Lessons on Leadership: Dr. Jeff 

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All human beings go through challenging times at one time or another. By learning lessons on personal leadership, we prepare ourselves to overcome.


  • Dr. Jeff Gallups is an accomplished medical professional, real estate investor, and entrepreneur. He shares how he maintained a rigid work ethic in school and throughout his career to become an otolaryngologist, more commonly known as an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) doctor. After practicing as a physician for several years, Dr. Jeff became the leader of a medical consulting firm that employs 200 highly motivated professionals in 13 locations across the Atlanta metro area.


  • Students should learn about having a solid work ethic, discipline, and a purposeful mindset. Our audience should also be able to identify the need for strong communications, critical thinking, and math skills.

Lesson Requirements:

  • Watch the video that accompanies the lesson
  • Write a definition of each word highlighted in bold and written in italics
  • Use ten of the vocabulary words in a sentence
  • Respond to a minimum of three open-ended questions by following instructions at the end of the lesson.

Lesson Outcome:

  • Participants will increase their vocabulary by at least ten words.
  • Participants will improve writing skills and their ability to contemplate how their responses to open-ended questions relate to their prospects for success upon release.
  • Participants will add to their journal, demonstrating a self-directed, self-improvement pathway to prepare for success upon release.


Our team at Prison Professors thanks Dr. Jeff Gallups for sharing important life lessons with us as he describes his career journey. Dr. Jeff practiced for many years as an otolaryngologist, more commonly referred to as an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) doctor. He succeeded in this role for several years before eventually venturing into other industries, such as real estate, media, and consulting. His life story offers insight into traits inherent in good leaders, including a strong work ethic, intellectual curiosity, and a willingness to take risks.


As a child, Dr. Jeff exhibited the traits that we promote in our coursework. As he recounts childhood memories, we can identify his strong work ethic and ability to stick to his goals. Born in Alabama in 1963, Dr. Jeff grew up in a “typical” family headed by a working father and stay-at-home mom. He recalls having solid bonds with his extended family members, including several cousins, his grandmother, and an aunt. Jeff disclosed his dream of becoming a doctor for the first time as a child. He saw his grandmother suffer from insect bites after stepping in an ant bed. He proudly told her: “When I get to be a doctor, I’m going to fix that so it won’t hurt.” Dr. Jeff eventually became one of the first people in his family to attend college.

Dr. Jeff never deviated from his plan to become a physician. While his cousins attended football games, Dr. Jeff stayed home to study. Dr. Jeff recalls that an aunt commended him for his diligence, saying that other youths did not show the same amount of dedication. As he explained to his aunt, Dr. Jeff did not feel that he missed out on any fun. Instead, he knew that he had to prioritize his studies to become a doctor. His dedication to his studies is an example of delayed gratification – putting off an immediate pleasure to earn a greater reward later.

To achieve his career goal, Dr. Jeff continued to study hard and he kept his eyes on the lookout for new opportunities that would advance his dream. He wanted to be competitive for college admission, so he took gifted classes and college-level courses in his senior year of high school. The accelerated courses enabled Dr. Jeff to skip a year of college. Dr. Jeff also participated in his high school’s work-study program, which allowed him to work under an ENT doctor.

We see several positive outcomes from Dr. Jeff’s initiative-taking mindset and work ethic:

  • Dr. Jeff had identified otolaryngology as his desired medical specialty several years before becoming a doctor, giving him a head start in his career.
  • Direct access to a practitioner through the work-study program gave Dr. Jeff first-hand experience earlier than his peers.
  • He graduated as valedictorian of his class, a feat that he attributes not to being more intelligent than others but to his willingness to work the hardest.

Dr. Jeff also teaches us about resilience in the face of failure. After graduating from college, Dr. Jeff did not succeed in his first attempt to attend medical school. Rather than giving up on his dream, Dr. Jeff completed research to make his resume stand out. After graduating from college, he spent the year engaging in work that would boost his credentials and make him a more viable candidate for admission. The following year, Dr. Jeff successfully matriculated into the University of Alabama’s medical school.


