Congratulations to Defining Moments of a Free Man from a Black Stream written by Dr. Frank L. Douglas for receiving a RECOMMENDED rating from the US Review of Books.
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“Focus more on what we contribute and less on what we control.”
From a boyhood of poverty, author Douglas has risen to remarkable success as a medical practitioner, researcher, and scientifically astute administrator. His autobiography begins with an incident that well illustrates the dire circumstances of his childhood in British Guiana (now Guyana). Riding his bicycle to the market to collect the family’s weekly foodstuffs, the boy encountered a rough surface, capsizing and effectively destroying his cargo. He was harshly beaten by his mother and even contemplated suicide. Things changed when he started school. Showing unusual intelligence, he won school honors, was supported while in college in Guiana, and awarded a Fulbright scholarship, leading him to the United States and a degree from Lehigh University.
Douglas’s personal perspective from his school years in America casts light on the many challenges faced by black students in the early 1960s and beyond. A devout Christian, he was shaken to observe that “churches were fighting to uphold and reinforce segregation,” while in the realm of academia, there were many overt and unspoken policies that excluded blacks from reaching the top ranks. Douglas never failed to try to correct incidents of discrimination directed at himself and others.
Meanwhile, he was entering ever-higher realms of study and recognition based on his strong intellect and zest for discovery, though he describes these achievements modestly. He attained degrees from Cornell University and a residency at Johns Hopkins in internal medicine. He offers engaging vignettes of his interactions with patients, co-workers, and mentors, along with densely detailed scientific data gleaned from his varied and multifaceted fields of endeavor. Douglas taught pharmacology and made significant discoveries in that field. He was responsible for the establishment of the Center for Biomedical Innovation at MIT. He was awarded the George Beene Foundation and GQ magazine Rock Star of Science award. One of the few illustrations in this highly readable account, included at the insistence of his eight-year-old grandson, is the photograph of a plaque naming the medicines he helped to develop—substances for the treatment of such conditions as diabetes, allergies, tuberculosis, smoking cessation, pulmonary thrombosis, and cancer.
Among the accounts of his awards and recognitions, no story is more impressive or more touching than the tale of a vacation visit to Kenya. There, Douglas struck up a friendship with a man who made his living polishing shoes. The scientist’s direct kindness to the man and his family resulted in many benefits to the Kenyan and his community.
Throughout this inspiring, skillfully crafted chronicle, Douglas emerges again and again as a man who approaches problems with equal measures of logic and concern for others. In several instances he spurned chances for advancement or prestige because he was not in agreement with the principles of the offering institution or organization. His individualism and creativity provide points worth pondering. He has continued to champion the cause of black students and black and downtrodden people generally, having never forgotten his own roots in a poverty-ridden, politically conflicted homeland. The meaning of his name—Frank being Celtic for “free man” and Douglas being Scottish for “from a black stream”—became his personal banner. His vibrant memoir will undoubtedly serve as a beacon of hope and a source of motivation to those of any race or nationality who seek a clear pathway upward.
RECOMMENDED by the US Review