Making a World of Difference
As a child living in Chihuahua, Mexico, Thomas Davis, M.D., ‘14, learned early that socioeconomic factors play a significant role in a person’s success, and he’s determined to use his skills to level the playing field for those less fortunate.
“It was hard to hide the realities of the world there because there is a stark contrast between the wealthy and poor and all the implications of that—access to health care, education and job opportunities,” said Davis, who is a resident physician in Emergency Medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. “Back in the United States, I was more aware of how that reality holds true here.”
Davis, who earned an undergraduate degree in biomedical engineering at Vanderbilt University, was an Ingram Scholar, a program that sponsors students who demonstrate a willingness to combine a career with a lifelong commitment to finding solutions to societal problems.
“I credit Vanderbilt and the Ingram Scholarship Program for maturing my understanding of what service means and how I can contribute to the larger community by integrating my professional interests with the needs of society around me.”
While an undergraduate, Davis served on the board of directors at Siloam Family Health Center, a Nashville charitable clinic for the uninsured, where he also established a bilingual library and literacy program for children. For this, in 2009 he won the prestigious Mary Catherine Strobel Youth Volunteer of the Year Award.
Davis also assisted Vanderbilt Center for Latin American Studies Director Ted Fischer on the development of a product called Mani+, a dietary supplement to combat malnutrition in Guatemalan children. For two months, Davis lived in Guatemala where he observed how product packaging affects perception. He discovered if a supplement looked like medicine rather than food, it was more likely to be given only to the high-risk child and not shared among siblings. This project, and meeting Nobel Laureate and Vanderbilt graduate Muhammad Yunus, nearly altered his plans for a career in medicine.
“I was inspired by Yunus’ ideas about how business can change the trajectory of the poor across the world,” he said. “I wanted to chase after that, but ultimately I decided to stick with medicine. I feel my medical skills coupled with my social enterprise interests will allow me to do more. I don’t think I would ever be satisfied by just being a doctor.”