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Dr. Ann Davis – Behavioral Health Clinic 25th Anniversary Inside Look

November 15th, 2019     By Boys Town Contributor

Behavior, Boys Town History, Bully, Healing Families, Mental Health, Quality Care, Saving Children, Understanding Behavior

The Boys Town Center for Behavioral Health is celebrating 25 years of service to children and families in the Omaha area.

For a quarter century, the Center has provided life-changing therapy, treatment and specialty services to the emotionally fragile and behaviorally troubled. The Center also has a renowned internship and post-doctoral program, offering unrivaled training, research and clinical opportunities to educate and prepare future psychologists.

To mark this milestone anniversary, the Center is spotlighting some of its former interns and post-doctoral scholars whose careers have been shaped by their Boys Town experience.

We recently sat down with Dr. Ann Davis, a 1998-99 intern, to catch up on her career and reminisce about her internship at the Center. 

Dr. Ann Davis is the Ralph L. Smith Professor of Pediatrics and Director of the Center for Children's Healthy Lifestyles & Nutrition at the University of Kansas Medical Center.

What made you choose to do your internship at the Boys Town Center for Behavioral Health?

Three things brought me to Boys Town. The first was its strong reputation in the psychology community. The second was its Model of care. It's so unique and successful. And finally, the chance to work with Dr. Pat Friman (long-time Center director) was very exciting because his reputation in our field is excellent.

Do you have a favorite memory or moment from your time here?

So many things made an impression. I still remember the first time I walked into a Family Home. The youth all came up and introduced themselves to me, shook my hand and looked me in the eye. I eventually caught on to the fact that the Family-Teachers® were a little farther away and awarding the youth points for their prosocial engagement. That made such an impression because the feedback was so immediate and seemed so natural. It was an eye-opening moment.

How did your internship experience shape your career?

Boys Town gave me an excellent foundation and understanding about how the field of psychology can assist individuals in changing a variety of their behaviors. It also helped me land an excellent post-doctoral fellowship at Cincinnati Children's Hospital in Ohio, which led to my current job.

Much of your work centers around childhood wellness, and you helped found the pediatric obesity program at the University of Kansas Medical Center (KUMC). How did health and nutrition become your professional focus?

In Cincinnati, I got to work with a variety of different medical populations, such as children with cancer, children on dialysis and children dealing with obesity. It was exciting to see how the behavioral skills I learned in graduate school and at Boys Town applied in that setting. When I moved to KUMC, I looked around to see what was needed. There was no pediatric obesity program and, since that is a top issue facing children today, I decided to work in that area.

Are the behavioral problems obese children struggle with similar to those faced by other children?      

At a fundamental level, the children I work with now who have obesity are just like the kids I worked with at Boys Town. They need to change their behaviors, whether it's acting out and not following rules or whether it's being very sedentary and eating unhealthy foods. It all comes back to basic behavior-change principles.

Is there any piece of advice you'd give to parents or something you wish more parents understood as it relates to childhood wellness and weight?

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends certain foundational behaviors that are good for all children. Getting the appropriate amount of sleep and physical activity, eating the right amount of fruits and vegetables, having dinner as a family and keeping TVs and screens out of the bedroom. Those kinds of health-promoting messages are very important for families to hear and adhere to as much as they can.

What lessons did you learn at Boys Town that continue to influence your work with children and families today?

I still bring up the problem-solving methods I learned. Dr. Friman would always push us to come up with at least 10 possible solutions before we started discrediting any of them. I still use that technique with my research team when trying to solve a problem.

 Also, I still think about and learn from the cases I had. Working with those children was a real privilege, and the Boys Town Model® of care is one that continues to influence my work.

Do you have any words of wisdom for those currently interning at the Center, and what would you say to anyone who's interested in applying to the post-doctoral program?

Today's trainees are very savvy – I know they already realize what an excellent place it is to engage their training. There's really no place like it in the country. Dr. Friman and the team's commitment to making sure all the interns received many hours of training each week is impressive and unique. I know people who went off and did their internships elsewhere, and it was sort of sink or swim. Boys Town is a very strong internship site that makes sure you have the tools to be successful, and I'm so grateful for the experience.

Thank you, Dr. Davis!

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