Growing up on the tough streets of Newark, N.J., Sampson Davis saw many around him succumb to violence, drugs and crime. He himself came close, ending up in juvenile detention. But he was a good student, and saw a way out. He and two friends made a pact to earn medical degrees, and all three earned scholarships. Davis and one friend became physicians, their other friend a dentist. Back in his old neighborhood, now as an emergency room doctor, Davis hopes to help other at-risk youth break the cycle of violence and poverty.

Guests

  • Sampson Davis Author, Living and Dying in Brick City: An E.R. Doctor Returns Home; co-author, The Pact, We Beat the Street, and The Bond.

Transcript

  • 13:08:08

    MR. KOJO NNAMDIFrom WAMU 88.5 at American University in Washington welcome to "The Kojo Nnamdi Show," connecting your neighborhood with the world. Given the odds, he shouldn't have made it growing up on the tough streets of Newark, which in the early 1970s we tried to rename a new art to change its image. But growing up on those tough streets, Sampson Davis saw many around him succumb to violence, drugs and crime, including his own siblings.

  • 13:08:51

    MR. KOJO NNAMDIHe himself came close ending up in juvenile detention but he was a good student and saw a way out. He and two friends made a pact. They would all earn medical degrees and they'd stick together on that journey, all three earning scholarships to college, then medical schools. Two became doctors, the third a dentist. Davis returned to his old neighborhood as an emergency room physician. He saw friends and acquaintances pass through the doors giving society's toughest health problems, gun violence, obesity, STDs, poverty a human face.

  • 13:09:24

    MR. KOJO NNAMDIJoining us in studio to discuss all of this is Sampson Davis. He is the author of "Living and Dying in Brick City: An E.R. Doctor Returns Home." He's cofounder of the Three Doctor's Foundation, a nonprofit for mentoring youth. He practices emergency medicine at St. Michael's Medical Center in Newark, New Jersey. He's also coauthor of the book "The Pact: Three Young Men Make a Promise and Fulfill a Dream," and "The Bond: Three Young Men Learn to Forgive and Reconnect With Their Fathers," and the children's book "We Beat the Streets." Dr. Davis, Sampson Davis, thank you for joining us. Welcome.

  • 13:10:02

    DR. SAMPSON DAVISThank you. Thanks for having me.

  • 13:10:03

    NNAMDIYou too can join this conversation at 800-433-8850 or you can send email to kojo@wamu.org. Do you serve as a mentor or volunteer to help others? Join the conversation, 800-433-8850. Sampson Davis, first for those who don't know your story, can you tell us a little about the neighborhood in Newark where you're from?

  • 13:10:26

    DAVISNewark is a pretty tough city. It reminds you of many, many inner cities across the country. It's a great deal of drugs, crime, despair, dilapidation, single-parent homes, people trying to make a way out of no way. And, you know, growing up with that bag drop to imagine as a young mind something positive, it's hard to find those sort of positive images. And you see it on television but it's hard to imagine that that could be your life, that you could make something positive out of it.

  • 13:10:58

    NNAMDII mentioned in the early 1970s when the activist and poet Amiri Baraka was associated with something called CFUN C-F-U-N, Committee for a Unified Newark which started referring to Newark as New Ark. So we know that the tough streets of Newark go back a long way. And when you were younger you didn't know much about what lay beyond those tough streets. You though all cities were like the neighborhoods that you knew. Can you talk about what the world was like growing up for you?

  • 13:11:27

    DAVISYeah, you know, growing up is funny. When you're young you don't see good and bad, you don't see poor and rich. You just think you're -- everything is pretty much the same throughout the world. And when you're four, five, six years old you're happy. There's no sad kids out there when -- if you're compared to, you know, other communities. It's when you start to get into the fourth and fifth grade and the sixth grade and you're ten and eleven years old, you realize that you are poor and that there are desperate times in your neighborhood. And that your mother, in my particular situation, is working odd jobs and trying to make ends meet and trying to feed six kids.

  • 13:12:05

    DAVISAnd so when you're looking at even going to school and being in a position where you're trying to learn academics, you have to get first past the fact that you're hungry and second past the fact that you don't know if you're going to have heat in the home during the wintertime. So I mean, these are all the struggles that exist in the City of Newark that I experienced growing up. And so academics sort of took a backseat to that. But my mother was, you know, pretty much on the forefront making sure education was always paramount in the home.

