Doing good through good research: Melinda Davis, Ph.D., recognized

Melinda Davis, Ph.D.

The North American Primary Care Research Group (NAPCRG) has awarded Melinda Davis, Ph.D., associate director of research for the Oregon Rural Practice-based Research Network, the 2021 Mid-Career Researcher Award.

“Early in my career, I was asked, ‘Do you want to do good, or do you want to do research?’ Now I would reply … this is a false dichotomy. I want to do good by doing good research.” — Melinda Davis, Ph.D.

This award recognizes outstanding research accomplishments and is given to just one researcher each year. Davis joins a short list of awardees, including Deborah Cohen, Ph.D., research vice chair and professor of family medicine, OHSU School of Medicine. Cohen won the award in 2017. Davis,  associate professor of family medicine, OHSU School of Medicine, and associate professor in the OHSU-PSU School of Public Health, was recognized on Nov. 19, National Rural Health Day. during the 2021 Annual NAPCRG meeting.

NAPCRG is a multidisciplinary organization for primary care researchers. It is the world’s largest organization devoted to research in family medicine, primary care and related fields, including epidemiology, behavioral sciences and health services research.

Recognition for collaboration

Davis was recognized in part for her history of collaborating with diverse community and academic partners in order to craft research teams that blend academic and lived expertise to improve primary care and community health care delivery.

“My philosophy toward primary care research is to help the clinics, clinicians, and staff I serve deliver better care through collaborative partnerships, she said. The goal is to build systems and structures that also allow them to care for themselves in the process.”

“Melinda truly understands and values primary care research,” said Nancy Elder, M.D., M.P.H., director of the Oregon Rural Practice-based Research Network.

Davis began her career as a rural practice facilitator within the network. After completing her Ph.D., she moved into a faculty position.

“Those years working directly with communities and practices continues to inform and guide Melinda’s research today,” Elder said. “Her focus is on implementation science, using community-based methodologies to improve the quality of health care, especially in rural communities.”

Addressing health disparities and equity

Davis has spent her career working with stakeholders and communities in rural areas to identify and address health disparities and improve health equity.

She is the recipient of several large research awards, including one that looks at a program designed to address low rates of colorectal cancer screening, follow-up, and referral to care among rural Medicaid adult patients. She also leads a study on enhancing alcohol screening, treatment and intervention; and a new partnership studying care for rural veterans.

“I feel deep gratitude for the faculty, community partners and team members who’ve helped make this possible,” Davis said. “I know it’s not been an easy time in primary care and public health for many of these partners. While it may be individuals who win awards – they get here because of teams and people who care.

“Early in my career, I was asked, ‘Do you want to do good, or do you want to do research?’ Now I would reply – as I would argue that every academic should – that this is a false dichotomy. I want to do good by doing good research. This award reinforces my path to date, and it increases my excitement for opportunities to continue my work serving as a boundary spanner between research and practice/communities.”

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