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David R. Williams: How Racism Makes Us Sick


On February 19, at the Loma Linda University Church, the Charles Elliott Weniger Society for Excellence honored Harvard University's David R. Wiliams for his pathbreaking scholarshop and Adventist witness. (See the entire program below.) 

Viewed 1.7 million times, in this 18 min. TED Talk, Dr. Williams explains why race matters so profoundly for health. He developed the scale he developed "to measure the impact of discrimination on well-being, going beyond traditional measures like income and education to reveal how factors like implicit bias, residential segregation and negative stereotypes create and sustain inequality. In this eye-opening talk, Williams presents evidence for how racism is producing a rigged system—and offers hopeful examples of programs across the US that are working to dismantle discrimination."

Currently, Dr. Wiliams 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." According to the Weniger program, Dr. Williams is a product of Adventist education. He attended schools in St. Lucia as a child and graduated from the University of the Southern Caribbean in Trinidad. He earned his MDiv from Andrews University and an MPH in Health Education from Loma Linda University and his PhD in sociology from the University of Michigan."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.

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 mental 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."

Image: Screenshot/TED Talk

Alexander Carpenter is the executive editor of Spectrum. 

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