If you’ve ever taken a bus through Oakland, you know the student population at the University of Pittsburgh is anything but homogenous.

So does Paula K. Davis, the assistant vice chancellor for Health Sciences Diversity for the University of Pittsburgh’s Schools of the Health Sciences. As such, Davis works with diversity recruitment of future health professionals and oversees cultural competency initiatives. Part of her job brings her in touch with students—some of whom may not be used to such a multi-faceted community.


Davis’ work has earned her recognition as a Dignity & Respect Champion of Greater Pittsburgh. In addition to her diversity and cultural competency efforts, Davis also leads anti-bullying classes for staff and faculty at Pitt and has volunteered with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Pittsburgh.

Davis said it is especially important for future health professionals to see the world through the eyes of others. One reason is that patients may have widely differing cultural experiences, and it is vital to understand their situations and concerns.

“You don’t know who’s going to be sitting on the exam table when you walk into the room,” Davis said. Another reason is that health professionals occupy authoritative, powerful roles in society, she said. And, as Voltaire said, with great power comes great responsibility.

“Our hope is that students will carry that ability to appreciate others not just into the clinical setting,” Davis said. “They often times have a louder voice than the rest of us in the community setting.”

“The beauty in life is in getting to know other people,” Davis said. “Take the time to talk with individuals around you and get to know them. I think you’ll be surprised.”

According to Mario C. Browne and Quinten Brown, who work alongside Davis at Pitt’s Schools of the Health Sciences and nominated her for the designation, she is tireless in her efforts .

“She champions inclusion through multiculturalism and a respect of all people regardless of race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation,” they wrote in their nomination form. “Whether it is through teaching cultural competence to faculty and students, or anti-bullying professional development classes, or volunteering in public schools, she ‘walks the talk’ when it comes to personifying the principles of the campaign.”

A Pittsburgh native who grew up in a North Side public housing community before moving to Monroeville, where she attended Gateway High School, Davis currently lives in Stanton Heights. She has been at Pitt for 18 years and also completed undergraduate studies in English and graduate studies in communication there. “We have a really wonderful community here,” Davis said.

The Dignity & Respect Campaign is an awareness initiative designed to join individuals, community leaders, community organizations, educational institutions, businesses, and corporations under the common notion that everyone deserves dignity and respect.

A Dignity & Respect Champion is someone?nominated by a co-worker, family member, or friend?who embraces diversity, embodies compassion, and demonstrates mutual respect.

For more information and to take the Dignity & Respect Pledge, visit dignityandrespect.org.

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