Boarding the Bus With the Best and the Brightest

This is one in a series of stories about the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s landmark achievements, which continue to inspire us as we address future challenges.

David Satcher grew up in the Jim Crow South, one of 10 children, raised in poverty on a farm outside Aniston, Ala.

When he was 6 years old, Satcher developed whooping cough and pneumonia. The town’s hospital was “whites only.” Satcher nearly died—and were it not for the care administered by a certain Dr. Jackson, the only African American physician within a hundred miles, he might have.

This searing experience left its mark on the young David Satcher, and he resolved at an early age to become a doctor, a goal from which he never wavered. He became a physician, and developed a passion for patient care, coupled with a gift for research, and a burning desire to bring it all together on the streets of Watts. Satcher became a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholar, which helped make him a powerful agent for change—as witness his appointment in 1998 as the nation’s 16th Surgeon General.

The Clinical Scholars program was our first major grant initiative, to which we maintain a steadfast commitment.

We like to say that, when we support gifted men and women and equip them to take on the world, or their part of it, that we have boarded the bus with the best and the brightest. And change breaks out whenever and wherever they get off.

Learn more about our commitment to human capital.