  • 13:12:31

    DAVISAnd, you know, back then I joke often saying child abuse was legal because if I didn't get the message she made sure I got it one way or the other.

  • 13:12:37

    NNAMDISome part of your body would be hurting after a while.

  • 13:12:40

    DAVISAbsolutely.

  • 13:12:41

    NNAMDIOther people have heard this but I don't think our audience is familiar with the story about how you and your two friends ended up choosing medicine, and it's a great story. Can you tell us about that day when you guys skipped class?

  • 13:12:52

    DAVISWe were -- my two buddies, Dr. Rameck Hunt and Dr. George Jenkins, we made the pact in high school. And it sort of materialized on its own, if you will. We were cutting class and this is one good time I say every parent would agree that cutting class was okay. It was second period class and we had a substitute teacher. We each raised our hand and came up with a reason to get out of class. We were -- all managed to get out of class, was on the way to the gym to play basketball.

  • 13:13:22

    DAVISAnd a new security guard had started that day. He was patrolling the hallways and spotted us and sort of summoned us to stop. And we had selective hearing and pretended we didn't hear him. So he gave chase, we started to run and it just so happened the library door was open and we dodged into the library. And there was a seminar ongoing about careers and health and science taking place. And so we scrambled, found a seat and the recruiter was talking about increasing the presence of minorities in the health care field. And that pretty much started the beginning of the thoughts of going to medical school and dental school as a team.

  • 13:13:56

    NNAMDII guess the first lesson of cutting class for those of you school administrators should be make sure the basketball court is close to the library. Your story and that of your two friends had a huge impact. You were on Oprah, your first book was a New York Times Bestseller. You said you were a little surprised at the impact because you were just three young guys who decided to go to medical school and become doctors. Why was that a big deal?

  • 13:14:19

    DAVISYou know, it's -- you know, I'm a humble, very low-key individual and I felt that medical school, when the opportunity presented itself, all I asked was to be really thrown a bone. I just needed an opportunity. And so growing up I was willing to put in the sweat, equity, I was willing to put in the energy. I just needed somebody to give me an opportunity. And those opportunities were far and few between.

  • 13:14:47

    DAVISAnd when a medical school sort of presented itself as an opportunity, I enjoyed helping people and I grabbed onto the opportunity. And people would say, well what was your other option if you didn't make it into medical school? There was no other option. That was it. That was my only one card that I had to play. And so once I went through the years of college and medical school and graduated, the story appeared in major media across the country on the front page of the local paper and major papers across the country.

  • 13:15:18

    DAVISAnd I didn't see initially the big deal because to me it was these three young men going to school who became doctors. But when you dissect it down then you start to see the big deal. First of all you have three men, which is three guys that come together and agree and do something to support one another is not as commonplace, especially in a city, positive, something positive.

  • 13:15:41

    DAVISThen you have three African American men from pretty much all struggles that you can imagine we faced in life trying to get to the ranks of medical and dental school. I mean, that alone is so powerful and it represents the fact that this story was bigger than just the three of us. This story was about what the country can do -- what all communities across the country can do if we just stick together and work with each other, support one another.

  • 13:16:10

    DAVISAnd for the young me and the young ladies out there who face tremendous amount of peer pressure, if they're peer groups can start to function positive and support each other through each step of the way than we will have more than three doctors. We have the four architects, the five teachers, the six astronauts. You name it. The sky's the limit.

  • 13:16:27

    NNAMDI800-433-8850 is the number to call. Our guess is Dr. Sampson Davis. He is the author of "Living and Dying in Brick City: An E.R. Doctor Returns Home." He is the cofounder of the Three Doctor's Foundation. That's a nonprofit for mentoring youth. He practices emergency medicine at St. Michael's Medical Center in Newark, N.J. 800-433-8850. Are you teaching your children to give back to society? Were you taught to give back?

  • 13:16:54

    NNAMDIWhich brings me to the next question, because you did go back to Newark working, as we said, in emergency medicine, you say it was an obvious choice to come back to your old neighborhood and focus your attention there. Why?

