Family, Community, and Calling

Dr. Kenneth Williams

Kenneth Williams, M.D. ’86, has honored the mission of Meharry Medical College as a medical student and in his practice.

Born in Moss Point, Miss., Dr. Williams was a small child during the height of the civil rights movement. He witnessed, first hand, the injustices associated with racism, particularly the social injustice surrounding the lack of health care in the black community. It was during these years, he made the decision to become a physician, with the hope of correcting the dismal health care situation.

In 1981, Williams received his Bachelor of Science degree in biology from the University of Southern Mississippi. Five years later, he earned his Doctor of Medicine degree from Meharry.

Deciding to matriculate at Meharry was “all in the family.”

Williams’ great-grandfather, Dr. Franklin Edwin Williams Sr., graduated from Meharry’s School of Medicine in 1918; his great-uncle, Dr. Franklin Edwin Williams Jr., received his Doctor of Medicine degree from Meharry in 1930; his grandfather, Dr. James B. Williams Sr., graduated from Meharry’s School of Dentistry in 1940; his father, Dr. James B. Williams Jr., received his Doctor of Dental Surgery degree from Meharry in 1957; Williams’ brother, Dr. James B. Williams III, graduated from Meharry’s School of Dentistry in 1984 and his niece, Lauren Thompson, is a second-year Meharry dental student.

Upon his graduation from Meharry, Williams completed his residency in Internal Medicine at Wayne State University in Detroit and moved to Holly Springs, Miss.

"I came to Holly Springs in 1992 to carry out Meharry’s mission of serving the underserved and underrepresented,” Williams said. His initial office was a small trailer with only four exam rooms.

In the same year, Methodist Healthcare acquired Marshall County Hospital, located in Holly Springs, where Williams had privileges. Methodist Healthcare recruited Williams and agreed to guarantee a portion of his income, build him a clinic and recruit two other physicians.

In 1994, Williams took it upon himself to pay nearly $1 million to purchase Marshall County Hospital, then closed, and renamed it Alliance Healthcare System. Within a few years, despite setbacks, Williams and his staff improved patient care, strengthened its nursing staff and Alliance Healthcare System became a profitable operation.

Williams sees this as a “humble” achievement believing the key to his and the hospital’s success is simple. "When you have the confidence in your community that you are going to take care of them, the rest will fall into place," he said. "If we don't take good care of patients, and don't take care of them with the best of our abilities, we have nothing."

Once told by blacks and whites that a black physician would never make it in Holly Springs, Williams now cares for almost all the people of the city. When people are too sick to come to him, he is one of the few doctors in America who still makes house calls. Even his patients have been known to comment that they will follow him wherever he goes.

Out of his love for his alma mater, Williams gifted Meharry Medical College with a $1 million insurance policy while attending his 25th reunion in May 2011.

Dr. Williams’ adage: "I hate the term, 'You can't do.' Let's get up off of our fannies and do what we are supposed to do and take care of our people."