Kimberly Davis, MD, MBA, is chief of general surgery, trauma and surgical critical care for Yale Medicine, and medical director of trauma for Yale New Haven Hospital (YNHH). She leads a team of 10 surgeons, and has performed thousands of operations.
“My mother will tell you that I was programmed to be a surgeon,” says Dr. Davis. “But I'm not a surgeon who wants to do the same operation day in and day out.” As a general surgeon, Dr. Davis can operate on any part of the body, although she performs operations in the abdominal cavity, usually using minimally invasive techniques. As she focuses on both elective and emergency surgery, Dr. Davis often treats patients who find themselves in situations they never anticipated.
As a trauma surgeon and critical care doctor, she spends about a third of her time treating seriously ill and injured patients. What attracts Dr. Davis to this field is the ability to render care to patients and their families when they may be at their most vulnerable. As she says, “No one expects to be in a severe car wreck or have a life threatening surgical disease.” The sudden nature of emergencies disrupts the life of the patient and their family. The opportunity to help a patient return to their prior state of health is “the ultimate reward” in medicine, she says.
“I think people underestimate how prepared we are for patients with critical problems,” says Dr. Davis. “We have surgical specialists in the hospital 24/7. For urgent issues, we can transfer patients from the emergency room to the operating room in 10 minutes. We also provide a cadre of support personnel to assist patients and their families in navigating through their health crises.”
One of Dr. Davis’ most treasured experiences involved treating a young man after “an extreme case of interpersonal violence. “I performed his initial surgery. He required multiple surgical interventions and saw many different doctors. About three weeks into his hospital course, I walked into his room and introduced myself to him again. He looked at me and said, ‘You're the one who saved my life. Thank you.’ ” Being able to intervene in a time of crisis is extremely rewarding, she says.
A professor of surgery at Yale School of Medicine, Dr. Davis is also passionate about quality improvement, which she has promoted on a national level. She has served as a “surgeon champion” for the National Surgical Quality Improvement Program, and is currently surgical director of quality and performance improvement at YNHH.