In the days just after Hurricane Sandy, Sam Davis was busy taping a public service announcement aimed at educating storm victims about burn hazards in the post-storm environment. A trial lawyer and founder of the nonprofit Burn Advocates Network, Davis says, "When you are in a crisis and you are cold and exhausted, safety is not always the first thing on your mind." He points out the myriad dangers of gas cans, candles, generators, downed electrical wires – even the kitchen stove. "Burn units have been very busy places."
A resident of Tenafly, Davis became involved in burn advocacy through his full-time work as a trial lawyer.
"What really drew me in was the plight of children who had burn injuries," he says. "No matter how much I did for them as a lawyer, these kids were never getting better, and that always bothered me."
Davis began taking his young clients to burn camps and discovered there was change in their outlook.
"These camps reinforced that they were not the sum of their scars. The path from victim to survivor is a long journey but it is a critical one," he says.
He founded Burn Advocates Network in 2007, dedicated to supporting the recovery, rehabilitation and reintegration of burn victims.
Davis' care and compassion for victims extend beyond his clients with burn injuries. Following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, he made multiple trips to what he calls "the most challenging environment imaginable. For me, Haiti is a project that will never be finished." Over six trips, Davis brought 50 tons of supplies to Haiti, gathered from disparate sources.
"I teamed up with Mike Maron [CEO of Holy Name Medical Center] and Dr. David Butler to build a physical therapy clinic for burn victims in northern Haiti. It's not every day you see a trial lawyer and a hospital CEO on the same team," Davis says with a laugh. The Holy Name connection is apt, given that Davis' father was a "greatest generation" internist who practiced at Holy Name following his return from World War II.
Closer to home, Davis logs as many hours in the courtroom as he does advocating for burn victims.
"My sub-specialty is burn injuries," he says, "but I am rabidly concerned about products that injure and burn."
In that spirit, Davis recently launched the Journal of Burns, Fire and Explosion, a quarterly, peer-reviewed publication designed to bring the timely, relevant information directly to the consumer. He's also at work establishing burn camps in Haiti and India, follow-ups to Camp Sababa, established in Israel in 2009. Like the 22 camps in the U.S. where Burn Advocates Network provides adaptive music and recreational programs, the organization's international camps will "unite kids through the universal language of music," he says.
"I strongly believe that, as an attorney, I am an integral part of my client's health care team," Davis says. "Without financial resources, it is very difficult to get the kind of comprehensive, long-term care needed to recover from a devastating injury. To put it mildly, most insurance companies just don't put the patient's care before their profits."