September 25, 2000
Volume XXXIII, No. 34



HSC Profile

In Memoriam


Dr. Gail Williams

Dr. Gail Williams, Department of Family Nursing Care, relies on current clinical knowledge to help her students make the transition from theory to practice, and sometimes back to theory again.

Students and colleagues say the following about her award-winning style:

  • "Dr. Williams possesses all the characteristics and qualities of a master teacher."
  • "Dr. Williams made a lasting impression on me."
  • "Dr. Williams raises teaching to an art form."

These words of high regard describe a consistently outstanding teacher who has been nominated for the Presidential Award for Teaching Excellence three times, and is receiving the award for the first time this year.

Photo by Fernando Serna

Dr. Gail Williams (left), family nursing care, discusses use of the "birthing ball" as part of her elective course "Introduction to the Role of the Childbirth Educator" with Sue Kirsch, family nursing care. The birthing ball is used during labor to increase comfort, encourage relaxation, promote the optimal position of the baby in the pelvic cavity and increase a woman’s concentration during contractions.

She has taught at the undergraduate and graduate levels, bringing her broad knowledge of psychiatric/mental health nursing and women’s health nursing to students at each level.

Dr. Williams, who holds a Ph.D. in nursing research and teaches both psychiatric/mental health nursing and obstetric/newborn nursing, tailoring her instruction to each student.

"My whole premise is to focus individual attention on the learner," she says. "Each person has strengths and experiences that he or she brings into a course. Many of our students are adult learners with other credentials, such as degrees in psychology or in sociology. We can successfully bring their life experiences to bear in clinical teaching."

Dr. Williams is certified in perinatal nursing and has a master’s degree with specialization in psychiatric/mental health nursing. She teaches extensively in clinical settings. "I serve as a role model for what I’m asking the student to do," she says. "I demonstrate the standard of care that the patient should receive."

She taught obstetric-newborn principles for six and a half years in the School of Nursing course titled "Nursing of Families: Childbirth, Parenting, Illness." More recently, she switched hats to serve as course coordinator for a class titled "Nursing the Client with Mental Illness." She also instructs students in the Family Nurse Practitioner master’s degree major about the psychiatric/mental health aspects of primary care.

Several years ago, Dr. Williams developed an elective course in response to student feedback in the Nursing of Families course. She has offered the elective, titled "Introduction to the Role of the Childbirth Educator," six times.

An internationally certified childbirth educator, Dr. Williams has offered classes at Santa Rosa Downtown, the former Women and Children’s Hospital and Southwest Texas Methodist Hospital.

An outstanding researcher, Dr. Williams recently published the article, "Grief After Elective Abortion: Exploring Nursing Interventions for Another Kind of Perinatal Loss," in the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses (AWHONN) Lifelines journal.

"More than 1.3 million women in the United States have elective abortions each year, and we have little or no data regarding the possible grief response," she says. "I was able to document the grief response in the women who participated."

This research and her clinical experiences keep her on the cusp of nursing innovation in her fields.

"She remains clinically competent so that she is aware of what is happening in the field of nursing," says her colleague, Dr. Donna Taliaferro, acute nursing care, "and that is a plus for students when they know that the person teaching them ‘knows her stuff.’"

—Will Sansom