  • 13:17:07

    DAVISI mean, you know, people often say, why didn't you go off to Beverly Hills and become a plastic surgeon? And, you know, I laugh at that because I didn't -- that was never my ambition. It was always to come back. And that was something that my mother instilled in me at a early age. She didn't have much to give but she always gave what she had. And so we had an open-door policy in our home. We had a two-bedroom home and at any given time we had about 14, 15 family members staying there. That was the stop. My mother's house was like sort of the stop if you were going through hard times. You'll stop there, take a few weeks, gather yourself and back out into the world you went.

  • 13:17:44

    DAVISSo she always sort of told me that it was my responsibility to give back. And so when I graduated it was really a no-brainer for me to come back to Beth Israel, the same hospital in Newark that I was born in and practice medicine. Like, that's where I felt that I could have the greatest and the biggest impact. And, you know, what really resonates bigger is that if we can produce more professionals from communities as such then we'd have more people coming back to those communities.

  • 13:18:10

    DAVISBecause one way to really resolve and solve some of the crises that exist in our communities across the country is to educate the people that lives in those communities and empower them so that they can come back and be a part of the solution to those communities.

  • 13:18:22

    NNAMDII want to strike the contrast between what you're doing now and the standards that govern what you do before, because you've talked about how you had to earn your stripes in the neighborhood when you were growing up. And it wasn't by doing well in school. It wasn't by the example you're setting now. What in those days is what earned you respect in the projects?

  • 13:18:43

    DAVISSo back then the best way I can equate is to say you are a warrior. You had to wear a -- pretty much a shield of courage. And you couldn't show any weakness. You couldn't show any softness. And everything that was -- it was a bizarro universe, if you will, because everything that was good was bad and everything that was bad was good. So if I did well in school that was considered bad. But if I did something mischievous or harmed someone then I was considered good.

  • 13:19:12

    DAVISAnd so they often talk about academic excellence and our youth being proud of that. I remember being young and raising my hand and being very excited when the teacher asked the question. And as I started to move into the higher grades in the grammar school, no one wanted to raise their hand because it wasn't cool to be smart. It wasn't cool to be gifted or show your academic excellence. And you were called names and teased if you did well. And to me that's the most ridiculous position that we can take as a community because academic excellence is something you should be proud of. You should be braggadocios about your academic excellence.

  • 13:19:47

    DAVISAnd kids shunned away from showing that because they were called names, a nerd. And so on poverty kids today by saying they call you a nerd today for getting an A on a test, that's fine. They be calling you boss tomorrow. So my position now is to make education something that's glamorized, it's glorified, put a face to it so that our kids in blighted communities, and in all communities across the country, can feel that damn power to really do well.

  • 13:20:12

    DAVISSo, you know, growing up in Newark was -- it was always -- people were going through the same hardships. And the way that they sort of eased and dealt with the hardships was by sort of bringing down each other. And that made it a little bit easier to deal with.

  • 13:20:26

    NNAMDIWhat I took from that story though is how effective peer pressure can be on you to do wrong and why it was so important for you three guys to form a pact, because it is so difficult in that situation for one person to do anything. So three guys had to come together to form a pact to, I guess, have another kind of peer group pressure, those of your two peers who formed that pact with you. I want to talk about one of them, because you're a believer in helping to guide and inspire others. And you tell the story of your friend George, once of the members of that pact, and the dentist who probably unknowingly changed his life.

  • 13:21:02

    DAVISYeah, it's amazing, isn't it? It really is. You are referring to the story where it was George who had the vision of us sort of going off to medical school and dental school. At the time I was working at McDonald's and I was in high school and had been promoted to manager. So I didn't really have much ambitions beyond that. I thought maybe McDonald himself would give me a McDonald's.

  • 13:21:25

    DAVISBut -- so George was inspired ironically by a dentist when he had braces put on his teeth when he was 11, 12 years old. And his mother had enrolled him in a program at the dental school, which was a cost-saving program that allowed him to have braces. And his mother said, I can't send you out into your future looking that way. So she felt that his teeth needed to be...

  • 13:21:49

    NNAMDIStraighten those teeth out.

  • 13:21:50

    DAVIS...she felt like he needed to have that repair done and done soon. So -- but the beauty of that particular story, you just never know when these moments are going to hit home, is that the dental resident at the time took five minutes of his time -- nothing heroic, but five minutes of his to teach George the different teeth in the mouth and the different components of the teeth, and the dentine, the enamel, the pulp and struck a curiosity in George's mind. So when he would come back for his repeat visit he would quiz George again and see what he remembered.

