The path to neurosurgery | UMD News Center

Dr. Matt Davies still remembers when he decided to enter the medical field. He was 13, it was early in the morning, and he was visiting his best friend’s father, Dennis.

Davies had come to know Dennis well over the years. He was a family man and avid weightlifter. He was larger than life. However, the person sitting across from Davies that morning no longer looked like the mountain of a man Davies once knew. Dennis was now tall, thin and had pancreatic cancer.

Davies often visited Dennis after his diagnosis. For months, the two would spend their mornings talking to each other. During one of their conversations, Dennis said something that would change Davies’ life forever: “Matt, you must be a doctor.”

Today, Davies practices neurosurgery at Orthopedic Associates of Duluth, a few miles from where he heard those words. His journey, however, would be anything but short.

Find your calling

In 2004, Davies enrolled at UMD as a biology major. While he took time off for college rugby and summer jobs, academics were his priority. In his sophomore year, Davies decided he was ready for the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT).

“I was a cocky sophomore,” Davies recalled, “I had done all the prerequisites, so I thought I was clearly capable of doing it.” Unfortunately, his score did not meet his expectations. He had to recalibrate.

The next time he took the MCAT, Davies was ready. His improved score gave him many opportunities for medical school. After graduating summa cum laude from UMD, he landed at the University of Vermont College of Medicine.

Davies found solace in the scenic landscapes and changing seasons of Burlington, Vermont. In many ways, it reminded him of Duluth. “But also, it was different and it was away from home,” Davies said. He graduated in 2013.

Roller coaster in Dallas

The next step was residency. Medical residency programs provide in-depth hands-on training for physicians who have just graduated from medical school. “I wanted to go somewhere completely culturally shocking,” Davies said, “somewhere where I could have a crazy experience that I wouldn’t have anywhere else.”

Davies chose to spend his residency at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. Over the next seven years, Davies trained at UTSW, Parkland Memorial Hospital, North Texas VA, and Dallas Children’s Medical Center.

His time at Parkland Memorial was particularly difficult. It is the primary hospital of the Parkland Health & Hospital System and houses the busiest emergency room in the United States. When Davies arrived they were expanding to keep up with demand.

Two new hospitals were built between 2010 and 2015. This was not only a colossal feat from a construction point of view, but also from a human point of view. “No one really thinks about how complicated it can be to move a thousand patients from one building to another.”

Davies worked long hours at Parkland to meet patient needs. As a neurosurgeon, he wanted to make sure people got the care they needed.

Despite the challenges of working in such a large hospital, Davies does not regret her choice. “I wanted to be able to come out of this training and say that I can literally handle anything.”

After seven years in Dallas, Davies completed his residency in neurological surgery. He also completed his postdoctoral training in spinal oncology and spinal deformity.

full circle

In 2020, a job opportunity brought Davies back to Duluth. He joined the surgery department of Orthopedic Associates, becoming the city’s first private neurosurgeon.

Davies specializes in fusion of the sacroiliac joint, as well as replacement of cervical and lumbar discs. In addition to serving the Duluth community, Davies also treats patients in Hibbing and Grand Rapids.

Moving to Duluth had an added benefit for Davies. Her brother, Dr. Chris Davies, works minutes away at the Lakewalk Surgery Center as an anesthesiologist. He also specializes in pain management.

Over the past two years, the Davies brothers have built a professional relationship that they say is invaluable. They regularly refer patients to each other, a process streamlined by their family connection.

“I couldn’t imagine a better place to work,” Davies said. Not only does he appreciate the resources that his work provides him, but also the time. “I can do a lot of good for a lot of people, but I can also recharge myself and be there for my family.” Of course, he has to wake up at 4 a.m. for that to happen.

The first time Davies set foot at Orthopedic Associates was as an injured rugby player. More than a decade later, Davies is back in that same building. Only now it goes by Doctor.

A story about Matt’s brother, Chris Davies, is forthcoming.

About UMDs Bachelor’s Program in Biology

This story was written by Jack Wiedner, a UMD student majoring in journalism and political science. Jack works with Cheryl Reitan in college marketing and public relations.

Comments are closed.