Gephardt News

Community Partner Spotlight: Erise Williams

Front Row: Jada McDonald, Gephardt Institute Goldman Fellow, Joan R. Ferguson, Engagement Specialist at Williams & Associates, Inc. Back Row: Tyrell Manning, Regional Integration Specialist, David Bitterbaum, Medical Case Manager, and Erise Williams, Jr., President/CEO at Williams & Associates, Inc.

The Goldman Fellows Program, funded by the Joyce and Irving Goldman Family Foundation, supports undergraduates who secure unpaid summer internships at nonprofit, community, or governmental organizations in the St. Louis region. Fellows receive a $5,000 stipend and meet regularly as a cohort, learning about St. Louis while contextualizing and reflecting on their summer experience.

Jada McDonald, a 2017 Goldman Fellow and senior majoring in philosophy-neuroscience-psychology, interned with Erise Williams Jr., Chief Executive Officer at Williams and Associates, Inc. The mission of Williams and Associates, Inc. is to provide preventive health education, disease prevention, health promotion, and care services that address the health disparities of minorities in the St. Louis bi-state region, with particular regard to African Americans. It is a nonprofit, community-based agency that provides a range of services while also building the capacity of other healthcare providers through referrals when unable to address a client’s need. Staff members travel to community fairs and events to support HIV/STD testing and education, as well.

Erise connected with the Goldman Fellows program in 2016 after presenting his work on campus. “I presented to Dr. Shanti Parikh’s students in a course on the AIDS epidemic,” he said, “and several expressed interest in volunteering with the agency.” Rosalind Byrd, ’17, was one of the interested students. She applied to be a Goldman Fellow and interned with Erise that summer.

Rosalind laid the groundwork for a mobile healthcare clinic study. This summer, Jada continued where Rosalind left off, with a focus on the development of a mobile healthcare unit to provide screenings for African American men and adolescents. Jada interviewed a variety of physicians, social workers, and community leaders to assess the feasibility of the unit in addition to helping with clerical tasks and HIV/STD testing at community health fairs. Erise hopes to summarize the findings gathered from her interviews and create a funding proposal for the clinic next year.

According to Erise, the fellows have been a tremendous help to the organization. “Their assistance,” he commented, “has allowed the company to focus more on the mission. There is so much to do, and otherwise the clinic would probably be put on the back burner.” Jada added that, “My time with Williams and Associates and the fellows program has changed the way that I function. I learned to think critically, work efficiently, and how to be more effective. I also found my ultimate career goal. I have decided that I want to practice medicine in under-served areas. I’ll admit that I don’t know what that looks like yet…but I want to have an impact on communities that need it the most.”

When asked if he would recommend the Goldman Fellows program to other companies looking for summer interns, Erise said, “Oh, most definitely! Especially the companies without the staff or capacity to implement all of their programs and plans.” Erise also encourages students to join community engagement efforts more generally, because “each community is unique in its issues and challenges.”