Dr. Robert Scott
The Policy Maker
“I am committed to the practice of medicine in the Bay Area and my greatest challenge is to recruit others who share that same enthusiasm and commitment.”
Humbly but adamantly stated, Dr. Robert Scott is serious about helping to heal the men, women and children of the San Francisco Bay Area, the most ethnically diverse region of the United States. And with the ever-increasing challenges of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, Dr. Scott’s Oakland, California, practice has swelled to some 2,000 active patients, 400 of whom are infected with the virus. This means 13-hour workdays for Dr. Scott.
“I have to rise early, typically at 5:00 a.m., to make routine hospital visits. I see patients beginning at 7:30 a.m. and continue until around 6:30 every day.”
His successful yet demanding practice has made Dr. Scott a leading advocate for HIV/AIDS treatment and research. He is frequently asked to address other practitioners and medical professionals throughout the US and abroad. Proud of his recognition among his peers, Dr. Scott is equally proud of his commitment to community service and social responsibility.
“This is a disease of young folks and old folks, of poor folks and middle-class folks,” he says. “So anyone who thinks they’re safe needs to think again. If you’re sexually active, you’re at risk. It would be foolish to think that this disease is in one place or fits one kind of person.”
He’s also not content to combat AIDS within America’s borders. Four times a year he takes clothing, supplies and medicine to an AIDS orphanage in Zimbabwe and, as co-chair of the AIDS ministry for Allen Temple Baptist Church, he persuaded the congregation to adopt the orphanage in Zimbabwe as well as build housing for twenty-five HIV positive men and women in his local East Bay area in Northern California. Currently the AIDS ministry has a local and global focus in the fight against HIV/AIDS.
In the early days of the pandemic, Dr. Scott co-founded AIDS Project East Bay, the largest and oldest AIDS service organization in Oakland’s Alameda County, and maintains an active presence as Co-Chair of the Board. APEB is committed to the prevention of the spread of HIV and to the provision of culturally sensitive and effective services to all persons and communities infected with and affected by AIDS in Alameda County. Client services include counseling, personalized case management, the latest information on treatment options, free and anonymous HIV testing, free and discounted groceries, help with transportation, benefits counseling, housing assistance, utility assistance, legal assistance and drug and alcohol counseling. All services are offered free of charge and judgment.
Dr. Scott is also a member of numerous national and local organizations: National Medical Association, American Academy of HIV Medicine, and Physicians for Human Rights. He is also an avid collector of Shona art and still manages to make time for family. He is the father of son, Melvin, 35, adopted at the age of five.
Born in Chicago, Dr. Scott came to Oakland in 1969 as an instructor at Laney College. He graduated from University of California, San Francisco Medical School in 1974. He completed an internship in medicine at Emory University Hospitals in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1975 and a residency in internal medicine at Stanford University Hospitals in Palo Alto, California in 1977. One month later, he opened a private practice in Oakland and today is the only African-American physician in private practice, who specializes in HIV/AIDS in Oakland. His thriving office has a diverse staff with multiple talents aimed at treating persons with AIDS with respect and compassion.
“Each person living with HIV deserves the level of care I could give to a family member,” says Dr. Scott. “I get to know my patient, their family and their loved ones.”
Dr. Scott’s unparalleled commitment to practicing medicine in the Oakland community is tantamount to his efforts to encourage and recruit other physicians, particularly African Americans, to focus on HIV/AIDS patients. To stress the apparent need and dearth of black doctors in the field, he recalls the 6th annual Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in Chicago, the largest such gathering in the country, where some 6,000 doctors attend but only 60 or so are African American. “There are so few of us,” he laments, “we all know each other.”
But that doesn’t deter Dr. Scott. Nor does it waver his commitment.
“You got to be able to do more than push pills,” he says. “Anybody can push pills. You need to get to know the patients and they need to get to know you. Trust is key in treating all patients. To accomplish this, I educate my patients about the disease and treatment options so they may participate in the decision-making process. I am likewise educated by my patients.”
Dr. Scott is deeply committed to serving those in need. Doubters need only to look to one simple fact: he still makes house calls.