Cynthia Davis is an Assistant Professor and Program Director in the College of Medicine and College of Science and Health at Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science. Professor Davis completed her Master’s degree from the UCLA School of Public Health in Behavioral Sciences and Health Education in June 1981. While a graduate student, she completed her field placement assignment within the Department of Community Medicine at the King/Drew Medical Center from 1980 to 1981.
Professor Davis began her professional career in Los Angeles in 1981, working as a Research Assistant with the National Hospice Study, a federally funded multi-site research study based at Brown University assessing the affordability of hospice care versus conventional hospital care for terminally ill patients. In 1983, she was hired by Ms. Joan Ann Freeman, Executive Director of the American Indian Free Clinic in Compton, California, to develop one of the first teen pregnancy prevention and family life education programs in the nation targeting Native American teens and their parents. In 1984, she was recruited by Ms. Vivian Weinstein and Dr. Kerry English of the Pediatrics Department of the King/Drew Medical Center to develop a similar teen pregnancy prevention program targeting at risk youth enrolled in the Los Angeles, Compton and Lynwood Unified School Districts.
In 1986, Professor Davis was asked to direct one of the first federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention programs targeting the African American community on a national scale under the auspices of the National Organization of Black County Officials (NOBCO). NOBCO received a grant in 1986 and a cooperative agreement in 1987 to develop a culturally relevant HIV/AIDS education and prevention curriculum targeting school-age youth which would be used to provide direct educational interventions targeting at risk youth and the community-at-large. These two projects were funded from 1986 through 1992 and a satellite project, based upon the Los Angeles model, was replicated in Atlanta, Georgia in 1987, called the Main Project.
In 1988, Professor Davis was recruited by AIDS Hospice Foundation, currently called AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), to help educate the South Central community about the need for a hospice in SPA 6. After a year of community mobilization efforts, a new hospice, called the Carl Bean Hospice, opened in 1991 in South Los Angeles. Professor Davis joined the Board of Directors of AIDS Healthcare Foundation in December 1988. Currently, AIDS Healthcare Foundation is the largest non-profit AIDS Service Organization in the world and currently serves over 870,000 clients globally. AHF currently operates in 39 countries and 15 states and the District of Columbia. For the past three years, Professor Davis has served as Board Chair of AHF.
In 1991, Professor Davis collaborated with the Homeless Outreach Project and El Centro Human Services to develop the first dedicated mobile HIV testing and community outreach project in Los Angeles County. This mobile testing project was so successful, the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services replicated the project and mobile testing became a model for reaching hard-to-reach at risk racial/ethnic minority populations in Los Angeles County. Funding to purchase the mobile van was provided by the Magic Johnson Foundation and Burroughs Wellcome Pharmaceutical Company. In 26 years, the CDU mobile HIV testing and community outreach projects have provided free HIV screening and/or STI services to over 60,000 community residents. Professor Davis was instrumental in advocating for the development of the first community-based HIV/AIDS clinic targeting at risk, low-income HIV positive ethnic minority women in Los Angeles County. This HIV/AIDS early intervention and treatment clinic was opened with Ryan White Care Act funding in 1991 at T.H.E. Clinic in South Central Los Angeles.
In 1993, Professor Davis and two other colleagues from Charles R. Drew University, her mentor Ms. Mary Ashley and Ms. Gloria Vance, formed a non-profit corporation and opened the second residential shelter for HIV positive women and their minor children in South Central Los Angeles. This shelter, called Agape House, was operational for ten years and was licensed by the California State Department of Social Services in 1996 as a Residential Care Facility for the Chronically Ill (RCFCI). This program served over one hundred HIV infected women and their children before closing in October 2003.
In 1991, Professor Davis was contacted by the Gay and Lesbian Adolescent Social Services Center (GLASS) to collaborate on the first mobile primary healthcare project targeting runaway and homeless youth residing on the streets of Hollywood and West Hollywood. This project called the Mobile Health Outreach Project (MoHOP) was funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Blue Cross and Alliance Healthcare Foundation. In over five years of operation, the project provided primary healthcare services to over 5,000 at risk homeless and runaway youth. Initially, this project provided free primary healthcare services to runaway and homeless youth in Hollywood. However, in 1994, the project initiated outreach activities three nights a week at the Avalon Gardens Housing Development in South Central Los Angeles.
