Dr. Desmond Carson was born in Oakland and raised in South Richmond. He went to UC Berkeley, where he studied biophysics, and later studied medicine at the Medical College of Wisconsin.
Carson came back to his hometown to save lives in emergency medicine. At Doctors Medical Center in San Pablo since 1998, Carson has treated hundreds of people suffering from gunshot wounds and served as a general physician for generations of families in the low-income areas of West Contra Costa County.
Here is a biography of Carson and some additional excerpts from our conversations with him and colleagues. Age: 52 Hometown: Richmond Claim to fame: Emergency Room physician at Doctors Medical Center in San Pablo On growing up: Carson was a bright student from the start, but he chafed at private school and persuaded his parents to send him to public high school.
"All my friends were going to public school," Carson said. "I had to ride with the public school kids on the bus, and those cats would tease me all the time about my salt-and-pepper slacks." Carson is a favorite at public health outreach events, where he gives homespun advice to residents about everything from stroke diagnosis to nutrition. Colleagues describe Carson as a "grass-roots doctor," who is passionate about prevention and health education outreach. Hospital board member Eric Zell said Carson is a one-of-a-kind physician whose tireless work has gone under the radar for years.
"Desmond is not the kind of guy who puts on airs," Zell said. "I can't think of a doctor who is more rooted in, more in touch with the community. He is really special." On family: Carson has two children. "My daughter is 25 and holds physics and engineering degrees from Spelman College and the University of Michigan. My son graduated from Columbia's med school." On his colleagues at Doctors Medical Center: "A lot of the cardiologists, they've been there 30 years fighting this battle, getting nowhere close to the pay at John Muir Medical Center. These people have dedicated their lives, more so than me, toward the end of making sure that poor people get health care. ... They are dedicated to the community. These guys aren't retiring at 55 and driving Bentleys. My hat goes off to them." On a community award he won: "I was very proud the community recognized me and some other people who were more deserving than me." On local violent crime: "Yes, I see fewer (gunshot victims) now, absolutely. Praise has to go to so many people and groups for being a part of this. I give praise to the Richmond police for helping bring it down. They deserve some praise." On exposing young kids in the community to college: "As treasurer of Richmond Steelers (youth football team), we take those kids to Cal (Berkeley) for a day to be introduced to the university. Some of the parents thought the trip was to play a game, but it's not, it's because these kids in our community have never been to the finest public university in the world, just a short BART ride away. ... How can you dream when you've never been there to spark the imagination? It's not that our kids don't want to go to college, it's that they don't know what they would be missing. I am embarrassed that more kids don't see these amazing campuses right here in the Bay Area." On the horrors of gun violence: "There was a girl, African-American in her early 20s, who came in one night a few years ago. She got shot driving down the freeway. ... Her head and neck were mangled, gray brain matter on the pillow, everywhere, no elements of life, no breathing, no cardiac activity. ... You see brains exploded on a pillow after a beautiful, healthy young person is dragged from a wrecked car. It does something to you." On the future: "I am looking forward to seeing what kind of administrative capacities I can serve in. Right now, I work with 4Richmond as director of the health care component, and I am very excited about that. ... Call me in October, and I will be ready to talk about my Richmond Steelers and what I can do to keep improving that program and raising funds."