01 Aug

In Memory of Reed Williams, PhD

Posted by: Brian George
in Blog

williams 168x200pxIt is with great sadness that I must report the recent and unexpected passing of Reed Williams, PhD on June 20th, 2018.

Reed, a board member of PLSC, was one of the most respected and prolific educational researchers in North America. His contributions to performance evaluation in medical student and house-staff training have had a great impact on current practice, including everything we have done with SIMPL. He was also a kind, honest, humble, and thoughtful man who served as a friend, colleague, and mentor to many, including many of us. He is survived by his wife Sue and two sons. 

Reed spent many years working with surgical educators, first at Southern Illinois University and later at Indiana University. In both places he had an especially close collaboration with Dr. Gary Dunnington. More recently, he became an active member of the Procedural Learning and Safety Collaborative where he was central to the consortium's work. His contributions to this and many other organizations and projects stand as a testament to his intellectual generosity, keen insight, and rigorous approach. 

Above all, however, Reed had an unwavering commitment to the truth. This characteristic is well illustrated by the first interaction I had with Reed, long before we became collaborators. He was skeptical that our approach to using a single-item assessment (Zwisch) was sufficient, and matter-of-factly said so. But he wasn’t satisfied to simply disagree. Instead, he went back to re-analyze data he had previously collected in the process of validating a multi-item scale (OPRS) to see if his opinion held up to closer scrutiny. A month later he shared his results: a single item scale was, in fact, sufficient. I will always admire his willingness, even when it contradicted his prior experience, to believe in the scientific process. As a researcher, that is one of the highest compliments that I can pay this extraordinary man.

More generally, Reed wanted to use science to make the world a better place. He achieved his goal, even if there was so much more that he wanted to do. Thank you, Reed, for all that you gave. We will miss you terribly.

Brian George, on behalf of everyone at the PLSC

We will be organizing a memorial for Reed at SEW in April, which we will formally announce as the date approaches. We are also going to fund an award in his name, most likely through the Association for Surgical Education. If you would like to help organize his memorial or contribute to an award, please email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for more information.