Growing and Engaging

By Elizabeth Walker | August 28 2019

Kristina Davis, MD, is no stranger to the Department of Pathology. She first arrived in 2012 and did an AP/CP residency followed by a year of Transfusion Medicine at the Mayo Clinic. She’s just completed a two-year Histocompatibility (HLA) Lab fellowship and now joins the department as faculty, with leadership roles as the Associate Director of the HLA Lab and Associate Director of Blood Bank and Transfusion Medicine.


Why did you choose pathology?

In medicine, there are so many different specialties depending on your personality and depending on what's interesting for you. I like feeling like I'm helping patients. However, in many of the other clinical specialties, you're also really bogged down with a lot of the charting, and the patient interaction is a minor fraction of what you do. I like pathology because there's still such a variety, from anatomic specialties like forensics, gynecologic, etc., all the way to clinical pathology like chemistry or HLA. There's a lot of excitement and the specialties are always growing and evolving, especially with the molecular explosion. There are so many different ways you can help patients behind the scenes. You could do anything, from being a generalist where you practice a little bit of everything, or you could sub- sub-specialize and just do one focused thing.


How did you decide to focus on HLA and Transfusion Medicine?

During my training, I enjoyed everything, but unfortunately, had to pick the things I loved the most. I like interacting with patients or feeling like I’m part of the patient care team.


Your role here is multifaceted. Tell me what you'll be doing.

It is! I'm lucky enough that I get a chance to use both of my fellowships. I'll be associate director of the HLA lab helping out the primary lab director. It's a great interaction with the rest of the clinical team, being part of the whole transplant process.

I think transplant is one of the most interdisciplinary things we have going on in medicine and so you have everyone from coordinators to surgeons to transplant nephrologists to hepatologists working together, and so the HLA part is an important part of that as far as communication.

Then, the other aspect is I get to be associate director of the transfusion medicine service. Not only do you make sure that everyone gets the right blood products, but you physically get to see patients when they come for therapeutic apheresis. You get to physically interact with patients. The history, the exam, notes. Some of them have a couple of sessions and they're done but others keep coming back for years and years, whether it's for autoimmune diseases where they have lifelong treatment or sickle cell disease where they get red blood cell exchanges. You kind of get to form close relationships so that's fun.

What are you most looking forward to in both of your roles?

I don't think there's a hard cut-off between one role and the next, as a trainee versus faculty. I think it's a lifelong process of learning and growing and engaging. I look forward to having a little more autonomy and independence and being able to have an impact. As a trainee, I think your focus is internal and on learning. Now I'm trying to kind of integrate everything I’ve learned and focus it outside myself. How do I combine that with now teaching others? Applying it to help the lab provide the best service? Communicate with the clinicians, to help them provide the best patient care that we can? I'm very excited to find out who the main HLA lab director will be. I look forward to having a collaborative type of relationship.


Why choose Michigan?

I actually looked at a bunch of different places. I was kind of lucky because there are lots of openings right now, even academic openings for HLA. I think one of the huge advantages of Michigan Medicine is I have a lot of respect for the pathology department leadership. I think there's a positive patient-centered vision going on. I think the overall culture here is that people are respectful of each other. It's not a hierarchical sort of set up. Junior colleagues versus senior colleagues, for the most part, help each other out and it's a positive atmosphere which I think, to me, was one of the most important things.


What do you like to do outside of work?

I love volunteering at the animal shelter, Friends of Michigan Animals Rescue (FMAR). They’re down in Belleville, MI. They're a really nice rescue who take care of the animals brought in. I like quilting and hiking. I have two cats. One of the reasons, now that I know we're staying, for purchasing a house is so that we can also have dogs and have a garden. I like living things. I have plants at work and at home, I have pets at home, and I look forward to continuing to grow things and to nurture animals.

I think a lot of life comes down to luck and I'm grateful to have people that I love and love me in my life; and then incredibly lucky to have a job that I find satisfying.