While I served 9,500 days in prison, I sought to learn from leaders like Dr. Jeff. I listened to their stories to determine what positive attributes I could identify in their personalities and apply them to my life.

From our conversation, I recognized Dr. Jeff’s proactive mindset. He teaches us to create our own luck through methodical planning and incremental steps to achieve our dreams. Dr. Jeff began his journey in pursuit of success as a young child. He knew he wanted to become a doctor, so he took advanced classes and participated in work-study programs to gain relevant experience even before starting his career.

Dr. Jeff’s persistence reminds me of the proverb that I quote in our conversation: “The best time to plant an oak tree is 20 years ago. The second-best time is now.” We learn that success is not built on luck but through years of dedication and hard work.

Like other successful leaders, Dr. Jeff always did more than what was required to achieve his goals. He distinguished himself from other students by gaining work experience and taking advanced coursework. Similarly, our audience members should identify opportunities to differentiate themselves from other job seekers as they earn their freedom. Even small steps, such as studying unfamiliar words in the dictionary, can lead to better outcomes for those restarting their lives after incarceration.

Many incarcerated people incorrectly believe that they should forget about the world outside of prison or jail until they approach their release date. Our team seeks to disavow individuals of this misguided idea. We instead encourage our audience to begin sowing the seeds for success as early as possible in their journey. Our students can start on the right path by improving their grasp of three fundamental disciplines: math, critical thinking, and communication skills. Proficiency in these fields can lead our students to increase their odds of getting hired or finding housing upon their release.

Dr. Jeff also gives us important lessons about self-discipline. He held multiple jobs and played football while in high school. We can infer that he developed strong time-management skills to balance the demands of school and work. As Dr. Jeff points out, incarcerated people already follow a daily regiment as dictated by their institution (e.g., “lights out,” “mail call,” etc.). Dr. Jeff advises our audience to adopt a similar routine once they leave prison or jail by dedicating time each day to achieve their goals.

  • How can you begin practicing delayed gratification?
  • How can you build on your skillset to become more likely to find employment upon your release?
  • How do you show resilience in everyday life?
  • How do you think taking accelerated courses made Dr. Jeff more competitive than his peers?
  • How can you learn lessons after experiencing failure?

Career Journey

After completing medical school, Dr. Jeff completed his residency and a fellowship in otolaryngology at Emory University in Atlanta. He knew which specialty he wanted to pursue long before finishing medical school. By identifying a goal early on, Dr. Jeff embodies our principles of defining success with a specific goal in mind and making incremental progress to achieve that outcome.

In our conversation, Dr. Jeff reminds us to “shoot for a target” and “take action” even if we change our minds later. As we teach in our course work, Dr. Jeff “kept his head in the game” by following an established direction in his life.

He offers lessons on the importance of perseverance. ENT programs typically select only the top 10 percent of a medical school’s cohort. Dr. Jeff did not achieve that class rank, yet he made himself more competitive by publishing academic papers and doing extra work. Two of his professors wrote favorable letters of recommendation for him, leading to his admission into Emory’s program.  

Quick Takeaway Questions:

  • How do you think Dr. Jeff’s work ethic persuaded his professors to support his career pursuits?
  • What types of communication skills and personality traits do you believe Dr. Jeff demonstrated to his professors?

Dr. Jeff started an independent ENT practice after completing coursework at Emory. He faced stiff competition from other professionals because the local market was saturated with other industry specialists. Yet Dr. Jeff led his team to become one of the best-performing groups in the region through persuasive communication skills and relationship-building. He forged strong bonds with primary care providers, pediatricians, and other physicians. These professionals referred their clients to Dr. Jeff’s practice, allowing his business to prosper due to word-of-mouth.

