David Williams, PhD
David R. Williams is a St Lucian and American social scientist who has specialized in the study of social influences on health. His research has enhanced our understanding of the complex ways in which race, socioeconomic status, racism, stress, health behaviors and religious involvement can affect physical and mental health. He has been invited to keynote scientific conferences in Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Australia, South America and across the United States.
Currently, 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 of Sociology at Harvard University. His first 6 years as a faculty member were at Yale University where he held appointments in both Sociology and Public Health. The next 14 years were at the University of Michigan where he was the Harold Cruse Collegiate Professor of Sociology, a Senior Research Scientist at the Institute of Social Research and a Professor of Epidemiology in the School of Public Health.
Dr. Williams is the author of more than 475 scholarly papers in scientific journals and edited collections and his research has appeared in leading journals in sociology, psychology, medicine, public health and epidemiology. The Everyday Discrimination scale that he developed is currently one of the most widely used measures to assess perceived discrimination in health studies. He has served on the editorial board of 12 scientific journals and as a reviewer for over 70 journals. According to ISI Essential Science Indicators, he was one of the Top 10 Most Cited Researchers in the Social Sciences during the decade 1995 to 2005. The Journal of Black Issues in Higher Education ranked him as the Most Cited Black Scholar in the Social Sciences in 2008. And Thomson Reuters ranked him, in 2014, as one of the World’s Most Influential Scientific Minds based on his scientific articles published between 2002 and 2012.
With funding from the National Institutes of Health and the sponsorship of the World Health Organization, Dr. Williams directed the South African Stress and Health Study, the first nationally representative study of the prevalence and correlates of psychiatric disorders in sub-Sahara Africa. This study assessed the effects of HIV/AIDS, exposure to racial discrimination and torture during apartheid, on the health of the South African population. He was also a key member of the team that conducted the National Study of American Life, the largest study of mental health disorders in the African American population in the U.S. and the first health study to include a large national sample of Blacks of Caribbean ancestry. He also served as the director of the Lung Cancer Disparities Center at Harvard, a center for Population Health and Health Disparities funded by the National Institutes of Health.
Dr. Williams received his elementary and high school education in Castries, St Lucia. After completing his undergraduate degree at the University of the Southern Caribbean in Trinidad and Tobago, he earned master’s degrees in divinity and public health, at Andrews University and Loma Linda University, respectively. He next earned a master’s and PhD degree in sociology from the University of Michigan.