When PBA alumnus Emmanuel McNeely becomes an orthopedic surgeon, he will enter one of the least diverse field in all of medicine.
From his own experiences, McNeely, along with his wife, Sa’Rah, recognized that the path to becoming a medical doctor is fraught with obstacles, especially for those who don’t have someone in their community who has gone before them. The couple — both current medical students and first-generation college graduates — started the Dr. McNeely Dream (M.D.) Project to share what they learned with minority young people around the country.
“People are destroyed for lack of knowledge,” McNeely said, quoting Hosea 4. “It’s really important to hone in on the ‘least of these.’”
McNeely and Sa’Rah spent four days on campus last week. McNeely gave two talks on the topic “Hands that Heal: A Black Man Ministering in Medicine,” spoke to various ministry, science and health care classes and mentored individual students. His first talk was hosted by Wordship and the Council for Intercultural Engagement.
He is open about his struggle to do well on the medical school entrance exam, commonly known as the MCAT, which he took numerous times. Early on in his education, he did not even know what the test was. Students should not allow such challenges to deter them from pursuing their goals, McNeely said.
“I really want you to know that God is with you, God is for you and you cannot fail,” he told a group of students who attended his Wednesday talk. “That might sound preachy, but it’s my life.”
The Council for Christian Colleges & Universities recognized McNeely as the 2021 Young Alumni of the Year, and Christianity Today and the Christian Broadcasting Network have interviewed him about the Dr. McNeely Dream (M.D.) Project’s important work. Coincidentally, last week, the director of the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention declared racism a “serious public health threat.”
McNeely graduated from PBA in 2012 and is projected to earn his doctorate in medicine from Florida Atlantic University’s Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine in 2023, having completed two years of spine surgery research at Johns Hopkins University.
At PBA, McNeely was able to discover his gifts and talents while growing spiritually and meeting people from a variety of backgrounds, he said. He played the drums in chapel, conducted research, led the Black Student Union and worked as the announcer for athletic contests.
Introducing McNeely in chapel on Friday, Campus Pastor Dr. Bernie Cueto remembered him as “really the epitome of a Spirit-filled believer on our campus. Always salt, always light.” Quantum Foundation President Eric Kelly offered a prayer of blessing for McNeely.
Shortly after graduating from PBA, he gave two commencement speeches and coached summer school students about setting and accomplishing goals. The Dr. McNeely Dream (M.D.) Project and accompanying Dream Protection Guide, which the McNeelys wrote co-wrote with support from the Quantum Foundation, grew from those experiences.
McNeely views himself as one piece of a “mentoring cascade.” When he was in high school, he interned with the Cancer Treatment Centers of America and met a surgeon, who allowed the young McNeely to shadow him in the operating room while he removed a gall bladder. God had healed the surgeon of cancer, and he made it his life’s work to heal others. McNeely recognizes the busy doctor didn’t have to make time for him and has adopted that doctor’s humble approach.
“If my Savior can humble Himself, certainly I can humble myself daily,” McNeely said. “My only goal on his earth is to bring Him glory, and that’s the only reason He’s opened the doors no one can shut.”
Nonetheless, McNeely said he’s received some criticism for being self-promoting, or helping only Black people to succeed. McNeely tied his response back to Wordship – the cultivated practice of using our words wisely to edify others, including those with whom we disagree.
“You have an adversary, and it’s not your brother or sister. When you realize that, you communicate love to everyone,” McNeely said. “I cannot be indignant if I’m operating through Wordship. Our methods matter, and that’s what Wordship means to me.”
He shared a memory of Christian Sampson, a former Palm Beach Atlantic cafeteria worker, who would be kind to everyone – no matter how they treated him – and offer a Bible verse to students as they got their meals. Sampson died of a seizure in 2013 at the age of 28.
“He would always tell everyone ‘I am blessed by the best,’” McNeely said.
That’s how McNeely views himself — blessed to be a blessing. Some of the students he and Sa’Rah reached through the Dr. McNeely Dream (M.D.) Project have graduated as valedictorians or gotten into medical school. McNeely spoke to a few hundred Palm Beach Atlantic students last week alone.
“What I want you to know is that the Lord has need of you,” McNeely said in his final chapel of the week. “You’re being taught to care about what the Lord cares about.”