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.
THE FREDERICA M WILLIAMS BUILDING
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.
A THRIVING WHITTIER STREET HEALTH CENTER
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
THE FREDERICA WILLIAMS STORY
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 WHITTIER STREET HEALTH CENTER JOURNEY
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.