UNC-CH: The Quiet Professional

Todd Williams’s 28-year military career took him to countries and combat zones around the world: Korea, Haiti, sub-Saharan Africa, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Although the retired Green Beret medic, also known as an 18-Delta, doesn’t share many details about his experiences overseas, he does open up about an invaluable gift given to him by his sister-in-law before deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq in the years after September 11, 2001: a globe.

More than a decade ago, Williams and his wife, Michelle, placed the globe in the study of their home in Cameron, North Carolina, a thirty-minute drive from Fort Bragg, where he was stationed. Today, it sits in the family’s study at their home in Holly Springs, outside Raleigh.

“It was a huge help when talking to my daughters about my deployments,” recalled Williams, the clinical coordinator for the recently launched UNC Physician Assistant (PA) Program, which is operated through the Department of Allied Health Sciences at the UNC School of Medicine. “When I was preparing to go to Afghanistan or Iraq, I would bring them into the study and point to where on the map I was going, tell them how long I’d be gone, and explain that I’d be working as a medic, trying to help people. It was a way for us to feel closer during those times.”

An Ideal Fit

In the fall of 2015, after nearly three decades of military service, Williams officially retired from the Army and began his new position with the PA Program. The decision to seek a second career – after the Army had been his professional home for so long – was carefully considered.

“To be in Special Forces, your team has to be able to rely on each other,” Williams explained. “On your bad days, you need to know that you’ll be picked up by your teammates. On their bad days, you need to be there to pick them up. For me, after 16 years in Special Forces, I’d reached a point where I no longer felt I could be as effective a teammate as I needed to be. My daughters were 12 and eight years old, and it was increasingly difficult to be away from them.”

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