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Living and Dying in Brick City
Cover of Living and Dying in Brick City
Living and Dying in Brick City
Stories from the Front Lines of an Inner-City E.R.

A riveting personal exploration of the healthcare crisis facing inner-city communities, written by an emergency room physician who grew up in the very neighborhood he is now serving

Sampson Davis is best known as one of three friends from inner-city Newark who made a pact in high school to become doctors. Their book The Pact and their work through the Three Doctors Foundation have inspired countless young men and women to strive for goals they otherwise would not have dreamed they could attain. In this book, Dr. Davis looks at the healthcare crisis in the inner city from a rare perspective: as a doctor who works on the front line of emergency medical care in the community where he grew up, and as a member of that community who has faced the same challenges as the people he treats every day. He also offers invaluable practical advice for those living in such communities, where conditions like asthma, heart disease, stroke, obesity, and AIDS are disproportionately endemic.

Dr. Davis's sister, a drug addict, died of AIDS; his brother is now paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair as a result of a bar fight; and he himself did time in juvenile detention—a wake-up call that changed his life. He recounts recognizing a young man who is brought to the E.R. with critical gunshot wounds as someone who was arrested with him when he was a teenager during a robbery gone bad; describes a patient whose case of sickle-cell anemia rouses an ethical dilemma; and explains the difficulty he has convincing his landlord and friend, an older woman, to go to the hospital for much-needed treatment. With empathy and hard-earned wisdom, Living and Dying in Brick City presents an urgent picture of medical care in our cities. It is an important resource guide for anyone at risk, anyone close to those at risk, and anyone who cares about the fate of our cities.

Praise for Living and Dying in Brick City

"A pull-no-punches look at health care from a seldom-heard sector . . . Living and Dying isn't a sky-is-falling chronicle. It's a real, gutsy view of a city hospital."Essence

"Gripping . . . a prescription to help kids dream bigger than their circumstances, from someone who really knows."People

"[Dr. Davis] is really a local hero. His story has inspired so many of our young people, and he's got his finger on the pulse of what is a challenge in Newark, and frankly all across America. . . . I think his book is going to make a big impact."—Cory Booker
"Some memoirs are heartfelt, some are informative and some are even important. Few, however, are all three. . . . As rare as it is for a book to be heartfelt, well written and inspirational, it's even rarer for a critic to say that a book should be required reading. This ought to be included in high school curricula—for the kids in the suburbs who have no idea what life is like in the inner cities, and for the kids in the inner cities to know that there is a way out."—The Star-Ledger

"Dramatic and powerful."—New York Daily News
"This book just might save your life. Sampson Davis shares fascinating stories from the E.R. and addresses the inner-city health crisis. His book is an important investment in your most valuable resource: your health."—Suze Orman, author of The Money Class

A riveting personal exploration of the healthcare crisis facing inner-city communities, written by an emergency room physician who grew up in the very neighborhood he is now serving

Sampson Davis is best known as one of three friends from inner-city Newark who made a pact in high school to become doctors. Their book The Pact and their work through the Three Doctors Foundation have inspired countless young men and women to strive for goals they otherwise would not have dreamed they could attain. In this book, Dr. Davis looks at the healthcare crisis in the inner city from a rare perspective: as a doctor who works on the front line of emergency medical care in the community where he grew up, and as a member of that community who has faced the same challenges as the people he treats every day. He also offers invaluable practical advice for those living in such communities, where conditions like asthma, heart disease, stroke, obesity, and AIDS are disproportionately endemic.

Dr. Davis's sister, a drug addict, died of AIDS; his brother is now paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair as a result of a bar fight; and he himself did time in juvenile detention—a wake-up call that changed his life. He recounts recognizing a young man who is brought to the E.R. with critical gunshot wounds as someone who was arrested with him when he was a teenager during a robbery gone bad; describes a patient whose case of sickle-cell anemia rouses an ethical dilemma; and explains the difficulty he has convincing his landlord and friend, an older woman, to go to the hospital for much-needed treatment. With empathy and hard-earned wisdom, Living and Dying in Brick City presents an urgent picture of medical care in our cities. It is an important resource guide for anyone at risk, anyone close to those at risk, and anyone who cares about the fate of our cities.

