One-time London-based Sierra Leonean – Frederica Williams scores big in America

Kwame Cumalé Fitzjohn: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 8 December 2019:

As 2019 draws to a close, it is perhaps pertinent to spotlight the landmark record of Sierra Leone-born Frederica Matilda Williams as President and CEO of Whittier Street Health Center, Boston’s top Health Center. This year, also, marks the 17th anniversary of Williams at the helm of Whittier which the Center, appropriately, celebrates.

To boot, in 2018, the Whittier Board of Directors named its six-storey, 78,000-square foot, $38 million health facility the Frederica M Williams Building in honor of Williams. Completed in 2012, the building is a glass-sheathed, silver LEED certified, state-of-the-art structure with brightly painted walls and expansive views across the city.


In 2001, Whittier Street Health Center was on the verge of insolvency operating at an annual loss of about $600,000. In 2002 Williams took the reins.

Williams showed grit, dogged will, sheer resolve and stick-to-itiveness in a 10-year effort to construct the Frederica M Williams Building, the first permanent home in the 86-year history of Whittier. (Photo: Frederica in red with group in front of building named after her). 

The building was completed ahead of schedule by 14 months and $640,000 under budget.


Today Whittier is flourishing under Williams’s insightful leadership. In addition to fostering an environment of proactive health care, she has brought sound financial stewardship to the Center evidenced by the fact that revenues increased nearly 60% under her direction. Since she began at Whittier, the number of people served increased from 5,000 to 30,000 in 2015.

In this 17th year of leading Whittier, Williams is also being acknowledged for her other accomplishments at the Center which include:

  • Building a $1.2 million, 6,600-square-foot fitness center at the Facility
  • Opening a new satellite clinic in the surrounding neighborhood
  • Hosting New England’s largest men’s health annual summit
  • A state-of-the-art cancer clinic — as part of a partnership with Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
  • Launching a Mobile Health Van that provides outreach to the homeless


Williams is the third child of the late Matilda Effeh Williams, an entrepreneur and philanthropist, and Emeric A. Williams, Sr., former deputy general manager of the Sierra Leone External Telecommunications. (Photo: Frederica Williams as a child in England). 

Both parents were committed to imparting values of compassion, generosity, social justice and humility, Williams recalls.

She commends her parents for building a strong foundation of hard work, faith, love and hope that has steered her in life.

A graduate of the Freetown Secondary School for Girls, Williams attended the London School of Accountancy, passed the examinations of the Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Financial Administrators, UK and was elected fellow of the Institute.

She passed the exams of the Institute of Administrative Management (UK) with distinction and obtained a graduate certificate in Administration and Management from the Harvard University Extension School and an MBA from Anna Maria College in Paxton, Massachusetts.

Williams moved from London to Boston, Massachusetts in 1984. Prior to joining Whittier, she worked at various hospitals and rose to become Senior Vice President of Administration and Chief Financial Officer of the Dimock Center, a large health care and human services facility in Boston.

She lives in Boston with three sons.


Since joining Whittier in 2002, Williams has received dozens of awards recognizing her work as both a woman-of-color CEO and a driving force behind Whittier’s expansion and success. Her awards include:

  • The 2010 We Are Boston Gala Award: Along with honoring Attorney Victoria Kennedy, the wife of the late Senator Edward Kennedy, Boston Mayor Tom Menino was thrilled to honor Williams with the Community Pioneer Award 
  • The White House Communication Agency’s 2012 “Honoring Exceptional Women Doing the Extraordinary”: Williams was one of six women honored in Washington, D.C. at this event
  • Whittier named by the Boston Globe as one of the top 100 Women-Led Businesses in Massachusetts from 2014-2019: Whittier has been recognized as one of the Top 100 Women-Led Businesses in Massachusetts by the renowned Boston Globe newspaper for five consecutive years. (Photo: Williams with President Barack Obama)


Williams currently serves on the Boards of Trustees for, among others, the Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers, Boston Health Net and the Dana Farber Cancer Institute: The Dana–Farber/Harvard Cancer Center is the largest National Cancer Institute (NCI) designated Comprehensive Cancer Center in the United States.

She is a Fellow of the National Association of Corporate Directors and a member of the International Women’s Forum. The International Women’s Forum (IWF) is an invitation-only women’s organization whose mission is “to support the women leaders of today and tomorrow.” The IWF has been described as “highly influential.” Notable members have included Hillary Clinton, Madeleine Albright, Sandra Day O’Connor, Coretta Scott King, Betty Friedan, and Katharine Graham.

Further, Williams is a trustee of Eversource Energy, the largest utility system in New England.

Williams clearly has a passion for community involvement, this past summer she served as Grand Chief Receiver at the Krio Descendants Union (KDU) Global Thanksgiving Service in Boston – she is a member of the Krio ethnic group.


The mission of Whittier Street Health Center is to provide high quality, reliable and accessible health care and social services for diverse populations that promote a culture of wellness and eliminate disparities related to race, ethnicity, and income level.

No one is turned away because of their inability to pay. Whittier is a private, independent non-profit and is also a federally qualified health center generating approximately 57% of its revenues from donation, grants and contracts.

The progressive magazine, In These Times writes: “Williams could point with well-earned pride to her accomplishments running a health center with a $25 million budget, over 30,000 patients a year, some 40 programs, and a perfect score on its most recent federal audit measuring statutory and regulatory compliance; and building the new facility, which no one had managed to do before.”

