My story is simple. I was born to be a part of change and influence it. I didn’t always know how to do this or where I fit in this process of change but I was taught early on by my parents and grandparents that I could either “talk about it" or “do something about it.” There was no room for endless theory, debate or rhetoric unless thoughts were linked with bringing about a greater degree of understanding and action. This is my philosophy of combining activism with philanthropy.
I have been fortunate to be surrounded by people in my life that regularly inspired, questioned and helped guide me to become the man I am today. I’ve been blessed to save lives and impact communities, both locally and globally. I am proud to be an emergency medicine physician in Brooklyn. In the emergency room, we see patients with a wide range of medical problems and one of the things that really hit home to me was the issue of violence.
Being a Black man working in the ER and taking care of patients riddled with bullets, stabbed or beaten hit me at my core, especially when I know the patient from my neighborhood and when they look like me, my friends or family members. Violence is beyond a social problem, it is a public health crisis with risk factors that can be changed to prevent senseless death. My team and I have decided to do something about it, thus the birth of the Kings Against Violence Initiative (KAVI).
KAVI is a hospital, school and community-based youth violence intervention, prevention and empowerment program working to create opportunities for young people injured as a result of violence or at risk to engage in violent behavior. Mental wellness is just as important for the patients whose lives are affected but also with the family members and the friends. It’s a community process. It's still taboo for Black youth to have a mental illness in our community dealing with depression, bi-polar disorder, schizophrenia or anxiety. The young people that we work with are some of the best and brightest minds I have seen and we are sure, given the right circumstances, support, tools and resources, these minds will continue to grow, thrive and create positive changes within our communities.
However, just because I run an organization and I’m a doctor doesn’t mean I’m immune to the challenges of being a Black man in America. I’ve been stopped by the cops around the corner from where I live, in Brooklyn, in broad daylight, multiple times. Despite advanced degrees, or occupation, how I’m perceived is dependent on the environment. In elevators and depending on how I dress, white women and Black women may still hold their purse. It is what it is but does it hinder me from doing the things that I want to do? No. As a Black man, as a person of color, I need to not just be in survival mode but I do need to put myself in a position where I have the capabilities to thrive no matter what. It’s key to understand customs, understand language, pay attention to signs and people's behavior and their dynamic, and to be aware of your surroundings but at the same time not becoming paranoid in the situation. Whether I’m going to Brazil or I’m going to Haiti to do some work, or if I’m giving a lecture in Turkey… do I really give a care if this guy is going to try to prevent me from doing that? No. I have a mission.
When my physical body has traveled to a more unearthly realm and friends, family and loved ones reflect on my life, I want them to say, “He lived, he did.” It is my hope that they will do the same and continue to inspire those coming after them to also do the same. This is my legacy. This is what being an ICON MANN is about.
A proud Morehouse College graduate, Dr. Robert Gore is the executive director of Kings Against Violence Initiative (KAVI) and is an attending physician and clinical assistant professor at Kings County Hospital – SUNY Downstate Department of Emergency Medicine in Brooklyn, NY. He is a board member of EMEDEX International, an organization dedicated to the global advancement of emergency medical care through education, training, systems development and capacity building. He is also the founder and director of the Minority Medical Student Emergency Medicine Summer Fellowship, which is a mentoring and research program for underrepresented minorities interested in emergency medicine.
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(Photo: Earl Gibson III)