David R. Williams

David R. Williams, MPH, PhD, was elected to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Board of Trustees in April 2020, effective July 2020.

Williams is one of the world’s preeminent scholars, whose research focuses on the complex ways in which health is affected by factors such as socioeconomic status, race, stress, racism, social conditions, and health behaviors. He is the Florence Sprague Norman and Laura Smart Norman Professor of Public Health and Chair of the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. He is also a professor of African and African American Studies and sociology at Harvard University. Previously, he served six years on the faculty of Yale University and 14 at the University of Michigan.

Williams was elected to the National Academy of Medicine in 2001, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2007, and to the National Academy of Sciences in 2019. He has also received distinguished contribution awards from the American Sociological Association, the American Psychological Association and the New York Academy of Medicine. He was ranked as one of the top 10 Most Cited Social Scientists in the world in 2005 and as the Most Cited Black Scholar in the Social Sciences in 2008. In 2014, Thomson Reuters ranked him as one of the World’s Most Influential Scientific Minds.

Williams has been involved in the development of health policy at the national level in the United States. He has served on the National Committee on Vital and Health Statistics and on multiple committees for the National Academy of Medicine, including the committee that prepared the Unequal Treatment report, which documented the extent to which minority Americans received lower quality health care and provided recommendations to reduce racial and ethnic disparities in the U.S. health care system. Williams has played a visible, national leadership role in raising awareness levels of the problem of health inequalities and identifying interventions to address them. He served as the staff director of the Foundation’s Commission to Build a Healthier America. This national, independent, and nonpartisan health commission focused on identifying evidence-based, nonmedical strategies that can improve the health of everyone in America and reduce racial and socioeconomic gaps in health.

Williams and his research have been widely featured in the nation’s most influential print and broadcast news platforms including those serving many racial and ethnic populations. He was a key scientific advisor to the award-winning PBS film series, Unnatural Causes: Is Inequality Making Us Sick?

Williams holds an MPH from Loma Linda University and a PhD in sociology from the University of Michigan.

David Williams