Center of Excellence in Diversity in Medical Education

Spotlight on Leadership

Latasha Williams, MD.

LATASHA WILLIAMS, MD., Senior Resident

My Inspiration
“I had the same pediatrician my whole life. He was a wonderful doctor, and I was so impressed with his work with children and how he built his relationship with my family. He would ask about different aspects of my life and would treat the whole person, not just symptoms. Thatís the kind of doctor I want to be.”

My Passion
“Kids donít get to see enough black doctors, teachers, lawyers, professors. Itís important for them to see someone who looks like them, to let them know that they can do what we do too. It means something that Iím doing this: I want to show young people that medicine is an option.”

My Future
“My husband and I will be moving to Portland in June, and I am looking for ways to branch out in my career, where I can work in health education for children and families.”

Late one night, after a grueling rotation at Packard Children’s Hospital, Latasha Williams, MD, was walking through the hospital corridors in her scrubs when an older African-American man stopped her. “Are you a doctor?” he asked, looking at her ID badge. “I just want to shake your hand.”

It remains one of Williams’ favorite moments.

“It had been a difficult night, I was tired, and yet that man made me remember that it means something that I’m here,” she says. “There are so few African-American doctors—and for so many people it’s so important to have a physician look like you. It’s important that minorities are represented in medicine.”

Williams knew she was going to be a doctor back when she was growing up in Macon, Ga., in a family that puts great importance on community service. Her mother has been involved in several organizations; her father helped organize a local motorcycle club that raises funds for needy families; her grandmothers—one a former teacher, the other a nurse—both brought Williams and her sister along as they checked in on neighbors who needed extra care.

“I always loved science, even math,” says Williams, a third-year pediatrics resident married to a resident in internal medicine. “But I knew I wanted to work with children. Pediatrics encompasses all of my interests.”

She was helped along by her undergraduate advisor at Tuskegee University who encouraged her take part in premed summer programs at Harvard and at New York University. There she was exposed to both the rigors of medical research and the potential impact of working in public health.

“Those experiences really piqued my interest in how physicians can make an impact on their community,” says Williams, who attended medical school at Wake Forest. “They were a real help in terms of understanding what it meant to be a doctor. It also was so helpful to have someone who knew the ropes point me to these opportunities so I could know for certain that I was on the right track.”

In medical school, Williams worked with a support group for teens with sickle cell disease and thought she would specialize in pediatric hematology/ oncology. Her experience as a resident helped her decide to pursue a career in general pediatrics.

“I saw there were more opportunities that would allow me to pursue health education and advocacy in my community,” she says. “And I learned how I can make a difference just by simple things, too. Being a pediatrician makes a huge impact on patients’ lives.”

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