Dr. Anne Davis

Dr. Davis was scheduled to receive the Will Ross Medal at the American Lung Association Leadership Conference this May. The Will Ross Medal is one of the highest annual honors that the American Lung Association bestows upon those who make outstanding contributions in the fields of interest to the Association. This Medal recognizes volunteers who have served at the National level and whose leadership, character and dedication to the American Lung Association will stand out or be an example to all who serve the Lung Association.

Anne Davis Wichern, M.D., a quiet but determined pioneer in chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases at Bellevue Hospital for more than fifty years, died on March 9, 2003 at the age of 78. As an associate professor of medicine for more than 35 years at NYU School of Medicine The Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons she organized one of the first emphysema clinics in the country.

Dr. Davis Graduated from Wellesley College in 1945 and was one of three women in her graduating class at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in 1949. Her post-graduate training was in Internal Medicine and Pulmonary Disease in the Columbia Division at Bellevue Hospital with the help of an American Trudeau Society Fellowship.

Dr. Davis's professional interests included chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases and the role of smoking, air pollution, infection and other factors on the course and prognosis of these diseases. In the 1950's, realizing that patients with COPD were often overlooked and that they had special needs that were often neglected in a busy medical clinic, Dr. Davis organized one of the first "Emphysema" clinics in the country to study and treat these patients systematically, and to provide the services needed to solve their multiple medical, social and economic problems. As director of the Bellevue Chest Clinic, she oversaw more than 6,000 patient visits a year.

Her experiences at Bellevue and exposure to such outstanding scholars and pioneers as Drs. J. Burns Amberson, Edith Lincoln, and Nobel prize-winning cardiopulmonary physiologists Dickinson W. Richards and Andre Cournand, stimulated her interest in pulmonary disease from her medical school days. With their encouragement she subsequently became involved in Thoracic Society and Lung Association activities at the local, state and national levels and presented her first paper at the American Thoracic Society (ATS) Annual Meeting in 1958. During the 1970's she served successively as President of the NY State Thoracic Society (the first woman to hold the post), President of the NY City Lung Association, and of the Eastern Section of the ATS. She served the American Thoracic Society as President in 1980-81 and the American Lung Association as President in 1989-90.

Dr. Davis volunteered for the ALA and ATS in many other capacities at the local, state and national levels, serving on their Boards, chairing committees, and as a representative or advisor to other organizations such as the FDA, NIAID, NIOSH and community groups with compatible lung disease goals. Because of her experience at Bellevue where she was diagnosed with TB while interning there, she became very interested in the disease. It was before drug therapy was available and strict bed-rest, which consisted of lying flat on one's back for eight months was the treatment. She spent eight months recuperating at Bellevue and an additional eight more months at Trudeau Sanitarium in Saranac Lake, postponing her internship. When TB resurged as a major public health threat in the late 80's and early 90's she served on TB taskforces locally and nationally and testified for the NYC Department of Health when the advisability of locked wards resurfaced. She was an advocate for the ATS and ALA for research and public health funding and testified nationally and before the NY City Council on smoking related and air pollution issues. Over the past 50 years she participated in numerous professional education programs, as well as TV, radio and print media interviews to help the public better understand the importance of lung diseases. She also helped to launch the ALA/ATS collaborative smoking cessation project and was the principal investigator. Many of her volunteer activities have been directed to prevention, better control and quality of care for patients with these problems, through research, patient and professional education and public advocacy.

Anne Davis' extra-curricular activities with the American Lung Association and the American Thoracic Society helped to satisfy her missionary spirit and to extend her influence far beyond her own patients, laboratory or institution and ultimately to make a positive difference in more people's lives. They gave her a chance to visit in a medical capacity other countries, including China. They permitted her to meet many other dedicated people, with similar goals, throughout the United States and abroad, to have a greater understanding of federal government agencies and processes, finance and budgets, fund raising techniques, legal and personnel matters, how to speak and how to deal with the media. She served on the Coal Mine Health Research Advisory Council and went down in a coal mine. She chaired the Pulmonary-Allergy Drugs Committee of the FDA at a time when there was heated political controversy about certain brochodilator drugs being recommended for over the counter sale. She testified before congress and before the U.S. Trade Representative criticizing the government's stance regarding tobacco companies' pushing of their lethal products in Thailand. She met with and participated in conferences with several of the Surgeons General including Dr. Luther Terry, Mr. Califano, Dr. Koop and Dr. Sullivan. She attended a Black Caucus meeting in Washington with Jesse Jackson and had the pleasure of meeting President and Mrs. Bush and first dog Millie at the White House.

In 1980, Dr. Davis, in a sea of masculine heads, was on the cover of New York Magazine heralding the City's top doctors. Dr. Davis received a Wellesley College Distinguished Alumnae Award in 1992 and the Life and Breath Award of the NY Lung Association in 1994.

On the Board of Directors of ABMAC, Stonywald and the Berwick Boys Foundation a non-profit organization benefiting teenage boys co-founded by her husband, Dr. Wichern.

Anne Davis Wichern was the daughter of Chester and Elizabeth Davis of Rahway NJ. Her father was a Presbyterian minister and her mother an artist and a writer. Being a Presbyterian minister's daughter gave Anne Davis a wide-eyed exposure over Sunday dinners to many visiting missionaries with their tales of faraway places. This perhaps is what sparked her interest in travel. Her travel took her to China twice on a medical exchange program, she followed the silk route, visited Taiwan, Italy and South Africa and took a Barge trip on a river in France. Anne Davis was very active in the Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church. She enjoyed spending time with her family and friends, sailing, hiking, visiting Dyer Island and Vermont, painting and listening to music.

Anne Davis Wichern was also a loving wife and mother and is survived by her husband, Walter, also a well-respected physician, and their two children Adam and Logan.