UNT regents pick Williams to lead health science center

Posted Wednesday, Jun. 12, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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Dr. Michael Williams, who has been serving as interim president at the UNT Health Science Center, was named the lone finalist for the job on Wednesday by unanimous vote of the university system board of regents.

Regents voted 6-0 in favor of a recommendation made by UNT System Chancellor Lee Jackson. That recommendation was based on the advice of a presidential search advisory committee.

“Dr. Williams has managed to create a great deal of good feelings and optimissim in a very short time,” Jackson said.

Williams had been appointed interim president in December, just minutes after the University of North Texas System Board of Regents fired embattled President Dr. Scott Ransom. Williams had served as a UNT regent until Dec. 20, the day before he was named interim president.

“I am very excited,” said Williams said after the vote. “I love coming back home.”

Williams said he will continue to work in an interim role throughout a state-mandated 21-day period that must take place before the post is permanent. His salary and contract will be finalized after the 21-day period.

Williams said he plans to focus on taking the health science center’s areas of expertise to a higher level of promenience. He as to place renewed focus on the primary and preventive care, aging/memory loss disease, DNA research and applied genetics and rural healthcare.

Williams, who is earning an annual salary of $647,295 as interim president, said earlier this year that his focus for the Fort Worth-based UNTHSC is on gaining continued support for an M.D. program, obtaining state funding for the College of Pharmacy and pushing for $66 million to help pay for a 150,000-square-foot research building.

Williams said Wednesday those projects remain top issues for the health science center. He said he is working on how to continue promoting an M.D. program to lawmakers in 2015.

“It’s a matter of continuing to refine our strategy,” he said.

The decision to hire Williams comes about two months after UNT officials announced the creation of an advisory committee to help find candidates for the post.

Under state law, UNT must wait at least 21 days before making the appointment official.

His hiring comes at a time when the health science center is recovering from the turmoil associated with Ransom’s firing.

Regents and system Chancellor Lee Jackson cited concerns about Ransom's conduct and leadership style, namely his handling of a study that looked at the pros and cons of a proposed merger that would put the Fort Worth and Denton campuses under one umbrella.

Ransom's removal stirred concerns among health science center supporters that a strong advocate for the Fort Worth institution had been lost. Members of the UNT Health Science Center Foundation Board criticized the firing and wondered whether it would hurt chances of bringing an M.D. program to Fort Worth.

A separate task force was created this spring to help strengthen the system’s relationship with Fort Worth.

Williams, a Fort Worth native, has emphasized that he understands the importance of mending fences.

"My job will be to come in and build trust,” Williams told the Star-Telegram earlier this year. “... This institution is extremely important to Fort Worth, and Fort Worth is extremely important to this institution."

Williams has also emphasized his Fort Worth roots. Williams was born in Fort Worth and graduated from Richland High School in 1972. His mother graduated from North Side High School, and his father graduated from what is now Haltom High School.

Williams' grandparents on his mother's side owned a cabinet shop in north Fort Worth, and Williams worked there while in college.

Williams attended what is now Tarrant County College and later transferred to Texas Wesleyan University, where he earned his bachelor's degree. He earned a doctor of osteopathic medicine degree from Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine, which is part of the UNTHSC.

He also has an M.D. from Ross University, a Caribbean medical school founded in 1978.

Williams said he became an M.D. after he experienced prejudice in the medical community because he had an osteopathic degree.

This report contains material from the Star-Telegram archives.

Diane Smith, 817-390-7675

Twitter: @dianeasmith1

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