Sept. 13, 2012 | Sterling Williams, M.D., Ph.D., a 1973 UAMS College of Medicine graduate and national leader in obstetric and gynecologic education and training, was honored as the college’s 2012 Dean’s Distinguished Alumnus at an Alumni Weekend reception Aug. 24.
College of Medicine Dean Debra H. Fiser, M.D., congratulates Sterling Williams, M.D. ’73, Ph.D.,
after presenting him with the 2012 Dean’s Distinguished Alumnus Award.
Graduate School Dean Robert McGehee, Ph.D., (left) and Michael Jennings, Ph.D., (right) place
the traditional doctoral hood
on Sterling Williams, M.D., Ph.D.
Sterling Williams, M.D., Ph.D., addresses fellow alumni, faculty and a crowd of supporters
at the Aug. 24 Alumni Weekend reception.
Fellow alumni, faculty and a crowd of supporters also applauded Williams as the UAMS Graduate School presented the Little Rock native with a Ph.D. in physiology, a degree for which he had completed work in the late 1960s but which wasn’t awarded before he left UAMS for his medical residency.
“The College of Medicine established the Dean’s Distinguished Alumnus Award in 1973 to recognize outstanding graduates who have made major contributions to the health of all people in areas such as patient care, education, research, health services administration and leadership,” said Dean Debra H. Fiser, M.D. “Dr. Williams has distinguished himself in all of those areas. His impact has been extraordinary.”
Since 2001, Williams has served as vice president for education at the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG). His division oversees the annual clinical meeting and other continuing medical education activities that the organization provides for most of the nation’s obstetricians and gynecologists.
Williams also directs the Council on Resident Education in Obstetrics and Gynecology (CREOG), which publishes widely followed educational objectives for residency education and develops and administers the stringent annual in-training examination that is used by most OB/GYN residency programs in the United States and many other countries.
Williams was recruited to the ACOG post after chairing the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Kansas Medical Center for four years. He also held faculty posts at Kansas earlier in his career, after completing his residency there in 1976.
From 1987 to 1997 Williams was on the OB/GYN faculty at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York, where he also served as vice chairman for academic affairs. He directed OB/GYN residency programs in New York and Kansas and currently teaches at George Washington University in addition to his ACOG leadership.
Williams has helped to shape OB/GYN training and continuing medical education nationwide through two terms of service on both the Residency Review Committee for Obstetrics and Gynecology of the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (AGME) and the board of directors of the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME). He served as an examiner for the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology for 18 years.
One of Williams’ innovations while at the University of Kansas Medical Center was a music therapy-assisted program for pregnant women delivering at the hospital. The program, which helped participants to use less anesthesia, lower their blood pressure and have improved outcomes, was featured on the front page of The Wall Street Journal.
Music also has played a prominent role in Williams’ life outside of medicine. Currently a member of the Bass II section of the Washington Chorus, he has performed many times in the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., New York’s Carnegie Hall, and on several European tours.
In addition to clinical care and teaching, Williams conducted research into infectious diseases relating to obstetrics and gynecology.
Williams received a Bachelor of Science degree in zoology at the University of Illinois-Champaign and went on to earn a Master of Science in physiology from Northern Illinois University in 1966. He returned to Arkansas on a National Institutes of Health fellowship to work toward a Ph.D. in physiology in the UAMS Graduate School. He entered the College of Medicine in 1969.
Meanwhile, Williams had completed all of the requirements for a Ph.D. except for defending his dissertation. His advisor had left UAMS for an out-of-state faculty position, and due to an administrative error, Williams was unable to defend his dissertation before leaving for his residency at the University of Kansas.
The College of Medicine’s Fiser and Graduate School Dean Robert McGehee, Ph.D., discovered the situation this summer, after Williams was selected as the College of Medicine’s 2012 Distinguished Alumnus. McGehee, who also is a professor in the College of Medicine, researched the matter and led efforts to award the Ph.D.
After presenting Williams with the Distinguished Alumnus Award at the Alumni Weekend reception, Fiser turned the podium over to McGehee.
“I can’t imagine what it would be like to go through 40 years in academic medicine having earned an M.D./Ph.D., and not having been awarded the Ph.D.,” McGehee said. “But Dr. Williams has, and he has done so in exemplary fashion.”
McGehee and Department of Physiology Chairman Michael Jennings, Ph.D., bestowed the traditional doctoral hood on Williams and presented him with his Ph.D. diploma.
“I am honored by the events of this evening,” Williams said, thanking McGehee and Fiser, fellow alumni, family members and a crowd of supporters.
“But this night, and these awards are not about me,” he said. “It’s about the many people who are coming behind me in medicine and academia, and hopefully the events of tonight will inspire people to do the best that they can … to keep learning and understand that they too can reach their goals.”