The UNC School of Medicine Department of Allied Health Sciences has named Sharon Wallace Williams, PhD, CCC-A, as the incoming director of the Division of Speech and Hearing Sciences, a role she will assume July 1, 2017. The division began in 1969 under the leadership of Dr. Robert Peters in response to a need for well-educated professionals to treat a broad array of communication disorders. More than 20 full and part-time faculty members hold appointments in the division, and many others serve as clinical preceptors and research mentors.
“I am excited to transition into this leadership role within our division,” Williams said. “It is an honor to move forward as we work together to continue our tradition of excellence. We are fortunate to build on the foundation of an outstanding past and a very stable present as we face changes in health care delivery and in the demographics of those we serve.”
Williams joined the division’s faculty in fall 2003. She is currently an associate professor with the division. As an audiologist with expertise in gerontology, she applies her training and expertise to the scholarship of older adults living with life-limiting illnesses and to death and dying processes and outcomes. Her research agenda focuses on:
1) Older adults and their families who live with potentially life-limiting illnesses (i.e., stroke, dementia)
2) End-of-life (EOL) communication and advance care planning (ACP) within families and with health care providers; and
3) Incorporation and education of EOL, palliative care, and ACP into training and education of communication disorders professionals and pre-professionals.
Previously, the National Institute on Aging, The Duke Endowment, the UNC-Chapel Hill Center for Aging and Health, and the North Carolina Translational and Clinical Sciences Institute (NC TraCS Institute), have funded her research. Her research has been published in highly visible journals such as The Journals of Gerontology, The Gerontologist, Aging & Mental Health, and the Journal of Palliative Medicine.
Williams received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in communication disorders from East Carolina University and UNC-Chapel Hill, respectively. She received her PhD from the University of North Carolina-Greensboro in Human Development and Family Studies, followed by a postdoctoral fellowship at Wake Forest University School of Medicine.
Williams will succeed Jackson Roush, PhD, whose 25-year tenure as director included the addition of two new doctoral programs and the division’s move to Bondurant Hall in 2006. Roush will continue as director of the North Carolina Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disorders (LEND) Program, which was recently funded by the U.S. Maternal and Child Health Bureau through 2021. Funding included an additional supplement to prepare pediatric audiologists to work with children who have autism or other developmental disabilities in addition to hearing loss.
Stephen Hooper, PhD and associate dean and chair of the Department of Allied Health Sciences, stated “We will be forever grateful for the contributions of Dr. Roush to the Division of Speech and Hearing Sciences, and we very much look forward to his re-joining the ranks of our faculty to continue his work.”
Roush said he is grateful for support he has received from former DAHS chairs, Drs. David Yoder and Lee McLean, in addition to support from Hooper and division colleagues.
“It has been a great honor and privilege to serve as division director, but I felt the time was right for new leadership,” Roush said. “I couldn’t be more pleased with the appointment of Dr. Williams to succeed me; she will do an outstanding job.”
Hooper said he is looking forward to Williams’ leadership as she assumes this role in the department. “I look forward to working with her as she advances the teaching, research, and clinical mission of the DAHS Division of Speech and Hearing Sciences,” he said.