  • 13:22:20

    DAVISAnd that right there, that was sort of the beginning of his dream. So that, dentists often said, not only changed one person's life but he changed three people's lives.

  • 13:22:28

    NNAMDIYou had some of those encounters yourself along the way where someone tried to help you or someone did actually help you many times. But it's one of the reasons that you founded the Three Doctors Foundation. Tell us about the idea behind that foundation.

  • 13:22:43

    DAVISYeah, you know, it -- that's part of the reason I mentioned my mother, but it was those heroes along the way who really gave selfishlessly of their time. And, you know, the Three Doctors Foundation, we pretty much graduated and we were in the paper and we were getting speaking requests and we accumulated some funds. And we thought it would be great just to give away a scholarship. But we realized that would be somewhat of a one-time thing. And we wanted to create something that sustained itself.

  • 13:23:11

    DAVISSo the Three Doctors Foundation kind of evolved along those lines of something that would go on and address the issues that centered around our vision being health, education, leadership and mentoring. So throughout the year we host programs that is involved in those issues. So we have a mentor day, we have a walk-a-thon, we do a positive peer pressure challenge in which we inspire the youth to do something positive, some positive programming that they can take ownership over -- and control in their community.

  • 13:23:42

    DAVISAnd then we reward the students for their academic excellence and for their community excellence. We instill in them what was instilled in us, that the fact that you have to go on and achieve. And unlike a lot of folks, as we were growing up, they would leave the community and never come back, so you never knew they existed, we implored them to come back. You don't have to live there, but you must come back and share some of yourself with the community.

  • 13:24:04

    NNAMDIOur guess is Sampson Davis. He is the author of "Living and Dying in Brick City: An E.R. Doctor Returns Home." He's a cofounder of what you just heard him describing, the work of the Three Doctors Foundation. It's a nonprofit for mentoring youth. He practices emergency medicine at St. Michael's Medical Center in Newark, N.J. You can call us at 800-433-8850 with your comments and questions. Did you have to overcome obstacles to get where you are in life? How'd you do it, 800-433-8850? We start with Nyerere in Washington, D.C. Nyerere, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 13:24:38

    NYERERESure, thank you. And I appreciate this topic. I'm actually from Newark and I hope that once I complete my doctorate I can find a meaningful way to come back home and to improve the lives of my people. I guess my question shouldn't be taken as a criticism but more of a point for enlightenment. The mentorship is good and there's certainly a place for that, but how is your work addressing some of the structural forces that we all seem to call structural violence, those forces that shape those lives of those kids irrespective of whether or not high self esteems or they do all they need to do. How does your work speak to them?

  • 13:25:22

    NNAMDII think that's more like Cory Booker's work, but go ahead, please. Here is Sampson Davis.

  • 13:25:27

    DAVISWell, I -- you know, that is true. That is more of a political standpoint but I save lives. I mean, I'm in the front and center of the action every single day in the emergency department. When I'm not out speaking and sort of addressing a community at large, I see patients day in and day out. I take that four-year-old hand daily to the x-ray box and show them what a hand x-ray looks like and what an extremity x-ray looks like to spark an interest in their mind.

  • 13:25:53

    DAVISThis new book itself speaks about those particular issues you're bringing up, and bringing solutions to the forefront. Because at the end of the day if we as a whole wait for people to do for us what we expect them to do, we're never going to get anywhere. We have do for ourselves. And so my hope is that the movement would be created. And it takes more than one leader. We need a whole bunch of leaders and a whole bunch of food soldiers out there to really get this movement going.

  • 13:26:19

    DAVISWe've been doing the same thing, addressing the same issues over and over again in the same way, practicing at definition of insanity. So we need to create new ways in doing things. And I'm hopeful that, you know, this project here will spearhead some of the smarter leaders out there to really make that movement and bring it to life and solve some of the issues and handle it in a real way.

  • 13:26:41

    NNAMDIAnd Nyerere, who I assume is named after Julius Nyerere, the former president of Tanzania, I was being lighthearted but not facetious because I think the point I was making about Cory Booker, the Mayor of Newark, and I guess the City Council there, is it is their obligation to address those issues. But it seems to me what Sampson Davis and others are doing is one of the things that was bemoaned for a long time ago in the African-American community, and that is the presence of professionals in those communities.

