As director of Clinical Nutrition Services at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Ruth Williams’ (BS 80, MS 82) life is all about balance. Juggling meetings, hospital standards, teaching duties and her home life she is making a difference one happy tummy at a time.
Williams already had plenty to keep her busy when she enrolled in the University of Mississippi as a single mother.
“I think the people at Ole Miss were so supportive of me, helped with my classes, got me a graduate assistantship, they gave me a job, found me a place to live,” said Williams. “I was young with a baby and they were such good people and helped me so much.”
Williams pursued both a bachelors and masters degree while at Ole Miss learning Nutrition and Food Services and how to manage school, work and motherhood with ease.
“I’d go to work, go take a class, go back to work, go take a class, go back to work and then go home,” said Williams.
Early on, Williams did not allow obstacles to stand in her way, earning membership into honorary societies Kappa Delta Pi, Phi Kappa Phi, Kappa Omicron Phi and Phi Theta Kappa Honor Fraternity.
She continued her success finding jobs in areas throughout the south in hospital dietetics before landing at the Memphis based St. Jude Research Hospital.
“I like the kids. A lot of people think it’s sad here, but its not,” she said. “The kids are still just kids and they’re playing and having a great time even though they’re sick.”
Williams obtained her doctorate degree from the University of Memphis in 2001 and has written and co-written numerous healthcare research papers. She is currently conducting research projects aimed at sickle cell anemia and its nutritional implications.
“I thought I could change a lot of things for a lot of patients at St. Jude and I got into research,” said Williams. “I’m not only helping all the patients at St. Jude but all the patients in the world.”
Now in her 18th year with St. Jude, Williams still faces challenges in her work. Operating under a room service policy, she and her staff will go to great lengths to make sure their patients are happy and healthy.
“Getting children to eat, eat enough so that they don’t lose weight and are healthy,” said Williams of her toughest issue. “Patients here are allowed to have anything they want to eat, so if we don’t have it we’ll make it for them or go buy it.”
As director of Clinical Nutrition Services, she oversees all nutrition care for patients, the hiring, training and performance of a 12 member staff, two research projects, grants and budgets, and keeping the hospital current with American Dietetic Association standards.
“I like the team environment. It’s very oriented towards the families’ needs not only medically, but nutritionally and socially. Everybody is working toward that common goal,” said Williams.
Somewhere in her busy routine Williams finds time to provide educational services to students pursuing a career in nutrition. She is quick to credit Ole Miss with providing her a valuable education and positive outlook on teaching.
“I love to teach,” said Williams. “I think I’ve always been a nice person but the way they [Ole Miss] treated me showed me how I should treat people and students.”
As an administrator, mentor and mother she continues to provide the very best care for the people around her. Throughout her demanding career Williams has maintained that same giving attitude she first experienced during her Ole Miss career.
“I had financial hardships, and I needed a class, and I needed this and that and they went out of their way to help me,” said Williams. “I try to do the same for the students I have now.”
Williams and her husband Mike currently reside in Horn Lake. They have one daughter, two grandsons and three dogs and enjoy spending quality time with all of them.