Denise Davis, M.D., ’81, has spent the past year looking at women physicians’ lives from a unique perspective: the vantage point of their daughters. Davis presented the 2013 Marjorie S. Sirridge, M.D., Outstanding Women in Medicine Lectureship on Sept. 19 at the School of Medicine to UMKC faculty, staff and students, as well as other members of the community, about “Pride and Presence: Narratives of Women Physicians and their Daughters.
She has been working on the study, which explores the relationships and feelings between mother physicians and their daughters, for a year after being inspired by her invitation to deliver the lecture and her relationship with her own daughter.
“This lecture on the narratives of women physicians and their daughters was inspired by some of the paradoxes my daughter said she observed in me,” Davis said. “She said when she heard me on the phone with patients I displayed patience … she also tells me that sometimes in communicating with her, I come off as demanding and short-tempered. And yet, not only is my daughter surviving, she’s thriving. This peaked my curiosity.”
Davis, an internist, is an associate clinical professor of medicine at the University of California San Francisco, a member of the core faculty for the Center of Excellence in Primary Care, San Francisco VA Medical Center and a member of the American Academy on Communication in Healthcare. At UCSF, she currently serves as an attending for residents, nurse practitioners and nurse practitioner fellows in ambulatory care.
Along with medical student remediation, Davis is involved in faculty development workshops and teaches topics that range from basic communication skills, including improving doctor-patient communication, obtaining informed consent, working with angry patients and negotiating cultural differences in clinical relationships, to giving effective feedback to learners and coaching learners through remediation. Davis has received the Kaiser Foundation Award for Excellence in Teaching for her work with students at UCSF School of Medicine.
She consistently received awards as one of “America’s Top Doctors” and has received many Patients’ Choice Awards during her 20 years in a successful private practice. Consumer Checkbooks rated her as one of the finest physicians in the East Bay and the J magazine readers twice voted her as one of two favorite primary care physicians in the Bay Area.
Communication is a pillar on which her career has been based. Davis has been involved with the American Academy on Communication in Healthcare for 10 years. Through education, research and training, the organization helps caregivers improve the health care setting. Her love of communication led to her interviewing the sample of women physicians and their daughters for the study she presented at the Marjorie Sirridge Lecture.
“Even if this lecture had been cancelled [for any reason], it would have been worth it to me to pursue this journey of listening to other women and their daughters talk about their experiences, their strengths, their joys,” she said. “And some of the women said this interview process has led them to talk more with their daughters about the meaning of their work.”
Davis said she plans to continue interviewing and see what themes continue to emerge. “It would be great to speak with a more diverse group of women and single mothers,” she said. “I also do a lot of work with residents and would like to learn more about young women, what their thoughts are on becoming mothers and what they think would be supportive for them.”
Mary Sirridge, Ph.D., daughter of Marjorie and William Sirridge, M.D., welcomed Davis on behalf of her mother and her other family members.
“My mother has watched Dr. Davis’ career since she graduated over 30 years ago from UMKC with great fondness and great interest,” she said. “Like my mother, Dr. Davis has moved back and forth between being a skilled and caring physician to being someone who’s very involved in passing the baton to the next people in line.”
Davis mentioned her gratefulness for the mentorship she received from Marjorie Sirridge and what it meant to her to come back to the School as the Marjorie S. Sirridge, M.D., lecturer.
“It connects me with her nurturing of me and how that made a difference and continues to make a difference in my life, not only as a physician, but also as a mother and as a person.”