Book Reviews

Amazon Reviews

5.0 out of 5 stars Simple living high thinking, true grit and wisdom wins

The title of this book is very aptly chosen. It is really thrilling when we reach the point in the book when Dr. Douglas reveals the significance of this title! Dr. Douglas tells a fascinating, adventurous and inspiring story of his journey from his childhood days in Guyana, almost missing attending high school due to financial issues, to becoming a topper at high school, securing Full Bright Scholarship to pursue Engineering in USA, at Lehigh, pursuing PhD in Chemistry at Cornell, and then Medicine at both Cornell and Johns Hopkins, working as a medical doctor, and moving into Pharmaceutical industry, leading R&D teams, revolutionizing Drug Discovery, winning several awards and post retirement also tirelessly contributing greatly by turning around organizations that aim to improve people’s lives by delivering therapies, solutions, enabling collaborations and improving processes.

In every phase of his journey he encountered challenges, resistance, discrimination and many sorts of issues as he ventured on to the road that was less travelled. However, armed with his hard work, perseverance and more importantly his true grit, conviction, personal ethic, noble values and humility, he succeeded in his efforts, winning over people’s hearts. His inner monologues as he dealt with those problems and as he describes his analysis of events in this book, make this book really engaging to the reader, it feels as though the reader has a way to look inside what’s going on in Dr. Douglas’s mind. It also gives hope and strength to every aspiring student, researcher, or professional in any field who can relate to such challenges and are striving. Reading this book is way better than listening to self-help or personal development talks. This is real life story of a person who is ‘master of his fate, captain of his soul’.

Though he faced resistance from people and systems, he also describes how some people who understood him went out of way to help him and acknowledges every such person’s role in making him the person he is with such great achievements and contributions to science, engineering and healthcare. There is a lot to learn from this book, luckily Dr. Douglas highlights the golden nuggets for success, such as the SOAR principle, many good leadership styles, traits and management strategies. We can use this book as a reference too when needed. I highly recommend this book for everyone.

Sumana Ramayanam

5.0 out of 5 stars A soft-spoken, serene almost spiritual man who has led a remarkable life.

The first 4 chapters are nearly not believable. From dirt poor to Lehigh U to PhD to MD to NIH to industry leadership. Dr Douglas is a force of nature; a force for good. All who have interacted with him have – eventually – felt the unstoppable force of warmth, steadfastness, intellect and humanity. Truly inspirational.


5.0 out of 5 stars A must read

It was an autobiography about Dr. Frank L.Douglas.It tells about his home country and the progress of how he got to go to college in The United StatesL. It tells of his struggles and his successes in college and also of the life lessons he learned along the way. He finds his career in research and later in teaching. He even became a US citizen and also lived in Germany for a while where he learned how the speak German to everyone’s surprise.

Bridgett Veltman

5.0 out of 5 stars A MUST READ!!

This is a well written extraordinary book. The author Dr. Frank L. Douglas captured my attention from the beginning all the way until the end. I could not put the book down. It is one of the most inspirational books I have ever read! I highly recommend this book!

Steve Polimeni

Goodreads Reviews

I offer this review of Defining Moments of a Free Man from a Black Stream as a person who has known Dr. Douglas since his days at Cornell University and who witnessed the events through his recounting them contemporaneously over the years.

My first thought is to confirm the narratives are true. My second thought is that, even so, Dr. Douglas was rather gracious in the chronicles, as some of the events unfolded in even harsher terms than he conveys using his professional eloquence. But, of course, he always is “The Consummate Professional” in his comportment.

The book is important for people of all ethnicities to read and understand, as racism is undeterred by levels of education and is pervasive among all races and cultures. Only the style and flavor of it changes among persecutors and the persecuted. The brutality of it remains constant. While I recommend this book for a broad audience, it is particularly poignant and useful for American Blacks and for other descendants of African cultures who are in the United States trying to penetrate and navigate American ways and mores.
While Dr. Douglas is a world-renown scientist, he is an equally brilliant project manager and supervisor of high-level scientists and managers. This book illustrates tools and techniques which could be helpful to anyone who has significant managerial responsibilities while facing a resistant staff, oversight person, or board of directors. I recommend the book with great appreciation for it and without reservation.

Nancy Wyatt

Dr. Frank Douglas has quite the reputation within the pharmaceutical community and for good reason. As this autobiography shows, he’s not just a man of great intelligence, but also compassion and integrity.

My only issue with this is that the formatting and editing was not well done, but it wasn’t as distracting as it could have been, and I’m glad I read it.

Nisha Ward

Kirkus Reviews

An often bracing reflection on racial discrimination and bias.


