16 AAP News •
www.aapnews.org • March 2017
by Wynn St. Clair • Correspondent
Growing up with a legendary surgeon for a father,
Wendy S. Davis, M.D., FAAP, could have felt com-
pelled to become a doctor.
After all, her father, John Davis, M.D., served as a
field surgeon during the Korean War and frequently
was credited as the model for the iconic Army surgeon Benjamin “Hawkeye” Pierce character played
by Alan Alda in the TV series “M.A.S.H.” He also
was considered a leading advocate in trauma prevention, becoming an early proponent of seat belt use
and motorcycle helmets.
Yet he never pressured his children to follow in his
footsteps, even as they were frequent visitors at the
hospital and occasionally followed him on rounds.
He would, however, sometimes circle an article in
the New England Journal of Medicine that he thought
his daughter Wendy — who had decided at an early
age that she wanted a career that involved working
with children — might like to read.
“He was always very supportive,” Dr. Davis said.
“And I knew the choice was mine alone because he
Path to medicine
It wasn’t until her senior year at Brown University that Dr. Davis decided to go into medicine. It
seemed a surprising career choice to some, given
that she was an anthropology major and hadn’t taken many of the science classes needed for medical
But in Dr. Davis’ mind, her anthropology studies
were ideally suited for a pediatric career.
“Some would think anthropology was as far away
Spreading her influence, expertise
as you could get from medicine,” she said. “When
you think of pediatricians, you need to think of fam-
ilies and culture. Anthropology was a great back-
ground for me to have.”
Indeed, an understanding of communities and
culture has served Dr. Davis well during her three
decades in pediatric medicine and as a tireless advo-
cate for children and families. A pediatrics profes-
sor at the University of Vermont (UVM) College of
Medicine, her commitment to her specialty includes
her recent election as chair of AAP District I, which
is comprised of the New England states, the Atlantic
Provinces, Quebec and the eastern division of the
“Dr. Davis is one of the strongest advocates for the
health and well-being of all children that I know,”
said Pediatrics Editor Lewis R. First, M.D., M.S.,
FAAP, chair of pediatrics at the UVM College of
Medicine and chief of pediatrics at the UVM Chil-
dren’s Hospital. “She is passionate about making a
difference in all that she does … she has made an
enormous difference in so many ways as a staunch
advocate for all the children in Vermont and now in
District I and in turn across the country and world
as a board member on the AAP.”
After graduating from Brown with the anthro-
pology degree, Dr. Davis took pre-medical courses
at the University of Vermont before attending the
University of Virginia School of Medicine. She grad-
uated in 1981 and moved to Cleveland, where she
completed residency at Rainbow Babies and Chil-
The hospital presented a homecoming of sorts for
Dr. Davis, who had grown up in suburban
Cleveland before moving with her family to Vermont in the 10th grade. When
she finished her residency and then a fellowship at Yale University’s Robert Wood
Johnson Foundation, she returned to
Vermont and joined the faculty at UVM’s
College of Medicine in 1987.
She practiced general pediatrics at the
She returned four years ago to UVM’s Vermont
UVM for 19 years, eventually directing
the division of general pediatrics and pro-
viding consultation to the Vermont De-
partment of Health. In 2007, she became
the state’s director of maternal and child
health, then served as Vermont’s health
commissioner from 2008-’ 11 and as Ear-
ly and Periodic Screening, Diagnosis and
Treatment Program chief from 2011-’ 13.
Child Health Improvement Program, where she
now oversees state and national pediatric quality
Dr. Davis has won numerous honors for work,
including the Vermont Medical Society’s distinguished service award — a recognition her father
also received. She served as the society’s vice president in 2015.
“She has a passion for medical education and residency training and generously mentors early career physicians in an authentic and caring way,” said
Breena Holmes, M.D., FAAP, Vermont’s director
of maternal and child health and chair of the AAP
Council on School Health Executive Committee.
“She always puts children and families at the center
of our work. She is a true public health professional,
planning with data and evidence before implementing programs.”
Dedication to AAP priorities
Dr. Davis’ involvement in the Academy didn’t
begin until after she finished her fellowship, but it
quickly evolved into a passion. As AAP Vermont
Chapter president, she worked on primary care-pub-lic health integration, focusing on the state’s most
vulnerable populations. On the national level, she is
the former District I vice chairperson and National
Nominating Committee representative.
“When I was in training, the AAP was not as much
on my radar,” she said. “Once I got involved, the
Academy became my professional home. The things
people were working on resonated with me, the basic
aspects of being a community pediatrician.”
As District I chair, Dr. Davis intends to focus on
the economic survival of primary care and specialty
pediatric practice, addressing violence prevention
and supporting members through the likely changes
in federal and local administrations. With so much
uncertainty surrounding the new president’s admin-
istration, Dr. Davis said she’s determined to have the
Academy’s voice heard.
“It’s going to be very interesting with a new federal
administration and it’s more important than ever to
be at the table at the forefront, shaping those policy
decisions,” she said. “We’re on the brink of wonderful policy decisions for children and families, and
we don’t want to lose any ground. We’re trying to
mitigate the adverse effects of social determinants.”
And as any good anthropologist would note, her
passion for her home state stems from the culture
and community found there.
“I’m thrilled to be in Vermont,” Dr. Davis said.
“I went away, but I made a conscious effort to come
back. I love Vermont and my community.”
Vermonter Dr. Davis brings passion, expertise to AAP Board
Known as a staunch advocate for children, Wendy
Davis, M.D., FAAP, has had a varied career in pediatrics, including leadership roles for the state of
Vermont and at University of Vermont.
Dr. Davis and her husband, John Mahoney, enjoy Waterfront Park
in downtown Burlington, Vt., with its views of Lake Champlain
and New York’s Adirondack Mountains.