Derrick Obiri-Yeboah
Ghanaian Neurosurgeon Derrick Obiri Yeboah

Building a Neurosurgeon: A Story from Kumasi to the #1 Hospital in the World

Derrick Obiri-Yeboah as a child in Ghana
Derrick Obiri-Yeboah as a child in Ghana

As children, we often read storybook tales of great men venturing unknown terrains, demystifying fables, and overcoming great hardships to accomplish “the ultimate impossible.” These stories caught our attention for hours, filled us with emotion & excitement as we turned each page to find out more about our fierce heroes. What happens if one day the story you read in a book becomes your life? This is the beginning of one Ghanaian man’s story from being a schoolboy in Kumasi to become a neurosurgeon at the number one hospital in the world.

Derrick Obiri-Yeboah, once a young boy like many of his contemporaries, sat in the storied classrooms of Opoku Ware School in Kumasi, Ghana. Like most 14 year olds, he did not have the slightest clue what he wanted to do with his life until he had to accompany his mother down a gruesome road of recovery as she fought through her throat cancer diagnosis. Witnessing the harrowing reality of medical care in Ghana steered Derrick towards aspiring for a career in medicine. However, it wasn’t until his father gifted him Dr. Ben Carson’s book “Gifted Hands” that he dreamt of the possibility of becoming a neurosurgeon. Soon realizing it was far beyond his reach to ever become a neurosurgeon, he abandoned the dream. 

Years later he received the opportunity to attend Hope College in Holland, Michigan with a full tuition scholarship through the help of Tasia Poinsatte and other leaders at Exponential Education. Finishing high school in May, he moved by himself, aged 18, to the United States in August to start his new journey and see what awaits him. Serendipitously, he had the privilege of meeting Dr. David Paul, the first black neurosurgeon he ever met in person during his first year of college. Hearing his story and advice revived the once lost dream in Derrick and from that day onwards, he was determined to follow in Dr. Paul’s and Dr. Carson’s footsteps. 

Derrick had limited options of US medical schools that accepted international students like him, but, nonetheless, he was accepted into one of the most prestigious medical school programs in the country, the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine. This program only accepts 30 students per year and out of that only a handful are international students, if any. This five-year long program seeks to train physician scientists and eliminate financial barriers to pursuing medicine by providing scholarships to the few selected students like Derrick.  In addition to the reduced financial constraints of medical school, he was now granted access to an education from the country’s top physicians which suddenly made his dream of being a neurosurgeon feel within reach. 

Now that he was positioned with all the right resources for success, he set his target towards neurosurgery. To obtain a neurosurgical training position in the United States is a difficult feat for even US citizens, let alone international students requiring a visa. To stand out amongst the competition and make himself an appealing candidate for programs, he had to participate in multiple research projects, have his research articles published in renowned medical journals, present his research at numerous national conferences, and participate in meaningful extracurricular activities such as Brainstormers, an outreach program that visits a local inner city school to introduce young minds to the neuroscience and medicine. In addition to all that, he continued to mentor and tutor medical and undergraduate students as a way to pay it forward for all the mentorship he has received to make it to where he is. 

PICTURED: Derrick Obiri-Yeboah with his Principal Investigators (PIs) and mentors, Dr. Pablo Recinos MD (left) and Varun R. Kshettry MD (right)
PICTURED: Derrick Obiri-Yeboah with his Principal Investigators (PIs) and mentors, Dr. Pablo Recinos MD (left) and Varun R. Kshettry MD (right)

After five years of dedicated study and hard work, Derrick has now been accepted into the Mayo Clinic neurosurgical residency, the #1 hospital in the world. After he graduates from Lerner College of Medicine in May 2024, he will move to Rochester, Minnesota where he will spend the next seven years training under top neurosurgeons in the field.

After finishing his training, Derrick hopes to return to Ghana to serve the people who helped raise him into the man he is today. Currently, there are approximately 23 neurosurgeons servicing the 35+ million population of Ghana, a ghastly disproportionate and unacceptable ratio. Derrick hopes to leverage the education he has been blessed with to build capacity and help train the next generation of neurosurgeons in Ghana and sub-saharan Africa. 

PICTURED: Derrick Obiri-Yeboah winning “Best Basic Science Abstract” at the 2024 North American Skull Base Society meeting.
PICTURED: Derrick Obiri-Yeboah winning “Best Basic Science Abstract” at the 2024 North American Skull Base Society meeting.

Derrick’s story inspires students to believe beyond the bindings of a book. Sometimes we can become the heroes we read about in storybooks; sometimes just believing in yourself is the first step to unlocking a new world for yourself. If you can imagine it, you can live it. But if you learn one thing from Derrick’s story, it’s that becoming a neurosurgeon is not a one-man job. It takes representation, mentorship, and a supportive community to build a neurosurgeon. Without Dr. Paul and Dr. Carson’s representation as leading black men in the field of neurosurgery, without the numerous mentors he has encountered from Opoku Ware, Hope College, and Cleveland Clinic, and without his friends, families, and colleagues’ support, he would not have reached this level of success. 

You must always remember where you came from and where you are going. Sprouted from the roots of Ghana he came and to the homeland that first taught him to dream bigger is where he will return.

Connect with Derrick Obiri on social media @derrick_obiri on X and @derrick_yeboah on Instagram

4 Responses

  1. JOY says:

    Quite emotional and motivational story. I love it ????????????. CONGRATULATIONS DERRICK ????????????????????????

  2. Amankwah Frederick says:

    Congratulations Bro
    It’s such a difficult feet to achieve ♥️

  3. Bawa Collins says:

    This is too inspirational .

    Congratulations sir!!!

  4. Lance Pellow says:

    The Hope family is so proud of you, Derrick!!! Congrats on all your success – keep up the amazing work.

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