Oral history of James Davis, M.D.
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Dr. James Davis graduated from the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in 1974, specializing in infectious diseases and internal medicine, he was always very interested in offering compassionate care for African American patients. He spent most of his career as a doctor in Washington, D.C. and retired after 41 years. In his interview, Dr. Davis speaks about his childhood in Little Rock, Arkansas where he lived with his mother, Jessie until he was 10. He then moved to Washington, D.C. to live with his father. Davis reflects on the segregation he witnessed as a kid, teenager, and young adult. He mentions that his family was friends with some of the students known as the Little Rock Nine. Davis explains the transition to Washington D.C. and comments on the Civil Rights Movement. However, Davis spent a bit of time in California too, so he admits his perceptions were skewed because of the geography of where he lived. After high school, Davis went to Wesleyan University in Connecticut, after being recruited by the Dean of Admissions. Davis then interviewed as a potential transfer student to Johns Hopkins and decided to apply for early admission to the School of Medicine. Davis details his experiences in the 2-5 program, which allowed him to also spend time on the undergraduate campus. He describes not seeing many Black students on campus, the challenges those that were there faced, and what it was like to build a community of support for one another. Davis remembers the small total number of Black medical students at Hopkins - 13 - and he mentions the difficulties they faced because of professors and instructors who obstructed their paths. Additionally, he comments on the negative treatment of Black patients by white physicians and nurses he witnessed. Davis had the chance to meet Vivien Thomas and Levi Watkins, so he comments on those encounters and their impact on his path. Davis also speaks about helping the Baltimore community as a med student and describes a memorable white working-class patient, who worked in the steel mills. Ultimately, Davis wore a suit to graduation rather than his cap and gown as a protest to the prevalent racism he experienced at Hopkins. Dr. Davis then worked in New York at Harlem Hospital and at Howard University Hospital in Washington, D.C. In the latter part of the interview, Dr. Davis describes his career in private practices and working with a difficult and limited healthcare system. He explains his support for various causes, specifically describing the group Trans Africa and its leader Randall Robinson, who fought apartheid in South Africa. After his retirement, Dr. Davis now serves as the Medical Director of his wife's Home Care Agency, supporting elder care in D.C. Dr. Davis describes what life is currently like for his siblings, wife, and his daughter, Nia. Lastly, Dr. Davis talks about his love for baseball, his passion for jazz music, and his interest in tutoring African American boys. Dr. Davis was nominated and inducted to the Indispensable Role of Blacks at Hopkins Exhibit in 2021 as a trailblazing physician. His profile can be found on the BFSA website. This oral history is part of the Hopkins Retrospective oral history series.