Emily Jean Davidson ’81
Emily is a developmental pediatrician and Director of Inpatient Services at Children’s Hospital. She is married and a mother of two.
What have you done with yourself since graduation?
I went to Fieldston for high school then Harvard for undergraduate years. I received my M.D. at Yale School of Medicine.
At Harvard, I majored in History and Science and did my thesis on “Monsters in Science: Cultural and Scientific Influences on the Study of Monsters in 17th- and 18th-Century England,” graduating cum laude. I also played flute and piccolo in the Wind Ensemble and Marching Band and worked in volunteer programs including teaching college preparation skills to kids at an inner-city high school in Boston.
While at Yale, I took an extra year to travel and do research culminating in my medical school thesis, “Caring for the Malformed Child: A Cross-Cultural and Historical Study.” After graduating in 1994, I moved back to Boston to begin an internship in pediatrics at Children’s Hospital Boston where I then went on to do fellowship training in developmental behavioral pediatrics, completing training in 2000. I also obtained an MPH from the Harvard School of Public Health.
I currently serve as the Director of Inpatient Services for the Complex Care Service at Children’s Hospital Boston, working with children with complex medical needs and developmental disabilities. I am also medical director for the Special Kids, Special Care program that provides intensive case management and clinical care for children with complex needs in foster care. I work as a developmental pediatrician in the Children’s Hospital Down Syndrome Program and also do clinical research on improving the quality of life and community experience for children with complex medical and developmental needs.
How did your education at C&C shape the way you look at the world and the role you play in it?
My C&C education shaped my outlook in many ways. I think it taught a fundamental appreciation for what it means to be part of a community. We almost took for granted the deep understanding we had of one another’s strengths and weaknesses. There was an acceptance for each person and a responsibility for helping one another.
The emphasis on research and primary sources and answering questions that interest you in some personal way helped shape my approach to my theses in college and medical school and also to my current clinical research. As a student at City and Country, I always felt as if my ideas were valuable and worthwhile and I felt I could make a difference.
Do you consider yourself an innovator? A problem solver? A good citizen?
I don’t know whether I would overall categorize myself as an innovator, but I do see myself as a problem solver and I do consider whether the status quo makes sense and question it if it does not. I definitely see myself as a good citizen and being a good citizen is important to me. Contributing to the community by helping others is a central motivation and reward of my work.
How did City and Country help define your notion of a job?
C&C gave me an appreciation from a very early age that each person has a job to do and that doing these jobs keeps the community functioning well. Delivering the mail, going out to buy paint for the Store, creating prints, helping with the 4s – I have very distinct memories of all of these jobs. The Jobs Program underscored the importance of working together: How would we write up that sales slip? Which route would be fastest walking to the hardware store to get supplies? At the same time, it gave a great sense of personal responsibility for getting the job done and sense of satisfaction with the accomplishment.
In what ways do you feel your education continues to this day?
I am in a profession that demands life-long learning and C&C set me up to be a life-long learner. C&C ingrained in me the understanding that one person who makes up her mind to do something can actually make a difference.
Have there been any interesting moments (big or small) in your adult life when you felt your time at City and Country affected a decision you made?
I met my husband through my great friend from C&C, Natasha Speer. I think his sense of playfulness, creativity, humor and self-directedness at work fit very well for the spouse of a C&C grad.
What is your strongest memory of a learning experience at City and Country?
In the 10s, we built an ancient Egyptian tomb in the classroom. Some of us went out to grocery stores to get used cardboard boxes to create the structure (which ultimately took up about one-third of our room). Two boys learned about booby traps in tombs. A few kids learned to bake ancient Egyptian bread. All of us visited the museum and sketched the mummies and hieroglyphics we saw there. We incorporated those hieroglyphics into murals for the tomb, and a few of us created a papier-mâché mummy and mask. While there was not a set lesson plan on “studying ancient Egypt,” we learned an incredible amount in a way that was personal and compelling.
I always tell this story about the tomb because it was such a striking example of child-led learning. But I have so many memories of learning experiences.
I also remember the play of the Iliad that we put on in the 12s. We made the Trojan horse out of cardboard boxes; we had togas and flowers in our hair for the goddesses. The bars in the gym served as the sky where the gods and goddesses lived. I played Aphrodite. I still remember my line at the end of the play: “But I have the golden apple!”
Is there anything else you’d like to add or explain about your experience at City and Country?
C&C was like an extended family for me. I felt completely accepted there by the teachers and by the other children. I loved to go to school and was sad when school was closed or I was sick and couldn’t go. I was utterly shocked when I got to high school and there were people who would not like you without any reason at all and was also surprised by the competitiveness.
However, I was completely academically prepared for a very competitive high school. I had the tools that I needed to smoothly make the transition. In the summer between finishing C&C and starting Fieldston, I independently did the work necessary so that I could join the advanced math track in 9th grade. And when being in the jazz band conflicted with physics, I applied to take physics as an independent study, attending two classes a week and making up the work from the other two classes.
The C&C teachers had high expectations for children, but also encouraged joy in the process of children being children. They inspired and fostered the love of learning and the sense of community. Learning was always interesting and exciting and the spirit of doing something important made even difficult tasks go along with ease.