November 05, 2020

Women in Radiology: A New Way of Thinking - Q&A with Melissa Davis, MD, MBA

Interview by Jesse M. Conyers, MD, breast imaging fellow at Emory Radiology

Headshot of Dr. DavisRadiology continues to have among the lowest representation of women of all medical specialties. The ACR RFS Women & Diversity Subcommittee recognizes these gender disparities and understands the value of women in radiology and leadership. The Women in Radiology Q&A series highlights some of the incredible women who have positively impacted radiology. This edition recognizes Melissa Davis, MD, MBA, an assistant professor and medical director of quality in radiology at Emory. She was previously the chief of emergency radiology at Yale and earned her MBA at Yale School of Management. She completed her residency and neuroradiology fellowship at the University of North Carolina, and attended medical school at the Medical University of South Carolina. 

Can you tell me about where you grew up and how you got started in medicine?

I was born in Texas and grew up in Columbia, S.C. My mom is an OB-GYN and my dad is a dentist. I went to a public high school, and later attended Wellesley College, which is located outside of Boston. Initially, I wanted to be an engineer but then I pivoted to a double major in chemistry and psychology. I didn’t decide to go to medical school until my junior year when I participated in a program in Ghana with the West African AIDS Foundation. I felt like there was a need — and medicine was a skillset I needed to fill the gap.

Why did you decide to pursue an MBA?

In residency, I was always interested in organizations and optimization. I always asked, “How do you make things efficient?” In residency, UNC engaged with Lean and Six Sigma, and I was able to train in these techniques with the staff. During this time, I also saw my attendings frustrated due to power dynamics with the hospital. I realized a lot of people who made decisions had MBAs and were not necessarily medically trained and I wanted to learn their language.

What specific skills did you gain in business school?

The MBA program taught me a new way of thinking. The way we think as physicians is “Point A to Point B.” Business school is getting a 1000-foot view of things. You learn how to understand processes and the reasoning behind them. The most valuable part of business school is making connections with people who think differently. Yale’s business school had people from all different backgrounds, not just healthcare. I learned to think about processes outside of medicine and how they could be implemented in healthcare.

In your opinion, how can radiology improve diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts in a sustainable, meaningful way?

There’s so much work to do. An example of the way that we could do this is with the recent Radiology, Equity, and Inclusion (REI) Bootcamp for medical students. This was was one of the most diverse groups I’ve seen together in a while, and it was a way for people to see that we do exist and are engaged. We need to treat DEI efforts with the same vigor we treat any other efforts, like quality and operations. These efforts aren’t just for marginalized groups, but by really leaning into them everyone benefits, and should be infused into every aspect of what we do.

What actionable steps can women take to advance in leadership in radiology?

I’m still on this journey myself. For me, putting myself out there is important. This is something that hasn’t always been natural for me, but the MBA program really pushed me to be more of my own advocate. Also, always be open to new opportunities – which often come in different and unexpected forms.