Robert H. Williams Chair in Medicine
The first endowed chair at the University of Washington School of Medicine was created though the determined efforts of a grateful diabetic patient to honor the life and work of Dr. Robert H. Williams. It took five years to pioneer and to meet the requirements and processes set forth to place an academic chair at the University of Washington School of Medicine. The Robert H. Williams Chair in Medicine was approved by the Board of Regents on March 8, 1980.
Robert H. Williams, M.D., born September 27, 1909, in Savannah, Tenn., was a 1929 graduate of Washington and Lee University and received his medical degree in 1934 from Johns Hopkins University. He received his training in internal medicine at Vanderbilt University Hospital, Johns Hopkins Hospital and Massachusetts General Hospital.
Dr. Williams was recruited to the newly created University of Washington School of Medicine from Harvard University in 1948. He became the first chair of the Department of Medicine, a position he held until 1963. Dr. Williams also served as the head of the Division of Endocrinology, Metabolism and Nutrition from 1948 to 1975. In 1972, he became director and principal founder of the UW Diabetes Research Institute, and he served as the first director of the UW Diabetes Research Center from 1974 to 1977.
Dr. Williams trained more than 100 physicians in the specialty of endocrinology, most of whom went on to careers in teaching and research. He published more than 300 scientific papers and several books. The Williams Textbook of Endocrinology is regarded as the standard in the field and has been translated into several languages. Founder and president of numerous national professional societies, Dr. Williams was presented with awards for outstanding achievement by nine professional organizations.
Beyond his many accomplishments, Dr. Williams was a man revered by all who knew him, and he was described as indomitable, irrepressible, boundlessly enthusiastic, sensitive, responsive, concerned, encouraging, self-confident and courageous — a man of vision.
Dr. Williams died en route to Philadelphia to see a patient in November 1979. His legacy continues in the excellence of the UW School of Medicine, its Department of Medicine and the Robert H. Williams Laboratory at the University of Washington.
Internationally recognized in diabetes research, Dr. Åke Lernmark accepted the position as the first chair holder and established the R. H. Williams Laboratory, specializing in basic research of insulin dependent diabetes during his 30 years as director.
The current chair holder, Dr. Michael W. Schwartz, continues the Williams Laboratory tradition of excellence in training medical research fellows.
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