Praise for Living and Dying in Brick City

"A pull-no-punches look at health care from a seldom-heard sector . . . Living and Dying isn't a sky-is-falling chronicle. It's a real, gutsy view of a city hospital."Essence

"Gripping . . . a prescription to help kids dream bigger than their circumstances, from someone who really knows."People

"[Dr. Davis] is really a local hero. His story has inspired so many of our young people, and he's got his finger on the pulse of what is a challenge in Newark, and frankly all across America. . . . I think his book is going to make a big impact."—Cory Booker
"Some memoirs are heartfelt, some are informative and some are even important. Few, however, are all three. . . . As rare as it is for a book to be heartfelt, well written and inspirational, it's even rarer for a critic to say that a book should be required reading. This ought to be included in high school curricula—for the kids in the suburbs who have no idea what life is like in the inner cities, and for the kids in the inner cities to know that there is a way out."—The Star-Ledger

"Dramatic and powerful."—New York Daily News
"This book just might save your life. Sampson Davis shares fascinating stories from the E.R. and addresses the inner-city health crisis. His book is an important investment in your most valuable resource: your health."—Suze Orman, author of The Money Class

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Excerpts-
  • From the book 1

    BROTHERS

    Brother, brother, brother
    There's far too many of you dying....
    —Marvin Gaye, 1971"

    The name stopped me cold.

    Don Moses.

    I knew a Don Moses. And I knew right away it had to be him.

    I'd been in my residency for several months, but this was my first day on duty in the trauma unit at University Hospital, one of the training centers in Beth Israel's network. I'd made it to the conference room early for the morning report, coffee cup in hand, my green scrubs and white lab coat spotless. The least I could do was look polished. There would be lots of gray hair and experience in the room, and I'd heard that these sessions could be brutal. Word was, the senior surgeons often challenged the medical actions taken the night before by their less-experienced colleagues, and they didn't think twice about knocking an ill-prepared resident down to size. Fortunately for me, as a newbie I wasn't on the hot seat. My plan was to lie low, watch, and learn. But I couldn't take my eyes off the green chalkboard at the front of the room—and that name, in white chalk, crossed out, with a word written next to it in all caps: "DECEASED."

    Don Moses.

    It jumped out from the long list of patient names and data. The age seemed about right, thirty-one, just four years older than me. And he probably would have come to this hospital, since it was close to the old neighborhood. He'd been shot several times, had made it through surgery, and had been in the Surgical Intensive Care Unit. And then, that line through his name. My eyes froze there, my knees went weak, and I eased into my seat for the morning report. Suddenly, my cool began to melt. The cotton lab coat that I'd pulled on just moments earlier now felt like wool, and the once ice-cold conference room was starting to feel like a sauna.

    Don Moses.

    We called him Snake. A decade had passed since I'd seen him dashing past me with the police on his heels one wild summer night. I'd lived across the street from the eight-story Dayton Street projects, one of Newark's most notorious housing developments, and I hung out there practically every day. As a teenager, Snake had moved to the Seth Boyden projects, a short walk away. His fearless swagger and willingness to scrap with anybody who got in his way quickly earned him the respect of the toughest dudes around. The Dayton Street grammar school sat between the two housing projects, and from the time my friends and I were old enough to play outside alone, the schoolyard was our main hangout. We grew up playing hide-and-go-seek and shooting hoops there. Then, as teenagers, we'd sit on the concrete steps and pass the time listening to music, rapping, and talking about girls. I held a gun for the first time one summer night on that playground. I was seventeen. Snake, Duke, Manny, and I took turns passing around the cold, hard steel. It was Duke's gun; he'd bought it off some kid on the street. Duke was the one who'd introduced us to Snake. Both were in their early twenties. The night Duke brought the gun to the yard, he and Snake took practice shots into the school's metal door. Holding the nine-millimeter pistol was enough excitement for me. It just didn't feel right blasting bullets through a schoolhouse door. But that night sealed our bond. The four of us became a team, with Manny and me as the eager-to-please little brothers.

