Intimate Conversation with Sampson Davis M.D.
Dr. Sampson Davis was raised as the fifth of six children in Newark, one of New Jersey's poorest cities. As a child Dr. Davis grew-up in cramped living quarters, surrounded by fragmented families, crime, and drugs. Still, he was a good student, able to strike the fragile balance between being smart yet socially acceptable on the streets. It was this combination of skills, Dr. Davis says, that were most critical to his survival.
While attending University High School in Newark, Dr. Davis met Dr. Rameck Hunt and Dr. George Jenkins, two fellow students who together made a promise to become doctors. Dr. Davis and his two childhood friends each successfully fulfilled their pact and today Dr. Davis is a board certified Emergency Medicine Physician.
In February 2013 Dr. Davis released his newest book, "Living & Dying in Brick City--An E.R. Doctor Returns Home" In addition to discussing Dr. Davis' riveting experiences as an ER physician, the book will also offer preventative guidance as a means of supporting healthier communities.
Dr. Davis has appeared on numerous talk and radio shows including Oprah, The Today Show, The View, Michael Baisden radio show, Tavis Smiley and NPR as well as print publications including but not limited to Readers Digest, O Magazine, People, Washington Post, NY Times, USA Today, Vibe and Black Enterprise.
Ms. Winfrey also delivered the highest honor naming Dr. Davis, “The Premiere Role Models of the World”.
Dr. Davis was honored in 2000 with the Essence Lifetime Achievement Award and also named one of their forty most inspirational African Americans in the country. He is the youngest physician to receive the National Medical Association’s highest honor, The Scroll of Merit, and was previously honored on 2009 BET Awards.
Today Dr. Davis spends his time practicing medicine and traveling the country delivering keynote speeches with timely messages. Dr. Davis believes it is important to give education a sense of style and fashion. To glorify and glamorize education is the key. A face must be present, a concrete image that all individuals across America can draw inspiration from. Dr. Davis considers his 3 D’s, Dedication, Determination and Discipline, as the necessary ingredients to success.
Graduating with honors, Dr. Davis received his bachelor’s degree from Seton Hall University, his medical degree from Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and completed his residency in Emergency Medicine at the same hospital where he was born, Newark Beth Israel Medical Center.
Today, Dr. Davis is a Board Certified Emergency Medicine Physician at St. Michaels Medical Center in Newark NJ. He has been a weekly correspondent on the Tom Joyner Morning Radio Show and CNN where he highlighted prevalent and life-changing medical topics. Dr. Davis has also co-authored three New York Times best-selling books entitled The Pact, We Beat the Street and The Bond.
In 2000 during his residency, Dr. Davis along with his best friends felt the burning need to give back to communities in need, and together created The Three Doctors Foundation. This non-profit organization offers a series of free public programs focused upon health, education, leadership and mentoring.
BPM: Please introduce us to your current book. What topics are discussed in this book?
In my newest book, Living and Dying in Brick City: An E.R. Doctor Returns Home, I share the story of my return as an emergency room doctor to the hospital where I was born in Newark, New Jersey. Through the riveting life-or-death stories of the patients I encounter there, I explore the health care crisis in this country, particularly in the nation's urban core, from the perspective of a doctor who has lived the life of many of his patients. I share my own reflections of losing friends to gun violence, including one encounter on my first day as a resident in a trauma unit, losing my sister to AIDS, helping my father through a bout with prostate cancer, and even talking my reluctant landlord into finally seeing a doctor to care for a painful knee. I also share lifesaving information aimed at helping us all take better care of ourselves.
BPM: Which character or topic in the book can you identify with the most?
I am able to identify with almost all of the characters I introduce in the book. As a matter of fact, the book opens with an encounter at the hospital with Snake, an old friend with whom I'd committed a robbery when I was 17 1/2. Our lives took very different paths after our arrests, and it is through this emergency room encounter that I felt the gravity of how my life could have ended up. There are other characters, such as Mrs. Rogers and Mrs. Jackson, whose selfless ways of giving and caring for loved ones remind me of my own mother. My mother is paramount in my life and was one of my first teachers of medicine with her philosophy of placing compassion and humanity first in all that you do.
The reluctance of Mr. Tate, another patient, to see a doctor for both financial reasons and fear reminds me of my father and his hesitation towards western medicine. The willingness of another patient, Danielle, to surrender her body to an unworthy man resonates with me as I think of my own sister and the life-altering choice that ended with her dying of AIDS. And those are just a few of the characters whose lives I understood in a very personal way.
BPM: What drew you to tackle the questions or topics in your book?
As an ER doctor, I was tired of sitting passively in the ER awaiting patients who perhaps could have avoided the crisis that landed them in the emergency room if they had made different choices earlier. Of course, some incidents are beyond our control. But I've seen too many gunshot victims die over petty disagreements. I've seen patients suffering needlessly from uncontrolled diabetes, strokes, heart attacks, sexually transmitted disease, domestic violence, medical fear and preventable cancers. I wanted to share some of the stories of real people with the hope that readers will see themselves or their loved ones in the stories and take necessary steps toward change.
I believe it is important for me to become a face and voice for health education and disease prevention. I feel I am the natural person to step forward, since I grew up and lived in the community that I was caring for when I first started writing the book. Your health is too important to leave to chance.
BPM: Who does your body of literary work speak to?
It speaks to everyone--families, communities, churches, schools. Anyone with a heart, regardless of race or social status, can identify with the stories in Living and Dying in Brick City: An ER Doctor Returns Home. Obstacles and challenges are ubiquitous. I have received so many letters, emails, tweets, and Facebook messages thanking me for such a transparent, transforming message. Many readers have told me they were totally engrossed from page 1.
BPM: How has your writing evolved?
