Three African-American male doctors, who grew up with challenging childhoods (involving poverty, drug-addicted parents, drug dealing, homelessness and violence) and ended up persevering together while undergraduates at Xavier University of Louisiana in the late nineties and in medical school, are spreading a message of hope and perseverance to Atlanta youth today.
Drs. Pierre Johnson of Chicago, Ill., Joseph Semien of Lake Charles, La., and Maxime Madhere of Baton Rouge, La. are speaking to students today at KIPP Atlanta Collegiate, 98 Anderson Ave. NW in Atlanta, Ga. from 9 a.m. to 10:40 a.m., Excel Academy School, 330 Tomlinson St. in McDonough, Ga. from 12:30 p.m. 1:30 p.m. and Henry County High School, 410 Tomlinson St. in McDonough from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Then, on Sunday, Aug. 26, the doctors will speak to the youth ministry at Berean Christian Church, 171 Collier Road in Stockbridge, Ga. during their 11 a.m. service.
“We’re here to tell youth today that no matter what obstacles they’re facing in life, they should dream big, unite with like-minded people who are hungry for success and be determined to win,” says Dr. Pierre Johnson, an obstetrician-gynecologist at Ingalls Memorial Hospital in Harvey, Ill.
The doctors have begun a national tour of high schools in Atlanta to encourage more black youth, especially black males, to pursue higher education and professional careers, including careers as doctors. The doctors are particularly concerned that only two percent, or 397, of the nation’s 19,254 medical school graduates in the 2016-2017 time period were black males, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges. The association also found that from 1986 to 2015, the percentage of African-American male graduates had fallen from 57.3 percent to 34.7 percent. And, only 5.7 percent of 2015 U.S. medical school graduates were African Americans.
“We’re very concerned about the scarcity of African-American doctors, especially African-American male doctors in the U.S.,” said Dr. Maxime Madhere, a cardiothoracic anesthesiologist and partner at Anesthesiology Group Associates in Baton Rouge, La.
“Who could be more empathetic toward and understanding of African Americans when they enter medical clinics and emergency rooms than African-American doctors? We’re here in Atlanta to encourage youth to not only dream big, but to also dream about becoming doctors. Our nation’s medical facilities are in dire need of African-American doctors,” Dr. Madhere says.
The doctors also want to see more youth strive for professional careers in other career sectors, like engineering, architecture and information technology. “We’re tired of being the exception to the rule,” says Dr. Johnson. “We’re not just here to promote medical careers. We’re here for the higher calling of exposing youth to the benefits of higher-level education.”
“When I grew up, I was exposed to drug dealing, fast money and fancy cars,” says Dr. Doctor Joseph Semien, an obstetrician-gynecologist at Lake Charles Memorial Hospital in Lake Charles, La. So that’s the road I embraced until my cousin, who also took that road, was killed. Meeting Max and Pierre at Xavier University gave me the support I needed to pursue a different path. We formed a bond that forever changed my life.”
The doctors published a book, called Pulse of Perseverance, which reveals their own individual life struggles and their perseverance through college and medical school.
About the Doctors:
Doctor Pierre Johnson is an obstetrician-gynecologist at Ingalls Memorial Hospital in Harvey, Ill. He comes from a single-parent household led by his mother, who was a drug addict. So was his father. Multiple home evictions yielded an unstable childhood and home environment for Pierre and his younger siblings. He attended Xavier University of Louisiana and helped financed his education by cutting hair. Pierre struggled academically at Xavier University and removed himself from the school’s basketball team to focus more on his studies. In his junior year of college, he failed the MCAT twice. He also failed the United States Medical Licensing Examination by one point the first time he took it, and consequently had to stop his clinicals. But, despite these challenges, Pierre did not give up on his dream of becoming a doctor. Today, he attributes his hand precision skills in the surgery room to his years of practice as an unlicensed barber.
Dr. Joseph Semien is an obstetrician-gynecologist at Lake Charles Memorial Hospital in Lake Charles, La. Joe was raised in a stable, two-parent working class household in New Orleans, La. with his three sisters. While a youth, Joe stuttered and struggled with uncontrolled anger. He got involved in fights and sold drugs. In spite of those challenges, Joe would later attend Xavier University of Louisiana, though he would eventually fall back into negative activities. He took a hiatus from Xavier University of Louisiana twice, and he even enlisted in the U.S. Army in an attempt to escape negative habits and gain new disciplines. The third time he returned to Xavier, Joe met Max and Pierre and remained on a positive path for the rest of his academic career.
Joe did not succeed at his first attempt to gain entry into medical school; so he pursued and earned a master’s degree in public health. While in medical school at St. Matthew’s University School of Medicine, Joe decided to temporarily depart from the school and spend a month with Pierre in Peoria in rigorous prayer and study for theUnited States Medical Licensing Examination, an exam that he and Pierre failed the first time they took it. Joe earned a doctor of medicine degree from St. Matthew’s University School of Medicine.
Dr. Maxime Madhere is a cardiothoracic anesthesiologist and partner at Anesthesiology Group Associates in Baton Rouge, La. He works at Our Lady of Lake Regional Medical Center and Ochsner Medical Center in Baton Rouge, La. Max grew up in the crime- and poverty-ridden streets of the Brownsville neighborhood in Brooklyn, N.Y. Max’s parents divorced when he was four years old. He would later move to Washington D.C. with his father, who provided an example of strong, male leadership that taught him accountability, self-respect, humility and perseverance. Before he attended Xavier University of Louisiana, Max volunteered at Howard University hospital in Washington D.C. His experience at the hospital inspired his medical career.