Thomas Williams, MD


Former Executive Vice Dean of the UNM School of Medicine

Thomas "Tom" McKee Williams was a native of Hobbs, New Mexico. As a teenager, he developed his own house painting business and played center for the state championship second place football team in 1974. He famously "muffed" two snaps to his punter during a homecoming game that the Eagles with luck still won 14-6.

Dr. Williams graduated from Hobbs High School and received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Haverford College. He received his medical degree from the University of New Mexico. He completed his residency training in anatomic pathology at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, where he also served as Chief Resident.

Dr. Williams was happy to get a first "real" job as Assistant Professor at age 32 at the University of Pennsylvania. He returned to the UNM School of Medicine as a faculty member in 1991. Except for a brief interlude as Chief Scientific Officer for biotechnology start-up Exagen Diagnostics, Dr. Williams spent the remainder of his career at UNM. He served as Chairman of the UNM School of Medicine Department of Pathology from 2008 to 2012. The department is among the top 10 in the United States with respect to grant funding from the National Institutes of Health. Prior to assuming his role as chair, he served as the department's executive vice chair from 2003 to 2006 and as vice chair of undergraduate medical education from 1998 to 2005. Dr. Williams served as Executive Vice Dean and President of the Medical Practice of the School of Medicine from 2012 to 2014.

Dr. Williams was an expert in immunogenetics and molecular pathology. His clinical laboratory supported kidney and bone marrow transplantation and general molecular diagnostics. His research laboratory was a leader in defining the rich complexity of the human and macaque MHC genes that control responses to transplanted organs. He published more than 100 research papers during his career, including highly cited papers in Transplantation and Molecular Genetics.

One of Dr. Williams' career highlights was teaching medical students, graduate students, residents, clinical fellows, practicing physicians and medical technologists. He taught them about medical genetics, immunogenetics and molecular pathology. He was proud of the junior faculty members he recruited to the Department of Pathology.

Tom immensely enjoyed traveling. He visited five continents, every U.S. state and each of New Mexico's 33 counties! He enjoyed bicycling and made it a point to ride in every state; for example, he and wife Maggie biked 20 miles in Kansas and just a few feet in Colorado and Oklahoma at the junction of the three states. In Albuquerque, he logged more than 10,000 miles on his bike. Tom also enjoyed many visits to the island of Nantucket and to the cities of San Francisco and New York, where he often saw his nine nieces and nephew.

Tom was the President of the Order of McKee, a Williams’ family tradition whose members include his nephew, Zeke McKee Williams, and grandnephews Hardin McKee Capps, Quentin McKee Lombard, and Henry McKee Bean. Tom’s great grandfather, William McKee Riggs, could be considered the founder of the group. Zeke will be the new President of the Order.

Tom was an expert carpenter whose widely-varied interests included modern art, reading, gardening, mathematics, and political discourse. He believed that life revolved around making a contribution via one's work, having relationships based on integrity, and having as many high quality and diverse experiences as possible.

He leaves his wife Maggie; their sons Andrew, Alex and Henry; and several close beloved extended family members.

Tom and I were Pathology Residents and eventually co-Chief Residents at the University of Pennsylvania (from 1983-1988). During that time, we found ourselves doing post-doctoral research in adjacent labs and sharing the joys, failures and apprehensions those experiences brought. He was extremely bright and loved doing bench science but ultimately realized his interests lay closer to clinically relevant, translational research and service. As a person, he was patient, caring, supportive, ethical and intensely loyal. He had a warm and disarming sense of humor. While our jobs and lives moved us apart, I will fondly remember our friendship. I will miss him a great deal.
James S. Malter, MD, Professor and Chairman, Senator Betty and Dr. Andy Andujar Distinguished Chair in Pathology, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center

Additional Remembrances

I was a first year medical student when Dr. Williams taught our small teaching group for Genetics and Immunology. He always had a wit and humor about teaching that made it fun and exciting to do small group sessions. Even after the block was over, he continued to be a mentor throughout my medical school career, giving advice and always had the time to listen. He was such a kind soul and amazing teacher who is going to be sorely missed.
I was part of Dr. Williams' research team that studied immunogenetics in macaques for three years before entering UNM medical school. I also worked on a project with him at TriCore for a summer. During my interactions with him, I found him to be a wonderful teacher, a kind person and an astute researcher. I will remember and miss him dearly.
I too was a resident with Tom, a year behind him, at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in the 1980s. Tom was a lovely person, a good friend, an excellent pathologist, a really hard worker, and someone who made the day (and evening, in the basement, cutting up specimens into the night) fun for all of us, with his quiet humor and easy laugh. It was a pleasure to see him succeed professionally, and to hear from him and Maggie over the years about their lives and that of their sons. I am so sorry for this terrible loss. I will miss him.
I remember Tom as a resident from my days at UPENN. He was outstanding and always such a gentleman. Someone you looked forward to signing out cases with. I have very fond memories of time spent with him. He certainly will be missed.