January 13, 2006

VICC names Minority Affairs leader

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Elizabeth Williams, Ph.D.

VICC names Minority Affairs leader

Elizabeth Williams, Ph.D., former director of Disparity Elimination for the Tennessee Department of Health and Human Services, has been named Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center's associate director for Minority Affairs.

In her new role, Williams will work with physicians and scientists at Vanderbilt-Ingram, as well as community leaders and minority populations to decrease overall cancer-related health disparities. Her position will focus on health promotion, education, access to care, clinical trials and behavioral interventions for minority populations.

“Making sure that the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center reaches out to all individuals affected by the disease is a top priority,” said Raymond DuBois, M.D., Ph.D., the center's director. “I look forward to working with Elizabeth Williams on issues related to minority affairs. She is a tremendous addition to the VICC leadership team and will play a very important role going forward.”

Williams will also work to create an internal culture that supports the professional development of minority faculty and staff of Vanderbilt-Ingram, in addition to developing effective recruitment strategies for minority faculty in both clinical and research areas. Williams' will also work to strengthen Vanderbilt-Ingram's partnership with Meharry Medical College through joint recruitment of faculty and further strengthening of the partnership's clinical trials infrastructure.

“I see my role as further enhancing existing partnerships in the community and developing new partnerships in Davidson County, the state of Tennessee and throughout the nation to affect all areas of cancer control and prevention for communities of color served by the VICC,” said Williams.

Despite a longstanding distrust of the medical system among many minorities, Williams said there are ways to reach out and create real partnerships that can encourage minority groups to get involved in clinical trials and other programs.

“The way we go about addressing distrust is by developing open and consistent relationships between the VICC and communities of color based on mutual trust and respect. Although this will not happen overnight, such engagement is important to the Cancer Center's future,” said Williams.

One way to do that is to ensure that research is relevant to the concerns and values of the communities served by those efforts.

“Building on human and material assets, and doing so in ways that preserve the dignity and integrity of people, is critical to the praxis of cutting-edge cancer research and outreach. Including affected populations in research design and implementation, education, and service delivery is necessary, and we'll be emphasizing community participatory research and other equitable approaches in all aspects of cancer-related policy development,” Williams added.

Prior to joining Vanderbilt, Williams served as director of Disparity Elimination for the state of Tennessee, where she worked to promote and ensure the improved health status of people of color and underserved populations under the Commissioner of Health, Kenneth S. Robinson, M.D. “I think my work in my previous role will help the Cancer Center on a state and national level,” said Williams.

Williams is a graduate of the University of Kentucky, with doctor of Philosophy and masters of Arts degrees in Applied Medical Anthropology. In addition, she holds Graduate Reading Certificates from the University of Kentucky in Behavioral Science, and Women's Studies from the departments of Behavioral Science and Women's Studies. Williams received a bachelor's degree in Anthropology from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

Williams succeeds the late Philip Browning, M.D., and said she is encouraged by the work that has taken place before her.

“I'm looking forward to working with colleagues and diverse communities, both locally and beyond, particularly communities of color and the underserved. I hope to support the continued growth and success of the Cancer Center by serving in the best interests of populations that have historically been left out of the discussion. Building a clear and equitable vision for the future, while strategically working in the present to get there, is what my work with the VICC will be all about.”