From The Inner-City To The Operating Room: How College Success Impacted Sampson Davis


By Sampson Davis, author of Living and Dying in Brick City (Spiegel & Grau, February 2013).  He will be speaking at the First-Year Experience® 2014 Conference in San Diego, California from February 14-18.

College—the beginning of a new frontier, at least it was for me. Growing up in Newark, New Jersey, a school system with dropout rate at more than fifty percent, I knew the odds were stacked against me. Not only did I beat those odds and graduate college, but I also went on to complete a medical degree. While I certainly worked hard for my success, I could not have achieved what I did without the help of many educators along the way.

One of those individuals was Dr. Linda Hsu, my college genetics professor. I will never forget and will always be grateful to Dr. Hsu for her kind acts, but one stands out in particular. It was the eve before my first day of medical school, and I had yet to receive my loan funds to purchase books. The weather outside was horrible with downpours and flood warnings. The hazardous weather might have impeded the mail delivery, but it didn’t stop Dr. Hsu, who stood all of 4’11” with a powerful voice. She jumped into her two-door hatchback and drove to the dorm to deliver funds so that I could purchase my books the next morning. That act of kindness, and her belief in me, touched me deeply and cemented my view in paying it forward—“to whom much is given, much is required.”

My latest book, Living and Dying in Brick City: An ER Doctor Returns Home is my way of giving back to the many educators who helped me escape the thought that education wasn’t for me and the belief that I wasn’t good enough.  You have both championed and inspired me—and I thank you.

My book encompasses the philosophy of reaching each student with a level of creativity and a touch of reality. It is part memoir, medical, self-help, and entertainment with solutions and strategies following each chapter. Brick City captures the imagination of students in any number of disciplines, including science, medicine, African American studies, sociology, history, philosophy, law, creative writing, sports, business, management, and politics.

As a doctor that practices medicine in his hometown, I always look to share stories that tie into students’ lives and learning experiences, both in and out of the classroom, which will help them to navigate the world better prepared and equipped to understand and handle the multilayered complexities of life’s scenarios. Educators and readers alike tell me, Brick City does just that, bringing together health, community, science, history, religion, business, friendship, family, hope, and ultimately humanity.

My goal is to inspire each and every student to reach the highest level possible. I have talked about my life journey and books at hundreds of schools nationwide and have served as a correspondent for both television and radio. I understand the importance of being an engaging, motivational speaker, and students listen and are inspired because they know I have lived through the obstacles and challenges they are facing. They know that if I was able to overcome and overpower, then so can they.

I am “real” to our students and have received many heartfelt testimonials from both students and educators. Students have said, “Because of you, I believe I can do it. You make education fun and cool. And like you said, if someone calls me a nerd today, it is okay because they will be calling me boss tomorrow.” Students also have told me, “Seriously, I don’t like to read. I really don’t like to read, and your book is the first book that I ever read cover to cover.” Educators have shared stories of how their most challenging student has opened up in their classroom after reading a passage in my book that relates to their life. And therein lies the power: we are all connected through our stories, and it is only by sharing our challenges, fears, failures, and victories do our students begin to believe that they are hearing and feeling the entire story.

One recent medical school coordinator commented, “We have hosted a number of great speakers, but to date I have yet to have a speaker who delivered such a powerful message with such grace and modesty. The audience was completely absorbed in Dr. Davis’s presentation and, immediately following the presentation, my mailbox filled up with messages from people who attended to tell me ‘what a powerful speaker,’ ‘great job,’ and ‘we need more like him.’”

I look forward to visiting more schools and feel confident in saying, Living and Dying in Brick City: An ER Doctor Returns Home delivers an incredible read for any common reading experience. Please visit my website to see if I’ll be speaking at your school.

As a misguided, often rebellious youth, I never imagined my life journey would lead me to becoming an author and, through writing this book, I am stepping outside of the hospital walls, still practicing medicine in the way of prevention and inspiration, and reaching thousands of students and educators. I can’t wait to see the effect Brick City has on students nationwide. I’m excited!

Sampson Davis was born and raised in Newark, New Jersey. He is a board certified emergency medicine physician and author of the New York Times bestsellers The Pact, We Beat the Street, and The Bond. He is the youngest physician to receive the National Medical Association’s highest honor, the Scroll of Merit. He is a recipient of Essence and BET humanitarian awards and was named by Essence as one of the forty most inspirational African Americans. He is a founder of the Three Doctors Foundation and practices medicine in New Jersey.

Click here to view a Facebook photo album of Dr. Davis’ mentoring program. 


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