George Jenkins, Rameck Hunt, Sampson Davis
Not that long ago, George Jenkins, Rameck Hunt and Sampson Davis were slick 16-year-olds growing up in single-parent households, hanging out together on the streets of Newark and going to Newark's University High. The power of the street had tried to pull them toward crime, but their friendship was stronger. In their senior year of high school they made an oath to become doctors. Hunt and Davis ended up at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in Piscataway and Jenkins stayed in Newark for dental school. They all graduated and today practice medicine and dentistry in Newark, each living only a few miles from their childhood home. They also started the Three Doctors Foundation to mentor youth. Next Stop talked with Sampson Davis, now 32 and a doctor in emergency medicine at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center (the hospital where he was born), about life, friendship and why he wants kids everywhere to know that they can do it too.
Next Stop: What motivated the three of you to become doctors?
Dr. Sampson Davis: The sheer presence of wanting more for our lives. Each one of us had our own personal struggles and hardships. Those struggles pushed us to persevere and to want for more. Our friendship was the glue that held it all together. If one of us was down, the other two would push that person. A lot of guys don't come together to form friendships like that; friendships where nothing gets in the way to block our vision of what was important. Embarking on college and professional school was something new for all three of us. Having the other two along for the ride let us know we weren't alone. We still had the same peer pressures that most kids have, but we realized that the streets would swallow us if we didn't get on the track of education. Education saved all our lives.
Next Stop: What do you say to the teen who doesn't believe he can be successful?
Dr. Davis: A lot of kids will say they aren't good enough or they aren't strong enough. We went through those same things. We know how it is not to have daddy in the home, we know how it is to go to sleep hungry and we know how it is not to have heat in the wintertime. Use me as an example of what not to go through. As a teenager I was going down the wrong road. I spent time in a juvenile detention facility; I hung out with the wrong crowd. But I still managed to become a doctor. In life you've got to work hard. Teenagers don't always see it because they're enjoying their lives at that moment. They need to understand that, whether it's education or some kind of trade school, it is important to plan for their future.
Next Stop: As you know, that's a hard thing to do alone.
Dr. Davis: That's one of the reasons we're here. The three doctors serve as role models and as faces of education. Sports and music have immediate faces that represent them. The kids aim for those careers because they see how these singers and rappers are living and how their favorite sports players are living. That's what they want to become in life. They need to know that there are only 5,000 professional sports jobs out there, including trainers and coaches. The great majority don't make it to a pro-athlete level. I have a real issue with the music industry. A lot of kids are attracted to that because they don't realize it's fantasy. Rappers talk about carrying their guns and shooting people up. That's not true. These rappers are sitting in their gated communities in their million-dollar homes.
Next Stop: Why are you practicing medicine in Newark?
Dr. Davis: When I was a kid I didn't see any doctors on my block. If you want to become a doctor and don't have any doctors in your surroundings, your family, how can you even begin to put things in order? We decided that upon receiving our degrees, we were going to come back and be those concrete role models on the block and in the city. That's why we started the Three Doctors Foundation. We're part of their culture. We're not these disconnected adults who live across town and say, "You should do well in school. Don't give your mothers any gray hairs!" We listen to the same music, we speak their vernacular, and our jeans hang a little low too. We still play PlayStation and I watch MTV and listen to JZ, Common Sense and G Unit. The kids know we're real. We're giving back in a way that all of us should give back. We want to connect the dots and bring everybody together and we want kids to know that they can succeed.
Next Stop: Are the three doctors still tight?
Dr. Davis: Our friendship is better than ever. We're brothers. We've known each other for more than half our lives. It's a friendship that's forever. We still go to parties and get together at family outings. We sometimes meet at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center on Thursday nights and hang out. We still have fun, you best believe.
Want to learn more about the three docs and the scholarships their organization offers? Maybe find out about their books, The Pact and We Beat the Streets? Visit www.threedoctorsfoundation.org or call 973-493-1030.