Xzavier Killings ’16: Understanding Your 'Why' in Healthcare

a young man wears a graduation cap and suit and holds a sign that says "I matched Pediatrics at Childrens Hospital of Philadelphia"

At 5:30 a.m., Xzavier Killings ’16 begins his day at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia by visiting each of the seven or eight patients on his unit. Dr. X, as he’s known, started his residency in June and said it still feels surreal to be the physician responsible for taking care of these children and their families.

After the initial morning visits, he and the other residents, doctors, nurses and pharmacists see patients as a group. Killings attends didactic learning sessions through the residency program, and then it’s back to taking care of patients, talking with families and scheduling consults, labs and social work. Typically, he stays at the hospital until 5:30 p.m., wrapping up a long, but rewarding day of learning on the job. 

Killings’ interest in healthcare began at home. While he was always healthy, he watched several family members struggle with treatable and sometimes preventable illnesses like high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes and asthma. He wanted to bring awareness, health and wellness to his family and his community. 

As a Bonner Scholar, Killings worked with preschoolers at Davidson College Presbyterian Church (DCPC), where he uncovered a natural talent for encouraging, inspiring and learning alongside children. While his first experience being a role model came much earlier—he’s an older brother to six younger siblings—his time at DCPC made him realize he wanted to work with children as part of his career in medicine. 

“I found joy working with them, learning from them, just having fun with them,” he said. “Kids need to be inspired, they need to be encouraged, they need to be told that they can do whatever they want to do. Because once you get older, it's hard.”

Thanks to the Watson Fellowship, Killings spent the year after graduation studying healthcare in Zambia, India, Jamaica and Belize, taking every opportunity to work with children. This was yet another experience that helped prepare him for life as a pediatrician, where he relies on his ability to build rapport with his patients during their most vulnerable moments.

Xzavier Killings '16

If it’s only one person that I help, I know that I’ve done my job because someone was scared, someone was lonely, someone was fearful, but being able to provide a patient with a sense of security and optimism makes it all worth it. I’ve found that having humility is a huge part of medicine.

Xzavier Killings '16

Killings attended The Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) College of Medicine, and since graduating last spring, he’s had some time to reflect on the people who helped him along the way. At Davidson, he juggled track practice, service work, German studies and his pre-med classes, and he credits a strong network of teachers with believing in him, even when didn’t believe in himself. Key parts of his support system included Biology Professor Dave Wessner, Director of Premedicine and Allied Health Naila Mamoon and Dana Professor of German Studies Scott Denham.

With a deep understanding of the value of mentorship, Killings is committed to helping others in the same way. Whether it’s coaching undergraduate students applying to medical school, sharing advice about residency programs or, most recently, returning to Davidson to speak to pre-med students, he pays it forward. 

Xzavier Killings '16 practices CPR

Xzavier Killings '16 practices CPR

“If you’re going into medicine, it’s really important to understand your ‘why’,” he advises. “Things are hard, things aren't always gonna go your way, but if you know why you're there, you're going to be motivated to keep pushing forward.”

Killings’ ‘why’ has grown and changed over the years, but everything comes back to his initial desire to bring healthcare to those he cares about, to be a role model to others and to make his patients feel safe. 

It’s safe to say he’s … well … killin’ it.