March 2, 2017 | Ambassador Ruth A. Davis traveled the world as a U.S. diplomat during her 40 years with the U.S. Foreign Service.
But when she learned she had a relapse of multiple myeloma, a cancer of plasma cells in the blood, she headed to Arkansas and the UAMS Myeloma Center.
“I’ve often had people ask me, ‘Why don’t you go somewhere in the area, closer to home.’ I tell them, ‘Listen. This is a question of my life and I will go where the best treatment is available,’” she said recently on a visit to UAMS.
Davis, who lives in Washington D.C., has been receiving treatment from UAMS for a decade now. She was diagnosed with multiple myeloma in 2000 and was told she would live three years. Davis decided to come to UAMS after a friend recommended it to her.
“My experience with UAMS has been wonderful,” Davis said. “It has exceeded my expectations. The staff is accommodating. There is a community that has been developed to assist the patients of UAMS. They’re welcoming and competent. It gives me the confidence I need to proceed with fighting this disease.”
A trailblazer throughout her 40 years with the Foreign Service, Davis says she enjoyed every minute of it. She was the first African-American director of the U.S. Foreign Service Institute, and the first African-American woman to be director general of the Foreign Service. In 2016 she became the first African-American to receive the American Foreign Service Association’s Lifetime Contribution to American Diplomacy Award.
Davis has led a colorful life and proudly adds, with a smile, that she is an official Arkansas Traveler – a designation bestowed upon her by the governor. She’s usually accompanied by her sister Eugenia Davis-Clements, her caregiver and a former physician. The two women love meeting new people and are rarely seen without a smile or encouraging word.
While Davis says having multiple myeloma and going through treatments has slowed her down some, she refuses to let it stop her. In November, she traveled to Europe twice: to Brussels to chair the conference of the International Women’s Entrepreneurial Challenge and then to Vienna for the 50th anniversary of the United Nations Development Organization.
Davis is under the care of Frits van Rhee, M.D., Ph.D., director of developmental and translational medicine at the UAMS Myeloma Center.
“I feel that I get the individual attention that I need. I’m not just a case study. I’m a patient with a real need and he is responsive to that. He’s one of the best in the business so I’m delighted to be a patient of Dr. van Rhee.”
Established in 1989, the Myeloma Center was the first center in the world devoted exclusively to research and clinical care of multiple myeloma and related disorders. Patients have come to the Myeloma Center from every state and more than 50 countries.