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Giving gifted students the boost they need

School of Education advisory council member Lisa Egbuonu-Davis is passionate about narrowing the excellence gap, and she’s investing in Hopkins faculty to make that happen
Posted April 12, 2017

Lisa Egbuonu-Davis, MD (Med '83), MPH (SPH '83), has spent much of her adult life advocating for gifted students from disadvantaged backgrounds. She sees the reason each morning when she looks in the mirror.

"I was one of those kids who didn't grow up with a lot of money, but I had really strong skills in mathematics and science," says the former university trustee. Teachers in her local public schools on Long Island, New York, recognized and nurtured her talent from an early age, giving her opportunities to excel that are not available to many socioeconomically challenged students. She wants to help provide that kind of environment for more students through her service on the School of Education's National Advisory Council and gifts to support Jonathan Plucker, the Julian C. Stanley Professor for Talent Development in the Center for Talented Youth (CTY).

"People need to see the excellence gap as an area of public need," Egbuonu-Davis says, noting that even as people of color and those from lower economic brackets represent growing portions of our society, the pipeline for developing people to succeed at the highest levels — future physicians, PhDs, and corporate leaders — is dwindling. "Focusing only on basic competency means that there won't be another generation of people like me, who come from these backgrounds. That isn't good for our country."

Egbuonu-Davis, currently the vice president of global patient centered outcomes and solutions for the pharmaceutical firm Sanofi, has advised previous School of Education deans on their STEM education-related programs and collaborated with a CTY and School of Education faculty member on a study on the determinants of gifted students. But few Hopkins faculty have energized her more than Plucker, a nationally recognized education policy expert jointly appointed in the School of Education.

"He can elevate the excellence gap conversation from analysis, which we've been doing as a field for 30 years, to solutions," she says. "Dr. Plucker will be able to get interventions running, tested, improved, and — I hope — adopted."

"Lisa has a mindset that equity and excellence are important; they're not mutually exclusive. "
Jonathan Plucker

The two met for the first time on Hopkins' Homewood campus last summer, enjoying a spirited conversation about national policy challenges and how Plucker's recent work could lead to meaningful action. As impressed as Egbuonu-Davis is with Plucker's credentials, he's just as enthusiastic about her dedication to the focus of his research.

"Lisa has a mindset that equity and excellence are important; they're not mutually exclusive, and as simple as that sounds, most people in this country see those concepts as 'either-or,'" Plucker says. "She's a great example, in her own life and her career, of how you don't have to pick just one. Having her support means a lot to our work, and we're grateful to have the assistance of such an inspiring leader."

A loyal alumna of the School of Medicine and the Bloomberg School of Public Health, Egbuonu-Davis has given generously to both of her alma maters. She's pleased now to channel her personal passion into a philanthropic purpose through her support for Plucker.

"Making a gift is the best way to leverage the strengths of this institution to benefit the causes that matter most to you," she says.

To learn more about how you can support Plucker's work and other philanthropic opportunities, please contact Margaret Walsh, CTY's senior director of development, or Michele Ewing, associate dean for development and external affairs for the School of Education.