In his parents' footsteps

In his parents’ footsteps

New PHHP grad chose a career in health care just like his mom and dad

By Michelle Champalanne
Jacob Williams

Jacob Williams

Growing up, Jacob Williams would wake up at 4 a.m. and join his father’s trek to a little regional hospital about an hour away from home. His father, a nurse-anesthetist, had a long day of work lined up. Williams would sit and watch doctors perform surgeries on patients while his father monitored their anesthesia.

Also a nurse, his mother worked in rehabilitation, helping her patients to improve their daily function. At just age 12, he realized how dedicated his parents were to their work.

“You have a sense that what your parent is doing for their job is important,” he said. “They have an important role to play.”

Following in his parents’ footsteps, Williams, a UF graduate student in the College of Public Health and Health Professions, also chose to pursue health care as a profession and will graduate this month with his doctoral degree in clinical psychology. Williams has already begun his postdoctoral fellowship as a treatment provider for clinical psychology at the South Texas Research Organization Network Guiding Studies on Trauma and Resilience, also called STRONG STAR, at its Fort Hood site in Texas.

Williams has been around the military most of his life. Born at Laughlin Air Force Base in Del Rio, Texas, both of his parents were commissioned officers and nurses in the U.S. Air Force. However, his mother and father left the Air Force in the early ‘90s to pursue careers in the greater Austin, Texas area. His father also served during Operation Desert Storm.

Williams chose clinical psychology as his career route. He compares his degree as a blending of his parents’ careers, the goals of alleviating pain and improving functioning, for the military, he said.

Christina S. McCrae, Ph.D., an associate professor for the department of clinical and health psychology, recruited Williams to work in her lab. He now considers her his professional mentor.

“When he was in lab, he was always a positive source of energy and a positive team player,” she said.

McCrae describes Williams as being a crucial member of her lab’s research team and thinks STRONG STAR is a good fit for his background.

Williams hopes his future career allows him to work in primary care psychology and increase access to mental health treatment to underserved populations through research and clinical practice.

STRONG STAR, founded in 2008, is located at Fort Hood, the largest military base in the U.S. They treat soldiers who have been recently deployed or who are scheduled for deployment.

Williams and other researchers work to develop and evaluate the most effective early interventions possible for the detection, prevention, diagnosis and treatment of combat-related post-traumatic stress disorder and related conditions in active-duty military veterans and personnel.

“Even working in the VA and having military parents, you just don’t fully understand what military culture means until you’re mixed up into the environment,” he said.

It’s not unusual for psychologists to treat medical providers who are traumatized, he said.

“You can see the challenges they have to deal with as a result of combat and some of the stress they have from just serving in the military,” he said. “I think I have a much better appreciation of that than I ever had before.”