Most importantly, and perhaps the most unique feature of Whittier is the philosophy of providing total care for the whole person. Patients are not viewed in terms of medical conditions and disease states. Instead, the Center strives to provide services and programs that support holistic health. (Photo: Williams in exclusive interview with Kwame Fitzjohn)

Of her achievements, Williams says:

“I am grateful to have a loyal team of dedicated colleagues at Whittier. It is the Whittier team’s care and respect for patients that make Whittier a warm and welcoming place for everyone who comes through our doors.”

The story of how Whittier Street Health Center has been shaped by Frederica Williams is a shining example of how one person with tenacity, passion and determination to do good can do so, against many odds, achieve an astounding result and provide health benefits that Boston’s underserved communities will be reaping for generations to come.



  1. Truly remarkable, and impressive. Perhaps now, those envious sceptics, doubters and haters, will crawl back into their eerie, safe spaces, to cool off and chill out for a little while(lol) Goodness gracious! Chill out for a minute! Ms Williams has done something laudable, commendable and rare,and she deserves the loudest, enthusiastic applauses and praises, Sierra Leone, and all humanity can shower generously upon her.

    Listen,she was able to survive, and thrive, in a place where drowning men struggle in desperation, and exasperation to keep their heads high above water, as they keep on grasping at straws, as credible means of survival and hope. Why not show her some consideration, and love, instead of blind, negative, spurious, criticisms? She was able to keep her dreams burning and alive, through thick and thin, come hell or highwater…and like a candle undisturbed by the winds she stayed resolute, focused, unwavering, through her intelligence, ingenuity, skills and positive attitude…Come on! Show her some love! A Pacesetter indeed,worthy of emulation, she has become – Haters for once in your lives show some appreciation and love(lol)….Rising Sun Will Rise Again.

    • Frederica Williams transformed a basic community health care center into a center of excellence providing holistic health care and social services to approximately 30,000 people, predominantly low-income minorities including Sierra Leoneans. She is having a bigger impact in the lives of Sierra Leoneans while living in the US and also support hundreds of family members, friends, acquaintances, youth education and health.

      -Whittier is one of 10 Refugee and Immigrant Centers in Massachusetts and the only center in Boston contracted with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health to serve new refugees and immigrants.
      -Whittier serves and hires a large immigrant population. Approximately half of the 30,000 patients are immigrants including Sierra Leoneans, Liberians, Nigerians, and immigrants from other African states.
      – Whittier has almost 300 people on staff and more than 50% are immigrants including Sierra Leoneans
      – The health care services developed under Williams’ leadership includes centers of excellence to address chronic disease impacting Africans, such as heart disease, hypertension, diabetes and cancer.
      – Patients are served in their language of preference including Krio. The center hires a multicultural team of medical interpreters to assist in medical visits, advocacy, care coordination, case management and support.
      – The social services are tailored to meet the needs of the large minority and immigrant population including domestic violence advocacy and support, housing assistance, transportation, food pantry, financial counseling, job training and assistance with job placements, prison re-entry, mental health and substance abuse, partnerships with legal services and immigrant organizations.
      – Ms. Williams also provides personal donations to many Sierra Leonean organizations to support the education of young people especially children being raised by single mothers, Sierra Leone Grammar School Education Endowment Fund, Freetown Secondary School for Girls, Krio land issue fund, KDU and many other organIzations that support Sierra Leoneans.

      She has served as the Distinguished Grand Chief Patron for several Sierra Leonean cultural and educational fundraising events, making significant personal donations, including the Annie Walsh Memorial School (North Carolina) and KDU.

      Ms. Williams has a deep commitment to the health and wellness, educational opportunities, social uplift, economic development and equality of immigrants, refugees, minorities, prisoners, elderly, low-income and vulnerable populations. She has committed her life to being a serving leader for those considered to be the least, lost and last! NEXT QUESTION?

  2. “But with the help of Almighty God, firmness of purpose and tenacity, she was able to reach out towards the heavens and grab herself a shining star” – SAIDU CONTEH….WOW, No words I can say will be able to describe how beautiful those lines are, and how happy I felt after reading them…GreatSayedna, I Thank you Sir.

  3. A woman on mission – tough, resilient, focused and intelligent.It certainly wasn’t an easy ride for her; that I can tell you without the slightest hesitations.To excel in the United States is no child’s play,especially when you are a woman of color – all the odds are stacked,maliciously against you like concrete bricks on the Berlin wall,towering very high,there’s no way to get past,or over it.

    But with the help of Almighty God,firmness of purpose,and tenacity,she was able to reach out towards the heavens,and grab herself a shining star.Bravo lady,for being able to thrive,survive,and succeed in the most nerve-racking, demanding, unforgiving, terrain in the world – A cold,challenging,and exhausting place,where the knees of the strongest,and bravest of men,have been known to knock, buckle,and give way,under intense,suffocating pressure,stress,and heavy work related obligations.

    Nuff respect once again Ma’am! Those who have been fortunate to live in the United States will tell you that it is a place where countless opportunities,stereotypes and prejudices are intricately interwoven like the complicated strands of a spiders web. It is a place where,if Destiny decides to smile on you,none upon the face of the beautiful earth will be able to match the deafening sounds of your laughter,and happiness. True.

    But if,on the other hand,she decides to frown,scowl,and roar with displeasure at someone,then let no man ask for seasons of rainfall ever again;the copious pouring tears,that unlucky person will have to shed,for endless days,and nights,will be more than sufficient to provide us with all the waters we may need for eons and millenniums to come. Congratulations to our dear Sister – Frederica M. Williams. Rising Sun Will Rise Again.

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