Aaron D. Dotson, MD
"...do what you love, and you’ll never regret it!"
Dr. Dotson participated in SMDEP at the Yale School of Medicine in 2012. He completed college at the University of Texas at Dallas, where he studied neuroscience, while minoring in music, with an emphasis in classical piano and composition. Today, Dr. Dotson is a resident Ophthalmologist at the University of Iowa Hospital and Clinics.
Aaron D. Dotson, MD
What path did you take when you first started college?
I attended college at The University of Texas at Dallas, where I studied neuroscience, while minoring in music with an emphasis in classical piano and composition. I always had a passion for the brain and wanting to know how it functioned. I knew that the neuroscience program at UT Dallas was very reputable and would allow me to complete all of my pre-requisites to apply and enter medical school. While in college, I developed strong leadership skills while being a part of the Black Student Alliance and the Student Ambassadors program. I also worked for the UT Dallas Student Success Center as a Peer Lead Team Learning (PLTL) leader. I additionally became involved in neuroscience research, where I studied, performed, and taught others rodent stereotactic neurosurgery. My passion for medicine was further confirmed my passion for medicine by completing the Summer Medical and Dental Education Program (SMDEP) at the Yale School of Medicine back in 2012. My time in college was well spent, and well balanced. While busy studying away, I made time to continue the things I enjoyed in life.
What led to your interest in a health profession?
My passion for medicine extends since I was a child. I would often accompany my mother to her doctor’s appointments. Her physician was the very first back man in a white coat I had encountered, Dr. Gilbert. I’d often ask Dr. Gilbert many questions while he’d talk and examine my mother. I was very curious about what he was looking for, how certain medications worked, etc. He saw early on how passionate I was about medicine, so he took me under his wing as his mentee and allowed me to shadow with him throughout my years in middle and high school. It’s because of Dr. Gilbert that I am where I stand today.
What are some of your recent milestones?
My most recent milestone was successfully matching into ophthalmology residency at one of the nation’s most reputable programs, The University of Iowa, Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences. I chose ophthalmology because it’s the perfect combination of outpatient clinic and surgery. I love being able to physically see what’s wrong with patients, and often being able to fix the problem at hand. I’m most interested in subspecializing in either retina surgery, glaucoma, or ocular/facial/orbital plastic & reconstructive surgery.
What has been your favorite part of the process? The most difficult?
My favorite part of the process has been serving as a mentor and role model to many underrepresented minority (URM’s) students interested in medicine. Over the years, I have assisted many students in matriculating into medical school. I’ve also played a role in recruiting more URM’s into entering ophthalmology. My passion for mentorship stems from my very first mentor, Dr. Gilbert. He did so much to help make my dreams come true, so I feel it’s necessary that I do the same for others. The most difficult part of the process has been the sacrifices I’ve had to make over the years. The process to becoming a doctor is long, and often requires one to be away from their families for extended periods of time. While I’m grateful for the continual support that I’ve received over the years from my family, there were many times that I could not be with them because my studies took priority. I lost my father to cancer during my second year of medical school, and although it was tough to not be directly at the bedside during his final moments of life, I knew that I was completing his wishes by continuing with my medical education.
What is the best career advice you have received?
While it might sound cliché, the best piece of advice I’ve been given thus far is to simply keep an open mind during your training years and do what you love! I’m extremely happy with my specialty of ophthalmology, as each day at work doesn’t even feel like work! It’s fun to use my slit lamp and other tools to make an accurate diagnosis. It’s rewarding to educate patients on their ophthalmic conditions. It’s exciting to see how patients progress after surgical procedures. All in all, do what you love, and you’ll never regret it!
What advice do you have for students pursuing a health professional career?
I personally feel that I have the BEST job in the world! I genuinely love being a physician and am grateful to be able to complete my residency training in my desired field of ophthalmology. There’s nothing else on the planet that I could see myself doing besides being a doctor. While the journey ahead is long, know that it’s worth it. There will be bumps in the road but know that it’s often those same bumps and setbacks that will eventually make you into a stronger healthcare professional. Continue to strive for excellence, continue to seek your purpose & passion, and do not give up on your dreams!
Posted: September 2021