Dr. Jeff’s story teaches us the importance of versatility and the constant pursuit of knowledge. Even though he is a trained surgeon, he engaged in unrelated fields, including real estate and media, due to his curiosity. Exploring these industries required Dr. Jeff to develop new abilities, including those related to:

  • Math – Being a real estate investor requires a fundamental understanding of math to understand the finances involved in different transactions
  • Communication – As a media personality, Dr. Jeff had to refine his written and vocal communication skills to convey intended messages to different audiences. In the interview, Dr. Jeff mentions having improved his diction by avoiding the use of filler words (e.g., “umm” or “ah”) in his everyday speech.
  • Critical thinking – All of Dr. Jeff’s pursuits have required good judgment and strong critical thinking skills. As an investor and entrepreneur, he had to develop strong discernment of character to know which people would be good business partners or clients.

Dr. Jeff eventually quit medicine to become the CEO of a healthcare consulting firm that employed more than 200 medical practitioners. He began this venture in response to changes in the healthcare market stemming from the Affordable Care Act (commonly referred to as Obamacare, which significantly expanded healthcare coverage across the U.S.). Under his leadership, the business expanded to 13 locations, including two surgery centers. The company is also employee-operated; Dr. Jeff says “we own everything we touch” in reference to the firm.

We can see how Dr. Jeff stands out amongst others based on his business model. His firm is an attractive option for clients because it:

  • Serves as a low-cost healthcare provider
  • Offers same-day appointments
  • Provides amenities for patients, such as free parking
  • Maintains a policy of non-discrimination based on insurance coverage or lack thereof

Along with this successful business model, Dr. Jeff drove his company to prosper through his willingness to collaborate with others. He collaborated with Georgia state politicians from both political parties to provide cost-effective healthcare. Dr. Jeff also looked at other medical ENT doctors as potential partners rather than competitors, saying that he “was willing to help them.” Moving forward, Dr. Jeff hopes that his Atlanta-based medical platform will be implemented across the country.  


While climbing through 26 years as a prisoner, I constantly pursued opportunities to invest in myself. Education never stops – learning is a lifetime pursuit for those aspiring to succeed. Even while physically confined, people in prison or jail can expand their minds by emulating leaders like Dr. Jeff.

Dr. Jeff reminds us of the need to challenge ourselves constantly and develop new skills. We discuss the book What Got You Here Won’t Get You There, which outlines the character traits needed to succeed in different fields. People who thrive in distinct areas realize that there are multiple trajectories to success – some careers require unique ways of thinking or skill sets than others. Dr. Jeff applied this lesson as he sharpened and acquired new talents for different business pursuits. Even though he built a career as a successful surgeon, he could not rely on medical training to become an effective entrepreneur or media personality. To become more capable in those roles, he applied exceptional communication skills.

During our conversation, Dr. Jeff spoke about the concept of risk-taking. He observed that many of our audience members have taken poor risks in the past that led to their incarceration. He encourages our students to discover instead the benefits of “good risks,” such as investments or beginning a new career.

  • How can effective communication skills allow you to collaborate more effectively with others?
  • What type of leadership traits do you believe Dr. Jeff demonstrated to manage a group of 200 medical professionals?
  • How do you think Dr. Jeff relied on his communication skills to be an effective leader?
  • How can you distinguish a good risk from a bad risk?
  • Why is it important to take positive risks to advance your career and personal life?

Cultural Guide:

Dr. Jeff upholds a set of 31 rules called an “Office Culture Guide,” which informs his associates and employees of the expected norms of his company. This set of principles guides his staff on the proper demeanor, mindset, and etiquette needed to provide patients with world-class healthcare. The guide encourages its readers to strive for constant improvement, respect and help each other, and remain humble. Some of the rules, such as practicing gratitude, are nearly identical to those that Prison Professors teaches in its coursework. The complete list is available as an appendix at the end of this lesson plan.


