Published: May 1, 2020
At 17, Stephan Davis, DNP, MHSA, FACHE, left St. Louis for New York City to study jazz performance. It wasn’t long, though, before he was so moved by the people and needs he encountered there that his career path and life ambitions turned to serving others through nursing and ultimately healthcare leadership and education.
“Music seemed the most important thing in my life back then, but as I became exposed to some of the greatest needs in public health, I wanted to be part of the solution,” said the new Assistant Professor and Director of HSC’s Master of Health Administration (MHA) program.
Dr. Davis has joined HSC at a most significant time, as the world looks to healthcare and public health for guidance, answers and leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Perhaps more than ever before,” he said, “professionals in these fields are being called to lead the world in new ways to transform healthcare delivery and discoveries.”
In his new HSC role, Dr. Davis works with graduate students preparing to lead health systems, long-term care organizations, hospitals and health-related corporations. He will also work with local, state and national communities, alumni and partnering organizations that provide SPH students with internships and experiential learning opportunities.
During a 2019 campus interview, Dr. Davis saw a familiar Martin Luther King quote on healthcare and equality in the School of Public Health and experienced “one of those moments when you realize you might really belong somewhere,” he said.
The quote took him back to his early dreams as a young saxophone player who became so inspired to help others that he changed his life to pursue nursing.
“The works and words of MLK and other leaders of his time have great significance to this day with regard to social justice and health equity for all, and were especially meaningful to me as a young person wanting to do my part in creating positive change for the world,” Dr. Davis said.
From those early NYC days to the present, he has blended a unique harmony of musical inspiration with a desire to build healthier communities through leadership, advocacy, teaching and service.
Today, he holds a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree, a Master’s in Health Systems Administration (MHSA) from Georgetown, and a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree in Executive Leadership and Policy from Yale University.
These educational and career experiences have led Dr. Davis to different professional opportunities with hospitals, health systems, the insurance industry, healthcare task forces and national boards.
Along with his new role at HSC this spring, he also assumes a key national leadership position with the American College of Healthcare Executives as Chair of the ACHE LGBTQ Forum, advancing diversity and inclusion in healthcare leadership.
He views this as a critical position right now, given that historically underrepresented and excluded groups have been most vulnerable to the devastating health and economic effects of COVID-19.
“The pandemic has really brought home the need for health system and public health leaders,” he said. “There has never been a more important time to be called to lead change and advance health.”
Because great passions are never left far behind, Dr. Davis has always found ways to keep music in his life, and especially so during COVID-19.
He still plays and composes, and after moving to his new home in the DFW area, is now taking comfort in playing saxophone from his balcony for neighbors that he looks forward to meeting in person soon.
“COVID-19 has reminded me of how much music can uplift the soul at challenging times,” he said.
He’s experienced some real musical highs during his lifetime, and up until now it’s been hard to compete with being called “Coltrane” by the late, great Aretha Franklin after Dr. Davis performed “Amazing Grace” in prelude to her finale at a 2009 Kennedy Center MLK celebration.
“There are moments when everything just comes together and seems so right, like the way I felt then and do now as part of the North Texas and HSC community,” Dr. Davis said.
“For me today, those initial inspirations are harmonized with my current melody and mission to improve public health and the well-being of communities locally, nationally and around the world.”