Dr. Robert L. Jamison has a great sense of humor, and he is a truly remarkable person. He was an absolute pleasure to speak with. The opportunity of speaking with this spirited gem taught me so many insightful lessons about determination and motivation. While sharing his story, I felt I had been taken on a journey with him—the trip of a lifetime. My fascination had been piqued by how someone could come from such a tumultuous background and yet triumph against all odds! There are no spoilers here, but it is pertinent to say that Dr. Jamison is a miracle man who works wonders. God has truly blessed and touched him in numerous ways throughout his life. I want to share with you what he told me about his rollercoaster life that led to triumph.
Hi Dr. Jamison, it's nice to speak with you today! It's an honor to be in your magazine.
Well, thank you! So, let's dig in? Where are you from? I'm from Memphis, TN. I was born and raised in South Shelby County. I'm always using this slogan, "I come from the heart of Midtown Memphis."
Oh yeah, and where is that? The projects. (laughs)
That's what came to mind when you said it. I think it's just because of the way you said it. (laughs) So basically, you grew up in an economically challenged community. Yes. I grew up in the heart of Midtown Memphis in a low-Income Housing community. I feel that this is important because where I come from, many people do not believe that people from the projects can succeed. I want to be a source of inspiration for those who come from impoverished communities.
What high school did you graduate from? I graduated from Memphis Technical High School in 1979.
What year did you start your medical career? I started my medical career at Baptist Memorial Hospital in Memphis, TN.
That's awesome. Let's go back to your childhood years because I like to dig a little bit deeper. OK, cool.
With all that you said coming from the projects in Memphis, TN, let's talk about a young man's journal from the projects to becoming a doctor. Let's talk about it. In my childhood, I lived in a home with domestic violence and a drug-addicted stepfather. As a result of my stepfather's abuse, my mother moved us to the projects so that we would be away from him and have a better life.
Once you moved, did things get better? Yes, it got better.
What was the length of time you spent in this abusive situation? Up until I was around 12 years old.
Coming from a home where your parents constantly fought, seeing a lot of drugs in the community, and watching people giving up on their dreams and lives? How did you differ from them? What changed in your life, and what motivated you to improve? Because my mother was one of the most important influences in my life, I wanted to do something positive to inspire her.
Your mother was inspired by something you did at a young age. Could you tell me more about it? Yes, I started my own business at 19 years old. At 20, I was the owner of my own company.
Wow, what was the name of the business? Jamison and associate's upholstery shop. It was a custom upholstery shop.
Well, you already had your own business at age 20. That's amazing! Thank you. Yes, I received my first degree in business and administration.
What educational programs did you take advantage of to obtain your college degree? Since I worked in the upholstery business, I was able to pay my way through school. By the time I was 20 years old, I had owned my own company.
Wow, that's awesome! What a massive accomplishment for a young man! Did you have employees working for you? I did. I had four employees, and they were all older than me. They were old enough to be my mom and dad. (laughs)
I love it! I started at Townsand Interior as a pillow stuffer, and that's how I became an entrepreneur. It was also an upholstery store at the time. I learned many skills as a pillow stuffer, and when I was ready to open my own business in the same building, I paid rent for the back portion of the building.
Being that young, did you have a mentor? Yes, a man by the name of Mr. Herman Owen. I considered him my business mentor. In addition, I would like to mention Larry Townsend as another notable name. Having worked for him for three years before becoming an entrepreneur, he opened many doors for me.
As your mentor, what were some things he encouraged you to do? He encouraged me to attend school to obtain my business and administration associate degree.
And the plot thickens. Now we're getting somewhere. This story is getting good. I can't wait to hear the rest of it. Carry on. During that time in history, Larry being Caucasian enabled him to open doors for me that I could not open for myself. Consequently, following his leadership allowed me to start my company, Jamerson and Associates Custom Upholstery.
That sounds amazing! Yes, it was great because, during that journey, I obtained major contracts with casinos, hospitals, clinics, and doctor's offices. This is what led me into the medical field.
Wow, you built one block up on the other. So, what else happened? As a result of my efforts, I managed to land a big contract at Baptist hospital doing draperies and pillows for some of the physician's offices.
So, one day while walking across the street to the hospital, I noticed that there were openings for patient escorts on the job board. Thus, I applied for the job and was hired. Approximately 65 to 70 days after being hired, I was promoted to work in the recovery room as a patient care technician.