We conclude our dialogue with a discussion on how people involved in the criminal justice system can overcome barriers with the right attitude. Mass incarceration is one of the biggest injustices in American society. We want to help returning citizens and incarcerated people avoid the common consequences of a felony conviction, such as recidivism, intergenerational poverty, and homelessness. Prison Professors believes that the pathway to success lies in continuous self-improvement and upholding a solid personal values system. We see an excellent example of such a values system in Dr. Jeff’s “Office Culture Guide.”

Dr. Jeff’s life story teaches us about being resilient and the importance of growing intellectually. He never let failure stop him. When administrators of one medical school rejected his first application, he expanded his research portfolio to make himself more competitive. He never stopped learning. Dr. Jeff ventured into different industries, such as real estate, consulting, business, and media. To succeed in these new roles, he both strengthened and applied his math, critical thinking, and communication abilities.

Regardless of where a person may be, any person can invest the time and energy to improve. We simply must emulate the leadership traits of people like Dr. Jeff.

We identify how Dr. Jeff embodies Prison Professor’s coursework principles throughout our interview. He defined success by setting his goal of becoming an ENT doctor even before his career began. He made incremental progress toward his dream throughout his academic and professional journey by constantly studying hard and improving himself. He also remained aware of opportunities, including business ventures and investments.

Anyone can apply these same core values to their lives. Leaders like Dr. Jeff serve as an example of how the right mindset can lead to personal growth and self-improvement. Remember the key points of our basic course:

  1. Define success
  2. Create clear goals
  3. Show that you have the right attitude
  4. Set higher aspirations
  5. Take incremental action steps
  6. Hold yourself accountable
  7. Stay aware of opportunities, and make others aware of your commitment
  8. Be authentic
  9. Celebrate small achievements
  10. Express gratitude and appreciation for the blessings that open for you

In what ways do you see Dr. Jeff living by the principles of our course?

Critical Thinking Questions:

Choose any of three questions below. Write a response for each of the three questions you choose. In your response, please write at least three paragraphs, with a minimum of three sentences each.

This exercise in personal development will help you develop better critical-thinking skills, and better writing skills. There are no right or wrong answers to these questions. We’re striving to learn how to think differently, and how to communicate more efficiently. Try to use some of the vocabulary words from this lesson in your responses.

  1. How can you determine whether a risk is good or bad?
  2. How has failure led you to learn an important life lesson?
  3. What are the advantages of setting a clear goal as early as possible?
  4. How do you define delayed gratification?
  5. How do you think strong communication skills helped Dr. Jeff in his medical career?
  6. How do you believe Dr. Jeff relied on his communication skills to lead a team of 200 medical professionals?
  7. How does Dr. Jeff demonstrate resilience?
  8. Why is it essential to have a strong personal values system?
  9. How can you incorporate Dr. Jeff’s “Office Culture Guide” into your set of personal values?
  10. What similarities do you see in the “Office Culture Guide” and Prison Professor’s ten principles?


Behavioral Expectations for our Team


1. Think Like the Patient. Without patients, we cannot exist as a practice. So continually ask, “If I were the patient, what would I want to see from a practice?” Every action taken should reflect the purpose of our practice – to create patients that are raving fans for life. We do not want to just treat the patient’s immediate need and rush to be done with their care. At the end of their visit, we should strive to have a “next” appointment scheduled for the patient – perhaps a follow up, CT scan, allergy testing, hearing testing, etc.

2. Deliver World-Class Service. Patients will come to us and keep coming back if we serve them at a high level. Success is never owned – it is rented; and the rent is due every day! We are a family serving families. From the moment the patient walks in the door, they are family. No one is here by mistake. Everyone around you is here because we recognized that you are great at what you do and whatever becomes the day’s mission, we trust that you’ll see it through to high quality completion.

3. Strive for Constant and Never-Ending Improvement (CANI). Every individual’s goal should be to develop into the best in the country at their positions. Never be satisfied with where you are, but instead, grow! The way to achieve this is to make small incremental improvements daily. Do not fall into the trap of thinking you have “arrived”, keep taking action to get better. Just because we’re in our fields, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be able to learn something new each day. Don’t be afraid to admit you don’t know everything and accept wisdom from others.

