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IEric Jacques via AP)

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — One used to deal drugs on the streets of New Orleans. Another grew up in Chicago with two drug-addicted parents. A third survived the tough streets of New York and Washington, D.C., where he once stared down the barrel of a gun.

All three young black men became board-certified doctors.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Pierre Johnson, Maxime Madhere and Joe Semien Jr. said they knew the odds were stacked against them when they entered Xavier University of Louisiana in 1998 with hopes of becoming doctors. Black men make up a small percentage of doctors in America, and they knew getting through college and medical school wouldn’t be easy.

Their early lives, college struggles, and victories are chronicled in “Pulse of Perseverance: Three Black Doctors on Their Journey to Success.” They said they wrote the book to show African-American boys that athletes and entertainers aren’t the only examples of black achievement and success.

Their story is reminiscent of the story of three New Jersey doctors, George Jenkins, Sampson Davis, and Rameck Hunt who wrote the book The Pact in 2003. The book and its sequel The Bond, details their journey growing up in Newark together and how their friendship ultimately helped them all succeed in their quest to become doctors.

Madhere, an anesthesiologist in Baton Rouge, said they’re fortunate and have a responsibility to share their experiences with the next generation.

“Young boys need to know it’s not a game in these streets. They need to know that we are completely marginalized as people of color when we mess up. They also need to know you don’t have to rap or shoot a ball to get out of their circumstances,” said Madhere.

Semien, Johnson and Madhere each set a goal early on to become a doctor. Semien, an obstetrician/gynecologist from New Orleans who practices in Lake Charles, describes in the book how he became intrigued by a sixth-grade anatomy class. Madhere discovered his love for medicine after volunteering at a hospital. Johnson said he “just knew” he wanted to heal people after dealing with his parents.

Getting there, however, wasn’t easy. Four percent of doctors in the U.S. are African American, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges. The men chose Xavier, knowing that the nation’s only historically black Catholic institution consistently places black students in medical school.

Johnson, an obstetrician/gynecologist working in Chicago, writes about Xavier’s nurturing environment, which helped spark the trio’s friendship.

Johnson said he often saw Madhere in class and around campus but noticed that he, too, was “always in the library.”

“We started a conversation about how things were going and the struggles we were going through in class and ultimately decided we needed to band together … and we saw that same energy in Joe,” Johnson said.

“We held each other accountable,” Semien recalled. “When one was falling short, the other would pick him up.”

Semien had to shed a street reputation that included dealing drugs and an anger problem that got him in trouble. He dropped out of Xavier at one point, joined the military, re-enrolled, dropped out again, and finally returned and met Johnson and Madhere.

Madhere describes in the book the troubled Brooklyn neighborhood where his mother lived after divorcing his father. He recalls one day when a young black man was shot in front of her apartment building.

“This was my first encounter with death. The image of this man dead on the pavement, with the police and paramedics swarming around him, was immediately burned into my 7-year-old mind. It remains there to this day,” he wrote.

Johnson writes of being 3 when he and his mother frantically ran from his father “who was high out of his mind.”

“We sought refuge at my paternal grandparents’ house …” he writes. “We crawled under the covers; I thought for a moment that we were safe. A few minutes later, my father came into the bedroom, dragged my mom into the hallway by her ankle, and beat her.”

Both parents struggled with addiction, and Johnson wrote: “I learned as a young boy that one of my purposes in life was to help others who could not help themselves.”

The three doctors decided to tell their stories in one project because they’d already proven they could work together. Johnson said he plans to push his friends to write a follow-up.

“If this book does what we hope and plan, to inspire kids everywhere and to push people to achieve success through all circumstances, definitely a second book is in the making,” he said.





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18 thoughts on “A New Pact Helps Three New Orleans Men Become Doctors

  1. SheCat54 on said:

    Very positive story to hear about brown skin men. There are three beautiful brown skin women waiting to be your wives. AMEN.

  2. Congratulations gentlemen on your success. I am going to purchase this book for my son and hope along with me keeping him encourage and him reading you all story will shed a light of sunshine to this life.

  3. Tiana Nonbasic on said:

    Congratulations for their achievements. I love to hear stories like this. Can’t wait to finishing reading the book.

  4. Passing Through!! on said:

    And sadly there are hundreds of black success stories like this in the world that remain untold. There are prominent African Americans who are breaking glass ceilings in the field of science, medicine, and engineering everyday but the white power press is too busy feeding negative stereotypes & black self-hatred by focusing on how many black people are being killed in Chicago.
    Tony Hansberry 14 year old invented surgical technique
    Dr. Hadiyah-Nicole Green pioneered ground breaking cancer treatment
    Mikaila Ulmer 11 year old Texas sixth-grader built her lemonade business, received a $60,000 investment.
    Ayrton Little 16 year old gets accepted into Harvard.

    • Tiana Nonbasic on said:

      My grandfather went to college and graduated at 16. My Aunt is a Biologist and the Head of her school board, My other Aunt CEO, Myself Military Veteran and Corporate Associate in one of the largest firms in the world. All of us grew-up in poverty.

    • Tiana Nonbasic on said:

      This made me think of my grandfather and how even after he graduated College at the age of 16 there were few opportunities for him and so he went to the military and died young. There are opportunities now and I am proud to see that these successful men took them and ran with them.

  5. Justbeingme on said:

    Congratulations to these 3 Kings every black man is not a thug or a criminal we have so many intelligent educated accomplished black men out here in the world. There is so much barrers that stands in your way but a lot of you break through those barriers and become the the kings that represents your family neighborhoods and your community. Success, success

  6. BEVERLY C. SEALEY on said:

    Congratulations! You have made your community proud of you for turning your lives around and for demonstrating that you have intelligence and are very smart. May God Bless you and continue to Bless you richly in all that you do. We, the Black Community, are very proud of you my Brothers!

  7. stephanie Jones on said:

    Congratulation Brothers, God has blessed you three and smiled on you. May you all continue to hit many mile stones. No weapons for against you 3 shall prosper.

  8. msstarr82 on said:

    This is a story and outcome that makes me cry for joy, pride, and truth of intentional optimism for our community. Recently there have been so many stories of positive life changing REALITY that deserves to be on front pages and the news. I am still horribly saddened and ultimately furious at Cathy Hughes and her dismissal of Roland Martin bringing the world daily BLACK NEWS informing us of our own. I QUIT and REFUSE to watch tvone for this reason alone.

  9. S.D. on said:

    Like the three brothers in The Pact, these three have shown forth the true intelligence, perseverance, and true strength of a Black man silencing all the nay sayers and perpetrators of lies. Congrats to them!!

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