VIEW PARK — Dr. Mario Hemsley has a lot to say about a lot of things, to a lot of people.
He doesn’t mince words. He shoots from the lips. To say he is outspoken and opinionated about everything from A to Z would minimize his articulate, sometimes naughty, but always authentic voice.
Known for his long, well-kept dreadlocked mane and mischievous smile, Hemsley, a pediatric specialist during his 30-year career still lives in the affluent View Park home he grew up in with his brothers Michael and Hugh, his father, the late Dr. Hubert Hemsley and his retired school teacher mother, Evelyn Wong Hemsley.
He came into his own as an undergrad at Howard University where he studied zoology and chemistry. “Howard changed me,” Hemsley said. “I was a naïve little black boy and came back as a socially conscious black man.”
He also credits his “strong parents,” who he said, “didn’t take no … .”
“He was my challenge,” said his mother. “He always had an interest in everything. He was a busy child. I just want him to find joy in his day. That’s what’s important. I tell him to live his own life. It’s a tragedy to live your parent’s life. I’m so proud of him.”
During a recent interview, Hemsley kicked back and ate take-out as he spoke openly about being a mild-mannered doctor by day and a blunt activist/broadcaster by night.
Each week this single, retired, award-winning doctor and forward-thinker gets to tell it like it is hosting “Morning Coffee With Mario,” streamed live on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter/Periscope, and Twitch, where he waxes lyrical on Pax Stereo TV, a Neourban Internet Television broadcast outlet he launched to give himself and others a vehicle to voice whatever is on their minds.
The show is said to “Wake you up with insight and humor that will have you thinking and laughing out loud.” Hemsley, who is assisted by his longtime friend and co-host Victor Allen, describes all of the broadcasts he produces as, “Something Your Mind Can Feel.”
All of the shows are broadcast out of his converted garage he turned into a full-fledged multi-channel recording studio.
Pax Stereo TV was an indie music label before it became internet television, boasting nine CD releases on the Pax Stereo record label. It has been broadcasting since 2010. Before Pax Stereo TV, there was Paxstereo. Since the beginning, Hemsley, 63, who calls himself a “tech guru,” also created, developed, wrote, and maintained the site.
Some of the outlet’s episodes include the first channel listing on Amazon Prime, called ‘Oracles,’ on which he interviewed actors Glynn Turman, Reginald T. Dorsey and Leonard Thomas. Hemsley also hosts the Quiet Storm Live Interactive DJ Experience.
Other episodes include “Jazzamatazz,” “Celebrating The Life & Music of Bill Withers” — hosted by Hemsley, — and “The Truth About Coronavirus” with award-winning pediatric specialist Dr. Hemsley.
Music has always been a part of his life. Even while studying medicine at USC Medical School, Hemsley, who was one of three blacks and five Latinos in his class, continued to “do his thing” on the airwaves. For decades he made time for both his day job as a doctor and his heart job as a DJ and broadcaster.
A highly respected doctor, who was chief resident at the Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center where his father also did his residency, Hemsley was in charge of intensive care and critical care for babies. While there as a junior, he worked with Mae Jemison, who was an intern and would go on to become the first black female astronaut to travel into space.
“She was shy,” Hemsley said, recalling Jemison.
Surprisingly, Hemsley doesn’t know why he became a doctor.
“I don’t know what I was thinking,” he said. “As a young man, I was a naïve, bourgeois black child from Howard University. I realized racism was real — even in medicine. I had someone ask for a white doctor instead of me. They never let you forget that when you take off the white coat, you’re still a [N-word] to them.”
While studying medicine, Hemsley said reality struck.
“I told myself I was going to help people, buy a house, a nice car, and then, bam — patients happened and you wake up and say, ‘this is real’ and it scares the … out of you,” said Hemsley, who ran L.A. County Medical Center’s Pediatric Intensive Care Unit for a year before working at Kaiser.
“People say they go into medicine because they want to help people, that’s a bunch of crap,” said Hemsley, who exited the profession for health reasons. “Elitist people go into medicine for the wrong reasons. I found no sense of social justice in medical training or in education.
“There was no discussion of kindness or compassion. The day I realized I could hurt people, it scared me to death. I was following my daddy’s legacy. I spent most of my days praying I was worthy.”
He talked about being Black in a white world.
“When I was 16, I got arrested for shooting a can with a BB gun,” said Hemsley. “They said, ‘Give me a reason. … I was only a few steps from my house. It was white then, then Black, now it’s gentrified. This happened in the most affluent Black community in the U.S.”
Even with the current climate, Hemsley said, “This is the best time in my life as a black man. As bad as the struggle may be, the last time something happened America watched and didn’t believe. No one gave a … . This time the whole world is participating.”
Dr. Hemsley doesn’t envy medical professionals dealing with COVID-19.
“That corona is … them up,” he said. “There isn’t a health professional out there that thinks this … will go away. This is the experiment which is what happens when the country does nothing. Who would have thought the U.S. in the face of the worst epidemic in 100 years would do nothing?”
Hemsley expects the virus to be here in the fall.
“It will be here with the flu,” he said. “If you think this is going to be over soon, you’re really looking at this time next year. Right now there is no treatment. People are going to die. They are going to overwhelm the health care system.
“Doctors will start melting down and burn out. It’s so contagious. It’s unpredictable. In the fall, cases will go up because people will be indoors. You can’t fight deadly viruses by saying, ‘Please wear the mask.’ You’re killing people.”
Hemsley has seen his share of “hell” as a doctor and has no regrets about walking away from medicine.
“Every month I had a baby on a ventilator for abuse,” he said. “They had black eyes, broken noses, bloody faces and eggshell fractures from a father throwing a baby against a wall.
“I’ve had babies who went through windshields, 107 degree fevers, and convulsing because they were left in a car in August, parents who drove over the babies in the driveway. I’ve had babies who got hold of PCP that someone put in their baby bottle or gasoline that was put in a Coke bottle. I eventually got PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) from it. I took care of the worst.”
He stayed because he had a job to do.
“I never wanted to distance myself from my patients, said Hemsley. “That was part of the job. I wanted to know who I was fighting for. You just learn to cope with it.”
Initially, Hemsley wanted to be a writer.
“That was short-lived,” he said. “They all died broke and no one noticed them until they were dead.”