4. Show R-E-S-P-E-C-T As Aretha Franklin says, “We all require and want respect, man or woman, black or white. It’s our basic human right.” We always treat each other with respect. Even though we may not always agree with each other, we work out our differences and always give the benefit of the doubt to the other person. We keep all of our verbal and nonverbal communication on a respectful level, and treat each other in the manner in which we would like to be treated.

5. Show Appreciation by Verbally Acknowledging Each Other. We value each other and show appreciation to our teammates. Take time every day to think of specific acts of kindness, service and other things for which you are grateful that your teammates have done. Find ways to acknowledge those who do things that may otherwise go unnoticed. Congratulate patients/team members for their accomplishments. Everyone likes to know he or she is important and appreciated.

6. Work Good, Do Good, Feel Good. Working in healthcare gives you the opportunity to help others and make them feel good again, leading to everyone feeling good at the end of the day. As Steve Jobs stated, “Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work ” When you feel good, you do good. Come to work and do the right thing because it feels great and will create a positive environment to work in. It is important to feel good about what you are doing at your job and leads to overall happiness.

7. Relentlessly Pursue Results. Pursue important goals every day. Daily activities and getting caught up in the whirlwind of reading emails, leaving messages, etc. does not necessarily equal results. Be solution-oriented by identifying problems, but focusing most of your energy on the solutions. It takes a great team member to identify possible solutions and act on them. In our organization, we all agree that if you identify a problem, you will identify three possible solutions.

8. Manage By The Numbers. You cannot manage something unless you measure it. You cannot measure something unless you track it. Specific meaningful information is far superior to vague general information when it comes to determining the return on investment on every piece of equipment, facility, person or process that we have or that we are considering.

9. Choose to Have a Positive Attitude. Abraham Lincoln said, “Folks are usually about as happy as they make their minds up to be.” You have a choice about what your attitude will be. Choose to have a positive attitude about being ready, willing, and able to do what is needed. This is a major key to success in your professional and personal life.

10. Strive to Use “Best Practices.” We want to find and implement the “best practices” for whatever we do. Sometimes it’s better to copy genius than to create mediocrity. Looking externally, we should always be up-to-date with what other practices are doing. Once we identify those things, we implement them to our practice, whether that’s creating efficient checklists to keep each other accountable and evaluate performance.

11. Be Early. Everyone wants to work with a team where everyone can rely on each other. It starts first thing every day. That’s why we all agree that, “When you’re early, you’re on time; when you’re on time, you’re late; and when you’re late, you’re lost.”

12. Be Ready. One cannot have a can-do attitude without preparation and dedication to achieving results. This is the “secret sauce” of success. So always be prepared to start the day with the motivation to set a good example and lead your co-workers. After we learn our positions, cross-training in related positions helps the entire team. If one of us is out, we make sure to have proper coverage. If one piece is missing or not functioning properly, the entire machine could be affected.

13. Be Willing and “Happy to Do It!” Have a “can-do” attitude and “go all-in”. Everyone likes to work on a team with individual members who are willing to do whatever it takes to make things happen. When asked to help or contribute, team members frequently respond by saying “Happy to do it.” Having a positive and enthusiastic attitude makes teamwork happen.

14. Leave Your Baggage at the Door. Everything that happens in our office every day has an impact on each team member and influences how we interact with our patients. Team members bring the best of who they are to work each day by “leaving their baggage at the door” and not allowing issues in their personal lives to negatively affect other team members. That’s why we limit personal phone calls, e-mails, and errands to a minimum. We consider our work environment to be “the stage” on which we perform our very best.

15. Do What You Say You’ll Do. When you commit to doing something for a team member, patient, or supplier, make sure it gets done as you promised. If you are not sure how to do something or you know there will be things standing in the way of getting it done, say so. You always have permission to say you can’t do something, but once you have committed, it belongs to you. If you have responded to a request, follow up by asking if the person received everything they needed. Do whatever you can to make sure there are no loose ends and that you get closure on the tasks at hand.

