Faces of Cedars-Sinai: Ray Charles Foundation Scholar Miyah Davis
Dec 08, 2020 Jeremy Deutchman
Meet Miyah Davis, Cedars-Sinai’s inaugural recipient of the Ray Charles Foundation Scholars Fund in Neurosurgery award. Miyah is part of the Koronyo-Hamaoui lab, which is focused on developing diagnostic tools for the early detection of Alzheimer’s disease.
A native of Arlington, Texas, Miyah came to Los Angeles—and to Cedars-Sinai—as part of her journey to medical school, where she ultimately hopes to pursue neurology or neurosurgery as a specialty.
We’re a long way from Texas. How did you end up in California?
Miyah Davis: My family’s from L.A. My parents were based here before moving outside of Dallas/Fort Worth, where I grew up. So, L.A. is not foreign to me at all as I would come here often to visit family. I came back to live, this time as an adult going to graduate school. In August 2020, I completed a master’s degree from Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science—I was in the Biomedical Science Program.
What brought you to Cedars-Sinai?
MD: At Drew, I had an opportunity to do research in cardiometabolic disorders, and I realized how challenging yet rewarding research can be. I wanted to find a way to dive deeper into research, specifically neuroscience, which I’ve always gravitated towards. So, when I learned about the Ray Charles Foundation Scholars Fund at Cedars-Sinai, I jumped at the chance to apply and was thrilled to be accepted.
"I'm looking forward to enhancing my critical thinking skills—to gaining new perspectives on how to navigate better through situations in life."
What is the goal of the Ray Charles Foundation Scholars Fund in Neurosurgery?
MD: The goal of the scholarship is to promote diversity in neuroscience research by offering a student with a Historically Black College and University educational background an opportunity to gain cutting-edge research.
Why do you think opportunities like the one offered by the Ray Charles Foundation are so important?
MD: African Americans are underrepresented in professions like medicine and research. I think people often gravitate towards careers where their mentors or “idols” are in or to what they’re exposed to growing up. So if someone is not exposed or used to seeing people in their community obtaining certain degrees, or going after certain careers, more often than not, they will not work in those fields—which I believe contributes to underrepresentation. That’s why I’m thankful that Dr. Keith Black and his team worked to make this happen.
What drew you to neuroscience?
MD: When I finished undergrad at Xavier University in New Orleans, I spent almost two years as a medical assistant at one of the top neurology practices in north Texas. I was fascinated by the complexity of the nervous system and how it affects so many other systems throughout the body. I loved being at the bedside with patients, but also grew an interest in exploring the bench or the research aspect.
What type of work are you doing in Dr. Koronyo-Hamaoui's lab?
MD: Our team is working on early diagnosis and immune-based therapies for Alzheimer’s disease. I’ve gained experience doing immunohistochemistry staining, microscopy, genotyping, etc. Right now, I’m doing a lot of data/statistical analysis for a project I’m a part of in regards to retinopathy.
I’m guessing you’re one of the younger members of the team. Have you found people in the lab to be welcoming and supportive?
MD: The Koronyo-Hamaoui Lab is the best. Everyone is incredibly knowledgeable, friendly and goal-oriented. They are always available and including me in the numerous ongoing projects. The journey to medicine can honestly be challenging for pre-med students, so to gain mentors willing to patiently teach is nothing short of amazing!
What's your personal goal for your time at Cedars-Sinai?
MD: I want to continue sharpening my lab techniques. But specifically I’m looking forward to enhancing my critical thinking skills—to gaining new perspectives on how to navigate better through situations in life. I hope to continue learning more about Alzheimer's disease, especially seen in the retina. I’m also just really excited to build inter and intrapersonal skills that I believe will prepare me as a future physician and in general.
What do you do when you're not in the lab?
MD: Since COVID-19 has limited traveling abroad, I have really come to enjoy L.A. even more. It’s so beautiful here. I’m a regular hiker. I also enjoy taking road trips throughout California, trying out new restaurants—big foodie over here—and spending time with my family and friends!
What's on the horizon for you after the scholarship ends?
MD: Right now, I’m applying to medical school. I actually wasn’t accepted the first time I applied, but I also wasn’t ready, and I knew that. This journey truly takes persistence and resiliency. For instance, I was denied many research and graduate school opportunities, but the one acceptance I received from Drew, led me to receive the one acceptance from the Ray Charles Foundation Scholars Fund at Cedars-Sinai, allowing me both graduate school and research experience.
Each of the opportunities I’ve been a part of have all been an amazing steppingstone to what’s to come next. I firmly believe that, if you trust in your journey, God will grant you the desires of your heart.