Robert Scott’s Legacy: Damon Francis and Mauricio Berdugo

From left to right: Dr. Robert Scott III, Jill Berdugo, Mauricio A. Berdugo, M.D.and Gloria Cox-Crowell in 2008.

By Jesse Brooks

 Damon Francis was two year old and living in Los Angeles, when the Human Immunodeficiency Virus, (HIV) was first discovered in 1981. Today he is a young doctor who learned his expertise and skill in treating HIV patients while working alongside the late Dr. Robert Scott III Scott, the pioneer of HIV/AIDS treatment. The six foot 4 inch doctor who co-founded Eastbay AIDS Project always reached down to help heal so many needy patients.


Since 1981, the HIV virus has spread to become the world’s largest epidemic. More than 33 million people live with HIV. And more than 1 million people live with the infection here in the US. Over 56,000 Americans are infected by the virus each year.


Scott III died October 8th, 2009 from complications of blood clots. Locally and globally, he served people of African descent and countless others. His dedication and fight in the HIV community started way back before the disease even had a name. It was his unique ability to touch people and connect communities together that will be hard to duplicate.


Dr. Francis, a 1996 UC Berkeley graduate, says his interest in biology and science is why he became a doctor. His HIV interest was inspired by the holistic mental, physical and spiritual methods espoused by Dr. Scott’s Allen Temple Baptist Church AIDS Ministries, and the fact that was the first African American doctor licensed to practice in Zimbabwe.


Francis, reflecting on Scott, said, “He was a big man with a big personality that influenced me to develop my own style while maintaining a high standard of care for my patients.”


Dr. Scott also influenced Mauricio Berdugo, an El Salvadoran medical student, who worked with him from 2004 to 2009. Berdugo, already a doctor, worked with the Doctors without Borders organization before he became an assistant to Scott while seeking to obtain an American license. Citing Dr. Scott as his mentor, he said working under his tutelage the experience “felt like it was a father and son relationship. H e showed me how to practice medicine, old school, with care.” An emotional Berdugo recounted how he sent a voice mail message to Scott hours before he passed. I was pleased to hear that he smiled upon hearing my voice.”


To honor Dr. Scott’s legacy, the Allen Temple Baptist Church will host gospel concert and the first annual Dr. Robert Scott III Awards, 7:00p.m., Saturday, August 27.


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