16. Bring Humility (Check Your Ego at the Door). Every person who joins the ENTI family comes with their own unique qualities that benefit our team. Our processes are the result of much effort. Regardless of your background, stay humble and learn the processes, systems, checklists and scripts that we have in place. Then, we welcome everyone’s input on how to improve our processes.

17. Be Willing to Coach and Be Coached. A coach supports a learner in achieving a specific goal by providing training, advice, and guidance. Everyone needs to be willing to receive coaching and constructive criticism in a positive way. Strive to improve and learn. The mark of real mastery in any area is to teach others what you know.

18. Live by the Golden Rule Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Treat all patients, family members, and each other with dignity and kindness.

19. Create a Positive Work Environment. A positive attitude sets each team member up for success.Think about what people want to catch from you: your energy is contagious! A positive attitude causes a chain reaction of positive thoughts and experiences for patients. Part of this is based on the belief that people work best in a professional environment where they feel comfortable.

20. Your Appearance Matters. When you are with patients, you are the practice. Act like you are re-interviewing for your job every day – because you are! Each day patients, team members and others decide whether they want to work with you. Are you someone they would want to hire? Team members are expected to come to work each day properly groomed, dressed and ready to make a great never ending impression on our patients. If you are questioning whether something you want to wear is appropriate, just ask yourself, “What kind of impression will this leave with our patients?”

21. Take Initiative and Contribute. We believe in involvement and participation by everyone. Speak up, offer your opinion, and make suggestions for new things we could be doing that will get better results with our patients. Don’t wait for anyone to ask your opinion. Jump in and make a contribution! If you see something during the day that needs to be cleaned up in order for our patients to feel comfortable, just do it.

22. Promote the Practice and Invite New Patients. Every person in the practice is a part of our marketing team. Use your ideas and creativity to promote the practice and refer new patients. From the way you interact with every patient whether in writing, on the phone or in person, every team member makes a difference in creating new patients and retaining existing ones.

23. Address Problems Quickly and at Their Source. When teams progress and work together, sometimes there may be differences of opinion or misunderstandings. We should use these occasions as opportunities to grow, not as obstacles that can divide us. If you have a problem, try first to go to the person it involves. Avoiding an issue or failing to report a concern will only perpetuate a problem.

24. Make the Workplace Fun! We believe that what you do every day should be fun and exciting. Find ways each day to make our work fun, exciting and entertaining while staying on track and on purpose. Maintaining positive energy for our patients helps relieve their anxieties.

25. Show that You Care. Personal concern can be shown in many ways. Other team members and patients know that we really care about them as people when we show interest in them as individuals. We put people first in our practice.

26. Adapt Quickly to Change! Being part of a growing practice means that changes are inevitable. Change can also be healthy. We must all learn to not fear change, but also embrace it enthusiastically and encourage it. This is how we grow and learn.

27. Manage Yourself. We expect and rely on team members to determine, plan, and manage their day-to-day activities and duties under reduced levels of supervision. No one likes to be micromanaged. So please take the initiative to do your job and also go the extra mile to be self-managed.

28. YOLO You Only Live Once. Focus on what is going on at that moment. “The past is history, the future is a mystery. But now is a gift, which is why it’s called the present.”

29. No Man Left Behind If you need help, speak up. Closed mouths don’t get fed! There’s nothing wrong with asking for help. Be able to appreciate everyone else’s expertise and ask questions frequently about different departments and how they work together.

30. Practice Personal Responsibility Hubert Selby Jr. said, “Eventually we all have to accept full and total responsibility for our actions, everything we have done, and have not done.” Take Responsibility for everything you do. You are in control of yourself, your work and your participation in every task.

31. Gratitude Creates Better Attitude to Elevate ENT’s Altitude Being grateful creates a positive attitude and keeps us motivated to come to work each day. Gratitude can get us better sleep, better mental health, and a better work environment.

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