Honoring Former Coyote, Heidi Williams

Honoring Former Coyote, Heidi Williams
Posted on 01/11/2021

At WPDS#1 we are proud to recognize Williston High School Graduate Heidi Williams for her featured accomplishments chronicled in the latest issue of the Dartmouth College Alumni Magazine. “The probing questions the Stanford University economist is asking shine new light on why medical innovation happens—and, perhaps more importantly, why it doesn’t.”

Read the full article at: https://dartmouthalumnimagazine.com/articles/heidi-williams-innovative-economist )

“Why is it that innovative scientific ideas don’t always end up reaching patients? Why are so many drugs tested to extend the lives of late-stage cancer patients for a few months, but hardly any to prevent cancer from occurring in the first place? Does putting intellectual property protections on genes lead to more medical advances or fewer? 

What is so rare about Williams is that she has been able to answer those questions through her research on medical technology. In the face of a global pandemic, the questions she asks, and the answers she is unearthing around the forces behind medical innovation, are more urgent than ever. 

Williams, 39, won a MacArthur Foundation “genius grant” award in 2015. Before that she was a Rhodes scholar, and she earned a Ph.D. in economics from Harvard in 2010. Peers call her a rock star in the emerging field of “the economics of innovation,” which Williams applies primarily to medical technology. She was tabbed by The Economist in 2018 as one of the eight best young economists of the decade. She was even featured in Glamour. 

Now Williams’ work could help shape the nation’s patent system, not only as it relates to medicine but also to software and other areas of technology innovation. 

Before she arrived at Dartmouth from Williston, North Dakota—a Great Plains city of about 14,000 people near the Montana border—Williams hardly thought of an academic career. Told during orientation that the College enrolled students from all 50 states, Williams glanced around, figured she had to be the only kid there from North Dakota, and concluded that’s how she got in. “I didn’t really understand what getting a Ph.D. was, and I definitely didn’t think of myself as somebody who was obviously qualified to go get one,” Williams says in a voice that still carries the inflection of her Great Plains childhood.”