During that time, The Baptist Hospital provided individuals with a tuition reimbursement program that would allow them to get into college programs as long as they maintained a B grade point average. To put it simply, they paid for your tuition as you progressed. Then you were able to move to other departments.
Where was the facility located? The University of Tennessee Medical Training facility was governed by the University of Tennessee College Memphis campus.
That's awesome! Yes, Baptist also had a Health Science program and nursing program.
That's great! I can see your life shape more and more towards your God-given destiny. Please continue. Well, while I was working in PACU.
PACU? Dr. You have to put this in words I can understand. (Laughs) Yes, PACU stands for "post-anesthesia care unit." That's done in the recovery room.
OK. Now I get it. Continue. OK, next, I started taking classes for surgery through the "National Surgery Institute," where I became a certified first assistant. I gained the skills and fundamentals needed to become a surgery assistant after completing that course. My fellowship in that area lasted about six months at the University of Tennessee. Following the completion of my fellowship, I then went on to undergo surgical training in cardiology, neurology, general gynecology, orthopedic and plastic surgery.
Within five to six years, I signed on with a cardiovascular group and worked as a physician assistant for Doctor H. Edward Garrett Jr. During those five years totaling ten years in the medical field, I moved up one notch further and earned a master's degree in health science to further my professional career.
How impressive you went even further than that. Tell me about it. Thank you. Then a few years later, I not only received my Ph.D. in Health Science, but, in 2006, I opened my first practice, "Intravenous nurses' IV therapy," where we provided long-term patient care for patients with cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and various other illnesses. Everything was going smoothly until 2012, the year my mother passed away, and I went through a divorce.
Oh no, God bless you! I tell you, when it rains, it pours. Yes, so after mom passed away, I decided to relocate to California.
Something great came out of moving to LA. Can you tell us about that? Yes, I birthed a new company in 2012 called Alternative Healthcare, based in Los Angeles, California. Today I'm running a multi-disciplinary practice near downtown Los Angeles, CA. Within my network are over 8500 medical providers affiliated with numerous hospitals. A few of them include California Dignity Health, Long Beach memorial, USC, UCLA, and The United LA Medical network.
Wow! What an accomplishment! Thank you. Also, I would like to add, as of 2000, I have been affiliated with a Native American Veteran association called Nava, where we're doing behavioral health and chronic care management for all of Los Angeles, Northern and Southern California and being a support base for the VA Hospital and Veterans American.
Wow, amazing! Yes, so, my practice is a community healthcare practice that's affiliated with psychology associates in order for people who are suffering from depression, anxiety, PTSD, bipolar syndrome disorder, and substance abuse.
What great accomplishments. You've opened another location. Am I correct? Yes, In February of 2022, I opened my third location in Beverly Hills.
Tell me about your fundraisers? Sure, I do fundraisers for breast cancer utilizing the entertainment industry as a vehicle.
Through music? Yes, through music. I'm the founder of the "Five Stars (FTRS) Music Group" concert series, where we do concerts with old-school music groups. It's called "The Oldie Souldie" All of these groups are legends. Just to name a few of them from Memphis, TN. Amongst our celebrity list, upper formers are, The Temprees, The Bar Kay, and The Midlands. All these artists are originally from Stax Records. Additionally, I work closely with "Norma Carner and the Delfonics."
Are you working with anyone on these fundraisers? If so, who? Yes, I work with a female Entertainment Group based in Los Angeles, California, called Lady V Entertainment. Together, we organize fundraisers. Our organization supports the Saint Jude Children's Research Hospital (childhood cancer), and I am a three-time "Real Men Wear Pink" candidate for the American Cancer Society, which I have been supporting for more than 27 1/2 years. It was important to me that I bridge the gap between healthcare and entertainment in order to raise funds to support these important causes, both breast and childhood cancer.
When was this program created? The program was created in 2013 and is still going strong. In fact, we're into our 10th year.
I want to pull back a little bit because there are a couple of questions I wanted to ask you. Ok
Some people believe that doctors are geeks or have always received straight A's and B's in grade school. So, tell me, was that your case, or did you have times during grade school when your grades did not align with the public perception of what a doctor's grade should be like? Believe it or not, during grade school, I was somewhat intelligent. In elementary school, I maintain a high-grade point average. I was an A and B student.
