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2016 Summer Internship Shows Christian Davis Medicine is His Wheelhouse

Christian Davis at Yale Univ.The scene: A man too drunk to drive hit a car while driving his moped. He was rushed to the hospital by ambulance and hurried into the emergency room on a stretcher. He was tattered by injuries. Bloody. The gore of an open-wound fracture was visible to all who stood near; certainly no sight for the weak-kneed.

The lesson: At that moment, standing in scrubs in the Yale-New Haven Hospital ER, Shaw University junior biology major Christian Davis knew for certain he’s got what it takes to be the doctor he is studying  to become.

“It was my first time experiencing something like that,” said Davis, 19, a native of California. “I realized I can handle it. That’s what is so great about internships you actually get that experience. I just need the education necessary to actually help him, and others.”

Davis spent June 17-July 29 in the Summer Medical and Dental Education Program at the Yale University School of Medicine in New Haven, Conn. Established by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the six-week program provides free academic enrichment designed to increase the competitiveness of students from disadvantaged backgrounds, and those from ethnic groups underrepresented in medicine and dentistry. There are 12 SMDEP sites across the nation, including Yale and Duke University Medical School in Durham. Other sites are medical schools in Ohio, New York, California, D.C., Texas, New Jersey, Kentucky, Nebraska, Virginia and Washington.

Davis chose Yale at his mother’s encouragement. “It was a good decision,” he said. “I had a great time; one of the best experiences of my life, so far. I came to Shaw because I knew I wanted to come to a smaller school, and I definitely wanted it to be an HBCU,” Davis said. “It was a great decision. I was unsure about college, but the professors and advisors give me resources and undivided attention, and they are sincere about wanting to help me.”

At Yale, Davis took organic chemistry and physics; shadowed doctors in the ER and in Primary Children’s Care at Yale-Newhaven – including an African-American male physician. He ate meals with other black doctors who candidly shared experiences about the ups and downs of the profession; giving him tips on owning confidence and how to handle discrimination in the workplace.  They also shared their contact information for mentoring. He mingled with Yale medical students, who offered advice, encouragement and ideas Davis can implement in his second term as president of Shaw’s Minority Association of Pre-health Students, or MAPS, an organization for which Davis created the first-ever emblem.

“Not only did I get the experience, but I got more confidence and more excited to go to medical school,” Davis said of the internship. “I realize now I can do it, and that makes me want to go even harder in school and the other things I do. Internships catapult an academic career. I feel better about my decisions now.”

“It shows,” said Dr. Vonda Reed, Davis’ academic advisor and Shaw biology professor who is teaching Davis for the fourth time since his freshman year in 2014.

“Internships actually allow students to get experiential learning, hands-on, to prepare them for their future,” said Reed. “That is extremely important for our students and, when they’re back in the classroom, you can see the confidence. All they need is direction.”

Davis has approached college with tenacity, Reed said, outlining the co-ed’s accomplishments in a letter of recommendation for his SMDEP application. At the end of his freshman year, she said, Davis competed in a national science competition sponsored by the Ohio-based Cleveland Clinic, a non-profit medical center, and won a trip to the 2014-2015 Aspiring Physicians and Research Scientists Conference. He’s also attended the East Carolina University Brody School of Medicine Student National Medical Association (SNMA) Pre-Med Conference in Greenville, North Carolina, and won a $1,500 award in the Toyota Recycling Initiative Challenge; he made a rich compost of red worms mixed with leftover cafeteria food that increased foliage growth on Shaw’s campus. Currently, he’s researching injured turtles at N. C. State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, Reed said.

It’s Davis’ persistence that has earned him A’s in each of the three classes he’s completed under Reed, a spot on the Dean’s List and in the university’s Honors College Program, where he is 2015-2016 Mr. Honors College. In addition to serving his second term as MAPS president, Davis was also selected by Shaw faculty to serve as a Biology Bear to help first-year biology majors settle in, academically, emotionally and socially.

“He hit the floor running when he came back from Yale,” Reed said. “He’s learned more about the field he’s chosen – and he knows he can do it.”