Jessica H. Williams, Ph.D., a researcher and associate professor in the UAB School of Health ProfessionsDepartment of Health Services Administration, has been named the department’s Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.

“This is an ongoing work. When we think about deeply embedded attitudes and beliefs about the different people groups within our culture, it is unrealistic to think that because we attend one presentation or one event that everyone will be changed and biases will automatically fade away,” said Williams. “Overcoming negative bias, discrimination and other factors that impede good relationships requires ongoing commitment, reflection and discussion. It is important for us to find out where we are in the process, then find ways to work together in moving forward.”

Williams has more than fourteen years’ experience in health services research. Her primary research interest is in understanding the role of unconscious bias in healthcare and its impact on health disparities.

“Jessica is an emerging scholarly leader in the area of implicit bias and treatment of various conditions and her major contributions are understanding and reducing cardiovascular disease disparities in African Americans,” said Christy Harris Lemak, Ph.D., chair, Department of Health Services Administration. “This new role allows Jessica to combine her service and scholarship to provide leadership for the Department and to foster the inclusion, support, and persistence of underrepresented minority faculty, staff, students and alumni.”

Williams will continue her work as a member of the department’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee. Together, they will focus on several areas during the 2019-2020 academic year, including:

In 2017, alumni of the M.S. in Health Administration – Residential (MSHA) and – Executive (EMSHA) programs, developed the Blazers & Suits initiative for underrepresented minority alumni to network and support each other as well as recruit and retain excellent students. Williams will continue to foster these relationships online and at national conferences like the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE) and the National Association of Health Services Executives (NAHSE).

Also, Williams has published in over 20 peer-reviewed publications, and 29 conference proceedings. She is currently a Patient Centered Outcomes Research (PCOR) K12 scholar. Previously, she was Principal Investigator of a project funded by the Robert Wood Johnson New Connections Program where she explored factors that influence perceived discrimination and hypertension management in urban African-Americans.

“In my research, I’ve been able to understand the barriers people face in talking about bias and discrimination, while working to design studies that will drive positive behavior change within the healthcare system,” said Williams. “I will take this same approach when working within our department – I will strive to provide resources and tools to help colleagues address tough issues so that we can collectively foster a more equitable and inclusive environment for everyone in our Department, both students and faculty.”