Fatherhood, Leadership, and Hope: A Conversation with Dr. Yusef Scoggin, MD 

Headshot of Dr. Yusef Scoggin, MD

As Father’s Day approaches, we often reflect on the profound impact fathers and male role models have on shaping the lives of young people. For Dr. Yusef Scoggin, CEO of Covenant House Missouri, this reflection goes beyond personal contemplation — it’s a professional mission. Through his work at Covenant House, Dr. Scoggin is dedicated to fostering hope and opportunity for the youth who come through our doors, many of whom have faced trauma and adversity.  

A Journey of Service and Understanding  

Dr. Scoggin’s journey began long before his current role. His path was shaped by his experiences in New Orleans, where he studied medicine at Xavier University and engaged deeply with the local community. “The literacy rate in New Orleans was 50% before Hurricane Katrina,” he recalls. “We went out into various housing developments, tutoring young people, and soon realized their parents were also illiterate. It became clear that generational challenges were at play.”  

These experiences fueled his understanding of social determinants of health — a concept that would guide his career shift from medicine to social work. After medical school and research in sickle cell disease, Dr. Scoggin saw that medical care alone wasn’t enough. “Seventy to 80% of one’s overall well-being and opportunities have nothing to do with direct medical care. It’s about the environment, education, employment — all aspects that need to be addressed holistically.” 

Leading Covenant House Missouri 

This holistic approach is central to Covenant House Missouri’s mission under Dr. Scoggin’s leadership. He emphasizes the need for an environment that not only supports but inspires young people. “We can’t just tell young people their lives matter; we must create environments that reflect this belief,” he says. “When they walk out their doors, they need to see real promise and opportunity.” 

Dr. Scoggin’s dedication to fostering such environments is deeply personal. He reflects on his own upbringing and the influence of his parents. “My father, both my parents really, were involved in landmark cases in St. Louis. Their commitment to equality and justice shaped my understanding of what’s necessary to create lasting change.”  

In his role at Covenant House Missouri, Dr. Scoggin has prioritized building a leadership team that understands the unique challenges their youth face. “Bringing on team members who understand what we’re tackling is crucial. We need a program model that’s nuanced to include the dynamics of the population we serve,” he explains.  

Fatherhood: Lessons and Insights 

Dr. Scoggin’s approach to fatherhood parallels his professional philosophy. He recalls a pivotal moment with his son, demonstrating the importance of calm, reasoned guidance over punitive measures. “My son was about 1 1/2 years old and was about to throw a tantrum. I got down to his level and calmly told him, ‘We’re not going to do this.’ He stopped, and we moved on. It’s about not getting caught up in the chaos, maintaining a clear focus.”  

This clarity of purpose is something Dr. Scoggin strives to instill in the youth at Covenant House. “I want young people, especially the young men, to know they can be themselves here. We need to get past that initial bravado and help them develop the skills and mindset for success.” 

Reflecting on the importance of positive male role models, Dr. Scoggin underscores their critical role in youth development. “Positive male role models provide guidance, encourage identity development, model healthy relationships, and foster resilience. They inspire hope and show young people that success is achievable through hard work and perseverance.” 

Celebrating Father’s Day 

Father’s Day is a time to honor fathers and male role models who have influenced lives in meaningful ways. At Covenant House, leaders like Dr. Scoggin and so many others embody this spirit, dedicating their lives to supporting and inspiring the youth they serve. Their work is a testament to the profound impact that compassionate, committed male role models can have on shaping a brighter future for young people. 

As we celebrate Father’s Day this year, let us acknowledge and appreciate the fathers and father figures who, like Dr. Scoggin, devote their lives to nurturing and guiding the next generation. Through their unwavering support and leadership, they plant the seeds of hope, strength, and success in the hearts of countless young people. 

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