Because I ran with the wrong group of students in junior high school, my grades suffered. I was a typical child growing up in the projects. In my teens, I hung out with the wrong crowd and smoked marijuana, as many project kids do. The result was a decline in my grades.
My destructive behavior continued in high school. I was trapped in a cycle. As my grades sank, I worked even harder to raise them within the next quarter of the semester.
When did things change for you? The first time I took my studies seriously was around the age of 16 and 17 years old. However, things began to change when I was about to graduate from high school at the age of 18. That is when my grades began to rise to the same level they were previously in elementary school.
Most young people don't make these sudden changes. What was the motivating factor for the repentance of your actions? My mother. I wanted to do something positive for my mother, and I did not want to let her down. Now, I didn't graduate with A's and B's, but I did graduate with B's and C's.
So, you didn't wear the Coca-Cola glass bottle eyeglasses as they wore back then because they didn't have the really cool-looking glasses. Kids made fun of you because you had those funny glasses with big Coca-Cola lenses. It made your eyes look huge! (laughs) No, I didn't wear the Coca-Cola bottle eyeglasses. I was a cool kid. I was more of a goofy kid that was always having fun, but I was smart. Picture this, and I carried a briefcase to school. (laughs) Now tell me, Gina, how many kids do you know that carry a briefcase to school?
You mean a Superfly briefcase from back in the 70s like the ones you see in the black exploitation films. That briefcase? Yes, that one. (laughs) my English teacher even told me, Robert, you're going to be somebody one day because you're the only student that brings a briefcase to school.
Now that's what I'm talking about. I love it! Yes, and you know what, she was right because I became an entrepreneur at 19 and began studying business and administration to become my own employer. Gina, think about it. I'm in the 11th grade with a briefcase! (laughs)
Yes, I see your point. It's got to be something to that. (laughs) Well, you know what, Dr.? I can dig it! That's serious! Yes, it was (laughs)
You stated earlier that there was a point where you got serious. Many people party hard in school, but the partying must end at some point. Unfortunately, for many, the party never ends. Because you decided to pull away from your old habits and old friends who were doing old things, what kind of discipline did you need to implement in your life for a sustainable change and a prosperous future? When I was 17, I smoked marijuana with the guys, and my mother caught us. This prompted a change in my life. It hurt her so bad that she told me I wasn't going to be anybody; I would be like everyone else in the hood, being nothing and having nothing. She went on to say that I would go to jail along with the friends I was hanging around with if they got caught smoking, and they would not be there for me to bail me out. She said I was going to lose everything.
She was speaking wisdom to you. She was, and because I had a kid at 14, I had to straighten my act. What hurt me the most was when my mother told me this. She was in tears. The thought of hurting my mother grieved me. I agreed with her because both my mom and I experienced such hardships growing up with an abusive stepfather who was a drug addict. So I stopped cold turkey at age 17. I can remember this like yesterday. I even told my friend, my best, Jerry Alexander, "I'm not smoking weed anymore with you guys because Momma said y'all ain't gonna be nothing!" (laughs)
That sounds like something taken out of the screenplay of the movie Claudine. Back in the 70s. (laughs) I did! I quit cold turkey and went to my mom and told her I left cold turkey and went to my mom and told her that I was going to straighten my act up, graduate from high school and do something that would make her proud. My grades started to turn around. And everything started going upward from that point on.
So, you had to disassociate yourself from those old friends. Yes, I did. There were sacrifices that I had to make. I got out of the gang and started focusing more on my education and future because my children were watching me.
While you were a young father, that must have been challenging to grow up with your child. What were their ages? My oldest son was born when I was 18, and my oldest daughter was born when I was 15 years old. Her mom was pregnant at 14, but she gave birth at 15. Therefore, I had to change my life around.
Let's fast forward down to your doctor years. Ok
What did it feel like to finally get that doctorate in your hand? As a result, I completed my Ph.D. degree and resigned from my full-time job at The Baptist Hospital, where I worked for over 20 years. The attitude I had when I first became a physician was, "they could not afford me." Although there was a dire need for what we did in surgery, I was not being appropriately compensated. I did celebrate receiving my PH. D by having, I had a party and ceremony that Saturday. I forget the date, but it was in the year 2006.
Did your mom get a chance to see you graduate? Yes, and she was inspired by it.
