By Jade Myers
Only 5 percent of U.S. Physicians are Black. On Feb. 15th, three of them shared their journey to entering the medical profession after writing the new book: “Pulse of Perseverance: Three Black Doctors on Their Journey to Success.” Award-Winning Journalist and New York Times Magazine Writer, Nikole-Hannah Jones returned to Xavier University to moderate the panel along with the three doctors who she assisted in editing the new book.
“When I grew up learning about our history of Black people, the history of the struggles we had to overcome one of my motivating factors was realizing that I was standing on the shoulders of giants,” said Dr. Maxime Madhere, one of the physicians who co-authored the book.
All three of the doctors are Xavier graduates. In 2015, Hannah-Jones chronicled in “A Prescription for More Black Doctors” how a small, private university like Xavier is number one in producing Black students who attend and graduate from medical school. This year the university announced that once again, it retained the ranking that it once held from 2011-2017, according to data compiled by the Association of American Medical Colleges.
Dr. Joseph Semien Jr. and Dr. Pierre Johnson are Board Certified OB/GYN’s and alongside Madhere, a Double Board Certified Cardiac Anesthesiologist, they spoke to the audience about the importance of sharing the obstacles they experienced on their path to success. Semien, a New Orleans native, admitted that he once found himself involved in the violent and drug infested streets of Inner-City New Orleans and that he hopes that sharing stories like his may encourage individuals who may be in similar situations, to reach for higher.
“Don’t let your past define you and your future, and don’t accept failure as an option. You are going to go through trials and tribulations but keep pressing forward,” Semien said.
Johnson and Madhere, also shared their journeys at the event. Johnson, said that when he attended Xavier the curriculum was not as simple as he imagined it would be, but as a result, he pushed his pride aside and took advantage of resources that Xavier provided him, to help him to stick to a medical career.
“Use all of the mentorship, all of the teachers that are here to help you, use them as your resources,” Johnson said.
Madhere told the audience that it is unfortunate that despite having a medical degree, people tend to make false and stereotypical assumptions about him because of his appearance and he hopes that one-day that changes.
“Any trials that you go through, just know that your goal is still attainable, push no matter what happens and just know that if you are not doing well that the support is here for you,” Madhere said.
Among the guests in the audience were current and former Xavier Presidents, Dr. C. Reynold Verret, and Dr. Norman C. Francis. Francis, who served as President of the university for 47 years, said that he enjoys seeing Xavier’s mission being carried out. Xavier’s current President Verret added that if Xavier can help build successful students, other colleges can too.
“When I see Xavierite’s doing what they do, it reaffirms what Xavier stands for, and it’s so fulfilling because it’s not about the brochures being sent out, but it’s about what we see being done, like these three doctors,” Francis said.
Verret said that he hopes Xavier’s achievement can be a model for the rest of the country.
“Xavier is not just for certain students, but it is for the nation. What we are telling the nation is that this is possible. If we can do it, we should be doing it for every student,” Verret said.
The visit inspired current student Deja Gantt, a Biology Pre-Med Major attending Xavier, who said that it was beneficial for her to attend this event because it is not often that she hears about success stories like these in the media.
“Seeing African-Americans regardless of gender, knowing that I can be where they are one day, this event also showed me that success is attainable if the hard-work is put towards the goal,” Gantt said.