by Sheila Smith Noonan
It's a story ripe for Hollywood: Three young friends from
the inner city rise above the temptations of the streets and
poverty to achieve their dreams of becoming doctors.
Except Tinseltown will probably never capture the true essence
of Dr. George Jenkins ('99) and his friends, Dr. Rameck Hunt
and Dr. Sampson Davis, both '99 graduates of Robert Wood Johnson
Medical School. Their perseverance, exuberance, and character
made them the favorite sons of Newark last spring, a time when
the city was in need of true heroes.
Dr. Jenkins has known Dr. Davis since seventh grade; Dr. Hunt
met his two friends while they were freshmen at University High
School in Newark. While some of their peers turned to crime or
drifted in uncertainty, these three made a promise to each other
at a Science Career Day: stick together, support each other,
and enter dental and medical school. Dr. Jenkins's interests
were in dentistry, fueled in part, he says, by his visits to
New Jersey Dental School as an orthodontic patient.
Growing up in Newark was not always easy for Dr. Jenkins, who
as a youngster lived for a time in public housing. "It was
hard to feel special then, but my third-grade teacher always
did just that," he says. "And my mom has always been
there for me. She always made a way for things to happen."
As a teenager, Dr. Jenkins relied on the "positive peer
pressure" he received from his friends, Drs. Hunt and Davis,
and his mother's love and support to stay true to his goal. "It
was a matter of doing what I knew I should do and keeping focused,"
says the dentist. "I saw the nice cars that my other friends
had. I couldn't help but see them. But I didn't want to get my
car the way they got theirs."
After high school, the trio attended Seton Hall University. Living
on campus helped them "stay away from everything we were
exposed to in high school." The motivation and camaraderie
that began at University High continued at the Hall. At exam
time, when Dr. Jenkins didn't feel like studying, the sight of
his friends immersed in their notes would prompt him to hit the
Because of his long-held interest in dentistry, Dr. Jenkins "never
thought twice about applying to dental school. It was a given."
At NJDS, he says he found a staff that was always helpful and
a faculty that went the extra mile. "The faculty really
listened to me," he said. "They talked to me as a colleague,
not just as a student."
On May 26, 13 years after three friends made a vow, that promised
was fulfilled. "As I watched Rameck and Sampson receive
their diplomas, that helped me appreciate what we accomplished."
After a front-page story about the young men appeared in the
Star-Ledger, they became instant celebrities. School children
wrote essays about them. Newark Mayor Sharpe James lauded their
achievements in a letter. They became sought-after speakers and
the topic of church sermons. "People are excited for us,"
Dr. Jenkins says. "We've shown that not everyone living
in an inner city is a bad person or destined to fail."
Cynics might say that Drs. Jenkins, Hunt, and Davis have just
about used up their 15 minutes of fame. That's where they've
got it wrong. Fame was never a part of the plan. And there's
a sequel to their story currently under way. Dr. Jenkins is completing
a general practice residency at UMDNJ, while Dr. Hunt does his
internship at Robert Wood Johnson Medical Center and Dr. Davis
works through his at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center. Afterward,
they plan to work together in Newark, providing much-needed medical
and dental care to inner-city residents. But they offer something
else as well: A success story that Dr. Jenkins and his friends
hope will be repeated over and over again, maybe by a few kids
who have a dream, make a promise, and stick by one another.
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