David R. Williams, Preeminent Scholar on Race and Health, Elected to Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Board of Trustees

    • May 12, 2020
David Williams

Photo courtesy of Harvard Chan School

Princeton, N.J.—The Board of Trustees of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), the largest philanthropy dedicated to improving the health and health care of everyone in America, has elected David R. Williams, MPH, PhD as a Trustee.

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. He 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.

“We are incredibly fortunate that Dr. Williams will be joining our Board. His leadership, scholarship, and vision have helped to shape the Foundation’s health equity goals focused on giving everyone in America a fair and just opportunity for health and well-being,” said RWJF President and CEO Richard Besser, MD. “Through his research and his skills as a communicator, Dr. Williams shines a light on historical discrimination, racism, and social factors like poverty and housing insecurity that can lead to poor health in people of color. His character and concern for others make Dr. Williams precisely the kind of person we enthusiastically welcome to Foundation leadership.”

“Dr. Williams has had a tremendous influence on our understanding of health equity as well as what’s required to put that knowledge into practice in the Foundation’s day-to-day work,” said RWJF Chair of the Board Roger S. Fine, JD. “We look forward to learning even more from his insights and wisdom, and we are honored that Dr. Williams is joining our Board of Trustees.”

“I am humbled by this opportunity,” said Williams, “and I’m honored to begin this new chapter in my work with the Foundation, which I consider one of the premier organizations in this country dedicated to improving health and health policy.” He added, “I’m thrilled to see the Foundation’s commitment to health equity. I look forward to all we can do together to push the boundaries of what is possible to make our society healthier, more equitable, fair, and just.”

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, non-medical 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?


About the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

For more than 45 years the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has worked to improve health and health care. We are working alongside others to build a national Culture of Health that provides everyone in America a fair and just opportunity for health and well-being. For more information, visit www.rwjf.org. Follow the Foundation on Twitter at www.rwjf.org/twitter or on Facebook at www.rwjf.org/facebook.

Media Contacts

Jordan Reese

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (609) 627-6322