Hero & Zero

Despite being identical twins there was really no disputing that something measurable, and important, was different between the brothers Hakeem and Zeke.  Hakeem was a winner; Zeke was a loser. When the boys entered school their names, unusual in the Midwest at the time, were informally changed to reflect their academic performance. Hakeem was simply known as “Hero”; Zeke, the less able twin, was labelled “Zero”.

Fast-forward two decades and few would be surprised to learn that Hero fulfilled an almost preordained life of achievement. Academic success and accomplishments resulted in admission to a top-tier medical school with surgical training in a competitive subspecialty. Leadership opportunities, mentoring requests, and publications in his field of expertise were synonymous with Hero’s professional successes.

Zero’s life could not have been more different. An early “mentor” advised Zero to “save himself the trouble” and give up on his dreams of a medical career. Almost every standardized (multiple choice) exam that Zero took he failed, often several times despite an inordinate amount of preparation. It was clear that Zero did not have what it took to be successful. Failure after failure ensued with Zero too dejected, too depressed, and too stubborn to quit. 

The twins reconvened after twenty years of achievement (for Hero) and toil (for Zero). As they shared their life’s journeys the twins came to a shocking realization: they were not, in fact, twins or even brothers. Hero and Zero were the same person; and that person is me. I invite you to learn about how standardized testing almost destroyed me. I invite you to learn how this experience ended up making me a better person, a better surgeon, and a better leader. In sharing my journey, I hope you might learn something new about surgical training, effective leadership, the shortcomings of standardized testing, and how all of us can benefit from examining lessons learned from life’s Heroes and Zeros.   







11 responses to “Hero & Zero”

  1. Ahmad Brown, M.D. Avatar
    Ahmad Brown, M.D.

    This story is deeply inspiring! I cannot wait to learn more.


  2. HEATHER E FORK Avatar

    Wow! What a powerful entre into such a valuable topic. This is definitely the story of a Hero’s journey. Excited to read your next blog!


    1. Jay M. MacGregor, MD, FACS Avatar

      Thanks, Heather/Dr. Fork!


  3. Kouros Farro Avatar

    Jay, powerful opening brother and you got my attention.


    1. Jay M. MacGregor, MD, FACS Avatar

      If my stories can paint half the imagery of your photographs I will be happy! #KourosFarroPhotography #MDMBA


  4. eyetechguru Avatar

    Never one to disappoint. Jay – I’m earnestly waiting to see where you take us. Thanks in advance for sharing both your personal and professional journey with us.


    1. Jay M. MacGregor, MD, FACS Avatar

      Thanks for the comment, Andrew! I think our MBA cohort may recognize a few of the upcoming stories. #MBA #UNR #eyetechguru


  5. Mary Aaland Avatar
    Mary Aaland

    Great opening


    1. Jay M. MacGregor, MD, FACS Avatar

      Thank you, Dr. Aaland! And thank you for all of your incredible work as a recent Governor of the American College of Surgeons.


  6. […] feel free to share this link. My first suggestion is to read the my blog posts from June 6, 2021, (HERE) to July 26, 2021 (HERE). These posts offer a little inspiration and the actual techniques that […]


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