New Field: ESPN Highlights SLU Doc's Maneuver from Football Player to ENT Surgeon

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Samkon Gado, M.D., a third-year resident in otolaryngology at Saint Louis University and former NFL running back, was profiled on ESPN's Monday Night Countdown.

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Video hosted on ESPN.com

Gado's interview aired Monday, Nov. 6, ahead of a game between the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions. The Lions beat Gado's old team 30-17. 

In 2005, Gado had a break-out year with the Packers. According to ESPN, he carried the ball 143 times that season for 582 yards and six touchdowns, including three 100-yard performances. 

But after six years in the NFL, Gado was called back to his original career path. He was accepted to the Medical University of South Carolina and began classes in August 2011. 

While in medical school, Gado reached out to Jastin Antisdel, M.D., chair of SLU's department of otolaryngology. Gado impressed Antisdel with his humility and passion, and Antisdel invited him to do a month-long rotation in 2013.

"We put him through the wringer that month, asking him questions, making sure he was prepared, seeing if he had the wherewithal to do what it takes in what's a challenging career," Antisdel told ESPN. "He came through that with flying colors."

Gado began his residency at SLU in the fall of 2015. SLU receives around 200 applications each year for its two open slots. An otolaryngology residency is five years.

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Jastin Antisdel, M.D. and Samkon Gado, M.D. Antisdel is chair of SLU’s department of otolaryngology and Gado is a third-year resident. Photo by Ellen Hutti.

Gado said earlier this year that he saw a career in otolaryngology as a natural choice.

“I knew I wanted something with a surgical bent,” he said. “I’ve also wanted to find meaning in my work beyond a salary. I wanted to have meaning and purpose beyond whatever specialty I chose. The parallel of Christ being the head of the church and otolaryngology, which is also referred to as head and neck surgery, was very intriguing. I want to spend the rest of my life understanding why that analogy was used.”

Gado told ESPN that medicine is by far the greater challenge.

"In the NFL, at the end of the day, it's really just a game," Gado said. "Here, what you know or don't know can kill someone."

Mission and Medicine

Gado, who was born in Nigeria and raised from age 9 on in the United States, said going back to his native country to work in a much-needed specialty was appealing to him. He was so sure about his plans that he mentioned it to his now-wife on their first date.

“I asked her right away how she would feel about living in a hut in Nigeria,” he said with a smile. “I needed her to know that I was serious about this.”

In January, Gado, his wife, Rachel, and their three children are planning a trip to Nigeria to see how Gado could use his medical training to help the country. Gado told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the research trip, funded in part by a grant from SLU’s medical school, will serve as a fact-finding expedition to learn about resources at the teaching hospitals there.

“There are 250 otolaryngologists in the country of Nigeria for 200 million people,” he said in February. “There are probably 75 otolaryngology residents and attending physicians between SLU and Wash U alone.”

SLU offers Gado the opportunity to treat the whole patient and to talk about faith and spirituality.

“It has provided a place that I can be freely spiritual and allow my patients to talk about their spirituality, if they wish,” he said.


Established in 1836, Saint Louis University School of Medicine has the distinction of awarding the first medical degree west of the Mississippi River. The school educates physicians and biomedical scientists, conducts medical research, and provides health care on a local, national and international level. Research at the school seeks new cures and treatments in five key areas: cancer, liver disease, heart/lung disease, aging and brain disease, and infectious diseases.