    We looked up to Snake. He was a mysterious dude, about five feet ten inches tall and two hundred pounds of solid muscle. He was smooth on his feet, although he moved through the neighborhood with a huge...
About the Author-
  • Sampson Davis was born and raised in Newark, New Jersey. He is a board certified emergency medicine physician and author of the New York Times bestsellers The Pact, We Beat the Street, and The Bond. He is the youngest physician to receive the National Medical Association's highest honor, the Scroll of Merit. He is a recipient of Essence and BET humanitarian awards and was named by Essence as one of the forty most inspirational African Americans. He is a founder of the Three Doctors Foundation and practices medicine in New Jersey.

Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    March 18, 2013
    Davis (co-author of The Pact: Three Young Men Make a Promise and Fulfill a Dream) is clearly of, from, and for the Brick City—Newark, NJ—and in his previous book and work with his Three Doctors Foundation he made himself an inspiration to the kind of inner-city youth he was. Now writing about the urban African-American experience on the scale of Newark and the United States simultaneously, it is unclear whom Davis envisions as his audience. Identically-structured chapters feature a short patient story, a teaching point or moral, major issues in health and health care for African Americans, and concise public health information from government agencies. Though formulaic, patients are not made tokens, and medical information—dealing with topics ranging from gang violence to depression to obesity— is woven throughout. The most fully developed character, however, is Davis himself; he details his childhood, family, and life with both his own child and "adopted" children he has mentored in the community. Davis closes by discussing his leave from clinical medicine for full-time community and advocacy work, reflecting on how it's all part of the same vocation: to "help save lives".

  • Kirkus

    January 1, 2013
    An emergency-room doctor relates his experiences to the wider emergency of inadequate health care for inner-city residents in places like Newark, N.J., where he grew up and practiced medicine. In two earlier books (The Bond: Three Young Men Learn to Forgive and Reconnect with their Fathers, 2007, etc.), Davis and two boyhood friends described their experiences growing up on the Newark streets--how, despite the odds, they overcame the violence and chaos of life in a ghetto environment and became medical practitioners. Here, Davis describes the serious health conditions of patients he treated in the emergency room who lacked any other medical care, a "too-often overlooked population." Most poignant are the descriptions of his meetings with former street companions as they were wheeled into the emergency room, the victims of gunshot wounds, drug overdoses and the like. Most frustrating were the patients who faked ailments to legally acquire drugs for recreational purposes. The author cites the shocking statistic that in the U.S., deaths from overdoses of prescription painkillers exceed those from heroin and cocaine combined. Davis also faced high incidences of sexually transmitted diseases among black women, in his opinion spread because of unprotected sex. Tragically, his older sister, who had inspired him to become a doctor, died of AIDS. At the age of 27 (after his first year as a resident), Davis received an award for community service from Essence magazine. A page-turning wake-up call.

    COPYRIGHT(2013) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Library Journal

    November 1, 2012

    Growing up in Newark, NJ, Davis vowed with friends George Jenkins and Rameck Hunt to rise above hardship. They all became doctors--and best-selling coauthors of books like The Pact. Here, Davis goes it alone to recount his return to the Newark Beth Israel Hospital, where he was born.

    Copyright 2012 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • The Star-Ledger "Some memoirs are heartfelt, some are informative and some are even important. Few, however, are all three. . . . As rare as it is for a book to be heartfelt, well written and inspirational, it's even rarer for a critic to say that a book should be required reading. This ought to be included in high school curricula--for the kids in the suburbs who have no idea what life is like in the inner cities, and for the kids in the inner cities to know that there is a way out."
  • New York Daily News "Dramatic and powerful."
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Stories from the Front Lines of an Inner-City E.R.
Sampson Davis
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