My writing has aligned with my position in life at that given moment. When writing my first book, The Pact: Three Young Men Make a Promise and Fulfill a Dream, my focus was college, high school, and the challenges of growing up in the inner city of Newark, New Jersey. In that book, my two best friends and I were able to define how we came to be friends and helped each other overcome the hurdles of growing up in fatherless homes and sometimes violent, drug-ridden communities to become doctors.
With Living and Dying in Brick City, I write as a more mature doctor , family man, and member of the community who feels compelled to help bring about change. I pulled from my many experiences and hopefully delivered a reading that is entertaining, empowering and educational at the same time.
BPM: Your greatest accomplishment as a writer:
The lives I have changed. So many people have reached out to me with stories of how they have referred to my books often in times of stress, pressure and unforeseeable obstacles. I'm humbled and honored that my books have helped people overcome some challenges and reach their goal of being the best person they can be. I have been through many moments in life where no good outcome was foreseeable but through faith, hope, support and an un-surrendering attitude, I was able to make a way out. That means you can, too!
BPM: Do you consider yourself a role model?
I would say yes, but my hope is to be a motivator. I know firsthand the hardships in life but believe it is vital to continue to push to reach your goals and achieve success. Never give up! If I can inspire others to aspire with the same attitude, then I feel good about being that catalyst. The power of giving and paying it forward is a great gift, and if that opportunity escapes you in life then you have missed out on something special.
BPM: Life's greatest teacher is:
Life's greatest teacher is experience. Also, getting it wrong the first time can make one a more humble, determined learner. Only then can you really appreciate the moment and what it represents.
BPM: Success means:
Accomplishing beyond your initial goal. Reaching heights you never envisioned. Sitting still and feeling good about the journey. Finally giving back and helping to shape the path of the next generation.
BPM: Faith allows you to:
Remain hopeful. There is never a no in life. Sometimes, we just have to continue to search to find the yes. Faith allows me to have an ultra short memory when someone tells me no. I know the yes is out there and that I just have to believe it. Faith allows that for me.
BPM: Criticism makes you:
Reflect and grow. Not all criticism is good, but when it hits home, I try to recognize it as a moment when I can learn. I realize I will never be perfect in life. However, I can attempt to find perfect moments, and constructive criticism allows me to continue that journey.
BPM: The greatest threat to literary freedom is:
A closed mind. We need to appreciate others' journeys and struggles. Many great literary works are inspired by struggle. Be open to diversity and welcome the moment to learn from others, even those whose lives are not like our own. The young man with tattoos all over his body and pants sagging. The young woman raising four kids on her own. The elders raising their grandkids. The young woman looking for acceptance in a man. These are among the stories that make up the patchwork of our great nation, and as we continue to grow, I hope we continue to be open to hearing the back stories, the details, the hows and whys. Only then can we even begin to address those issues that keep us from being all that we can as a people.
BPM: Will the printed book ever become obsolete?
I hope not, but I fear that unfortunately, it may. When my first book, The Pact, was released 10 years ago, we were still using the VCR as our main mode of watching recorded movies and documentaries. My appearance on Oprah was recorded on a VHS tape. Now, I have the tape and no VCR to play it. While VCRs are still available for purchase in some places, they are not as readily available as they once were, and each year it becomes more difficult to locate one.
Books have been around a lot longer and survived the introduction of television, radio, video, and so far, the Internet. But the Internet and modern technology make words so easily and conveniently available that I fear printed books eventually will meet the same fate as the VCR. To me, though, the book under my fingers will always move me more than reading the same words on my e-reader. Why? I'm not sure. They just do.
BPM: What legacy do you wish to leave future generations of readers?
As a kid, I was never into reading. I was more of a sports enthusiast. I still enjoy sports, but I now find that reading is the ultimate elevation. You feel connected to another area in your mind when you read. An area that allows imagination, creativity, and goals to develop. It is an amazing place to go within yourself, and reading is the bridge to get you there. I can't ever recall seeing a movie after reading the book first and saying to myself that the movie was so much better than the book. The book always wins out over the movie. Now think about how many great movies you have seen and imagine elevating that moment by simply reading a book. One of the greatest feelings is to be totally engrossed in a favorite book. I hope that with their accessible language and real characters with real struggles and heroes, my books draw readers who ordinarily would not pick up a book. If that is part of my legacy, that will make me proud.
BPM: Share with us your latest news, awards or upcoming book releases.
I was recently featured on the Dr. Oz Show, which already has aired twice since the taping, and I look forward to taking part in the Book Pavilion during annual Congressional Black Caucus at the Convention Center in Washington, D.C.
Living and Dying in Brick City: An ER Doctor Returns Home was recently selected as the Common Read and First Year Experience choice by Random House, and I am hopeful that many educational institutions will pick it up as part of their curriculum. It is especially perfect for students in health classes, as young people learn to make the connection between their decisions and their health. The book will be released in paperback in February 2014, which should make it more affordable for schools and groups who want to use it in their classrooms or to spark discussions.
I also am touring the country speaking at colleges, high schools, churches, cafes, businesses, and other areas of the community to share my story and those of many patients I've encountered along the way with the hope of inspiring us all to live better. Be sure to follow me on social media and visit my website for upcoming talks, television and radio appearances and to find out how to reach me if your organization is interested in booking me for a visit: www.drsampsondavis.com.
BPM: How many readers connect with you online?
Thousands. My fan base and supporters continue to grow, and I'm grateful. I have my Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and website all up and running with the same handle - drsampsondavis
Connect with Dr. Davis
Additional information regarding Dr. Davis & his outreach can be obtained from the following Internet sites or by contacting his Executive Director, Windy White at (908)625-3441 / firstname.lastname@example.org.