Some people are lucky if they’ve had one successful career in life. Dr. Tyeese Gaines has had three. After spending 13 years in the news business, she shifted gears to found a health clinic in New Jersey and a media agency that provides public relations support for physicians.
But her career path could have gone in a different direction if she had listened to her high school guidance counselor, who dissuaded her from pursuing a pre-med track in college.
“I always wanted to be a physician,” says Gaines, who graduated from Northeastern in 2001, where she founded the Northeastern chapter of the Minority Association for Pre-health Students to support underrepresented medical students. “So then I went looking for what else I could do that was adjacent to medicine, and [realized] I really enjoyed physical therapy and sports medicine.”
She got into Northeastern’s physical therapy program in the Bouve College of Health Sciences, but along the way, her interests shifted and she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in African-American studies and a minor in biology in 2001.
Gaines started medical school at the Nova Southeastern University College of Osteopathic Medicine in Florida, but returned to Northeastern 18 months later to get her master’s in journalism instead, after falling in love with television production during an internship at a local TV station in Miami.
“I felt like if I really want to do this I don’t want to just walk into a place and go, ‘Hey I’m a doctor; let me write this article,’ which is funny because now in 2019 anyone can write an article, right? But back then it was hard to get into the door and if I was going to go into a news station and I was going to work, I wanted to be able to say I went to J-school,” Gaines says.
That year, she completed internships at Boston Magazine and an ABC affiliate in Boston. And then she shifted gears again, returning to medical school in Florida and working as an associate producer for an early morning news segment at an NBC affiliate in Miami.
“I’d get there at 1 or 2 o’clock in the morning and we would write the show and we’d produce the ticker and all that stuff and then we’d go on air at 5,” Gaines says. “I would run the prompter and/or write news on the spot depending on what was going on—when there was breaking news—from 5 to 7:30. If my class was a little later, then I would stay as late as I possibly could and I would go straight from the news station to med school and I did that until I went out on maternity leave with my son.”
After receiving her medical degree, she completed her residency training at Yale-New Haven Hospital, where she was chief resident and later taught as a clinical instructor. For the next four years, she served as a medical director at various medical centers in Rhode Island, Illinois, and New Jersey.
The accolades followed. In 2014, Gaines became a fellow in the American College of Emergency Physicians, and in 2011 she received a Top 40 under 40 award from the National Medical Association. She has also completed an MBA from the Kenan–Flagler Business School at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
In 2018, she returned home to New Jersey to open NOWmed Walk-In Urgent Care to treat people who live, work, and attend schools in Jersey City. As the medical director, she works with three physician-assistants and a team of medical assistants and X-ray technicians. The clinic has been well-received by her family and friends as well as the wider community, Gaines says.
“It’s really nice to be able to offer this to folks who work really, really hard in this community, but don’t always have access. Where we are, there’s no urgent care center on this side of Jersey City at all.”
In addition to running the clinic full-time, she also serves as the chair of the minority affairs section of the American Medical Association and volunteers as the school physician for the Dr. Lena Edwards Academic Charter School in Jersey City.
In 2013, Gaines founded a media agency, Doctor Ty Media, which provides media coaching, branding workshops, and ghost-writing for physicians and medical practices.
And she has yet another important full-time job as the mother of a high school freshman. How does she do it all? She says that surrounding herself with ambitious and supportive peers and making time for running and traveling helps keep her going. She says she travels at least 50,000 miles a year and has been to every continent except Antarctica.
“I am trying to muscle somebody to come with me because Antarctica doesn’t seem like a place I want to go to by myself,” she says, laughing.
Gaines has made regular on-air appearances as a medical expert for local and national news shows and writes for various online, magazine, and newspaper outlets, including theGrio.com, which at the time was a division of MSNBC, and NBC News. She also routinely gives speeches at grammar high schools, where she talks to students about pursuing careers in medicine.