Q&A WITH DAMON KIMES ’88
Everybody Wants to Rule the World
According to the 1985 Tears for Fears’ hit song, “Everybody Wants to Rule the World.” Dr. Damon Kimes ’88 is on his way to doing just that, or — at the very least — he is changing it.
While you may know him from the Bravo television series Married to Medicine, there’s much more to know about DR. DAMON KIMES. A true Renaissance man, Kimes is a board-certified doctor and successful entrepreneur who believes in giving back. He can play eight instruments, has written 780 songs, and has started numerous businesses. He came to the Hilltop in 1984 through the A Better Chance program, which helps young people of color attend high-achieving schools. Though his time at Pomfret was brief, the lessons and friendships he made on the Hilltop continue to have a profound impact on his life.
What drew you to the medical field?
I was really good at talking to people and originally thought I would be a counselor. It was my mom who suggested that I could be a psychiatrist and a doctor. I did my first residency in family medicine. After finishing as chief resident, I wasn’t sure that I would be able to achieve all my personal goals in family medicine. I did a second residency in emergency medicine thinking I would have more time for my family. I worked in the ER for a number of years until the hours and time away from my family became too much. I decided to open my pain clinic, Roswell Pain Specialists, to help meet the needs of our aging population.
Had you always planned to be an entrepreneur?
I had honestly never considered it. But a friend of mine was an entrepreneur, and I was impressed by the flexibility in his schedule. I was busting my butt to squeeze in a business meeting with him before a twelve-hour shift while he was enjoying his lunch in the middle of the day and having fun. I thought to myself, “What am I doing wrong?” I decided to go for it.
You have started numerous businesses. Which one are you the most proud of?
I am most proud of Regatta Professional Staffing because it was unlike anything I’d ever done before, and the company really took off. We started staffing the big hospitals, emergency medical groups, and urgent care facilities in Atlanta. We also worked with former White House physicians to do concierge medicine for VIPs. Sadly, the guy I started the company with passed away around the same time that I was opening my pain clinic, and we had to close the company. But the company’s success showed me that I can thrive in any field and opened my mind to what I could do outside of medicine.
Which of your business ventures has taught you the most?
In 2004, I opened a record label — Regatta Records — and I learned a lot from it. I love music. I have written 780 songs, signed some great artists, been in a few awesome commercials, and gotten some songs on the radio and movie soundtracks. Universal Records noticed, and we got a distribution deal. But with the creation of Napster, the industry and the way you made money changed; it was a little shady. I believe hard work, integrity, and enthusiasm lead to success, and I wanted to be successful because of the hard work — not by paying people off. Ultimately, I ended up in the entertainment industry. Some of the connections that I made with my record label helped my wife and me become successful as reality TV stars. So it all comes back full circle.
Georgia Know Your Status is one of your most recent endeavors. Tell me a little bit about that.
Last summer businesses began to reopen after temporarily closing due to the pandemic, yet there were no places to get tested for Covid, which is just crazy. Testing leads to quick identification of cases and immediate isolation to prevent the further spread of this virus. We got some vans and opened some testing sites around Atlanta. My wife and I, along with the team from Married to Medicine, went to Washington DC for the 57th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr’s “I Have a Dream” speech. We provided Covid tests for everyone there to help keep them safe. I ended up hanging out with Reverend Al Sharpton and Ben Crump and got to pick their brains. They reminded me that this [getting people tested] is the real work. As a kid from Vineland, New Jersey, I never imagined I would be sitting there with Al Sharpton, and he would know who I was.
What is the most important lesson you learned at Pomfret?
I learned a lot about people. At Pomfret, most people loved me for who I was, but there was both a race gap and a socio-economic gap. There were people who treated me differently because of my race and skin tone, and that sucked. But my experiences were broadened by living with different kinds of people. That exposure helped me throughout life. It gave me the ability to interact with anyone from any culture because I had lived with folks from so many different cultures. The greatest strength I developed at Pomfret was the ability to feel comfortable around everyone. And though I left after only two years, I'm certain my time at Pomfret played a huge role in where I've gotten in life. I remember the day I left Pomfret for the last time. I got in the car and turned on the radio, and the song “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” by Tears for Fears came on. I'll never forget that. It really summed up everything that I had gone through and where my life was going.
Tell me a little more about the racism you experienced at Pomfret in the ’80s.
1984 was a different time in America in terms of prejudice. It was a rough time for me at Pomfret because I was one of very few Black students. I had friends, but some people never spoke to me because I was Black. Even if we were in the same room together, some students would get up and leave. Dating was also a little more complicated. I think the young ladies and I got along well, but there was the race issue. I felt like it would not have gone over well with their families had we started dating. I had also never gone to school with students whose families were so well off. They already had connections that put them so far ahead of me. But in the end, that’s what motivates me. That’s why I work so hard — so my children will have the same opportunities that my classmates had.
You talk a lot about motivations that came as a result of your years at Pomfret. What else motivates you?
Love — the love of my family, my two sons and my daughter, and my wife — motivates me. I don’t do anything by myself or for myself. I grew up poor, but I didn’t realize it at the time because of love. My grandmother worked hard without complaining. She got up every day at four o'clock in the morning and went to work in Philadelphia. She came home at night, cooked dinner, and did everything else all for the love of her family. My love for my family motivates me to do well because I don’t want them to ever have to suffer. I want them to have everything they need.
Was there a particular teacher or classmate who made a lasting impact?
I learned a lot from Coach Hagop Merjian, my wrestling coach. He taught me how to trust. He trusted all of us and had a general rule: “Tell me the truth, and I will trust you.” He did everything by the honor system. I ended up raising my children the same way. I will never forget what he taught me; there are probably a whole lot of kids on the wrestling team who felt the same way. His style of coaching is also how I've been able to motivate a lot of people — just with trust.
If you were to come back to give a Chapel Talk, what would you say?
I would probably say that in life, motivation in and of itself is likely not enough. Discipline and, more specifically, self-discipline, determine success. Even when the motivation is gone, I’m disciplined; I will do the things that I have to do to be successful, whether they feel good or not. I'll just get it done. I know some people may not look at reality TV as a gateway to motivate people, but it certainly has been for me. I have this quote at the bottom of my email signature that reads, "Your success is inevitable, and with it you will change the world." I feel like, little by little, I'm changing the world.