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Dr. Monique J. Williams Named Founding Program Director of KGI’s Master of Science in Community Medicine Program

Dr. Monique J. Williams was hired on March 1, 2021, as Founding Program Director and Professor of Practice for Keck Graduate Institute (KGI)’s Master of Science in Community Medicine (MSCM) program. The two-year online program, scheduled to begin in fall 2021, is the first master’s program offered within KGI’s School of Medicine. It will prepare community medicine practitioners and leaders to work in underserved communities to improve health, prevent illness and injury, and detect treatable conditions in the early stages.

Williams received her Master of Science in Physician Assistant (PA) studies at Western University of Health Sciences and her PhD in Health Sciences Education and Research from Trident University. Most recently, Williams served as Assistant Professor and Academic Coordinator for the PA program at the University of La Verne, where she was involved in developing the new College of Health Sciences and Well Being. She served on numerous academic committees engaged in diversity and inclusion, academic life, and student affairs.

“When a friend of mine told me about the position here at KGI, they said they felt it was perfect for me,” Williams said.

Williams told her friend she was happy with her current position at La Verne, but they suggested she look into the KGI position. Immediately she saw how it connected with her career purpose: to improve health outcomes for underserved communities and help future providers become more compassionate, empathetic, and respectful of diversity amongst their patients.

“A lot of the courses I taught in the PA program helped students understand how to respect the various types of patients they encounter holistically—not just based on physical ailments, race, or culture,” Williams said. “So I was amazed when I saw that KGI was creating a master’s program focused on supporting students to achieve these same goals, and I decided to interview for the position.”

According to Williams, one of the most pressing medical issues that underserved communities face is the lack of quality care and education for preventable conditions such as hypertension and diabetes. She believes this is partially due to a disconnect between patients and providers.

“Patients are just not being heard in terms of what’s important to them for their health and wellness,” Williams said.

“KGI’s program will help address these issues by recruiting students who come from these communities, understand their unique needs, and want to know these communities on a deeper level because every community is different.”

This goal of addressing needs and priorities specific to individual communities is what differentiates community medicine from public health, which takes a broader approach to healthcare by addressing the collective needs. Community medicine aims to increase patient education and clinician awareness, building a bridge between patients and clinicians to become partners in holistic healing for preventive treatments and long-term success and compliance for treatment plans. One example would be providing support in large immigrant communities.

“The goal is to build trust within these types of communities so that patients know they’ll be cared for regardless of their immigration status—that they’re cared for because they’re humans and they need that support,” Williams said. “In our healthcare system, we’ve lost sight of what it means to be compassionate to a diverse group of individuals.”

At the root of community medicine is the goal to emphasize the human element of medicine, view the patient as a whole person, and help them live healthy, thriving lives. KGI’s MSCM program will help students reach this goal through capstone projects that involve engagement in a specific community, building a rapport with individuals and families to address their needs better.

Such needs could include access to behavioral health services, improved food security, and support in treatment program compliance. MSCM students would act as liaisons between the community members and the facility to complete their capstone project.

Some students may be preparing for careers as physicians, while others may eventually become health educators or public health advisors, focusing on policy and improvements. The key is that all students are committed to serving diverse, underrepresented communities for accessible, quality healthcare.

“Dr. Williams is an excellent addition to our team and the perfect leader for our Master of Science of Community Medicine program,” said Dr. David Lawrence, Dean of the KGI School of Medicine. “Her experience as an educator, her background in healthcare, and her journey through the education system provides the ideal perspective to lead and support our students. That she is also a delightful colleague to work with is a bonus.”

Williams believes that her KGI position represents the culmination of everything she has been working toward.

“I feel like my life’s dream is coming to fruition after 20-plus years of being an educator and working in the health sciences,” Williams said. “It’s so important to train providers to truly address the needs of their patients so patients feel their life is valued, and that’s the only way we’re going to see improved health outcomes in our country. I’m excited that KGI is leading this effort and grateful to join a team that is so forward-thinking in how they approach improving healthcare.”