Dr. Matt Davies - A Duluth Neurosurgeon Focused on Faith and Family
Dr. Matt Davies has accomplished much in his 36 years. He and his wife, Athena, have been married for ten years, and have two young children: Madilyn (5), and Alexander (3).
Davies has been employed at Duluth-based Orthopaedic Associates since 2020. Here, he is both a neurosurgeon and a partner at the firm.
Davies is also a man of deep faith. He begins each day by reading his Bible and setting the intention to be a good husband, father, and surgeon.
“I get up at 4 am every day. That’s the only quiet time in my life,” Davies said with a laugh.
“I start my day by reading the Bible. That’s foundational to me. Then, I work out and I’m out the door by 6 am.” Davies continues until the work is done; this can be as early as 3 pm or as late as 10 pm.
With his talent and abilities, Dr. Davies could practice medicine just about anywhere. However, he has chosen to plant roots in Duluth.
Denfeld Success Story
Davies was born in Hibbing, and has one sibling; an older brother, Chris. His father, Chuck, worked for the State of Minnesota, and his mother, Cindy, worked at Target. The family moved to Duluth when Matt was two after his father received a job offer here.
Davies excelled in both athletics and academics from a young age. He played football and basketball for the Denfeld Hunters, and proudly represented Denfeld as a team member in the 2004 state basketball tournament.
Davies earned the prestigious Hunt Scholarship, due to his success on the playing field and in the classroom. This scholarship provided a full ride to the University of Minnesota-Duluth (UMD).
Davies shared his reasons for becoming a surgeon. “When I was 13, my best friend, Ben Johnson’s, dad, Dennis Johnson, was diagnosed with cancer. He was like a second father figure to me. Dennis was a weight lifter and this mountain of a man. I watched him become a smaller version of himself as he got sicker.
“One day, Dennis told me, ‘You need to be a doctor,’ and that just stuck with me. I valued his opinion immensely, and I had always had an interest in science.”
Unfortunately, Dennis ultimately succumbed to his illness. However, Dr. Davies’ work is no doubt a significant part of Dennis’ legacy.
And, why neurosurgery? “I’ve always loved using my hands,” he explained. “And I like fixing things. Maybe it partially comes from my athleticism. And academically, I love the brain, the spine, and neuroscience.”
But neurosurgery wasn’t even on Dr. Davies’ radar until his wife, Athena, mentioned it. “Athena pointed it out to me and suggested that’s what I should do. At that point, I hadn’t even considered it.”
Davies ultimately committed to pursuing neurosurgery in his 3rd year of medical school.
As noted, Davies attended UMD, where he earned an undergraduate degree in cell and molecular biology with a minor in chemistry and psychology. His brother, Chris, was also pursuing medicine; interestingly, the two were college roommates and took many of the same courses.
During college, Davies played rugby for UMD, and worked some interesting part-time jobs. Among them, he was a bartender for Mr. D’s, Ace’s, and the Duluth Curling Club. He coached 9th grade Denfeld football. And he and Chris both had jobs as mail coders for the United States Postal Service.
After graduating Summa Cum Laude (with a 3.98 GPA), Davies attended medical school at the University of Vermont in Burlington. He graduated in 2013 with honors, and was part of Alpha Omega Alpha, an honors society in the field of medicine.
Davies completed his seven-year medical residency at the University of Texas Southwestern in Dallas.
During his time at UMD, Davies met his future wife, Athena - a fellow UMD student - at a blood drive. Davies was instantly smitten.
“We talked briefly, and I couldn’t get her out of my head,” he shared. In fact, I told my friend Steve, ‘I’m pretty sure I just met my future wife.’”
The two wouldn’t cross paths again until they were reintroduced many months later by a friend. Their first official date was in 2008, at Duluth’s Green Mill Restaurant.
At the time, Athena was studying biology. Today, she possesses both a nursing and a nurse practitioner degree.
Throughout his moves to Vermont and Texas to pursue his education, Athena has been a constant, supportive presence in Dr. Davies’ life. The two were married in Vermont in 2012. Their children were both born during Davies’ residency in Texas.
Athena, who is originally from New Hope, Minnesota, currently stays home with the couple’s two children.
Return to Duluth
Interestingly, both Davies brothers made the decision to return to Duluth. And their parents still reside in the home the boys grew up in.
Dr. Chris Davies works as an anesthesiologist at Lakewalk Surgery Center. He is also the owner of the Pain Clinic of Lake Superior.
“Neither of us thought we’d come back, but Duluth had this gravitational pull on both of our lives,” Davies said.
In his role as a neurosurgeon, Dr. Davies’ days vary. He specializes in treating the spine, and handles all types of spinal surgeries, including trauma, tumors, cysts, correcting degenerative issues, and addressing congenital anomalies such as scoliosis. He also treats the sacroiliac (SI) joint, with particular focus on motion preservation surgery and artificial disc replacements.
“Issues with the SI joint can be difficult to diagnose,” he said. “People have often had chronic back pain for years. It helps to have a pain physician as a brother. We often consult professionally.”
Dr. Davies performs surgeries at St. Luke’s, the Lakewalk Surgery Center, and also has outreach appointments in Hibbing and Grand Rapids, several days per month. He finds his work as a surgeon incredibly fulfilling.
“The most rewarding thing about the work I do is practicing medicine in my hometown,” Davies said. “I enjoy giving back to the community that has done so much for me, and it brings me great joy every day.”
Life in Duluth
The Davies family (which also includes two Pugs and three cats) live in Duluth’s Piedmont neighborhood. Madilyn and Alexander will be starting school at Stella Maris Academy next year. And the entire family is involved at Rock Hill Community Church. Dr. Davies also serves on the Board for the Greater Denfeld Foundation.
Despite their very busy life, Matt and Athena enjoy everything Duluth has to offer. This includes date night once a week at their favorite restaurants, including Va Bene and Lake Avenue Restaurant & Bar. They also maintain a membership at the Kitchi Gammi Club.
The Davies family also has family memberships at the Lake Superior Zoo, Great Lakes Aquarium, and Duluth Depot. The kids also love visiting Skyline Social & Games, Adventure Zone, and Defy Trampoline Park.
Above all else, Davies enjoys watching his family grow and is continually developing a deeper faith in God. “I’m becoming more and more connected with my church,” he said. “I started attending a men’s group on Thursday evenings, and enjoy working on my spiritual and personal development. But most of all, I just enjoy being with my family.”