Distinguished doctor aims to change lives, brings message to Melba’s

By KAYLYN KENDALL DINES | 2/27/2014, 9:15 p.m.
Black History Month marks the paperback release of “Living and Dying in Brick City: An E.R. Doctor Returns Home,” a ...
"Living and Dying in Brick City: An E.R. Doctor Returns Home,” by Dr. Sampson Davis

Black History Month marks the paperback release of “Living and Dying in Brick City: An E.R. Doctor Returns Home,” a book written by Dr. Sampson Davis. This founding member of the Three Doctors Foundation is a Board–certified emergency medicine physician. He uses his experiences to help change lives. It’s a mission that began to soar after medical school when he co-wrote “The Pact: Three Young Men Make a Promise and Fulfill a Dream” with Dr. Rameck Hunt and Dr. George Jenkins. That book became a New York Times Bestseller.

Today, Davis shares stories of being an emergency room doctor who returns to the hospital where he was born in Newark, N.J., to care for families. “Living and Dying in Brick City” is an exploration of the health care crisis in this country with a particular focus on the nation’s urban core. He reflects on tragedies and triumphant personal experiences as part of his quest to give back and help the next generation shape its future. This book was selected as the “Common Read” and “First Year Experience” choice by Random House. Davis hopes the Common Core values in the curriculum will spur many educational institutions to incorporate it into health classes.

What is one of his professional dreams? He passionately emphasizes the importance of education to young people. He wants them to think academic excellence is cool. Ultimately, Davis wants to be to “health and education” what President Barack Obama is to politics, what LeBron James is to basketball and Jay Z is to music.

He has been featured on numerous talk shows, including “Oprah,” “The Dr. Oz Show” and the “Today” show. He is an Essence Lifetime Achievement Award recipient and, according to Davis, Oprah Winfrey named him “one of the premiere role models of the world.”

When he is not treating patients, he tours the country, speaking at colleges, schools, businesses and faith-based and community-based organizations. Following is the voice of someone who refuses to passively sit back. Instead, Davis talks about his experiences as a way to help readers improve the quality of their lives. A Q&A follows.

AmNews: Describe your newest book, “Living and Dying in Brick City: An E.R. Doctor Returns Home.” What is your book about?

Davis: 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, N.J. Through the 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. 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 tips and lifesaving information aimed at helping us all take better care of ourselves.

Why did you write this 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 believe 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.

Is your book aimed at any particular group?

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.” 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 one.

How has your writing changed since “The Pact: Three Young Men Make a Promise and Fulfill a Dream” was written?

My writing has aligned with my position in life at that given moment. When writing my first book, my focus was college, high school and the challenges of growing up in the inner city of Newark, N.J. 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,” 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.

What is 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 unsurrendering attitude, I was able to make a way out. That means you can too!

I know firsthand the hardships in life, but I 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. If that opportunity escapes you in life, then you have missed out on something special.

Do you connect with readers online?

Yes, thousands. My 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.

Do you have any local upcoming speaking engagements?

Yes. On April 10, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., I will be speaking at a restaurant in Harlem called Melba’s 125. Follow me on social media and visit my website for upcoming talks, television and radio appearances.