BY ALEXIS WARD
Abbey Davis made a career being compassionate and helping others, whether inside the emergency room or the classroom.
The certified physician assistant (PA) and program director of Marywood University’s PA program, her job is more than just assigning clinical rotations, teaching basic skills and ensuring the accreditation of upcoming PAs. In her eyes, her vital responsibility is to the development of her students’ characters.
“These students are going into the business of caring for others,” Davis said, who lives in Dunmore with her husband, Bobby. “We want to teach them how to talk to people, see people who may be underserved and get an eye-opening experience for a different population and how to communicate with a part of that population.”
Davis knows healthcare like the back of her hand. A PA for nearly 15 years, Davis has held an interest in medicine since she was a teenager, inspired by a young PA she used to visit at a family medicine group in Scranton.
“She was young and relatable, and I thought she was the coolest. She was the reason I decided I wanted to go into medicine,” Davis said.
To achieve that aspiration, Davis earned a bachelor’s degree in medical science and a master’s degree in physician assistant studies from Marywood University.
“I wanted to be a PA because I liked the teamwork model of working with a physician as a sort of team approach, and I liked the five-year program so that I was able to be done with school sooner. I wanted to start working,” she said.
Davis began her career in medicine in emergency rooms and was employed by Geisinger Community Medical Center and Commonwealth Health Moses Taylor Hospital, both in Scranton. Working overnight shifts, Davis often faced over 40 sick and wounded patients during any given night.
“It’s physically and emotionally draining,” she said. “It’s easy to experience burnout, but it’s also very rewarding because you’re able to help people.”
Davis enjoyed the company of the students who performed their clinical rotations in the emergency room, and decided to make the jump to teaching full-time. In 2012, she started at Misericordia University, where she served as the director of didactic education for Physician Assistant Studies program for two years.
“(The ER) is really good training for a future role in teaching,” she said. “You’ve pretty much seen everything, and you get a lot of experience talking to people and learning how to help.”
When a position opened at Davis’s alma mater, however, Davis leapt at the chance to work for the school that had shaped her own outlook on the medical professions.
“The most special thing (about Marywood’s Physician Assistant program) is that the students all say that they feel like they’re a part of a family,” Davis said. “That’s something we hold really dear to us, creating that environment for them.”
In addition to her administrative duties, Davis teaches three semesters of clinical medicine during the year, as well as assists with medical procedures and practical exams. Under her guidance, the program recently instituted a service requirement of at least 20 hours for each students, which Davis noted has been met with major success.
Last fall, during PA Week, the program coordinated a project where students and faculty went into local elementary schools. The students came up with different presentations on cold and flu prevention, which included arts and crafts, hands-on learning and other resources to engage the elementary-schoolers.
“The students really go above and beyond,” Davis said.
Due to the outbreak of COVID-19 and subsequent social distancing regulations, Davis’ instruction style has looked a little bit different. She had to adjust to teaching in an online format from home, all while juggling the responsibilities of parenting five children — Gavin, 14; Charlotte, 9; Jack, 7; Catherine, 6, and Bobby, 2.
“It is not easy, so I won’t sugarcoat that,” Davis laughed. “It involves working about twice the normal amount I usually work in a day, because every time I get into a project, I’m pulled away. But they’ve been awesome about it, getting their schoolwork done by lunchtime, and (my oldest has) been a tremendous help. I feel for all the working parents right now.”
Lately, Davis has dedicated her time to making sure her students have the skills they need to graduate on schedule, a goal that has required an innovative spirit to achieve. She works late in the night when the kids are asleep and taps into her creativity for more complex lectures. The final hands-on lesson is how to suture for wound care, she said, so she created and mailed care packages for her students, complete with fake skin pads. Then, she made 10 hours of suture video tutorials. Throughout the week, Davis hosts Zoom meetings with small groups of students, where she watches them suture and critiques their work.
It’s been a huge time commitment, but it’s working,” she said. “Their sutures are beautiful.”
The school was also fortunate with the timing of the shutdown. The students completed most of what they needed, and Davis and the other instructors were able to supplement what they missed.
Ultimately, Davis hopes the program will be back on track with a new class of students in the fall. That way, she can continue to develop the program — and especially her students — into the best program they can be.
“Every year the program gets better. I went to this program and I loved it, but the program I work at today is not the same program I went to,” Davis said. “Our goal is always to be better than we were the year before. We’re always looking for new ways to do new content while expressing our values to our students, and we try to get better and better so our students are better and better providers.”
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Meet Abbey Davis
- At home: Davis lives in Dunmore with her husband, Bobby, and their five children, Gavin, 14; Charlotte, 9; Jack, 7; Catherine, 6, and Bobby, 2. She is the daughter of Tom and Molly, and has three siblings, Tom, Tim and Dan.
- At work: A certified physician assistant, Davis is program director of Marywood University physician assistant program.
- Inspirations: “I am inspired every day by several groups of people: healthcare workers everywhere who put their lives on the line to care for their patients, my incredibly hard-working students who make me want to work harder and be better for them and all the parents out there who work hard every day to raise their children,” she said.
- Aspirations: To continue to develop Marywood’s PA program to not only provide an outstanding medical education for her students, but also to help shape them into people who truly care for their patients and their community.
- Diversions: Spending time with family and friends; volunteering through various organizations with both her students and her children
- Aversions: Laziness and dishonesty
- Quote: “Do good and you will always do well.” — Dr. Stanley Dudrick