He was called “Dr. Davis” by everyone but his patients. They called him “Dr. Harry.” Virtually every child in Portland knew Dr. Harry because for many years he vaccinated the entire fifth grade at the Portland public schools. If they did not see him at school, they might have seen him volunteering at the City of Portland's hygiene clinic, the Female Orphans Home, or they might have been one of his private practice patients.
One of six children, he was the first in his family to be born in America. Harry grew up in Portland, then went to Tufts College and graduated from its medical school in 1919.
He trained in pediatrics, a relatively new medical field at the time. After residency, he returned to Portland to establish his own practice, setting up an office on Congress Street near the Queen 's Hospital (which was later renamed Mercy Hospital). When a new Mercy Hospital opened on State Street in 1943, Dr. Davis moved his office nearby and became the Chief of Pediatric Services, a position he held until his death.
He worked seven days a week and loved every minute of it. Even in his leisure he was working. Most Fridays he went to the movies at State Theater with his wife and daughter. His nurses had instructions to call the ticket booth in the event a patient needed to see him. We are told that he never saw a movie to its conclusion.
Fittingly, Harry Davis was at work on the last day of his life, when he suffered a fatal heart attack, his hands in a baby’s incubator.
Dr. Davis and Sister Annunciata - An Enduring Partnership
Sister Annunciata was the administrator of Mercy hospital from 1934 to 1967. Barely five feet tall, she ruled the hospital with a firm hand, leavened with humor.
Dr. Harry delighted in telling stories about Sister Annunciata. Some stories involved someone, usually a doctor, claiming that a request of hers was impossible to perform. “Oh, yes it can, yes it can” was her refrain, often delivered with a laugh. She was a master at turning the impossible into the everyday. She was also a master at diffusing anger. If a doctor came into her office complaining, he invariably left smiling.
Harry Davis and this chief administrator formed a life-long bond and one can easily imagine why: They both loved Mercy, its kindness and generosity but also its professionalism. They were bound by their devotion to Mercy’s patients. And Dr. Harry probably felt indebted to Mercy and Sister Annunciata because they invited him to practice medicine at a time when many other hospitals were not as open to Jewish doctors.
As noted in Sister Annunciata’s diary (reproduced nearby), “65 nurses and many staff doctors” went to Dr. Davis’s funeral on February 14, 1963, in addition to a number of Mercy’s Sisters, who were granted “special permission from the Chancery” to attend the service.