Welcome to the ATS Fellow Spotlight Page!
On this page, we will highlight profiles of different Fellows on a regular basis.
This month features Dr. Myrtle Davis.
Myrtle Davis, DVM, PhD, ATS
Myrtle Davis is a classic science nerd – of the best kind. As a young woman with an eye on a career as a veterinarian, she also showed great interest and promise in chemistry and mathematics. And so the struggle began: would her life’s work be with healing animals or tackling the tough problems in science? Her nurturing soul called her to be a vet, but her love of chemistry and math drew her to the laboratory.
Opportunity and people helped Myrtle come to grips with what she would ultimately do. While completing her degree in chemistry and mathematics at Tuskegee University, Myrtle had an opportunity to do an internship at Bell Laboratories and while there fully discovered the intellectual stimulation of working on challenging projects. “I loved the THINKING,” she said to me with the characteristic passion and verve that is so Myrtle. “And I loved to see a problem clearly and go after solutions to solve that problem.” Her very first publication was based on that work.
Some said that she should be a chemical engineer, but Myrtle recoiled at the idea because still, in the back of her mind, was that strong draw to be a vet. So she enrolled in vet school at Tuskegee, but missed the stimulation and challenge of working on tough scientific problems. Instead of the typical path of working in Veterinary Clinics each summer, she completed summer research internships at Norwich Pharmaceuticals and Proctor and Gamble. Making the pivot towards a research career even more attractive. While in vet school, Myrtle also had the good fortune of getting the sage advise of Dr. Earl Dixon, professor of physiology. He told her to stay in vet school and blend her love of science with the clinical knowledge afforded by Vet Med and seek a career in biomedical research. I asked Myrtle if Dr. Dixon was a mentor to her. “Absolutely,” she responded, “but so very much more. He was always in my corner, helping me with decisions and importantly, supporting my choice to pursue research instead of clinical practice. He encouraged me to do exactly what I am doing today.”
So, with her strong background in chemistry and math, together with a broad base of pathology and physiology from vet school, Myrtle set her sights on toxicological research, adding to her DVM from Tuskegee with a PhD in toxicology from the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana and a Post Doc at the University of Maryland, School of Medicine.
Myrtle is honored to be a Fellow of the Academy of Toxicological Sciences. “It’s not a test. You don’t qualify for ATS by showing what you know. You get invited because of what you’ve done.” As an author and editor of many scientific publications, Myrtle has certainly set a high bar for achievement. Moreover, Myrtle has been for so many of us that person Dr. Dixon was to her: more than a mentor and someone you can count on to be in your corner. The ATS is honored to have Myrtle as a member.