, but did you know his time at medical school was such a key influence on his life? Born to a liberal family in 1920s Argentina, the young Guevara excelled at many sports but suffered from chronic asthma, which would continue to resurface throughout his life. After it became clear that the humid climate of the family’s tea plantation was no good for their young son’s health, Guevara’s family moved to drier climes, and Ernesto enrolled in school a year later than most children. As he continued to pursue his love of sports, he developed a passion for rugby, and was praised by teachers and peers for his leadership skills and caring personality.
It was perhaps this caring side to the young Ernesto’s personality that led him to medical school. Though he’d originally hoped to study engineering at college, the untimely death of his grandmother helped convince Guevara to become a doctor, and he enrolled at the Universidad de Buenos Aires’ Faculty of Medicine. When traveling across South America as a young medical student, he was appalled by the widespread poverty and inequality he found. After returning to university and completing his studies in 1953, Dr. Ernesto Guevara set about applying all he had learned to change the world, moving increasingly into the political sphere, where he sought to radically change the priorities of the establishment. He remains a worldwide revolutionary hero.
2. Lisa Kudrow, Vassar College
An American actress, writer and comedian, the next of our celebrities is perhaps best known for her role as Phoebe in the incredibly successful sitcom, Friends, which ran for a full decade, from 1994 to 2004. Having also starred in Cheers, The Simpsons, and even hit Hollywood films such as Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion (1997) and Easy A (2010), you’d be forgiven for typecasting Lisa Kudrow as a hilarious queen of the big and small screen, as she is known by many.
It might seem surprising then, that before her acting break, Kudrow was following a slightly different career path. The child of a travel agent and a physician, she completed high school and went on to complete a psychobiology degree at Vassar College, a small liberal arts college in the state of New York.
After graduating, Kudrow returned to Los Angeles to follow a career in research and work with her father. However, this wasn’t to be, and she was soon inspired by a family friend to enter show business. After joining an improv theatre group, Kudrow soon became friends with Conan O’Brien, and her career took off from there.
3. Pau Gasol, University of Barcelona
Professional basketball player Pau Gasol grew up in Barcelona, Spain, with two medical professionals as parents; his mother was a doctor and his father a senior nurse. Despite his early love of the sport, which saw him playing for Barcelona’s junior basketball team at age 16, he decided to follow a seemingly preordained career path, in his parents’ steps. On the day that basketball legend Magic Johnson publicly announced his HIV-positive status, the young Gasol nobly decided that he wanted to attend medical school to become a doctor and help find a cure for the disease.
However, once again, things didn’t go as planned. After he’d enrolled on a medical degreeat the University of Barcelona, Gasol’s basketball career started to take off, and he left the university. Since moving to the US he’s won countless awards and accolades for his performance on the court. He also makes good use of his multilingualism; it is rumored that Gasol and fellow NBA player Kobe Bryant converse in Spanish, so as to keep their tactics secret from other players.
4. Ken Jeong, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
The next of our celebrities is another Hollywood star who started out as a medical student. Born in Detroit, Michigan, Ken Jeong soon moved with his family to North Carolina, where his father worked as a university lecturer. After attending Duke University, Jeong completed his MD (Doctor of Medicine) at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
It was while undertaking a residency in a hospital in New Orleans that Jeong got his first taste of comedy. Balancing his residency position with stand-up comedy gigs, he was able to build a small following, and caught the eye of several industry professionals, who urged him to relocate to Tinseltown.
After moving to Los Angeles, Jeong soon secured several television roles, in comedies such as The Office and Curb Your Enthusiasm. However, even with his growing fame, he still relied on his medical degree and job in a local hospital to supplement his income. It was only when he suddenly shot to fame in Knocked Up (2007) that he gave up medicine to become an actor full time. He still retains a license to practice medicine in California.
5. Jay Sean, Queen Mary, University of London
Kamaljeet Singh Jhooti, more commonly known by his stage name of Jay Sean, was raised in Southall, West London, where he attended a private secondary school. He earned excellent grades in both GCSEs and A-Levels, before attending Queen Mary, University of London to study medicine. However, he left university in 2003 to further his budding music career.
