APA Names Davis First Chief Diversity Officer

Posted: May 6, 2019

Health Equity and Community Health Expert to Lead Transformational Agenda



WASHINGTON – The American Psychological Association has named Dawnavan S. Davis, PhD, as its first chief diversity officer, charged with leading a transformational agenda to infuse equity, diversity and inclusion throughout the association’s work. This new position will build upon and coordinate the association’s longstanding and more recent efforts to achieve this objective based upon a broad definition of human diversity.

Davis brings both research and health care management experience in her more than 20 years of work to promote equity, diversity and inclusion. Most recently, she spent three years as assistant vice president of community health at MedStar Health in Columbia, Maryland. In that post, she launched initiatives focused on health disparities, leadership/governance diversity and cultural competency, among other priorities.

“For equity, diversity and inclusion initiatives to be successful, they must be a shared responsibility, integrated throughout an organization’s work and institutionalized,” said APA CEO Arthur C. Evans Jr., PhD. “Dr. Davis’s strong organizational skills in equity, diversity and inclusion will be a great asset in helping us to achieve these critical goals. We are very fortunate to have her join APA in this groundbreaking role.”

Davis said she is enthusiastic about joining APA in this new role.

“I am honored to be given the opportunity to expand and build upon APA’s work in these areas,” she said. “I look forward to collaborating with staff, leadership and external stakeholders to develop innovative strategies and initiatives to achieve APA’s equity, diversity and inclusion goals.”

Earlier in her career, Davis spent three years at the University of Chicago Division of Biological Sciences, where she was director of community-based research and an assistant professor of medicine. In this role, she was invited to participate on grant review panels for the National Institutes of Health, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Kellogg Foundation. She then served as director of health promotions at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City, developing a new department and serving as the senior executive charged with building the organization’s diversity and inclusion strategy. In her most recent position at MedStar Health, Davis developed the first enterprise-wide diversity and inclusion strategic plan, securing more than $2 million in funding to support health equity, diversity and inclusion priorities and programs. 

Davis holds a PhD in medical psychology from the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (as a civilian) and an MS in community health education from Towson University. Her publications focus on evidence-based obesity prevention and intervention programs for African American children and understanding their perceptions of body image.

APA’s chief diversity officer will help to guide, integrate, monitor and evaluate diversity-related activities across the association in keeping with APA’s strategic priorities, policies and guidelines. In so doing, she will lead efforts to enhance the capability of staff, governance and members to interact in culturally responsive ways. She will also work closely with APA’s governance groups and divisions to develop systematic, coordinated strategies to orient and educate their members and to foster an inclusive and welcoming association climate. As part of her new role, Davis will likewise engage with key external organizations and other stakeholders to advance the association’s equity, diversity and inclusion goals.

The position reports directly to the CEO and serves on the association’s Executive Management Group.