They’re known as “The Three Doctors,” a trio of Newarkers who formed a pact growing up that they would become doctors and support each other as they pursued their dream.
The doctors — who include dentist George Jenkins, an RSDM alum, Class of ’99 — have garnered national attention for relying on friendship to help them succeed, despite the lack of opportunities and resources they faced growing up in Newark’s public housing projects. Jenkins credits an RSDM orthodontics resident who straightened his teeth with inspiring him to enter dentistry.
After earning his medical degree along with the other two doctors — Rameck Hunt, an internist, and Sampson David, an emergency medicine physician — Jenkins joined them in launching The Three Doctors Foundation, a mentorship effort for children and teens.
Last month, 18 RSDM students joined the Three Doctors and other volunteers at Mentors’ Day at University High School in Newark, an event that embodied the doctors’ motto, “Our Children Can Not Aspire To Be What They Can Not See.” The program, for children grades 6-12, was held in partnership with the Newark Public School’s Office of Expanded Learning Time.
First-year student Olga Bortnik discovered ways to connect with her mentees, despite the fact that none of them wanted to be dentists. She found common ground by talking about her love of music and childhood piano lessons. When she learned that one student had a single mom, she talked about obstacles she faced in her own life.
Bortnik, who emigrated from Belarus without a college degrees in 2008, supported herself with waitressing jobs after a divorce, later attending Stockton College, where she majored in Public Health and Science. After she shadowed a dentist — an experience that provided her with both a mentor and exposure to a profession — she decided to pursue a career in dentistry.
Her successful journey to dental school was possible because she focused on her goals and refused to give up, she told students. Although she recognized that they faced challenges unlike her own, she wanted to let them to examine how others overcame adversity. “It’s important to see that people struggle in different ways,” she said.
Bortnik was moved by the experience of getting to know the students and sharing her own story. “I want to do it next year,” she vowed.