Local Hero: Dr. Richard Allen Williams

Dr. Richard Allen Williams

"Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. inspired me to accomplish my medical achievements. He said, 'Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.' That motivated me to conserve and dedicate some energy at the end of every day to help someone in need after I had taken care of my own priorities. I recommend this principle to everyone as a method to improve our universal well-being."

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Richard Allen Williams, MD, FACC and FAHA, has made it his mission to improve the health of all people while recognizing the particular medical issues affecting African Americans and other minorities through his nonprofit organization, Minority Health Institute, Inc. (MHI).

Founded in 1987, MHI addresses the need to recognize that African Americans and other minorities are subjected to substandard medical care due to unequal access of resources, denial of the highest standards of care and discrimination. Through its seminars, lectures, health fairs, media campaigns, and books, MHI raises awareness about the need to eliminate healthcare disparities.

MHI's compassion about patients and their families who cannot afford the proper treatment is extraordinary. In one situation, MHI came to the assistance of an African American family with a child who suffered from the fatal illness, Pompe disease. The medication, which costs $300,000 a year, was unaffordable. MHI contacted the drug maker and convinced them to provide it free of charge to the family.

MHI further supports the importance of investing in diversity among the doctors of tomorrow through its award of scholarships to minority students who are pursuing medical degrees.

Dr. Williams' commitment to the community spans 50 years and goes beyond his role as founder, president and CEO of MHI. He currently serves as clinical professor of medicine of the UCLA School of Medicine, a position he has held since 1984. He previously served as instructor in medicine at Harvard Medical School.

Some of Dr. Williams' key positions include serving as acting chief of cardiology and director of the coronary care unit at Wadsworth Veterans Administration Hospital in Los Angeles and as the inaugural assistant medical director of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Hospital in Watts, California, where he secured a $2.4 million grant to develop the King-Drew Sickle Cell Center. Dr. Williams also founded and directed the Central Recruitment Council of Boston Hospitals, which recruited African American medical trainees to Boston hospitals for the first time in its history.

Dr. Williams founded the Association of Black Cardiologists (ABC) in 1974 and served as its president for 10 years. He is also involved with the American Heart Association, having served on the board of its Greater Los Angeles Affiliate for more than 25 years.

Dr. Williams authored "Textbook of Black-Related Diseases," in 1975, a groundbreaking 900-page textbook that covers medical conditions among African Americans. It is the only textbook of its kind authored by an African American. He has published several books that focus on minority health issues since then.

Some of his accolades include the Dr. Daniel D. Savage Science Award presented by ABC in 2008, the Lifetime Achievement Award from National Minority Quality Forum in 2007 and Harvard Medical School's Lifetime Achievement Award in 2004.

Dr. Williams received a full scholarship to Harvard University and graduated with honors as the first African American student from Delaware, where he was raised, in 1957. He received his medical degree from State University of New York - Downstate Medical Center, interned at University of California Hospitals in San Francisco, performed his internal medicine residency at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center and completed his cardiology fellowship at both Wadsworth General Hospital - UCLA Medical Center and Peter Bent Brigham Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts.


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Dr. Richard Allen Williams: Miles Ahead

Anyone who's a regular reader of this column know that I'm an aggressive advocate of redefining the skewed cultural mores of the Black community. We've allowed ourselves to be inaccurately defined by the corporate media as a people who are shallow, frivolous, anti-intellectual, and whose only interest is in strutting around like peacocks as we denigrate the very womb of our culture.

This inaccurate cultural profile not only has a negative impact on every Black person under evaluation for any kind of upward mobility, but it also sends the message to Black youth that they have a cultural obligation to be idiots, and that the pursuit of knowledge is "un-Black," thus, not cool.

The media also sends the message to Black youth that their cultural niche in society is limited to becoming either an athlete or an entertainer. While it is true that Black people tend to excel in those areas, that's only because for much of our African American history those were the only areas in which we were allowed to participate. The fact is, however, and as any cognitive researcher can attest, creativity is one of the primary indicators of overall intelligence. Thus, the very same creativity that goes into the making of a Charlie Parker, Ray Charles, or an Aretha Franklin, can easily be transferred to medical research, physics, or cosmology.

In that regard, I'd like to introduce you to Dr. Richard Allen Williams. Dr. Williams was born and raised in Wilmington, Delaware. Upon graduating from Howard High School at the top of his class with a 4.0 grade-point average, he was awarded a full scholarship to Harvard University, from which he also graduated with honors, and as the first African American student at Harvard from the state of Delaware.

Dr. Williams received his M.D. degree from the State University of New York Downstate Medical Center, and performed his internship at the University of California San Francisco Medical Center. He did his residency in internal medicine at the Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center, and his cardiology fellowship at UCLA Medical Center, and Peter Bent Brigham Hospital in Boston, Mass . . . MORE