Posted on: May 31, 2022
Melenda “Mendy” Dionne Jeter was born in Camden, New Jersey on October 7, 1971, to Brenda Wade (Dickerson) Jeter and the late Melvin Leroy Jeter. With a uniquely spelled first name, she was always proud to share that it was a combination of her parents’ first names. A brilliant physician, adoring mother and wife, and passionate lover of life, Mendy embraced hers with love, laughter, and accomplishment.
Raised in Springfield, Virginia, Mendy was gifted intellectually. In fact, she skipped the first grade when she began reading to her kindergarten classmates. In 1989, she graduated from Lake Braddock Secondary School in Burke, VA where she excelled academically and athletically. She was a three-sport athlete playing soccer, track and field, and basketball. She won several awards in track and field including a Virginia state championship in the triple jump. While in high school, she also cultivated her passion for music and science winning awards and competitions in both.
After Lake Braddock, Mendy attended the University of Virginia (UVA) where she graduated with a degree in Psychology and was elected to the Alpha Epsilon Delta Premedical Honor Society. At UVA, she was a peer advisor and active in several organizations including the Korean club. Mendy earned a full scholarship to the University of Virginia Medical School where she graduated at the top of her class and was elected to the Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Society. She was the first African American to complete a residency in Radiation Oncology at Harvard’s Joint Center for Radiation Therapy. During residency, she also earned a Master of Public Health from the T. Chan Harvard School of Public Health. It was during this time that she had a brief career in modeling and was featured in the Bostonian Magazine.
Mendy moved to Houston in 2002 to join the faculty of the prestigious University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center as the first African American woman in Radiation Oncology. It was her dream job and she never wanted another. During her nearly twenty years at MD Anderson, she became a world-renowned expert in Thoracic Radiation Oncology and earned the rank of Professor. She lectured nationally and internationally and published over 60 peer-reviewed articles, book chapters, abstracts, and editorials. Most importantly, she was known as a compassionate and caring clinician having been named a Top Doctor by Leading Physicians of the World and America’s Top Oncologists. She was beloved by her patients and colleagues.
Mendy was a member of several professional organizations including the American Society of Clinical Oncology, Mary Susan Moore Society of African American Women Physicians, Houston Medical Forum, American College of Radiology, National Medical Association, and American Medical Association.
Mendy cherished her role as a mother and a wife. Her relationship with her husband, Garvin Davis, spanned 25 years after they met at a National Medical Fellowship Association research conference in Princeton, NJ. They married on June 23, 2002, sharing a love of friends, food, music, and travel. Their experiences spanned the globe, and Mendy enjoyed various adventures including swimming with sharks without a cage in Hawaii, helicoptering onto a glacier in New Zealand and dancing all night at a traditional wedding in Goa, India, to name a few. Their union was blessed with two daughters, Blair Victoria Davis (16) and Dylan Alexandra Davis (15). She worked hard to give “the girls” a great start in life and to leave them with her best qualities that they will treasure forever.
Mendy was active in many community organizations. She was a legacy member of Jack and Jill of America, Inc., and served as a Lead Teen Sponsor for the Houston chapter. She was an active member of the Wonder Women Lunch Club and served as a Board Member for the University of Houston, Friends of Women’s Studies for seven years. Committed to mentorship, Mendy was a mentor for Emerge and very proud to inspire high school students. Mendy loved the arts and attended operas, symphonies, plays, and musicals. She valued her involvement with the Dacamera Board of Directors, hosting an artist event at their home and chairing the Dacamera gala just last month. She enjoyed being a member of the Coronado Club, Nos Caves Vin, the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, the Houston Museum of Natural Science, and the Houston Health Museum. She was active at the girls’ schools: Presbyterian and St. Johns.
Mendy accepted Jesus Christ at an early age and was baptized at Alfred Street Baptist Church in Alexandria, VA. She lived her life in Christ’s service and the family was a member of Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church. She was kind, loving, extremely generous and always ready to lend a helping hand—a great humanitarian. Many would tell you that to know Mendy was to know an angel on Earth.
Mendy was a fighter and one of the most courageous people you would ever meet. She battled severe Systemic Lupus Erythematous (SLE), an auto-immune disease that attacks healthy tissue, for most of her adult life. Throughout it all, she never complained, always smiled, and laughed when faced with various challenges. She embodied living such that each day was special. Her disease was so severe that she received the extraordinary gift of a double-lung and kidney transplant on May 1, 2012. This gift of life made her and her family fierce proponents of organ donation. In her words, “We give, and we take!”
Mendy died unexpectedly on Thursday, May 5, 2022, leaving a void in the hearts and lives of family and friends near and far. She was preceded in death by her father, Melvin L. Jeter. She leaves to mourn her passing: mother, Brenda “Oma” W. Jeter, husband, Garvin H. Davis, MD, two daughters, Blair V. Davis and Dylan A. Davis, brothers, Leroy W. Jeter (Maria) and Cordell “Cisco” J. Jeter (Sandra), mother-in-law, Elaine “E-meme” Davis, father-in-law, Leroy “LePapa” Davis, Ph.D., brother-in-law, Griffin L. Davis, MD (Deanne), uncles, David S. Jeter, Jr., Charles Richard Dickerson (Dana), aunt, Johnnie Manuel, nieces, Sophia D. Jonatan (Steven), Kimberly B. Jeter (Thomas), McKenzie E. Davis, nephews, Jonathan D. Jeter (Brandy), Cameron J. Davis, five great-nieces and great-nephews who affectionally called her “Mendy the Great”, cousins, extended family members, and friends.
A Celebration of Mendy’s Life was conducted on May 15, 2022. Serving as honorary pallbearers were Leroy Jeter, Charles “Richard” Dickerson, Randall Wright, John Bruce, Cordell “Cisco” Jeter, Griffin L. Davis, Harlan Hicks, Derrick Mitchell, Jonathan Jeter, Dale LaFebvre, Stephen McRae and Anthony Brissett.