Two decades ago, these three black men met inside the library of the Xavier University of Louisiana during their undergraduate studies. The three had then gone through their own struggles and had ended up at the college.
One had to go through the daily challenges of living in the streets of New York and Washington, D.C., while another used to deal drugs on the streets of New Orleans. The third lived in Chicago with parents who were addicted to drugs, according to the Associated Press.
But with hard work and perseverance, the three young black men are now board-certified doctors. Pierre Johnson, 37, Max Madhere, 37, and Joe Semien, 40, told the AP that they knew what they were up against when they started their education at Xavier in 1998.
To become a doctor, and a black one at that, was difficult as black doctors make up a minute percentage of doctors in America. The three doctors have since recounted their struggles in their recently released book: Pulse of Perseverance: Three Black Doctors on Their Journey to Success.
The book is also a blueprint for African Americans, particularly males, who may be going through similar challenges as the ones they faced while growing up, reports the Village Free Press.
“The book plays a multitude of roles. One is for our own community to know that black men walking around are physicians — they’re in your families and they’re your nephews and sons. We wanted to show the world how relatable we are. There’s one of us in every family. We want to show families in our communities that these are the things your boys are going through and this is what you have to prepare them for,” said Max Madhere, who is a board-certified cardiothoracic anesthesiologist.
He told the AP that he found his love for medicine after volunteering at a hospital. His colleague, Semien, who is an obstetrician/gynecologist from New Orleans and practices in Lake Charles was rather moved towards this field after being enthralled by a sixth-grade anatomy class.
For Johnson, who is also an obstetrician/gynecologist, he only wanted to heal people. The three, however, knew that progressing in their chosen field was tough so they chose Xavier, the only historically black Roman Catholic institution of higher education in the United States that regularly places black students in medical school.
Their book highlighted the enabling environment the institution offered them to enable them to succeed and eventually cross paths. Johnson narrated how he often saw Madhere in class and in the library at all times. The two would talk about their daily struggles on campus and would realise that their colleague, Joe, shared their sentiments.
“We held each other accountable,” Semien recounted to AP. “When one was falling short, the other would pick him up.”
The three further touched on their worst moments while growing up. Semien, aside from dealing drugs, once dropped out of Xavier and joined the military. He later came back to Xavier, dropped out for the second time and returned finally, before meeting Johnson and Madhere.
Johnson described the pains of having to live with a father who frequently assaulted his mother. His parents were both addicted to drugs. Madhere wrote about the tough streets of Brooklyn where he grew up with his mother who had just come out of a divorce.
His first encounter with death was when a young black man was shot in front of their building. He wrote: “The image of this man dead on the pavement, with the police and paramedics swarming around him, was immediately burned into my 7-year-old mind. It remains there to this day.”
The three doctors chose to narrate their stories in a single book because of the bond they have formed – a bond that saw them through college, medical school and now to their professional fields.
Their story reminds many of the book, The Pact, where three other black doctors: Dr. Sampson Davis, Dr. Rameck Hunt, and Dr. George Jenkins, also formed a bond and beat all the odds to become highly sought after doctors.
“The Pact came out in 2002. I was inspired by it when I read it, but once we went through our struggle as black men in medicine, we developed our own story. We want this to be a blueprint for how success is achieved and we want to make a movement out of this. We want to do something that’s much larger than our book,” said Johnson.
“If this book does what we hope and plan, to inspire kids everywhere and to push people to achieve success through all circumstances, definitely a second book is in the making,” he added.
The three have also created a nonprofit called Pulse of Perseverance, which they say will provide the foundation for a much larger movement.