Dr. Tara S. Williams Recipient Of The 9th Annual Dr. Bookhardt Award For Health Equity

From left DOH-Orange Deputy Health Officer and Assistant Director Beth Paterniti, Dr. Tracy MacIntosh, Tonja Williams, Dr. Tara Williams, Denita Pimienta, Dr. Suha Selah, Ms. Alfred L. Bookhardt, and DOH-Orange Health Officer Robert D. Karch
From left Ms. Alfred L. Bookhardt, Dr. Tara Williams, DOH-Orange Health Officer Dr. Robert D. Karch

ORLANDO – At a special ceremony held yesterday, the Florida Department of Health in Orange County (DOH-Orange) honored Dr. Tara S. Williams as this year’s Alfred L. Bookhardt, M.D. Award recipient for her contributions to healthcare in Orange County, Florida.

Established by the Florida Department of Health in Orange County in 2015, the annual Bookhardt Award for Health Equity pays homage to Dr. Alfred L. Bookhardt and recognizes an Orange County physician for their dedication and commitment to increasing access to healthcare.

Dr. Tara Williams is a clinical associate professor of Pediatrics at the University of Central Florida’s College of Medicine. She’s been a practicing general academic pediatrician and breastfeeding medicine specialist for over a decade. She is passionate about training the next generation of pediatricians to be competent at encouraging, supporting, and advocating for breastfeeding equity in all clinical settings.

Dr. Williams was born on the Caribbean Island nation of Jamaica and lived there until immigrating to the United States at the age of 12. She completed high school at Brooklyn Tech in Brooklyn, New York and obtained her undergraduate degree in Chemistry from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She remained in Pittsburgh to complete her medical degree at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine all while raising her first three children. She credits considering breastfeeding as a viable option because of her first baby’s Women, Infants and Children (WIC) peer counselor.

Dr. Williams went on to complete her Pediatric residency training at Metro Health Medical Center in Cleveland, Ohio. As a third-year resident, wanting to pursue a research project in breastfeeding, her advisor told her that “nobody studies or funds work in breastfeeding”. She stayed on at Metro Health to serve as their Associate Pediatric Program Director. It was during this time that she became a site co-investigator for the American Academy of Pediatric Breastfeeding Promotion in Physician’s Office Practices Resident Education and Curriculum Development Grant. This is when she discovered that there was an entire world of breastfeeding scholars, advocates, and educators.

Also at the ceremony, DOH-Orange recognized individuals for their impacts in the community to serve and help reduce health disparities. Congratulations to the following winners:

  • Business/Non-profit/Non-traditional Partner: Denita Pimienta
  • Community Based Partner: Dr. Suha Saleh, University of Central Florida
  • Faith Base: Tonja Williams
  • Social and Economic Barriers Partner: Dr. Tracy MacIntosh, University of Central Florida
  • Media Partner: Diane “Lady D” Taylor, WOKB 1680 am
  • Newcomer to Public Health Partner: Marc Mc Murrin

Background – The annual Bookhardt award for Health Equity was created by DOH-Orange as a way of recognizing an Orange County physician for their commitment to increasing access to health care with a goal of achieving health equity in central Florida. Dr. Alfred L. Bookhardt (1928-2014) began his career in central Florida as a physician in the early 1960s as the second physician and surgeon at the Dr. Phillips Hospital for Coloreds (Central Florida’s first all-Black hospital), when Black doctors were barred from practicing at Orlando hospitals or joining the American Medical Association. He also co-founded the Central Florida Medical Society and Guardian Care, the first long-term care facility for African-Americans in Orlando.