Dr. Sampson Davis had finished explaining how he managed to become an emergency care doctor and author despite growing up in one of New Jersey’s poorest neighborhoods when a student’s hand shot up in the air.
“I’ve been going to school for 13 years,” the student declared during a recent joint assembly with Godwin Heights and Wyoming Public Schools students. “How much education do I really need?”
Davis didn’t hesitate to reply.
“What you do today will plan for your future for tomorrow,” he said. “That will determine if you simply survive or live a full life when you’re in your 40s, 50s and 60s.”
|How to be a successful student despite trying circumstances
Source: Dr. Sampson Davis
Education determines the direction your life will take, Davis added, not only the salary you’ll earn but also the working conditions you’ll face, day in and day out, and the number of weekly hours you’ll work.
For some, higher education is a given, he told students. For others, like himself, college seemed beyond his reach, given that he was born the fifth of six children in inner-city Newark, where fragmented families, crime, drugs, gangs and a staggering rate of high-school dropouts were all too common.
Embrace the Three Ds
But Davis cleared those hurdles, not with a magic wand but with the three Ds he considers necessary ingredients to success: dedication, determination and discipline that are connected with education.
By age 17, Davis reached a turning point in his life when he and two friends, George Jenkins and Rameck Hunt, developed a bond and reached an agreement — or pact, as he calls it — to help one another achieve the goal of becoming doctors.
The camaraderie was a source for staying focused through the many ups and downs and doubts that crossed his way.
“All my uncertainties were gone because I was going to do it with my friends, smart, like-minded people,” Davis told students. “I see a lot of you in me. Your future is so bright. Once a person sees you’re sincere, somebody will be there to support you.”
Keep Your Eye on the Prize
That doesn’t mean college is a cakewalk, Davis added. But he kept his eye on the prize, particularly while he was in medical school and had to memorize an average of 100 pages of lecture notes daily.
“It starts with education. Education is the answer,” said Davis, also the author of “Living & Dying in Brick City: An ER Doctor Returns Home.”
He soldiered on, earning his bachelor’s degree from Seton Hall University where he graduated with honors, and received his medical degree from Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. He completed his residency in emergency medicine at the same hospital where he was born, Newark Beth Israel Medical Center.
Today, Davis is a board-certified emergency physician at several emergency departments in New Jersey.
He also is co-author of the acclaimed book, “How We Beat The Street: How A Friendship Pact Led to Success” and is one of the founders of The Three Doctors Foundation, whose mission is to inspire and create opportunities for inner-city communities through education, mentoring and health awareness.
Focus on Yourself
Davis’s one-hour talk struck a chord with Wyoming High School 11th-grader Erin Murphy. “You need to ignore the people who can bring you down,” Erin said. “You need to focus on yourself and you can do it.”
That’s the kind of personal advice Davis urges young people to embrace.
“When you’re surrounded with so much negativity, it’s easy to believe you’re not going to amount to anything,” he said. “Somewhere in fifth or sixth grade I got the sense school is not cool, (that) school is wack.
“But being in school is not only for education, it’s to enrich your life socially, academically and some would say spiritually. This high school is going to propel you to college. The decisions you make today will determine your future.”
Hearing Davis made an impression on Lazevious Steele. The Godwin Heights 10th-grader said he grew up on the “poor side” of Chicago, where dreaming big wasn’t always encouraged.
Davis’ straight-talk helped him push his thinking beyond those societal limits.
“You can have a dream, but you’ve got to take it upon yourself to make your dream a reality,” Lazevious said.
That’s why it’s important to surround yourself with people who will come alongside you with sound advice and encouragement, David said.
“You can’t aim for what you can’t see if you’re not surrounded by professionals so you can decide what you want to do in life. If somebody calls you a nerd, that’s fine, because they will be calling you boss tomorrow.”
And make the most of high school,he advised.
“For those who are freshman, high school goes by fast and you have to have your sights set. College goes by fast. College is impossible unless you take ownership over it. “I know the power of poverty. You have to push through it and believe it can happen.”
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