The north face of the Rotunda

Social Determinants: The Key to Repairing Health Disparities AND to Containing COVID-19





Research shows that only 10% of our health outcomes are determined by the health care we receive. Our genetic make-up determines another 10%. What accounts for the rest? Dr. Michael D. Williams (Med ’93), director of the UVA Center for Health Policy, will discuss how social determinants – the environments in which we live, work, and play – determine our health and health behaviors. This talk will examine studies that powerfully link social and economic inequity with health disparities, and end with a discussion of what can practically be done by citizens, health providers, and policy-makers in light of the evidence.


Michael D. Williams, MD FACS

Director, UVA Center for Health Policy; Associate Professor of Surgery in the School of Medicine

Dr. Williams joined the faculty of the University of Virginia in 2012 where he is an associate professor of surgery with tenure–the first African-American person to be tenured in surgery. He currently serves as associate chief medical officer for clinical integration of the UVA Health System and is the former director of the UVA Center for Health Policy.

After completing his undergraduate studies in biology at Brown University, Dr. Williams attended the UVA School of Medicine and graduated in 1993. His postgraduate medical training was in the field of general surgery at the Louisiana State University-New Orleans program at Charity Hospital. After residency, he returned to Washington, DC and completed two one-year fellowships in surgical critical care and trauma surgery, respectively.

Dr. Williams is board certified in general surgery and surgical critical care, and practiced as a trauma and critical care surgeon in the Washington metropolitan area for over a decade. He has held numerous leadership positions in both clinical and academic medicine and has multiple peer-reviewed presentations and publications to his credit. In addition, he serves as an associate examiner for the American Board of Surgery and was appointed to the directorship of the UVA Center for Health Policy in July of 2016. He was appointed to the inaugural President’s Council for Community Partnership by UVA President James Ryan after serving as co-chair of the Council’s predecessor, Working Group, which identified the recommended areas for action for the president.

After having served in the public sector as chief medical officer for the District of Columbia Fire and EMS Department and moving back into the private sector, Dr. Williams returned to academia in 2012. He believes in the importance of patient-centered innovation in the application and management of health systems. His over 20 years of experience in health care delivery and systems design has led him to the conclusion that health equity starts with efficient, cost-effective health system design and management. Dr. Williams has a strong interest and background in population health and sees this as the greatest opportunity to achieve health equity, both in the United States and globally.

Dr. Williams is married, and he and his wife have three children, the youngest of whom they adopted from Haiti.