Doctor Williams developed an early interest in congenital heart disease and elected Medicine-Pediatrics primary training, followed by a combined pediatric and adult cardiology fellowship at Boston Children’s Hospital and Massachusetts General Hospital. Her interests and expertise would span the lifecycle of patients with congenital heart disease. She was a pioneer in the field of echocardiography, beginning in 1973, developing the initial clinical correlations with echo findings that formed the bases of definitive non-invasive diagnosis of a wide variety of cardiac anomalies, supplanting cardiac catheterization for purely diagnostic purposes. While on the faculty at Children’s Hospital, she also served as the founding medical director of the cardiac surgical intensive care unit during the era when infant surgery was being developed. These work experiences strengthened her understanding of and passion for continuous, comprehensive care of congenital heart disease from fetal life through adulthood.
She was recruited to the position Chief of Pediatric Cardiology at UCLA, where she participated in the Ahmanson Adult Congenital Heart Program and became active in the Council on Sections of the American Academy of Pediatrics where she collaborated with leaders from other subspecialty sections on issues related to care delivery, workforce and reimbursement. She was subsequently recruited to be Chairman of Pediatrics at the University of North Carolina where she was actively involved with workforce issues at the American Board of Pediatrics and as a member of the Sheps Health Policy Center.
She was attracted to the position of Chair of Pediatrics at the University of Southern California and Vice-President for Pediatrics and Academic Affairs at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles because the large population of underserved patients with chronic disease of childhood could serve as a base for developing systems of care that could span the two critical periods where hand-offs of care represent challenges, fetal-neonatal and adolescence-young adulthood. She first established a highly successful maternal-fetal medicine program at USC, then applied the same multidisciplinary model for transition of youth with chronic disease to adult health care. The transition program at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles consists of core preparation and quality assessment programs and a forum in which best practices can be shared. The program also includes a specialized life-management clinic within Adolescent Medicine for patients with medical and social complexity, alliances with multiple adult general and subspecialty providers within the Southern California community, and working directly with local managed care organizations and provider groups to facility transfer of the medical home from pediatric to adult provider hands. She has been a persistent and enthusiastic champion for improvement in the systems of care for patients with chronic disease, originating in childhood. Her influence has been felt within Los Angeles and at the national and international level where she is also engaged in advocacy for health, job opportunities and housing for young adults with chronic disease. Since stepping down as Chairman of Pediatrics at USC, she has been actively involved in the study of healthcare costs during the transition from pediatrics to adult care. She is currently working with national groups to study the mental health and social needs of emerging adults and with local groups to provide vocational training and placement as well as navigations systems that will support health as well as social needs. She continues to work locally and nationally for improvement in access to care for young adults, with the current changes in the healthcare environment. She continues to be active in patient care, quality improvement in complex care delivery and in mentoring trainees and junior faculty.
Her previous titles include: Director, Non-Invasive Lab and Cardiac Surgical ICU, Children's Hospital Boston, 1973-82; Chief of Pediatric Cardiology, UCLA, 1982-95; Chair of Pediatrics, UNC-Chapel Hill; Chair of Pediatrics, Keck School of Medicine of USC, 2000-2010; Vice-President for Pediatrics and Academic Affairs, Children's Hospital Los Angeles, 2000-2010.
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Pediatrics, North Carolina Memorial Hospital
Pediatrics, Columbia Presbyterian Babies Hospital
Pediatric Cardiology, Children's Hospital Boston
Pediatrics; American Board of Pediatrics; Pediatric Cardiology; American Board of Pediatrics
American Academy of Pediatrics; American Board of Pediatrics; American College of Cardiology; American Heart Association; American Pediatric Society; American Society of Echocardiography; Association of European Pediatric Cardiology; Society for Pediatric Research
Lifetime Achievement Award, American Society of Echocardiograph; Gifted Teacher Award, American College of Cardiology, 2002; Mentor Award, American Heart Association, 2003; Master of the American Heart Association, 2005; Master of the American College of Cardiology, 2006; Founder’s Award, Cardiology Section of the American Academy of Pediatrics, 2010; Distinguished Medical Alumnus, University of North Carolina, 2012.
Late Causes of Death After Congenital Heart Defects: A Population-Based Study From Finland. Williams RG. Journal of American College of Cardiology. 2016 Aug 2;68(5):499-501. doi: 10.1016/j.jacc.2016.05.037. No abstract available.
Increased Survival of Congenital Heart Disease: How Did We Get Here and Now What? Williams RG. Journal of American College of Cardiology. 2015 Jul 7;66(1):45-6. doi: 10.1016/j.jacc.2015.05.021. No abstract available.
Inpatient admissions and costs of congenital heart disease from adolescence to young adulthood. Lu Y, Agrawal G, Lin CW, Williams RG. American Heart Journal. 2014 Dec;168(6):948-55. doi: 10.1016/j.ahj.2014.08.006.
Transitioning youth with congenital heart disease from pediatric to adult health care. Williams RG. The Journal of Pediatrics. 2015 Jan;166(1):15-9. doi: 10.1016.
Adults with chronic health conditions originating in childhood: inpatient experience in children's hospitals. Goodman DM, Hall M, Levin A, Watson RS, Williams RG, Shah SS, Slonim AD. Pediatrics. 2011 Jul;128(1):5-13. doi: 10.1542/peds.2010-2037.
Caring for ACHD in a market-driven society. Williams RG, Lu Y. Methodist Debakey Cardiovascular Journal. 2011 Apr-Jun;7(2):33-4.
Dr. Williams was a pioneer in the field of echocardiography, beginning in 1973. She developed the initial clinical correlations with echo findings that formed the bases of non-invasive diagnosis of a wide variety of cardiac anomalies. She established the accuracy of diagnosis that allowed echo to supplant cardiac catheterization prior to surgical correction for many types of defects. These observations changed management of congenital heart disease around the world. She was one of the few world-wide leaders who advanced the development of Doppler and fetal echocardiography. More recently, her research interests have focused on clinical outcomes of medical and surgical management of congenital heart disease, and physician workforce needs and lifetime healthcare for patients with chronic childhood diseases.