What are some of the critical factors to your success in becoming a doctor? To learn about the industry, I prepared myself with discipline, sacrifice, and commitment. Achieving my objective was my primary objective.
In addition, I had to give up the street life and take advantage of my free time. You were given time to study during the program, so I did that during my break.
During that time, I gained a wealth of knowledge about numerous subjects within the medical field. I studied health science and physician assistant studies, whether on the computer or when we had hands-on training and time to complete our CEUs.
Everything was covered. Training on CPR, bloodborne pathogens, and OSHA. Whatever was necessary to stay current. The training was conducted annually.
Eventually, my life became systematic. Work, study, and work. Gina, I worked 16 hours for ten years. As a result of this discipline, I didn't run the streets with the guys, nor did I want to be the guy with five or six women. On the contrary, I was more interested in obtaining the education I needed to better provide for my family in my mid-30s, not when I was 50 or 60. I laid my entire life down and dedicated it to my dream of becoming not only someone that I could be proud of but a positive role model to my family.
Great! What does excellent leadership look like to you? As a professional, you only have two ways to do things: right and wrong. You must always be professional because people are watching you. They will look to you for leadership and hold you accountable for your actions. A clinic owner cannot dictate what one employee should do if they do not follow the same rules. Consequently, to become a leader, we are expected to be disciplined in that area and to treat people the way we want, right?
Yes, you're right. I paid my staff and nurses a generous salary for treating people how they wanted to be treated.
Also, it was my habit to go to work each day, take care of my patients, and demonstrate to my nurses how I treat my patients with respect and bedside manners. I built my company around this model—Alternative Health Care.
What is the temperature of the clinic? My company is run excellently. I have my rules, but we also follow the rules governed by the state of California. We are HIPAA and OSHA compliant. We operate strictly according to the book without taking any shortcuts. Moreover, we remain a market leader in our field.
What does a doctor do for fun when you're with your patients and running your clinic? I love to travel, go to the casino, play basketball games, play and spend time with my fiancée. I also enjoy listening to music and going to concerts. Also, I enjoy writing. I'm a playwright.
Is that right? That's awesome! Thank you. I have put on plays and have authored a book titled "The Turning Point ." As well as having book signings and concerts after six or so months of work.
Where is your book located? It's on Amazon, Barnes, and Noble and is available internationally. You can also purchase it on my website, www.meetrobertljamison.com.
If you don't mind me asking, what's the book about? The book is about prison reform.
What was your motivation for writing it? My probation sentence was four years, and I could have easily remained out in society and remained on probation, but it would have hampered me for four years. Therefore, I surrendered my freedom to end my probation.
In addition, I spent 14 months on a work-release program at the Shelby County Penal Farm Correctional Facility, where I slept that night and was taken to work every day.
Wow! That's devastating! How old were you at that time? I was 49 years old, believe it or not.
Wow! Yeah, I spent my 50th birthday incarcerated.
Oh wow! Yeah, well, I want to thank you for being brave enough to share your story. I think many people will be inspired by it. Thanks so much. Yes, the book is informative and inspiring. People who look at me have no idea what I have been through. It blows their minds when I tell people my story, presenting the possibility that it could happen to anyone. You see, anyone can get caught up in the system. It doesn't matter if you are a convicted criminal or not; this can happen to anyone. You need to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, and boom, there you go! Do you know what I mean?
Yes. It's great to hear that you were able to get all those things sorted out and that you can once again resume your God-given purpose, which is to help others heal internally and externally. Are there any last words you would like to share with someone to bring encouragement to someone aspiring to be where you are, Dr.? Well, I come from a family of domestic violence and child abuse. In the past, I've run games, taken drugs, and been talked about. Regardless of what I have experienced, I have never allowed it to affect my triumphant future.
Therefore, I will say the same thing to those who aspire to become medical professionals. There is no reason you cannot achieve your dreams no matter where you come from because if you apply yourself to a few simple rules, you will be able to change your life and the lives of others. Be prepared to make sacrifices and be disciplined. The world is open to those willing, against all odds, to persevere.
Once again, Dr., it has been my pleasure to interview you. Thanks for all your service to the community and for being an inspiration to so many people. The Lord bless you, your family, and your career. I pray that God will open many doors for you and that you will continue to fulfill God's calling for your life.
Thank you, Gina
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All photos are courtesy of Dr. Robert Jamison
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