African Americans are significantly underrepresented in comparison to other ethnic groups in the S.T.E.M (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) sector. Dr. Duran Williams, a Queens, New York native, is one of the few African American men who currently work within the field of Pharmacy in the US. Originally, Duran had aspirations of receiving an athletic scholarship to college and eventually studying law. Dr. Williams cites his mother as the first influence on his decision to go to school to study pharmacy. She would often stress the need for more African Americans in Pharmacy and gave him the support to go into the field.
In 1998, Duran entered Hampton University after graduating from Columbia High School in Maplewood, New Jersey. He then enrolled in pharmacy school in the fall of 2001. Dr Williams’ passion for his chosen career path grew as a result of the experience he gained at Hampton University. His time spent at Hampton allowed him to grow academically, socially, and intellectually. Hampton University equipped him to engage those from different backgrounds, “I went to Hampton and received my education there and it also prepared me to work in a diverse world” according to Dr. Williams.
Transitioning from a HBCU to a career where you are working with a myriad of cultures and ethnicities can be difficult. Yet, Dr. Williams enjoys the diversity and cites it as being the best part of his career. Following his graduation from Hampton in 2005, he later completed a general pharmacy practice residency at Washington Hospital Center in Washington, D.C. There, he experienced one of the most enjoyable parts of his career, “In D.C I worked with individuals from different cultures and backgrounds and it allowed me to augment my views on people.” In addition to having diverse colleagues, Dr. Williams was able to serve the citizens of Washington D.C as a clinical pharmacist at Washington Hospital Center from 2006 to 2009. In 2012, Dr. Williams moved to Richmond, VA where he continued his career in Pharmacy.
Dr. Williams cites Mark 9:23, “Everything is Possible for One Who Believes” as his main source for inspiration. He believes that, “Anything that one can think of, work for, and have the dedication to pursue it can be achieved.” This popular Bible verse encapsulates the purpose of his organization “Can I Get a Word?” Dr Williams believes there is power in every spoken word. He uses the word in empowering those that comes in contact with him. He referenced John 1:1 as the propelling factor for his organization: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” According to Dr Williams, “everything revolves around words.” Can I Get a Word focuses on inspiring and helping others recognize their own potential. In addition to its primary aim, Can I Get a Word is involved in community outreach, motivational speaking, and participating in jail ministry.
However despite all his success, Duran’s life has not been without its hardships, through his time as a student, pharmacist, and minister he has endured adversity. Negativity and doubt were challenges that he had to combat when pursuing his Doctorate of Pharmacy. An African American man pursuing a career in pharmacy drew much reservation. Dr. Williams believes that negativity and the people who perpetuate it are a hindrance, “negativity allows people to scare you from accomplishing goals.” Duran also received naysayers when he decided to enroll in seminary school in the fall of 2013. Non-constructive criticism and the negativity of others were some of the biggest challenges he faced while pursuing his dreams.
In order to pursue a career in Pharmacy or Ministry one should seek advice, “In order to truly get an understanding ask those who have achieved what you are aiming for. Get the opinions of several different people who are working in the field.” Dr. Williams also encourages those that are considering a career in pharmacy to get practical experience via internships. Through his work in medicine and “Can I Get a Word”, Dr. Williams has only just begun his mission to inspire and change lives. He currently serves as an Associate Minister at Mount Tabor Baptist Church in the Churchill section of RVA. Sometimes in life all its takes is one word to change your life story around, the right word goes a long way as Dr. Duran Williams can testify. Find your word and make a difference in your world.
Interview by: Hoyt Timmons
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