Jessica H. Williams

In Funded Scholars
Jessica H. Williams
Jessica H. Williams




Assistant Professor
University of Alabama Birmingham

Professional Bio

I am an Assistant Professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) School of Health Professions in the Department of Health Services Administration. I obtained a PhD in Health Education/Health Promotion and an MPH in Epidemiology, both from the UAB School of Public Health. I obtained a B.A. degree in Music/Pre-med from Birmingham-Southern College. I first came to UAB in 2005 as a research assistant where I worked on several federally funded research projects that focused on helping physicians provide guideline-based diabetes care to rural patients, improving doctor-patient communication among older adults, using a narrative-based DVD to improve smoking cessation rates among low-income African American patients, and using web-based interventions to improve smoking cessation rates and patient outcomes with dentists and physicians across the United States. The majority of my prior research has been in the area of health disparities, focusing primarily on smoking cessation among low income African Americans. Since I began my faculty position in 2012, I have taught in both the undergraduate, residential master’s, and executive master’s degree programs while conducting research on disparities of care in older adults and in minorities. One of the most recent studies from which this New Connections project builds on is an intervention designed to address racial bias in non-physician healthcare staff. 

Project Description

This project will explore the factors that influence perceptions of discrimination in the healthcare setting and to explore the association between perceived discrimination and medication adherence in African Americans with hypertension. Using an explanatory, sequential mixed-method study design the following aims will be explored: Aim 1 – to quantitatively explore the factors that influence perceived discrimination and medication adherence in African Americans with hypertension. The predictors of perceived discrimination to be examined include patient unconscious bias (as measured using the Race Implicit Association Test), trust in provider, and racism. Aim 2 – to qualitatively explore how individual instances of perceived discrimination affect medication adherence in African Americans with hypertension. This aim will be completed using in-depth interviews with patients to elucidate the acts within the clinical encounter that were perceived as discriminatory and how those acts influence hypertension management behavior outside of the clinical encounter. This study is one of the first of its kind to include this assessment in the study of hypertension management in African American patients.

My New Connections Experience

The New Connections Program first caught my attention as a junior faculty member looking for opportunities that would help me develop as an independent investigator. I noticed from browsing the website that many of the scholars who had gone through the program were making great strides in their academic careers because of their experience in the program. I also spoke with two alumni of the program who had also been at my institution and they both encouraged me to apply because of the growth I would experience and the incredible network I would gain access to by participating. They described the program to me as becoming part of a “family” and that really appealed to me. I saw the New Connections program as a great opportunity.

The New Connections Program will afford me the invaluable protected time to pursue my research interests. I look forward to connecting with other young scholars across the country and to becoming a more adept researcher who is well prepared to advance research in my field of interest.

Research Interests

My overall research interest is in improving minority health disparities. More specifically, I am interested in exploring the psychosocial factors that influence the health behavior of patients in order to develop approaches that will improve the overall patient experience and healthcare encounter. 

The Details
  • New Connections Status: Junior Investigator
  • Award Year: 2015
  • RWJF Team/Portfolio: Health Systems Improvement 
  • Project Name: An Exploratory Study of Factors that Influence Perceived Discrimination and Hypertension Management in African Americans. 

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