Debut author Douglas reflects on a life of extraordinary academic and professional achievement and on the obstacles that prejudice put in his path.

The author was born in 1943 in Guyana, where he was a “questioning, innocent, poor kid from a colonial country fighting for its independence.” Despite suffering under the weight of poverty—an adult and three children, including himself, lived in his single-room home—he excelled academically and eventually earned a scholarship to New York City’s Queens College and then a Fulbright scholarship to Lehigh University in Pennsylvania. His scholastic achievement and his faith in God—he was a “boy preacher” in an Evangelical church—helped him to navigate his way out of a country that promised more political unrest than opportunity. The author devoted himself zealously to the study of physical chemistry and would go on to earn not only a bachelor’s degree from Lehigh, but also a doctorate from Cornell University before advancing to medical school. But despite his accomplishments, he says, he encountered bigotry everywhere. To Douglas’ great dismay, he even discovered racial prejudice among church members who preached about loving inclusion—an experience that first made him doubt his faithful commitments and then compelled him to break with religion entirely. It was a difficult decision, and he discusses it with thoughtfulness and subtlety in these pages. Overall, Douglas’ story is an inspiring one, and readers will find it remarkable how he continually was able to persevere in the face of daunting challenges. Also, he provides a candid, general anatomy of racism in the United States based on his own experience. However, the author’s recollection is too granularly detailed at times; for example, he lingers too long on specifics about classes he took and the minutiae of office politics, which has a tendency to overshadow his treatment of broader themes.

The US Review of Books

Focus more on what we contribute and less on what we control.


From a boyhood of poverty, author Douglas has risen to remarkable success as a medical practitioner, researcher, and scientifically astute administrator. His autobiography begins with an incident that well illustrates the dire circumstances of his childhood in British Guiana (now Guyana). Riding his bicycle to the market to collect the family’s weekly foodstuffs, the boy encountered a rough surface, capsizing and effectively destroying his cargo. He was harshly beaten by his mother and even contemplated suicide. Things changed when he started school. Showing unusual intelligence, he won school honors, was supported while in college in Guiana, and awarded a Fulbright scholarship, leading him to the United States and a degree from Lehigh University.

Douglas’s personal perspective from his school years in America casts light on the many challenges faced by black students in the early 1960s and beyond. A devout Christian, he was shaken to observe that “churches were fighting to uphold and reinforce segregation,” while in the realm of academia, there were many overt and unspoken policies that excluded blacks from reaching the top ranks. Douglas never failed to try to correct incidents of discrimination directed at himself and others.

Douglas’s personal perspective from his school years in America casts light on the many challenges faced by black students in the early 1960s and beyond. A devout Christian, he was shaken to observe that “churches were fighting to uphold and reinforce segregation,” while in the realm of academia, there were many overt and unspoken policies that excluded blacks from reaching the top ranks. Douglas never failed to try to correct incidents of discrimination directed at himself and others.

Meanwhile, he was entering ever-higher realms of study and recognition based on his strong intellect and zest for discovery, though he describes these achievements modestly. He attained degrees from Cornell University and a residency at Johns Hopkins in internal medicine. He offers engaging vignettes of his interactions with patients, co-workers, and mentors, along with densely detailed scientific data gleaned from his varied and multifaceted fields of endeavor. Douglas taught pharmacology and made significant discoveries in that field. He was responsible for the establishment of the Center for Biomedical Innovation at MIT. He was awarded the George Beene Foundation and GQ magazine Rock Star of Science award. One of the few illustrations in this highly readable account, included at the insistence of his eight-year-old grandson, is the photograph of a plaque naming the medicines he helped to develop—substances for the treatment of such conditions as diabetes, allergies, tuberculosis, smoking cessation, pulmonary thrombosis, and cancer.

Among the accounts of his awards and recognitions, no story is more impressive or more touching than the tale of a vacation visit to Kenya. There, Douglas struck up a friendship with a man who made his living polishing shoes. The scientist’s direct kindness to the man and his family resulted in many benefits to the Kenyan and his community.

Throughout this inspiring, skillfully crafted chronicle, Douglas emerges again and again as a man who approaches problems with equal measures of logic and concern for others. In several instances he spurned chances for advancement or prestige because he was not in agreement with the principles of the offering institution or organization. His individualism and creativity provide points worth pondering. He has continued to champion the cause of black students and black and downtrodden people generally, having never forgotten his own roots in a poverty-ridden, politically conflicted homeland. The meaning of his name—Frank being Celtic for “free man” and Douglas being Scottish for “from a black stream”—became his personal banner. His vibrant memoir will undoubtedly serve as a beacon of hope and a source of motivation to those of any race or nationality who seek a clear pathway upward.

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