Top-down Innovation, Keeping Up with Patient Demand and Creating More Efficient and Effective Health Systems, Featuring Dr. Melissa Davis

Brief Biography:

Assistant Professor of Radiology and Biomedical Imaging

Section Chief of Radiology at Yale University School of Medicine

Program Director, Leadership in Healthcare Fellowship, Emergency Radiology

Co-Clinical Lead, Center for Outcomes Research & Evaluation, Emergency Radiology

Education & Training:

MBA Yale University (2017)

MD Medical University of South Carolina (2009)

Neuroradiology Fellow University of North Carolina

Diagnosity Radiology Residency University of North Carolina

Board Certification AB of Radiology, Diagnostic Radiology (2015)

Dr. Melissa Davis is a Diagnostic Radiologist at Yale New Haven Hospital (YNNH). Dr. Davis wears many hats as she is involved in a number of programs for education, outcomes research, clinical redesign and leadership training. In addition to being a physician, she is an entrepreneur who has started, operated, pivoted and exited a startup. Today, her primary focus is identifying scalable technologies and innovations. Dr. Davis’ academic areas of interest include organizational change and innovation within the healthcare space where she leverages her startup experience for clinical redesign and operations. Our Program Manager, Sharon Mwale, chatted with Dr. Davis to gain her perspectives on the state of healthcare innovation, organization entrepreneurship and women in leadership.

Looking back at your early career choices and academic pursuits – was becoming an entrepreneur part of your plan?
I wouldn’t consider myself an entrepreneur at this point in my current roles. Even before what I know now, I didn't consider entrepreneurship in the traditional sense of founding and growing scalable businesses. In the community I grew up in, there were several families who ran their own practices and small businesses, my parents included who had separate private practices. So, for a long-time entrepreneurship meant building and owning what I now think of as a small business.

Comparing your experience with SepsisDx and MindNest Health versus the work you do on the clinical redesign and operations team at YNNH, how would you differentiate the two?
Starting with the similarities, in both settings every member of the team is focused on moving quickly and specifically, failing fast. They are comfortable with trial and error and are doing these projects because it is a passion of theirs. The first major difference that comes to mind is unlike my work on the clinical redesign team at YNNH, with Sepsis and MindNest, we weren’t beholden to anyone or anything other than making sure that the company gets off the ground. Here at the hospital, because of the established system, our work is driven by specific built in metrics and we develop programs that are aligned accordingly. As a result, a potential failing at the system level would take a lot longer because there is significant front-end planning to align new programs with the organization’s missions and goals. Comparatively, at Sepsis and MindNest, we were formulating our metrics as we tested new things and pivoted when necessary. In a large and established organization like ours, dramatic pivots would be difficult.

How has your professional and/or academic experience influence the way in which you approach entrepreneurship, innovation and leadership?
The medical education path is long and having gone through it all, when you arrive you are just trying to figure out what really works. Up until starting the MBA program at Yale, my medical training taught me that good leadership meant that everyone did the right thing at the right time in a hierarchical structure. However, the MBA gave me new perspective and I started to think more operationally. Changed my definition of good leadership to mean helping others grow and giving them the leeway to develop and grow in their own passions and interests, hopefully those align with the organization. As a physician, I have a good baseline knowledge for the clinical aspects of leadership in healthcare, but the MBA training taught me as a leader we set targets and hope those we lead meet and exceed them. We have the responsibility to push the team to think outside the box and succeed or fail on their own, with surrounding support, because this is how we can yield good results for the organization.

Today, and with each passing day, we strive to do more—with less. How do you in your professionally leverage technology or improve processes to make healthcare work better, faster, smarter, more efficient, and/or less expensive?
Healthcare organization margins are narrow so, even though it’s reported that hospitals are making hundreds of millions of dollars, it’s slim profits because costs are high for organizations to deliver better care to patients, whether it be process changes or technological advancements. As a radiologist we use a lot of technology to do our jobs. In my department, we have a strong interest to align ourselves with the emergency department to ensure patients are being treated in a timely manner. We are working with an artificial intelligence company, AIDOC, to improve our workflows. The software this company has built evaluates images as they come off the scanner and alerts the radiologist if anything is acutely wrong. In this manner the radiologist can evaluate this case first even if it is last in their que. We don’t have outcomes data yet, soon will, but risks we’re mitigating for include quality control and checks/balances for potentially missed acute cases. Aside from integrating new technologies, we’re updating our current software products to make them work better for our team and work flows.

When discussing gender parity, specifically in health and tech industries, what do you think we should focus on?
When you look at leadership at Yale or any major organizations across industries, it’s all white men. We can’t start to discuss gender parity without shaking up the top of the food chain. I think the presence of women in leadership positions is very important and we should focus on strong mentorship and sponsorship of getting women to progress to these levels.

What is your advice to women and what actionable steps can they take as leaders or aspiring entrepreneurs in the health & tech industries?
A lot of women, including myself, suffer from imposter syndrome. These displaced inner thoughts of inadequacy prevent people from doing things for which they are definitely qualified. For me, there are very few people who look like me in my professional circles and I have moments of disbelief looking at my list of positions and rank. However, the reality is at some point we have to push those feelings aside, just do it and realize you are capable. What’s helped me along my path is surrounding myself with strong women who are working hard across many industries, not just healthcare, and in great places in their lives. 

Lecky’s Final Thoughts

Dr. Davis is a true reflection of ‘learn thyself, know thyself.’Her accomplishments and inner understanding are quite impressive from an intellectual, personal and professional perspective.We can all learn from her shared experiences to forge ahead not placing attention on obstacles but strategically determining how to govern them.

If you would like to recommend a female entrepreneur in healthcare technology to be featured, we encourage you to contact us

Contact information:
Sharon Mwale       Program Manager        [email protected]