  • 13:27:06

    NNAMDIDoctors and lawyers who could serve as examples and role models and taking it one step farther, creating a foundation in which they're actually interacting with young people in a conscious way, rather than simply being seen as role models. So I hope you don't think I was simply being facetious.

  • 13:27:23

    NYERERENo, thank you.

  • 13:27:24

    NNAMDIAnd thank you very much for your call. You too can call us at 800-433-8850. Sampson Davis, you mentioned this latest book. It's a series of stories straight out of the E.R. You've changed some of the names and the physical descriptions to protect privacy, but all the stories are true. What made you decide to share those stories?

  • 13:27:43

    DAVISYou know, the birth of this project happened one night I was at dinner ironically sharing one of the stories with a friend. And I was interrupted by a phone call. And when I returned to the table the friend wanted to hear more about the story. And I totally lost sight of what the story was. And so I continued on but it made me realize that we are enlightened and empowered by stories. And so what better way to address high blood pressure, obesity, STDs, diabetes, heart disease, metabolic syndrome? What better way to address it than not to call it by its name but to tell a story?

  • 13:28:23

    DAVISAnd by telling the story then you can start to see that's me, that's my Aunt Julie, that's my Uncle John. You will start to see yourself in the story. Then at the end of each story there are solutions and anecdotes that you can practice or take as your own in order to solve the issue. When I see a lot of patients and their blood pressure is out of control or their diabetes is out of control, then I'm saying to myself, you know, in a sense we only take my blood pressure medication when I feel my pressure is high. That's the wrong answer.

  • 13:28:54

    DAVISYou know, you have to take your blood pressure medication every day. You have to check your blood sugars every day. You have to exercise. So this sort of taking ownership over health is what ultimately I hope that this book does.

  • 13:29:06

    NNAMDIGot to take a short break. When we come back, we'll be continuing the conversation with Sampson Davis about "Living and Dying in Brick City." If you have called, stay on the line. We'll get to your calls. If the lines are busy or if you'd rather contact us by email it's kojo@wamu.org. You can send us a Tweet at kojoshow or go to our website kojoshow.org and ask a question or make a comment there. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.

  • 13:37:20

    NNAMDIWelcome back to our conversation with Sampson Davis. He is the author of "Living and Dying in Brick City: An E.R. Doctor Returns Home." He's a cofounder of the Three Doctors Foundation. That's a nonprofit for mentoring youth. He practices emergency medicine at St. Michael's Medical Center in Newark, N.J. We're taking your calls at 800-433-8850. A number of you have called already. We will get to your call.

  • 13:37:46

    NNAMDISampson Davis, you open with a story about a man who you encountered during your residency, a man you'd known as a teenager. Can you tell us a little bit about Snake and some of the memories he triggered about your teenage years?

  • 13:38:00

    DAVISWell, Snake -- it's funny. I open the book with this story about Snake and changed his name, obviously, to protect his family and his privacy. Snake was a young man who was part of the armed robbery that I committed when I was 17-and-a-half. And I say 17-and-a-half because obviously if I was a half a year older I probably wouldn't be sitting here. But he was a young man. I remember we were -- we committed this crime and he was an adult at the time and he was sentenced to seven years in prison. And I pretty much saw him one other time after the incident.

  • 13:38:37

    DAVISWe were both out -- I was out of the juvenile detention facility after serving a few weeks there and waiting to be sentenced, and so was Snake. Ultimately my sentence was a two-year probation and a second opportunity. Snake received...

  • 13:38:53

    NNAMDIWhich you obviously used very well.

  • 13:38:54

    DAVISWhen the judge said, if he sees me back in there again, bring my toothbrush, I told him, don't worry about that. You won't see me. Actually, he did see me back in there but that next time I was there I was an expert witness in an emergency-medicine case. But Snake...

  • 13:39:09

    NNAMDISame judge?

  • 13:39:10

    DAVISWell, he wasn't...

  • 13:39:11

    NNAMDISame court.

  • 13:39:12

    DAVIS...same court, right. Same court. The judge wasn't -- I don't ever know what happened to that judge but trust and believe he scared me straight. I was never going back. I promised myself that. But Snake stayed down the road of crime after seven years in prison. We lost contact. I went on to medical school, went on -- and college, medical school and then came back to do my residency. And while doing my residency in Newark I went off to do my trauma residency at a different hospital in Newark University Hospital.

