David Williams, PhD
Chair, Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences
David R. Williams is the Florence and Laura Norman Professor of Public Health and chair, 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 sociology at Harvard University. Previously, he served on the faculty of Yale University and the University of Michigan. He holds a Master of Public Health degree from Loma Linda University and a doctorate in sociology from the University of Michigan.
Dr. Williams is an internationally recognized authority on social influences on health. The author of more than 450 scientific papers, his research has enhanced our understanding of the ways in which race, socioeconomic status, stress, racism, health behavior and religious involvement can affect physical and mental health. The Everyday Discrimination Scale that he developed is one of the most widely used measures of discrimination in health studies.
Dr. Williams was elected to the National Academy of Medicine in 2001, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2007 and to the National Academy of Sciences in 2019. In 2014, Thomson Reuters ranked him as one of the “World’s Most Influential Scientific Minds.” He has also received lifetime distinguished contribution awards from the American Sociological Association, the American Psychological Association and the New York Academy of Medicine.
Dr. Williams has played a visible, national leadership role in raising awareness levels of the problem of health inequities and identifying interventions to address them. This includes his service as staff director of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Commission to Build a Healthier America and as a key scientific adviser to the award-winning PBS film series Unnatural Causes: Is Inequality Making Us Sick? His research has been featured by some of the U.S.’ top print (including The New York Times, Time magazine, Newsweek, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Essence, Jet and USA Today) and television news organizations (including ABC’s Evening News, CNN, PBS, the Katie Couric show, Al Jazeera, the Hope Channel, C-SPAN and the Discovery Channel) and in his TED Talk that was released in 2017.