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Dr. Sampson Davis often says too many people wait until it’s time to visit the emergency room, but for a lot of conditions, it’s too late for treatment.
Davis, perhaps best known for making a pact with high school friends Rameck Hunt and George Jenkins to leave the mean streets and become doctors, has chronicled his experiences as an emergency room physician in Newark, N.J., but also that of those who treat the ER as a primary care facility.
The trio’s experiences leading up to and after their successes were detailed in “The Pact” and “The Bond.”
In his book, “Living and Dying in Brick City: An E.R. Doctor Returns Home,” Davis details some of his more compelling encounters with patients who remind him of a time in his life when he was poor and vulnerable. Davis also offers practical health advice for everyone.
Davis did not have a smooth and easy path to becoming a doctor. In fact, it wasn’t until Davis had served time in juvenile detention for an armed robbery that he decided to change his life. All of his associates, however, didn’t make it out of the cycle of violence.
Early in residency at a Newark Hospital, Davis recognized a name among a list of patients on a chalkboard and quickly realized it was the friend with whom he committed the armed robbery. The young man had been shot several times and died just before Davis arrived at the hospital that day.
Davis also had to contend with the rise in prescription drug abuse in poor neighborhoods, not just victims of recreational drugs like cocaine and heroin. He had to face the mental health crisis that often drives people to attempt, and sometimes succeed at, suicide. Many in the African American community refuse to seek help for mental health issues because they fear being labeled crazy or think their issues are simply a result of weak spiritual faith. Many families don’t contend with the issue until the patient’s behavior reaches a crisis stage or they act out by committing a crime or attempting suicide.
But most commonly, Davis discovered, it is the routine, silent killers that most afflict the black community: heart disease, stroke, diabetes and obesity, as well as the toll that sexually transmitted infections among women take. After his own sister died of AIDS, Davis vowed to use his platform to get the message out to young people, especially young women, that they have the power to protect themselves from preventable sexually transmitted infections.
Davis, Hunt and Jenkins founded The Three Doctors Foundation to help young people get the care, concern and guidance that helped them keep their commitment to become medical professionals.