  • 13:39:41

    DAVISAnd I remember the first day I'm there I'm sitting in morning rounds, and you have all the senior doctors criticizing all the actions that were taken the night before. And it's a pretty tough environment there. They're pretty hard on all the residents who were working the night before. And I'm looking at the board and so all the names of the people who came in that was shot, stabbed and bad car accidents. And so I see a name on the board, Don Moses, Snake Don Moses. And I'm saying to myself, wow, what are the chances that this is the same person?

  • 13:40:12

    DAVISlike, you know, we all have similar names, but, you know, what's the possibility. So I'm sitting there thinking and they have his age. It was like, well, the age is about right. And right by his name -- written underneath his name, rather, there's a slash through his name, and written underneath his name is the word deceased. And I'm saying, what are the possibilities.

  • 13:40:31

    DAVISSo they have the room numbers, and once the rounds was over, I asked somebody to point me in the direction of the surgical intensive care unit. I sprint down the hallway, and as I'm approaching the room, I'm starting to make out the faces, and the faces become familiar to me that it's his family. And when I arrived there, they told me that he had passed away the night before. He was shot several times and managed to survive a few days. He passed away the day before I started my trauma rotation.

  • 13:41:01

    DAVISAnd it really hit home that when it came to the fork in the road, I went one way and he went another way, and how that could have been me. My life could have been written, the same, you know, same exact way.

  • 13:41:12

    NNAMDIThere but for the grace of God go I. You wondered on seeing Snake and another man named Legend, why you made it while they did not. What did you think finally accounted for the difference?

  • 13:41:24

    DAVISYou know, I think it's the opportunity of -- or the cliche I use is, you can't aim for what you can't see. You are your environment, and to go against that, it takes a lot of faith and a lot of belief in yourself to go against that. So communities that are in despair, they're going -- this is what it produce. This is what most likely would result. And so we have to show positive faces, more concrete, more things that people can grab a hold onto, that they can smell, that they can touch, that's real.

  • 13:42:00

    DAVISAnd I think that's what happened. When you look at Legend and you look at Snake, it's just a product of circumstance, and unfortunately, their lives were lost and taken away way too soon. But we have to create more positive images. For every negative, there has to be two and three positives. For every drug scene and gang scene, you need to have a lawyer, teacher, astronaut, doctor, somebody that's positive, somebody that resembles the community.

  • 13:42:28

    DAVISSomebody that's part of that fabric of the community. Somebody that they can embrace and call their own, and then we see the resemblance, and you see the attachment, then you start to say, holy cow, I think I can do that. I think I can do that.

  • 13:42:40

    NNAMDIYou have to see it because you mentioned that Legend too ended up in this way, riddled with bullets, but you said he too dreamed of getting out at some point, didn't he?

  • 13:42:52

    DAVISSo Legend -- the unique part about Legend, I refer to one of the persons in the back as Legend. And Legend was a young man who life was cut short, who was everything that any teenager could imagine. He had charisma, he had style, he had -- he was great in sports, he was smooth with his words, and people really adored Legend. He received a scholarship to go play sports at one of the universities, and after a semester he was back home.

  • 13:43:25

    DAVISHe was back home. So the youth also have to realize, it's one thing to get into college, but it's another to stay there. So he was back home, and he turned to a life of selling drugs. He was a pretty popular drug dealer, and his life was taken away on the streets. But I remember, he stumbled to the Emergency Department. He was banging on the door, and you could see where the glass door that -- where the ambulance enters with patients was stained with his fingerprints from the blood on his hand.

  • 13:43:54

    DAVISWe rushed out there with a stretcher. We threw him on a stretcher. We brought him to the trauma resuscitation room, and we started our protocol of intubating him, putting in a chest tube, and sort of stabilizing him, and I just remember this look on his face. It was two things that went through my mind. One is like, I'm about to die, and that's just what it is. And the second was like, I never knew you existed. Like it was almost an enigma to him that somebody that looked like him, walked like him, from the same community -- because we resembled each other.

  • 13:44:24

    NNAMDISomebody who probably looked up to him at some point.

  • 13:44:26

    DAVISSomebody who probably looked up to him at some point. And we resembled each other, and it was almost like where has this been all my life. Like, if I only had another opportunity and knew this existed, I would go after that.

  • 13:44:39

    NNAMDIOnto the telephones. Here is Peter in Annapolis, Md. Peter, you're on the air, go ahead, please.

