“Commitment is doing the thing you said you would do long after the mood you said it in has left you.”
For Dr. Gerald E. Davis II, leadership means commitment — and he demonstrates it in unmistakable fashion every day as the assistant dean of academic affairs and an assistant professor at the Meharry Medical College School of Dentistry in Nashville. A tireless supporter of Meharry’s mission to promote equality in the health sciences, Dr. Davis is devoted to setting the dental program apart as an innovation hub.
He has done this in arguably the biggest way possible — teaming with Microsoft to make Meharry a development site for adopting high-definition holographic technology and virtual reality into the dental curricula. Central to this is the Microsoft HoloLens, the first fully self-contained holographic computer that allows students to visualize the mouth through augmented reality. Rather than looking at a computer screen, students can use hand gestures to interact with an oversize three-dimensional image.
Dr. Davis and his staff are adapting the Meharry curriculum to allow students to gain close-up insight into anatomic structures, surgical techniques for lesions/implant placement, and local anesthesia administration. In the coming years, he plans to integrate the HoloLens technology into Meharry’s dental clinic setting and School of Medicine operating rooms.
After earning his B.S. in Biology at Paul Quinn College in Dallas — a leading private HBCU (historically black colleges and universities) — Dr. Davis completed his D.D.S. at Meharry and chose to remain in the academic environment where he could help bring more black students into the sciences. What’s more, he is currently completing an orofacial pain residency at the University of Southern California with an eventual goal of instituting a clinic at Meharry and adding more TMJ simulations for the HoloLens.
Dr. Davis is the immediate past chair of Minority Affairs for the American Dental Education Association, and currently serves on the Test Construction Committee for the American Dental Association. He is also involved in community efforts to teach conflict management skills to young people; as a former Taekwondo instructor he strives to impart the confidence and discipline young people need to escape from tough situations and not escalate issues.
Married to Corinne, an epidemiologist with the Tennessee Department of Health, he is using his 10 Under 10 Award to invest in additional technology efforts. In fact, the award could not have come at a better time; Dr. Davis notes that he had just come home after one of his most difficult days, when he saw a congratulatory email pop up on his mobile phone.
Yet the award he pursues most is the establishment of true diversity — when the leaders sitting around the table of school boards, corporations and national societies “all look like the United Nations.” He believes concepts such as “wisdom of the crowd” work best for solid decision-making only when leadership is truly diverse. Examples of the “wisdom of the crowd” concept can be seen in something as simple as guessing the number of marbles in a jar; statistically if you take the average of 100 responses, you may come within 10 +/- of the answer due to the variety of opinions. Dr. Davis feels his mission will never be complete until he has successfully paved the way for future minority dental leaders, educators, and clinicians to have their opinions heard just as much as others; for it is only then that the field of dentistry can truly progress further.
Dr. Davis is a winner of the 2017 10 Under 10 Award. Nominations for the 2018 10 Under 10 Awards opened Oct. 1. To submit a nomination, visit ADA.org/10Under10.