Spotlight on Faculty: Theresa A. Davies, Ph.D.
How did you first become interested in science?
I have loved science since I was a child. My parents worked in teaching and business, so I had no direct connection to the field, but I ended up majoring in chemistry at the University of Virginia and developed a passion for biochemistry. When I first started my undergraduate career, I planned on attending medical school, but instead I chose to take a research position at Boston University after graduating. While working in the lab, I took a few courses and ultimately enrolled in a program at the medical school and earned my Ph.D. in Biochemistry. I studied the thrombin receptor on human platelets.
Have you been at BUSM ever since earning you Ph.D. degree?
Yes, and after earning my Ph.D., I became a postdoctoral fellow in the Biochemistry department, continuing the research I completed for my dissertation. I actually started my family (twins) when I was finishing my dissertation, and I had a wonderful mentor in this lab who really taught me how to be both a scientist and a mom. After my postdoctoral position, I became an Assistant Professor of Biochemistry and started research in the area of Alzheimer’s disease. I looked at the role of platelets in amyloid deposition using a blood brain barrier. Around this time, I again had two more sons, and saw how women can really have a fruitful career as a scientific researcher and a family. My job evolved as I took on administrative roles and began advising students in the M.A. in Medical Sciences (MAMS) program. It is very fulfilling to help students apply to medical / dental schools and watch as they accomplish their goals.
You recently created a M.S. in Oral Health Sciences (OHS) program, previously a track in MAMS. Can you tell me about the program?
This graduate program allows students interested in dentistry the opportunity to improve their credentials for dental school admission. Originally a track within the MA Medical Sciences (MAMS) program, OHS students were able to take first-year dental courses at the BU Goldman School of Dentistry and prove their aptitude. Now that the Oral Health Sciences program is separate from the MAMS program, we will begin to offer new courses specific to pre-dental students, such as the Evidence-Based Dentistry course I recently developed.
What other roles do you play on the Medical Campus?
As with all faculty I wear many hats. I serve on several administrative and admissions committees for both the Medical School and for GMS. I co-teach a Biomedical Information course, which helps students with thesis writing skills, as well as serve as the Course Director for 2 new courses entitled Evidence Based Dentistry and Fundamentals of Head and Neck Anatomy.
A very exciting project that I have recently been involved with involves designing and testing a novel mobile app for the Finding Information Framework (or FiF) which assists medical students with Evidence-Based Medicine. Additionally I host webinars as a recruitment tool for the Oral Health Sciences program and am involved with improving and maintaining the GMS website, a job which has been quite the learning experience. I found that I really like building and designing the web pages, and though it can be challenging, website development has been very rewarding for me.
What is the most interesting part of your job?
I love helping students realize their dreams and accomplish their goals. Ultimately, their success is my success. I push my students to work hard while they are here at GMS, but also offer them support, encouragement (and compassion) when the coursework is challenging. I have also had to learn how to balance my professional and personal life, which has not always been easy! But I am very happy that I have not had to sacrifice one for the other, and I can say that I truly love my job.
What is the most challenging?
Balancing all of my responsibilities. My year is very cyclic, so I am never doing the same task for very long before a new one takes its place. Whether it’s teaching, reviewing theses, admissions or website work, or medical/dental school application assistance I am always doing something different, depending on the time of year. Every year varies as well because I have a new cohort of students who I love to get to know. My job is not as repetitive as it may seem, even though I continually have the same responsibilities due to my colleagues and students.
What do you like to do outside of BUSM?
I have four children, ages fourteen through twenty-eight, and we are all very active. My younger children, my husband, and I love spending time outside, especially camping. I also love reading and going to the beach. I am actively involved in my church community teaching, boy scouts and even help with the website for the high school crew team, which one of my sons participates on.
Do you have any advice for current GMS students?
It is important to follow your dreams and passions, and not to give up or let anyone discourage you. Students should find what fits into their life and is interesting to them, and pursue it. When you commit to a program, be prepared to work hard and give the time it takes to be successful. With perseverance and support, and at times a little luck, you will be successful.