  • 13:44:45

    PETERThanks for taking my call. Talking about gun violence, I don't hear too much about gun violence or crime in Newark. I know that it exists there, but you hear more about Chicago and the deaths by gun violence there. I'm wondering what experience you've had or what suggestions you might have in regard to curtailing gun violence in any of the inner cities.

  • 13:45:17

    NNAMDIPeter, if you don't mind, I'd like to add to that question, so that Sampson Davis can tell you exactly what he's doing about this, because seeing so many young men end up of the ER or dead motivated him to do something beyond trying to save individual lives. He worked giving kids some tough lessons in a program called the Violence Prevention Institute and the Cops & Docs program. Could you tell us what was the idea behind that program, and what was your role even as you answer Peter's question?

  • 13:45:45

    DAVISYeah. Peter, thank you for the question. And what Kojo eluded too is correct. I was part of a program years ago that I was -- went to schools and I showed kids what -- this is what happens to your body once you're shot and stabbed, and I showed them graphic images in a way to educate them and show them the consequence of gun violence. Because I think what I was tired of seeing -- I know what I was tired of seeing was these young men and young women coming through the Emergency Department with their bullet -- with their bodies riddled with bullets, and looking as if they had no clue that their life can be taken away.

  • 13:46:24

    DAVISIt was almost like you're invincible until you no longer are. And so, I had to do something. It was a call to action for me years ago, and I started to travel to the local schools in Newark where gun violence is prevalent. Not as severe as Chicago and some of the other inner cities, but it does exist, and I started to give these lectures on what happens to your body medically, and showing them how tubes are inserted in every orifice that you can imagine in order to stabilize your life, and how, you know, I've seen the toughest, toughest, meanest guys on the streets come in, and all of a sudden all that bravado is lost, and all you see is almost these kind of puppy dog eyes in which they're pleading and begging for their lives.

  • 13:47:05

    DAVISSo I think, you know, that was my call to action years ago, and now with this book as well, I'm trying to take it to that national platform. But when it comes to gun control, and gun violence, you look at 3.5 lives lost an hour due to gun control and gun violence, and 30,000 lives lost a year. And you can imagine like in some place like Chicago, it's equivalent -- with 500 murders is equivalent to 20 Newtown, Connecticut massacres happening a year.

  • 13:47:36

    DAVISSo, you know, there has to be something that's done, and I think the president is moving in that direction. You know, whether you're for gun control or against gun control, I think we all can agree that we don't really use rotary phones anymore, we're all using cellular phones. And so just like the -- when the laws were written years ago and the rights were given, we have to modify them so that they're prevalent -- or modify them, rather, that they agree with where we are today.

  • 13:48:06

    NNAMDIPeter, thank you very much for your call. We move onto Chaz in Dulles, Va. Chaz, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 13:48:13

    CHAZHi there. First of all, thanks for taking my call. Second, what I want to say was -- is more of a comment, but, you know, I think when the doctor has accomplished is exactly what, you know, has occurred for me. And that's don't let adversity define you. You need to define yourself in what you can do, and if you do that, then you can move ahead. I got a 2.0 GPO coming out of high school. I went to a Jr. college, and then went to a four-year college.

  • 13:48:41

    CHAZI had to fight with the college administration to actually finalize and get my four-year degree, and if I hadn't done that, I wouldn't be where I am today. I've got my own business. I'm earning a very significant amount of money, and I'm -- if I hadn't done that, you know, my family wouldn't be here. I wouldn't be here, you know. Things would have been a lot different. So, I mean, you got to take a look at what you want to do and just do it.

  • 13:49:14

    NNAMDIThank you very much for your call. But I think in the case of Sampson Davis, one of the things he emphasized early on was the pact that he formed with he and his friends. It's one thing to undertake it as an individual, but when you're facing a certain kind of peer pressure in the other directions it always helps to have a few people with you. And speaking of having someone with you, it's my understanding that when you were involved in that Violence Prevention Institute Cops & Docs program, you always took a former gang member to accompany you for those presentations. What was his story, why was he there? Why did you feel you needed him, it was important for him to be there with you?

