Faces of Cedars-Sinai: Ray Charles Foundation Scholar Miyah Davis
Dec 08, 2020 Cedars-Sinai Staff
Meet Miyah Davis, inaugural awardee of the Ray Charles Foundation Scholars Fund under the direction of Keith L. Black, MD, neurosurgeon and chair of the Department of Neurosurgery at Cedars-Sinai. Miyah works in the Koronyo-Hamaoui laboratory, which focuses on developing diagnostic tools for the early detection of Alzheimer's disease.
A native of Arlington, Texas, she currently holds a master of science degree. Miyah came to Los Angeles—and to Cedars-Sinai—as part of her journey to medical school. She plans to pursue neurosurgery as a specialty.
We're a long way from Texas. How did you end up in California?
Miyah Davis: My family's actually from L.A. originally. That was where we were based before moving outside of Dallas, where I grew up. So it's not foreign to me at all. I came back as an adult to go to graduate school. In 2020, I completed a master's degree from Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science, in the Biomedical Science Program.
What brought you to Cedars-Sinai?
MD: During my time at Charles R. Drew, I had an opportunity to do research in cardiometabolic disorders, and I realized how much I enjoyed the work. I wanted to find a way to dive deeper into research, so when I learned about the scholarship from the Ray Charles Foundation at Cedars-Sinai, I jumped at the chance to apply—and was thrilled to be accepted.
"I was denied so many research and grant opportunities, but the "yes" I got at Drew, and then here at Cedars-Sinai, has kept me striving and thriving and not giving up on my dreams."
Tell us more about the Ray Charles Foundation Scholars Fund.
MD: The scholarship helps enhance diversity in the neurosciences by offering financial support for training students who come from underrepresented backgrounds—especially those who have graduated from historically Black colleges and universities.
Why do you think opportunities like this are important?
MD: African Americans often grow up thinking we can play sports, or maybe make a career out of modeling or acting. And those things are fine. But we're not always exposed to other things, like being a scientist or an engineer, which leads to underrepresentation. If we don't know something is possible, we can't try to make it happen.
What drew you to neuroscience?
MD: When I finished undergrad, I spent almost two years as a medical assistant at one of the top neurology practices in north Texas. I was fascinated by the brain's complexity and how it affects so many other systems throughout the body. I loved being at the bedside working with patients and grew interested in exploring the bench side of things, which is why this scholarship is such a great fit for me.
What type of work are you doing in Dr. Koronyo-Hamaoui's lab?
MD: Our team is working on techniques for early detection of Alzheimer's disease through examination of the retina. Right now, I'm doing a lot of hands-on procedures such as genotyping, immunohistochemistry staining and western blots, which are a way to analyze proteins. I'm also getting experience with cryo-sectioning and, recently, I got to see perfusion. It was really cool.
As one of the younger team members, have you found people in the lab to be welcoming and supportive?
MD: Dr. Koronyo has been so patient with me, helping and encouraging me and answering all my questions. It can be hard for pre-med students to gain a mentor willing to teach. It's been a blessing being with her.
What's your personal goal for your time at Cedars-Sinai?
MD: I really want to hone my lab techniques. But, more broadly, I'm looking forward to enhancing my critical thinking skills—to gaining new perspective on how to navigate situations, whether in my classes or in everyday life. Ultimately, I'm excited to build skills that will last me into the future as a physician and as a citizen of society.
What do you do when you're not in the lab?
MD: I love L.A. It's so beautiful here. I'm trying to take advantage of that by getting outdoors. I'm a regular hiker—I go to Runyon Canyon in Hollywood and also to Ascot Hills, which is near the USC Health Sciences Campus.
What's on the horizon for you after the scholarship ends?
MD: I'm applying to med school. This is actually my second try—I didn't get accepted the first time. But it takes persistence to get to success.
I was denied so many research and grant opportunities, but the "yes" I got at Drew, and then here at Cedars-Sinai, has kept me striving and thriving and not giving up on my dreams. Each of the things I've done has been a stepping-stone to what's come next. I firmly believe that, if you trust in the journey, things will happen the way they're supposed to.