NASW Foundation National Programs
NASW Social Work Pioneers®
Patricia Wood Davis (1935 - )
Pioneering Contributions: Those who have been fortunate enough to know Dr. Patricia Wood Davis throughout her forty-year career have praised her capacity to wed warmth and enthusiasm with a working knowledge of policy, practice and methodology. From start to finish "Dr. Pat," as she is fondly known, has been a leader in the community and an advocate for the disenfranchised. This was true early in her career when she was elected the first female to the school board of Grosse Ille (Detroit Area), and it remained true when she served as Director of Medical Social Services for the Louisiana State Office of Public Health and of the Department of Health and Hospitals for close to a decade. Over the years she has been a strong advocate for the plight of women, campaigning against such injustices as domestic violence, poor access to healthcare, and inequality in the workforce. As a graduate student at the University of Michigan, Davis even produced a play that explored women as an oppressed group that was presented in several states. She has been an educator at five different institutions of higher learning including Tulane University in New Orleans, LA where she was an associate Professor for seventeen years and at the University of Southern Mississippi.
Professional Career: The four decade long career of Dr. Patricia Wood Davis began with a position teaching English at Trenton High School in Trenton Michigan right out of college. While studying for her first Master’s Degree in the field of English Literature, as a Teaching Fellow at Eastern Michigan, she served as an Instructor of English Composition. Davis would go on to hold many different positions as an educator, but it was through her own personal hunger for knowledge that the focus of her career would turn toward social work. After earning her MSW degree at the University of Michigan, Davis worked as a School Social Worker with the Special Education Department for the Lenawee County Intermediate School District for four years. The love for Social Work that she developed led her to pursue teaching at the college level as an Adjunct Instructor for the Social Work Department at Adrian College and for the Women’s Program at Siena Heights College in Adrian, MI. Additionally, while she was wearing these professional hats, Davis was also serving as the Field Work Supervisor for the University of Michigan’s Graduate School of Social Work from 1974-77. Dr. Davis’ post-doctoral career soared to new heights in 1983-2000 at Tulane University where she first held the position of Associate Professor of Clinical Pediatrics in Social Work and then as Associate Professor for the University’s School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine. Upon receiving her Masters of Public Health from Tulane University, Patricia Wood Davis held the position of Director of Medical Social Services for the Louisiana State Office of Public Health and of the Department of Health and Hospitals for nine years. In 2001, after relocating to Mississippi, Dr. Davis brought her expertise and wisdom to the University of Southern Mississippi on the Gulf Coast Campus where she joined the faculty as Assistant Professor. Her wisdom, experience as an educator, and professional skills have been demonstrated at numerous professional conferences and workshops and publications in several professional journals.
Biographical Information: Davis was born October 25th, 1935 in Salisbury, North Carolina. It was there that she completed her Bachelor’s Degree in English at the Women’s College of the University of North Carolina, Greensboro. Family oriented as well as being a professionally and civically minded woman, Davis managed to maintain balance in her life while pursuing and completing four graduate degrees. First she earned her Master’s in English Literature from Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti in 1960; then she would receive her Master’s of Social Work from the University of Michigan Ann Arbor in 1973; after that Davis completed her PhD at New Orleans, Louisiana’s Tulane University, Graduate School of Social Work in 1980; finally, in 1983, she graduated with a Master’s of Public Health from the Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine. As a capstone to her professional education and development, “Dr. Pat” studied and passed her examinations to receive her LCSW alongside her daughter. In retirement, Patricia still remains civically involved as a board member for the Gulf Coast Women’s Center, Biloxi, MS; the Open Doors Continuum of Care for the Homeless; IDEA; and the Gulf Coast Program Unit of the MS Chapter of NASW.
Significant Achievements and Awards: Among many educational and professional triumphs, Patricia Wood Davis was also formally recognized with the following awards: 1) Elected to the Delta Omega Honorary Public Health Society (1993); 2) Mayor of New Orleans’ Citizen of Merit Award for Contributions to Domestic Violence Prevention (1995); 3) Dorothy Schenthal Leadership Award, NASW, New Orleans Region (1995).