  • 13:49:49

    DAVISRight. You're referring to a young man, Hashim Garrett, and he was a former drug dealer, and when he was 15 years old he was shot and he was left paralyzed in one of his legs. And so he turned his life around, and part of the program that he would illustrate that incident of how he was 15 years old, he thought he was one of the toughest guys out, and someone came with a semi-automatic machine gun and shot him. And he sat there in the streets and you had to stabilize the environment before the ambulance could come get him, and he said he just sat there just thinking that he was going to die, and all he could think about was wanting to go home and just be with his mother.

  • 13:50:36

    DAVISThat's the only thing that he said kept playing on -- playing in his mind. One of the local neighborhood friends ran and told his mother, so by the time the ambulance arrived, both him and his mother were -- his mother made it to the scene, and so they were placed in the ambulance, and he remembered the comforting words of his mother is what allowed him to hold on until he got to the hospital. And so he turned his life around and he -- now he's paralyzed and gets around with crutches, but he illustrates to the young students how their lives should not and can't end up the way that his.

  • 13:51:14

    DAVISHow bad decisions -- those split decisions of hanging out with the wrong friends and the wrong environment can lead to indications such as his. And, you know, he's a great speaker, and he really drives home the point of what gangs and guns can do to you.

  • 13:51:28

    NNAMDINevertheless, the program was canceled, but you point out that the cost of violence is probably much higher than that program ever cost.

  • 13:51:36

    DAVISSo the program, Dr. Duane Dyson is the founder of the program in New Jersey, and once he told me about it, I was automatically on board to be a part of it as well, and it was the attorney general, Peter Harvey, which funded the program for two years, but the cost to run the program for two years equals the cost to treat one gunshot victim. One gunshot victim. And unfortunately the program wasn't funded past the two-year mark. But it just baffles me how something so instrumental and so important was taken away for a lot of the youths out there.

  • 13:52:15

    NNAMDIAnd finally here's Rosalyn in Bowie, Md. Rosalyn, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 13:52:19

    ROSALYNGood afternoon. Thank you for taking my call. I met Dr. Davis yesterday at the Howard Book Store, and I just wanted to share the environment. I saw several young black men that saw themselves in him as his future. So I just wanted to make sure that if any other youths are online, what recommendations would he give for them, not only to continue on, but to stay on, because that goal can be attainable.

  • 13:52:43

    DAVISThat's right.

  • 13:52:43

    NNAMDIRosalyn, Thank you so much for your call. And as I said, we're just about out of time, but what you should know about this book is that at the end of each chapter, included you'll see a few pages of resources about the problem that he illustrates, domestic violence, cardiac arrest, STDs, and much -- I'm afraid we don't have to talk more, but Sampson Davis, thank you so much for joining us.

  • 13:53:03

    DAVISThank you, Kojo. Thank you for having me.

  • 13:53:05

    NNAMDIDr. Sampson Davis is the author of "Living and Dying in Brick City: An ER Doctor Returns Home." He's a co-founder of the Three Doctors Foundation, a nonprofit for mentoring youth. Practices emergency medicine add St. Michaels Medical Center in Newark, New Jersey. And thank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.

Related Links

Topics + Tags

Comments

comments powered by Disqus
Most Recent Shows

The Economic Fight Against ISIS

Thursday, Oct 30 2014Experts call ISIS the best-funded non-state terrorist organization the U.S. has ever confronted. We explore how ISIS fills its coffers and how the international community is trying to shut off the funding pipeline.

Red Cross Under Fire In Storms’ Aftermath

Thursday, Oct 30 2014The Red Cross' response to Hurricane Isaac and Superstorm Sandy are in the spotlight this week after an investigation by ProPublica and NPR revealed failures by the organization in multiple areas, as well as a pattern of diverting resources for public relations purposes.

D.C.’s Punk Movement: Looking Back And Ahead

Thursday, Oct 30 2014It's a chapter of D.C.'s cultural history that's the subject of on onslaught of new documentary projects: the punk movement that took root in our area during the 1980s and 1990s. But this new wave of nostalgia has provoked tough questions too: is it overkill? Where did the creative and activist energy that fueled the art go? We ponder the past and the future of punk music in the Washington area.

Mediterranean Vegetarian Feasts With Aglaia Kremezi

Wednesday, Oct 29 2014Vegetarian dishes have long been a large part of Mediterranean diets, especially on the Greek Isles where there's little space for animals to graze. With simple, often very straightforward preparations, the region makes the most of the bounty of vegetables available. We explore some of the cuisine's most flavorful meals made with Aglaia Kremezi.