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Extracting passion from circumstance

Published: December 6th, 2016

Category: Scholarships

By Tyler Francischine

Xavier Williams

As a first-year medical student, Williams received his first stethoscope as part of the Class of 2019’s orientation activities. Photo by Jesse S. Jones

When faced with hardship, University of Florida College of Medicine student Xavier Williams, MS2, keeps a clear mind by reminding himself that passion and motivation trump all else.

“When you find your passion, this passion is something rooted in your heart, not in your circumstances,” he says. “When things get difficult, we have to reach into our hearts. We have to continue to fight and realize our circumstances don’t dictate our futures.”

This first-generation college student from St. Petersburg is enrolled in a dual degree program — he aims to receive both his doctor of medicine and master of public health degrees from the University of Florida by 2020. With a concentration on public health practice and global health, Williams wants to devote himself to serving the underrepresented.

He calls receiving the Ralph G. Blodgett Scholarship a blessing. This scholarship, started in 1987 by the wife of a New York businessman to honor his memory, is awarded based on financial need. He is also a Bill and Melinda Gates Millennium Scholar, and his contributions to the UF community as an undergraduate led to his induction into the UF Hall of Fame.

“Being able to receive a scholarship that pays for the large expense of medical school is an honor,” he says. “It provides me with another source of motivation. I can show I’m thankful through my studies and putting in the work.”

This spring, Williams will take his fourth trip to Haiti as part of the Project Haiti medical mission trip program. The team of physicians and students sets up clinics and pharmacies and employs Haitian medical teams to serve their populations. He recalls seeing 300 patients in one week during a 2013 trip.

“The infrastructure is not like what it is here in the States,” he says. “People are lining up outside for maybe their only medical visit of the year.”

Xavier Williams in Haiti

This spring, Williams will return to Haiti for the fourth time to help lead UF Project Haiti’s medical team.

His involvements also include serving as co-president of the Student National Medical Association and institute coordinator for last summer’s Health Care Summer Institute. Hosted by the College of Medicine’s Office for Diversity and Health Equity, the Summer Institute is a four-week program in which minority high school students gain exposure to career opportunities in health science. He says mentoring young people and increasing diversity in medicine are two causes he’s passionate about.

“As a first-generation college student, I can understand the stress and anxiety associated with applying to college and even having big dreams of becoming a doctor,” he says. “Now that I have been blessed with the opportunity to embark on my medical education journey, I felt the need to give back and share my knowledge to empower our youth. The Summer Institute was the perfect opportunity to do that.”

Williams’ plans after graduation remain flexible, but one thing is for sure: his passion will drive him toward leaving an impact.

“I know I want to serve in developing countries,” he says. “Something about connecting with people through medicine really ignites me.”