General Conference

Adventist Church appoints Reece, Williams honorary Health Ministries leaders

Maryland's medical school dean, Harvard public health professor to promote Church’s evidence-based health message

Ansel Oliver/ANN | Silver Spring, Maryland, United States

The University of Maryland medical school dean and a Harvard University professor are the newest honorary associate Health Ministries directors for the Seventh-day Adventist world church.

Adventist Church members Dr. E. Albert Reece, distinguished professor and dean of the University of Maryland School of Medicine, and David R. Williams, a professor of public health at Harvard University, were approved as Health Ministry advisers earlier this month by the General Conference Administrative Committee.

The duo will join a group of 10 other official advisers who offer consulting to the department, public speaking appearances and official representation on behalf of the denomination.

Health Ministries Director Dr. Peter Landless underscored that both Reece and Williams were selected for their spiritual commitment and support of the department’s work through “evidence-based” health practices.

“We’re so glad they could join us. They each bring a tremendous spiritual commitment and clarity of mission,” Landless said. “They support the evidence-based Adventist health message through credible research and publication.”

Landless said Reece and Williams have long served the Adventist Church with consulting and speaking appointments without the honorary title. Reece and Williams have known each other since they were faculty members at Yale University in the 1980s.

Landless, who directs a team of three fulltime associate directors, said more honorary associates were needed because of the expanding opportunities for health ministry worldwide.

The honorary posts are unpaid positions, and its members serve on an as-needed basis. Each honorary associate brings expertise in a specific field of health and health management.

Reece, dean of Maryland’s School of Medicine, also serves as a professor at the university’s departments of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Medicine, and Biochemistry & Molecular Biology. He is also member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences.

Of this month’s appointment as honorary associate, Reece said he appreciated the opportunity to serve his church.

“I’m delighted to serve and be helpful in any way I can,” he said in a phone interview. “I appreciate the opportunity to serve, to provide input and advise when appropriate.”

Reece will consult for the department on chronic diseases, which he said consume nearly 80 percent of healthcare funds. Type-2 diabetes, often resulting from obesity, has become one of the leading causes of death, he said. The key, he said, is to focus on breaking the chain of inter-generational rates of obesity and diabetes among mothers and their children.

A native of Jamaica, Reece holds bachelor’s degrees from Andrews University and Long Island University, a medical degree from New York University School of Medicine, a Ph.D. in biochemistry from the University of the West Indies in Kingston, Jamaica, and an MBA from Temple University in Philadelphia. He received postgraduate medical and educational training at Columbia University and Yale University.

Williams, the Florence and Laura Norman professor of public health at Harvard, is also a professor in the departments of African and African American Studies and Sociology. He is internationally recognized as a leading social scientist examining social influences on health. His research in the U.S. and South Africa has examined how physical and mental health can be affected by race, racism, socioeconomic status, stress, health behaviors and religious involvement. In 2008, he was ranked as the Most Cited Black Scholar in the Social Sciences worldwide, and earlier this year was listed by Thomson-Reuters as one of the World’s Most Influential Scientific Minds.

Williams said he was happy to continue serving the Church, with or without the honorary title.

“I think, like most Christians, I’m thankful for the blessings I’ve received from God, and then our obligation of every blessing we receive puts on us greater responsibility to share,” Williams said.

Williams completed his elementary and high school education at Adventist schools in St. Lucia. He holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of the Southern Caribbean in Trinidad, a master’s of Divinity from Andrews University, a master’s degree in public health from Loma Linda University and a Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Michigan.

The other honorary Health Ministries advisers are as follows:


—Dr. Tricia Penniecook, dean of the School of Public Health at Loma Linda University
—Craig R. Jackson, dean of the School of Allied Health Professions at Loma Linda
—Dr. Doyle Nick, associate professor of dentistry at Loma Linda University
—Dr. Dan W. Giang, vice president for graduate education and professor of  
    neurology at Loma Linda University
—Dr. Gary Hopkins, associate research professor at the School of Public Health at
    Loma Linda University
—Patricia Jones, professor of nursing at Loma Linda University
—Stoy Procter, former associate director of Health Ministries


—Dr. Carlos Fayard, associate professor of psychiatry at Loma Linda University
—Dr. Lowell Meister, a practicing optometrist in Nowata, Oklahoma, United States
—Dr. Gilbert Burnham, professor at the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns
    Hopkins University