Davis returns to UNC as Chair of Pediatrics

Stephanie Duggins Davis, MD, began her new role as Chair of the Department of Pediatrics and Physician in Chief at NC Children’s Hospital in late July. It’s a return home for the North Carolina native who previously spent 12 years as a member of the pediatrics faculty.

Davis returns to UNC as Chair of Pediatrics click to enlarge Stephanie D. Davis, MD

By Jamie Williams, jamie.williams@unchealth.unc.edu

Stephanie Davis came home again. Born in Chapel Hill – at UNC Hospitals in fact – and raised in Greensboro, Davis graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill before going on to medical school at Wake Forest. Following residency at Riley Children’s Hospital in Indiana, Davis joined the pediatrics faculty at UNC.

UNC was a fantastic place for me as a young faculty member,” Davis said. “It set me up with great mentors and collaborators here in Chapel Hill and across the country.”

After 12 years here, she returned to Indiana to take the position of Vice Chair for Clinical Affairs in the Department of Pediatrics and Division Chief for Pediatric Pulmonology.

That experience, she said, gave her the leadership skills she needed to be successful in her new role as Chair of the Department of Pediatrics and Physician in Chief at the NC Children’s Hospital.

It’s the job she’s always wanted.

In this interview, we explore Davis’s lifelong goal of becoming a pediatrician, the lessons she’s learned through the course of her career, and what excites her most about her new position.

Have you always wanted to be a doctor?
I have wanted to be a pediatrician since I was seven years old. Of course I didn’t know I’d end up as a Chair of Pediatrics, but I’ve always wanted to take care of children. This is my passion and what I’ve always wanted to do.

As you progressed through your training, were there any transformative moments that helped spur you on towards this goal?
When I was in medical school, I had the chance to work with an amazing oncologist, and that was when I realized how much I loved chronic care and taking care of very sick patients.

Then, when I was in residency, I participated in research with a pediatric pulmonologist. Up until that point, I had envisioned myself solely as a clinician. I hadn’t thought I would do science, too. That experience changed the concept of what my career would look like.

Those two experiences led me to my specialty of pediatric pulmonology and caring for children with cystic fibrosis. I just loved caring for the children and building relationships with them and their families. I was also intrigued by the research.

What was your experience like at UNC as a young faculty member?
UNC was a fantastic place to be a young faculty member. It set me up with great mentors and collaborators here in Chapel Hill and across the country. And that’s when I learned that I enjoyed leading national, multicenter trials. I love working with a lot of different people. Team science has really been what’s taken a lot of my scientific work to the next level.

Why did you feel that now was the right time to return to UNC?
I was at Riley for about seven years. I served as a vice chair and chief of a large division which I think gave me a great deal of training and exposure to the different types of leadership issues that can help make me successful as a chair. I also had a great chair who served as a mentor to me and taught me leadership skills.

As for UNC, I think leaving gave me a new appreciation for the strengths of this institution. I love this department. I love the medical center and the UNC School of Medicine and I am very committed to serving the people of this state.

You were gone for several years, are there things that have changed that have surprised you?
The Children’s Research Institute is new and I plan to focus on expanding this important initiative as a Chair. We also have an increased presence throughout the state.

There is one thing that I love about this place that certainly hasn’t changed, and that’s the focus that everyone here has on our mission to serve the state. The people here are fantastic. They are humble, collegial, and incredibly hard working. It is a true privilege to be working at UNC and collaborating with such outstanding faculty.

What are some other things you are excited about as you begin this role?
I am excited about the Children’s Research Institute and I plan to continue to expand our abilities to recruit patients from across the state.
I’m also excited to work with Andrea Hayes-Jordan, Chief of Pediatric Surgery, and Ian Buchanan, Vice President for Children’s Services, as the leaders of children’s services. That’s really the face we want to present to the state. We want everyone to know that we are really working hard together to provide the best place for the children of our state

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