ASU alumna dedicates long career to helping children thrive

By

Parker Shea

Arizona State University alumna DeAnn Davies always wanted to be a pediatrician, but gaining more insight into the profession lead her down a different path. 

When she was a freshman, she never expected to find herself training pediatricians, managing large-scale hospital programs and working for the betterment of children’s lives across the state of Arizona.

“I had really enjoyed the psychology, child development and neuropsych courses,” said Davies. “[But] my adviser told me I didn’t need to take those courses beyond my sophomore year because, to be a pediatrician, you really don’t have to know child development or psychology. And I was so appalled! My heart really wasn’t into being a pediatrician anymore.”

Davies said the profession, when she was going to school, didn’t value that kind of knowledge as much as it should have. Her adviser told her what she needed to hear.

“Someone was honest with me and told me the reality. And that helped me with insight into what I really wanted to do,” Davies said. She went on to say she is forever grateful for getting that dose of reality because it shifted her in the right direction: child psychology.

Davies switched her major to psychology and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from ASU in 1994. Then she earned a Master of Science in counseling psychology from Capella University.

After graduating from ASU, Davies worked with children who had developmental disabilities. She became vice president of programs at Easterseals, a nonprofit organization that assists people and families living with disabilities. She also worked with another nonprofit that helped Native Americans in need throughout the Western United States.

After settling down in north Scottsdale with her husband, Davies had the opportunity to apply the passions she discovered while at ASU.

“I received a phone call from Phoenix Children’s Hospital. They were bringing on a new program … and they were going to put a child development specialist in with the physician,” she said. “Given what I told you about ASU, I was like, ‘Oh wow! Somebody really understands child development should be in pediatrics!’”

The initiative became HealthySteps, a primary-care program that aids child development and effective parenting. Davies took the job, started the program at the Phoenix Children’s Hospital and became the first HealthySteps specialist in Arizona.

“I trained pediatricians as they were in their residency; I trained them in child development,” she said. “So that was pretty fabulous: I had been told [child] development wasn’t important in pediatrics nor was child psychology, and here I am teaching pediatric residents.”

Davies left Phoenix Children’s Hospital after a decade. She consulted with hospitals that wanted HealthySteps as she was a designated trainer by the national office. She helped set up the program in hospitals all over the state of Arizona.

These days, Davies works for Summit Health Care in Show Low, Arizona. She secured the hospital’s very first grant six years ago and was chosen to help run the HealthySteps program.

Davies was also invited to be on the Department of Psychology Alumni Leadership Council at ASU. She said she’s happy to give back to the university because of how grateful she is for the guidance and education she received as a student.

“I did not go to college for a job. I went to ASU for my personal fulfillment,” she said. “My personal goals were nurtured at ASU … [and] I felt very proud of what I had accomplished. Of course there’s loyalty to ASU for helping me realize my dream. When I left ASU, I was a Sun Devil for life.”