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News | Feb. 29, 2024

Walter Reed Salutes Capt. Carlos Williams’s Leadership During Black History Month

By James Black

Courage, Commitment and a Commanding Presence

When you meet U.S. Navy Capt. Carlos Williams, director of the National Intrepid Center of Excellence (NICoE) at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, you’ll likely notice that he embodies the Navy’s core values of initiative, accountability, integrity and toughness.

The Albany, Georgia native graduated with honors from Albany State University with a bachelor’s degree in biology and a minor in chemistry before earning his medical degree from the Morehouse School of Medicine. He later earned graduate degrees in public health and business administration from Johns Hopkins University.

National Intrepid Center of Excellence: Healing the Nation’s Heroes

“Capt. Williams’s leadership at the NICoE has had a major impact across the Military Health System,” shared Dr. Louis French, deputy director at NICoE. “He has driven and guided the formation of the Defense Intrepid Network, which will shape traumatic brain injury (TBI) care in the Department of Defense (DOD)over the foreseeable future.”

In 2008, the National Defense Authorization Act directed the DOD to establish a comprehensive plan for programs to prevent, diagnose, treat, and rehabilitate service members with TBI, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and other mental health conditions. DOD accepted an offer from the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund to build and outfit the NICoE, which would become the prototype for 10 other centers at Military Treatment Facilities across the U.S.

The NICoE opened its doors on June 24, 2010, as a directorate of Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

“Captain Williams, through his leadership, brings the vision of NICoE to the next level by encouraging an environment of innovation in health care for our service members with combat and mission-related traumatic brain injury and comorbid psychological health conditions,” explained Dr. Thomas J. DeGraba, NICoE’s chief innovation officer.

Stakeholders say Williams’s support of NICoE’s Translating Research into Practice (TRIP) initiative, fosters collaboration among federal, academic and industry partners to bring the latest advancements to the clinical setting. “The development of the Defense Intrepid Network provides an outstanding platform to combine clinical and research expertise to advance the knowledge in our understanding of brain injury and the goal of precision medicine treatment through the interdisciplinary care model,” shared DeGraba.

Diverse Experiences Bring Value to Stakeholders

Before becoming NICoE’s director in 2020, Williams served as the director of the Office of Global Health Engagement for the Navy, where he served as the primary advisor on global health matters. During his tenure he designed and implemented the Navy’s Global Health Specialist Program and developed the Integrated Trauma and Medical Readiness Exchange to support readiness of the operational forces and build partner-nation capacity.

Williams’s prior appointments include a stint as the U.S. Navy Surgeon General’s Special Advisor for Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Response and liaison to the Uniformed Services University Health Sciences (USUHS). During this period, Williams also served as chair of the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs Medical Stability Operations Working Group/Educations and Training Committee.

Among his numerous military assignments and accomplishments, Williams deployed to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, where he served as head of pediatrics. His unit was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Presidential Unit Citation. He went on serve as deputy director of the Navy Enteric Diseases Program and the principal investigator for several first-in-human enteric vaccine trials.

Humanitarian Assistance: A Global Collaboration of Medical and Economic Partners

Williams served as the principal agent for the hallmark U.S. Agency for International Development and U.S. Africa Command-funded Pandemic Response Program (PRP). The program focused on crisis response to public health emergencies and was where Williams designed and implemented his Unified Strategic Implementation and Planning Process.

This process mobilized stakeholders and sectors across the community to ensure inclusiveness while working in coordination with other U.S. government departments, numerous United Nations agencies, and international and national non-governmental organizations to improve partner nations’ disaster-response capability. As a direct result, more than 14 nations developed their own pandemic-response plans.

Change Agent: Builds Consensus While Empowering Others to Succeed

One of the highlights of Williams’s career was serving as a health policy fellow with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, an organization striving to improve access to quality health care for economically challenged communities. Williams excels in turning aspirational goals into meaningful accomplishments. During his career, he has received numerous awards, including the National Medical Association’s 2011 Presidential Citation for his work in Africa, and in 2015, he was selected as an inaugural U.S. Presidential Leadership scholar focusing on social change and community development.

Beyond his clinical specialty, Williams’s career has focused on implementation science, community organization, and building consensus to ensure inclusion in and ownership of the process of change.
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