Doctors Pierre Johnson, 37, Max Madhere, 37, and Joe Semien, 40, are proof positive that it doesn’t matter where you start, it’s amazing what a little perseverance can do. The trio of doctors met roughly two decades ago inside of the library at Xavier University of Louisiana during their undergraduate studies. They formed a bond that helped propel them through college, medical school and ultimately led them all to become doctors
According to the Associated Press, one of the prestigious doctors used to deal drugs on the streets of New Orleans. Another grew up in Chicago with two drug-addicted parents. A third survived the tough streets of New York and Washington, D.C., where he once stared down the barrel of a gun.
All three young black men became board-certified doctors.
The doctors said they knew the odds were stacked against them when they entered Xavier University of Louisiana in 1998 with hopes of becoming doctors. Black men make up a small percentage of doctors in America, and they knew getting through college and medical school wouldn’t be easy.
Their early lives, college struggles, and victories are chronicled in a book titled“Pulse of Perseverance: Three Black Doctors on Their Journey to Success.” They said they wrote the book to show African-American boys that athletes and entertainers aren’t the only examples of black achievement and success.
Madhere, an anesthesiologist in Baton Rouge, said they’re fortunate and have a responsibility to share their experiences with the next generation.
“Young boys need to know it’s not a game in these streets. They need to know that we are completely marginalized as people of color when we mess up. They also need to know you don’t have to rap or shoot a ball to get out of their circumstances,” said Madhere.
If this story sounds slightly familiar, it is. In the book, The Pact, three other doctors from the inner city Dr. Sampson Davis, Dr. Rameck Hunt and Dr. George Jenkins, also formed a bond and made their way out of the gritty streets of drugs and death to becoming sought-after physicians and dentists.
“The Pact came out in 2002. I was inspired by it when I read it,” says Dr. Johnson. “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.”
Semien, Johnson and Madhere each set a goal early on to become a doctor. Semien, an obstetrician/gynecologist from New Orleans who practices in Lake Charles, describes in the book how he became intrigued by a sixth-grade anatomy class. Madhere discovered his love for medicine after volunteering at a hospital. Johnson said he “just knew” he wanted to heal people after dealing with his parents.
Getting there, however, wasn’t easy. Four percent of doctors in the U.S. are African American, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges. The men chose Xavier, knowing that the nation’s only historically black Catholic institution consistently places black students in medical school.
Johnson, an obstetrician/gynecologist working in Chicago, writes about Xavier’s nurturing environment, which helped spark the trio’s friendship.
Johnson said he often saw Madhere in class and around campus but noticed that he, too, was “always in the library.”
“We started a conversation about how things were going and the struggles we were going through in class and…