In December 1995, Professor Davis traveled to Uganda, East Africa at the invitation of the Anglican Church to make a presentation at the first Women’s and AIDS Conference in Uganda. Professor Davis also traveled to the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women held in Beijing, China in August and September 1996 and made a formal presentation on the “Global Impact of HIV/AIDS on Women”. At the XIII International AIDS Conference held in Durban, South Africa from July 9 through 14, 2000, Professor Davis presented two poster sessions and one community workshop. One poster session highlighted the Mobile Health Outreach Project (MoHOP) and the other poster session and workshop highlighted the Dolls of Hope Project, which Professor Davis developed for World AIDS Day in December 1998. The Dolls of Hope Project involves the exchange of handmade cloth dolls to agencies working with HIV/AIDS affected and/or infected children, youth and women on a local, national and international level. To date, over 6,000 Dolls of Hope have been disseminated in South Africa, Kenya, Uganda, Mozambique, Nigeria, Ghana, Tanzania, Thailand, India, Brazil, Peru, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Cuba and Canada as well as throughout the United States.
In 2000, while in Africa, Professor Davis traveled to five Sub-Saharan African countries facilitating focus groups on the acceptability and social marketing of the Janesway Female Condom, a new female condom which at the time was under development in the United States. At the XIV International AIDS Conference held in Barcelona, Spain July 7 through 12, 2002, Professor Davis presented a poster session entitled, “The Female Panty Condom: Focus Group Testing of A New Female Controlled Method To Reduce The Transmission Of HIV and Other Sexually Transmitted Infections”. Professor Davis and several master doll makers facilitated another Dolls of Hope workshop at the XV International AIDS Conference held in Bangkok, Thailand in July 2004. Professor Davis attended the XX International HIV/AIDS Conference in Durban, South Africa in the summer of 2016 and conducted a Dolls of Hope workshop targeting women from around the world living with HIV/AIDS.
In 2006 and 2007, Professor Davis traveled to Cuba as part of a special project funded by the California Wellness Foundation under the auspices of the Oakland-based- MEDICC program. Professor Davis along with other public health professionals from Los Angeles traveled to Cuba in order to learn about the Cuban healthcare system and identify strategies and/or models for improving health which could be replicated in South Los Angeles. In 2007, Professor Davis traveled to Honduras to facilitate HIV/AIDS education and risk reduction education for the Catholic Church as well as Doll of Hope workshops with at risk clients on the Bay Island of Roatan.
From 2001 to 2006, Professor Davis was a co-investigator with Dr. William Cunningham and Dr. Mitch Wong of the General Medicine Department at UCLA on a HRSA Special Project of National Significance multi-site research project assessing access to care issues for HIV positive racial/ethnic minorities who were not in care. Professor Davis is currently the Principal Investigator on a research study assessing the effect of HIV/AIDS knowledge, alcohol abuse and childhood sexual abuse on depression rates among HIV positive and HIV negative African Americans and Latinos, ages 18 and over, living in South Los Angeles. Professor Davis is also the Principal Investigator on a newly funded NIH AXIS pilot multi-site project assessing PrEP and PEP knowledge among African American men and women.
Professor Davis currently teaches in CDU’s Urban MPH program in the College of Science and Health which was accredited in 2011. Professor Davis enjoys serving as a faculty instructor and mentor for the numerous graduate students who are enrolled in CDU’s Urban MPH Program. Professor Davis also directs the CDU HIV Mobile HIV Testing and Community Outreach Program which provides free rapid HIV screening services targeting racial/ethnic minority populations throughout South Los Angeles. Professor Davis also has mentored several CDU/UCLA medical students as part of their mandatory research thesis projects. Professor Davis’ latest undertaking involved a CDU MPH student driven project regarding the development of a new Farmers’ Market in South Los Angeles working in collaboration with Crenshaw Christian Center’s Vermont Development Corporation. This Farmers’ Market operated from February 2013 through March 2015 on the grounds of Crenshaw Christian Center. Professor Davis currently partners with the Wellington Square Certified Farmers Market in South Los Angeles which is open every Sunday from 9 AM to 1 PM.
On June 1, 2013 at the annual graduation ceremony for the University, Professor Davis received an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters (DHL) degree from Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science in recognition of 30 years of service to the South Los Angeles community. Professor Davis is passionate about her work and has worked proactively to slow the spread of HIV/AIDS among underserved and disenfranchised people of color on a local, national and international basis.