This former auto mechanic becomes a doctor at age 51, inspires others to pursue their dreams

Everyone knows that it’s a long journey to becoming a doctor, but the experience may be even longer for some people. Dr. Carl Allamby’s path into the medical world may have taken some time, but it is certainly an inspiration to others thinking of going into medicine.

Allamby, a Cleveland-born child, dreamed of becoming an Ohio physician. But, Allamby’s life took a turn for the better. He decided to become an auto mechanic, opening his own auto repair shop.

He shared, “While thinking about the things we hold dear to our hearts, I think our health, our families and friends and our cars rank high on the list. When any of these fail us or suffer loss, emotions run high — and life as we know it can be turned upside down.”

Dr. Carl Allamby | Cleveland Clinic

Allamby’s childhood was quite challenging, and there were days or weeks when the family had no electricity, gas, or water.

Allamby recalled, “We faced economic hardships throughout my upbringing and were on welfare for what seemed to be my entire childhood. And if not for government handouts, we would have been without food on many occasions.”

Allamby had the difficult decision to abandon his dream of becoming an auto mechanic and become a doctor instead. He explained, “From my own experience, it is very difficult to focus on your education when your mind is filled with challenges outside the walls of the school. Food insecurity, safely making it to and from school, affording decent clothing and basic school supplies or just trying to fit in took precedence over studying and getting good grades.”

He added, “The trajectory toward medicine and other white-collar careers takes a constant focus on education, exposure to the desired occupations, enhanced curricula and having representative examples to model oneself after. All these things were either non-existent or unreachable.”

As a teenager, Allamby became an auto mechanic. Allamby worked as a high school mechanic at a local auto parts store. He also did maintenance and repairs. Allamby opened his very first auto shop at 19.

He said, “After working multiple menial jobs and barely making ends meet, I took a chance on something I was passionate about and started my own business. In a sense, I started Allamby’s Auto Service mostly out of desperation and necessity.”

Allamby set aside his dream of becoming a doctor and worked as full time auto mechanic instead.
Dr. Carl Allamby is an ex-auto mechanic.

Allamby realized that he needed to change his profession from being an auto mechanic. However, the business grew quickly. At 34, Allamby enrolled at Ursuline College, Pepper Pike, Ohio, in 2006.  

He had intended to pursue a business degree but his second to last class was an intro biology class.

The subject became a turning point as “Learning about some of the incredible basic functions of the body reminded me of my childhood ambitions to become a doctor,” Allamby said.

Allamby remained a mechanic and continued to run his business. However, he started premed classes at Cuyahoga Community College in Cleveland in 2010.

I was always infatuated with the way things worked — and the human body seemed to be the most complex of anything I encountered, which always fascinated me,” he stated.

Allamby began volunteering in the emergency, urology, and neurology departments of various hospitals to gain more medical experience.

He continued his career transition from an auto mechanic to becoming a doctor when he enrolled at Cleveland State University to study for medical school.

“Over the course of five years or better, I attended weekend, evening or early morning classes in pre-medicine and other college studies while managing my business, lifestyle and household in order to transition my career,” he said.

To protect his employees and keep a steady income, Allamby made sure not to abruptly leave the auto service industry. This allowed him the opportunity to begin medical school at Northeast Ohio Medical University (2015).

While Allamby may be older and more experienced than his colleagues, he credits his early difficulties with his success as a physician.

He said, “When I got to medical school, I was laser focused. Although I worked very hard to keep ahead, I think that all my responsibilities kept me focused and on what had to be done. That helped me to consume the large quantities of information that must be understood to succeed in medicine.”

After years as an auto mechanic, Allamby was compelled to pursue his dream of becoming a doctor.
Cleveland Clinic| Cleveland Clinic

He also stated that his experience as an auto mechanic helped him become more compassionate in his medical practice.

“At my automotive business, the failure of transportation left customers in despair with unknown costs, an unknown length of time [during] repairs and the necessity to form contingency plans while their vehicle was down.” Allamby learned to translate his experiences as an auto mechanic into his care for patients.

At 47, Allamby finally achieved his dream of becoming doctor and began his residency in emergency medicine at Cleveland Clinic Akron.

And in 2022, he completed his medical training and became an attending physician at the emergency room of Cleveland Clinic’s Hillcrest Hospital in Mayfield Heights, Ohio.

Dr. Allamby a former auto mechanic giving a speech.
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While he is no more an auto mechanic, Allamby continues to learn from his previous career. “Providing empathy, compassion and reassurance is often as important as providing appropriate medical care. In my previous life as a master technician, I worked on almost every make and model and fixed everything from brakes to major engine and transmission rebuilds,” Allamby said.

He added, “I had a lot of customers break down in tears or who were visibly shaken when I explained the diagnosis and eventual fate of their vehicle.” 

Today, Allamby’s medical career covers every area of the body from birth to death. He continues to care for his community just as he did with his auto mechanic job.

“Whether running an auto repair business in my former career or now providing medical care for those in need, I’ve maintained a connection with my hometown throughout my working career,” he said.

Dr. Allamby uses lessons from his life as an auto mechanic to care for patients.
Cleveland Clinic| Cleveland Clinic

Because everyone faces obstacles to success, Allamby is always available to help. Allamby wants to spread the message that you can achieve your dreams even later in your life.

People may be limited by constraints and limitations, but Allamby stressed, “Your attitude in facing these challenges is what matters most.  I believe we all have the potential to make our lives easier. If you want it, pursue it. Don’t give up.