It may seem unlikely that the best way to inspire troubled youth is to encourage peer pressure. But this is the strategy for success used by "The Three Doctors" -- Sampson Davis, Rameck Hunt and George Jenkins -- inspirational speakers who aim to motivate inner-city youth and families through education, mentoring and health awareness.
"There is negative and positive peer pressure. We show how positive peer pressure can help encourage youths to achieve their goals and escape negative influences," said Hunt, an internist and medical director at St. Peter's University Hospital's How Lane Adult Family Health Center.
If anyone can attest to the power of positive peer pressure, it's "The Three Doctors." As teenagers from the streets of Newark, New Jersey, they made a pact to stay together, attend college and become doctors. More than 13 years later, they have achieved their goal and have formed The Three Doctors Foundation to help empower inner-city youths to improve their lives and the lives of others.
"Inner-city kids face a tremendous amount of negative peer pressure -- it's on their clothes, on their corners, in their walks and in their talks," said Davis, an emergency medicine physician at East Orange General Hospital. "They are faced with gangs, narcotics, weapons -- huge issues. It's occurring at epidemic levels, and it threatens all of us."
"The Three Doctors" strive to show these teenagers that the path to success begins with education. "I want to make education fashionable," said Jenkins, a dentist and faculty member of Community Health at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. "Today, kids dream of being professional athletes and entertainers, and they have dreams of money and fame. I would like them to see education as an alternative, more realistic way to attain their goals."
Davis said their messages are geared toward families. "We help parents by teaching them how to listen to their sons and daughters. Parents will say to us, 'They don't listen to me anymore!' And we say to them, 'You're the parent. You can't give up.' We help them reach their kids," he said.
"We tell parents that they can't speak down to their children, and that they have to understand their children's culture. They need to know about the latest crazes in the community, and they have to be involved academically and socially," said Hunt.
"The Three Doctors" have jointly authored two books, The Pact and We Beat the Street, both New York Times best sellers. Oprah Winfrey has called the trio "the premier role models of the world." And while the accolades are rewarding, the doctors say the real reward is the difference they are making -- one community at a time.
"This isn't an inner-city story. This is America's story -- and it's a hopeful one," said Davis. "We want to motivate and save as many people as we can."