According to the 2004 Census, African-American doctors make up only 2.3 percent of all doctors in the United States. Though the number had been steadily rising for three decades since the 1960s, it became stagnant in the 21st century.
This year’s Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh State of Black Pittsburgh on Oct. 29 featured three African-American male doctors who use their success to motivate Black youth. Their organization, The Three Doctors Foundation aims to improve the quality of life among inner city youth and families by promoting the importance of education.
|DR. SAMPSON DAVIS, DR. GEORGE JENKINS and DR. RAMECK HUNT (Photos by J.L. Martello)
“If you don’t get your education you will struggle for the rest of your life. It’s simple,” said Dr. Rameck Hunt, a board certified internist at University Medical Center at Princeton and assistant professor of medicine at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. “We have to nurture our young people. We are in blighted communities; our houses are broken. We have to nurture these seeds because if you just let them lay on the ground, they’re going to die. We have to raise the bar.”
As they addressed the audience at the August Wilson Center for African American Culture, The Three Doctors shared their experience growing up in what they called the tough inner-city streets of Newark, N.J. At the age of 17, Dr. Sampson Davis, who now serves as a consultant for the Violence Prevention Institute focusing on gang awareness and preventative medicine in Essex County New Jersey, found himself in juvenile detention.
“As a kid, it’s hard to aim for something positive when you’re surrounded by so much negativity,” said Davis, a board certified emergency medicine physician at St. Michaels Medical Center and Raritan Bay Medical Center. “I always did well in school, but the people I was hanging around were the wrong crowd. When I came back my senior year, the only thing on my report card was an A.”
Ironically, The Three Doctors discovered their calling to the medical profession while cutting class one day. Upon entering their school’s library, to avoid being caught, they walked into a seminar about scholarships for African-American students wishing to study medicine.
After graduation, the three young men enrolled in Seton Hall University’s Pre-Medicine/Pre-Dental Plus program, specifically designed to encourage minority students to pursue medical careers. They later went on to the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey.
“Education is cool. If they’re calling you a nerd today, it’s ok because they’re going to be calling you boss tomorrow. So for my young ones, college is the necessity, it’s the norm,” Davis said. “I came back and worked as the surgical resident in Newark and what I did was I offered something different from the car thieves and the drug dealers.”
The Three Doctors use their personal story of success to mentor youth in struggling inner-city communities. By presenting these youth with positive role models, they hope to counteract the negative images portrayed by some entertainers and athletes.
“It’s like these kids are walking in a music video; they’re not. The surest way to change your quality of life is education. You can sing, you can rap, you can play sports, but these things are as likely to pay off as you walking down the street and getting struck by lightning,” said Dr. George Jenkins, assistant professor of clinical dentistry at Columbia University. “There’s no short cut to a bright future. You have to dream. Surrounding yourself with positive people can bring more positivity out of you than you ever even knew you had in you. I became a dentist from nothing and you can, too.”