Name: Cornelia E., aka "Connie"

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Bio: Dr. Cornelia E. Davis, MD, MPH, was raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, and she graduated from Gonzaga University. In 1968, she was one of the first black women admitted to the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine. After finishing her pediatric residency at the USC Los Angeles County teaching hospital, a chance opportunity led to the World Health Organization hiring her for their smallpox eradication program in India. Davis returned to the United States in 1977, earned a master of public health degree from the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, and went on to work at the Centers for Disease Control/Atlanta. She battled disease outbreaks in Africa and Asia. Now semiretired, she lives on Lake Chapala, near Guadalajara, Mexico. She currently writes memoirs – starting with her smallpox days- Searching for Sitala Mata.

Posts by Connie:

    Searching for Sitala Mata, Eradication of Smallpox in India

    May 18th, 2017

    In 1975, a female African American doctor journeys to rural India to help stamp out the last vestiges of smallpox on the planet.  Cornelia Davis MD scoured the countryside for the last remnants of the brutal, deadly disease. Connie didn’t allow entrenched sexism, or caste taboos to deter her from her fascinating mission. She tracked smallpox through the Thar desert on camelback and across volatile Indo-Bangladeshi borders. She negotiated with smugglers and fakirs. She met Mother Theresa. She climbed to the base camp of Mount Everest. Finally, her symbolic search for Sitala Mata, the Hindu smallpox goddess, came to a positive conclusion. An international certification team declared smallpox eradicated in India. To this day, smallpox is the only disease that’s been completely wiped out.


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