Cleve Francis
cardiologist, musician

Cleve Francis

Cardiologist; President, Mount Vernon Cardiology Associates, Alexandria, Va.; musician.


Lifting me up

Q: As we approach Thanksgiving and the holiday season, we often look back at the people and experiences that helped us get where we are. Who (and what) were your "game-changers," and how did they change the way you look at your life and career?

I grew up very poor in the segregated South. I am thankful to my parents, who demanded good behavior and hard study. Those things were essential to my getting to the next level in my life's journey.

After graduating from high school in the small town of Jennings, La., I was off to college at Southern University in Baton Rouge. I met two individuals there that would change my life forever. My high school science teacher had sparked my interest in science, but I was not sure of what I wanted to do with my life.

Early in my freshman year, after developing a horrible cold, I visited the student health clinic. There I was treated by an elderly black physician. I had never seen a black physician in my whole life or felt that I could also become one. It was in that moment that I knew what my life would be about. I don't remember his name, and I never saw him again.

Following that clinic visit, I changed my major to pre-med biology. As part of the pre-med studies program, we had to take a course in humanities. It was there that I would meet my good friend and mentor, Dr. Huel Perkins, who was the head of the music department.

When he learned of my musical talents and interest, he encouraged me to pursue both my scientific and musical interests. My original guitar had a serious crack in the base. At that time I could not afford to replace it, and he actually bought be a new guitar so that I could continue to write and play.

The association with Dr. Perkins was a life changer for me. I ended up graduating from Medical College of Virginia and George Washington University Hospital and starting my own practice in cardiology. I also continued to play, sing and write music and was eventually signed to Capitol Records -- recording three CD's, making five music videos and performing across the United States, in England and Scotland.

Mentors are extremely important and can make us see that we may have the capacity within us to do much more than we would otherwise do. They can be both active and passive as in my situation. I have had the good fortune to return the favor and have been able to mentor others who have gone on to be successful. I thank my parents, my good friend Dr. Huel Perkins, and the elderly physician whom I only met once.

By Cleve Francis  |  November 29, 2010; 12:00 AM ET  | Category:  Mentors Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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Please report offensive comments below.

I am the friend and mentor about whom Dr. Francis speaks in his blog. I am pleased that I had something to do with his development. Coming from dire circumstances, he was determined to make something of himself. AND HE DID! The name of the physician to whom he refers is Dr. Raymond Baranco, longtime school and sports team physician at Southern University.

Posted by: 8perk8 | November 30, 2010 4:28 PM
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