Kenyani “Kiki” Davis, MD ’12, MPH, is a chief medical officer, a National Institutes of Health fellow, a passionate advocate for health equity—and now one of Buffalo Business First’s 40 under 40.
Her success started with a childhood dream. As a young girl in Arizona, she accompanied her father to nursing school, sitting in the back row envisioning a career in medicine. A track and field scholarship took her to William Penn University in Iowa, where she studied biology and minored in chemistry. At the end of her freshman year, she found out she was pregnant with her son, Izaiah, and visions of medical school started to fade.
She graduated and moved home to Arizona where family helped with Izaiah while she attended the biomedical sciences program at the Arizona College of Osteopathic Medicine. Through word of mouth, she heard about Ross University of School of Medicine. Her family ties to the Caribbean made Ross Med even more appealing.
With Izaiah in her mother’s care in Arizona, Dr. Davis enrolled in 2008 and continued her medical school journey with a cohort she remembers fondly.
“Everybody was so supportive. When you are all away from home, you create this pseudo family very intensely and quickly,” she said. “They got me through, and when I look at the things that all of them are doing today, it is amazing. It restores my faith in people and medicine, even on the hard days.”
She graduated in 2012 and started an internal medicine residency with the University at Buffalo. There she also earned a master’s in public health. Since then, Buffalo has been home to her and her husband, John, and their children, Izaiah, Laylani, and Sanaa.
Life As An Internist
Today, Dr. Davis is the chief medical officer of the Community Health Center of Buffalo, Inc., a federally qualified health center serving over 20,000 patients annually in Erie and Niagara counties. She provides quality medical care and leads clinical operations for four healthcare facilities. She is an active member of the African American Health Disparities Task Force and was recently appointed to the Erie County Health Equity Advisory Board. Her role includes policy development and leading research efforts.
In 2018, she was 1 of 50 health disparities researchers selected for the prestigious National Institute of Health (NIH) Health Disparities Research Institute Fellowship. Her interest in health disparities began during a palliative care rotation.
“I was very intrigued by the fact that when I wear my white coat as an internist, I am coding all these people who look like me and they are young. Yet when I got over to palliative care and I got into hospice, it was white patients who were dying peacefully,” she said. “I want to bridge the gap health disparities through research.”
Though she holds several roles, board seats, and volunteer positions , there may be none more important than advocating for patients and aspiring medical professionals who look like her.
“I became a single mother living off food stamps and Section 8. Every statistic that is in my background says that I should not be here, so it is important for me to demonstrate those parts of me do not define my story ,” she said. “Nobody believed I could be a physician, a chief medical officer, or develop policies. I am living my wildest dream.”