Sean’s first big breakthrough came with the Rishi Rich Project, whose single ‘Dance With You (Nachna Tere Naal)’ achieved major success in the UK singles chart. He was the first British Asian singer to sign to an American record label, and has since gone on to work with Pitbull, Lil Wayne, and Nicki Minaj among others.
6. Mayim Bialik, University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)
Actress Mayim Bialik was born in California. By the time of her high school graduation in 1993, she was already a successful child actress, having starred in a handful of film and television roles, including the main character in the NBC sitcom ‘Blossom’, which ran for five seasons.
At the end of ‘Blossom’, Bialik decided to put acting on the backburner, and pursue more academic goals. Despite being accepted by both Harvard and Yale, she decided to remain close to her family and attended UCLA, graduating with a BSc in Neuroscience, Hebrew Studies and Jewish Studies.
On completing a neuroscience PhD at UCLA, Bialik decided that the life of a neurosurgeon was incompatible with her busy family life, and instead re-entered show business. She scored several minor television roles and cameos, before a more regular role as Dr Amy Farrah Fowler in the hit television series ‘The Big Bang Theory.’ Rather aptly, the character is a neuroscientist.
7. Deepak Chopra, All India Institute of Medical Sciences
Born in New Delhi, India, Deepak Chopra is a leading American medical figure who rose to prominence in the 1990s, following the release of several books which support his advocacy of alternative medicine and spirituality.
Chopra’s father worked as a senior cardiologist in New Delhi, and also served as a surgeon in the British Army in India. At one point, he was a medical advisor to Lord Mountbatten, the final viceroy of India.
After graduating from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Chopra relocated to the US, where he worked in several hospitals before joining the Transcendental Meditation movement. He soon began to explore the possibility of a medical practice that combined holistic and mainstream practices.
8. Graham Chapman, University of Cambridge
British comedy actor Graham Chapman grew up in the English city of Leicester, before undertaking a medical degree at Emmanuel College, University of Cambridge and going on to attend St Bartholomew’s Medical College in London.
While studying at the University of Cambridge, Chapman joined the famous Footlights club, which allows students with an interest in comedy and acting network with each other and hone their skills. It was in the Footlights that Chapman met John Cleese. Finding success with the Footlights on a tour of New Zealand, Chapman decided to pursue acting full time, and after deferring his studies for a year he eventually decided to abandon them altogether. Chapman and Cleese would go on to be founding members of Monty Python, a famous team of six British comedians whose legacy remains widely loved to this day.
9. Dr Phil, Midwestern State University
The next of our medical student celebrities is known for combining his medical skills with regular television appearances. Phillip Calvin McGraw, more commonly known as Dr Phil, graduated from Midwestern State University in 1975, with a BA in Psychology. He went on to earn an MA in Experimental Psychology and a PhD in Clinical Psychology from the University of North Texas.
Dr Phil received his TV break when he was invited by Oprah Winfrey to appear on her show. His initial appearance was a great success, and he was soon appearing as a regular relationship expert, offering counselling and advice to viewers. Dr Phil soon published his first book, ‘Life Strategies’, which was a bestseller. And not long afterwards he launched his own life advice show, ‘Dr Phil’, whose popularity has made him a household name.
10. Michael Crichton, Harvard University
Like Dr Phil, Michael Crichton also enjoyed a career in a field that was separate from yet crucially underpinned by his time as a medical student. When he died in 2007, Crichton left an immense artistic legacy behind him, having found fame and fortune as an author, producer and director. He was apparently deterred from the literary life due to poor grades for English at school, and so initially pursued a medical career, attending Harvard College and later Harvard Medical School.
It was at Harvard Medical School that Crichton again tried his hand at writing, and he soon began publishing his works. When looking at Crichton’s body of writing, it is clear to see the involvement of his technical knowledge; many of his works lean towards science fiction or an interest in biotechnology. Perhaps the most famous of all is the hugely successful ‘Jurassic Park’ series.