Peter C. Williams, JD, PhD

Department of Prevetive Medicine
Department of Philosophy

Medical Education
Medical Jurisprudence
Medical Ethics

Office Phone: (631) 444-3084
e-mail: peter.williams@stonybrook.edu

Peter Williams was born in 1943 and raised in the Los Angeles and, though he has been on the East Coast since 1965, still considers himself a Californian. He attended Occidental College with a double major in philosophy and in political science, and chose a career in teaching. Peter’s interest was jurisprudence - a mix of philosophy and sociology of law. Since there was no American graduate program with the appropriate focus in the early `60’s, he chose to go to law school and then graduate school in philosophy. The Danforth Foundation awarded him a fellowship that made both financially possible.

Peter moved east to attend Harvard Law School where he, like everyone else who has moved there, fell in love with Cambridge, Massachusetts. At HLS in 1968 Peter spent his "extracurricular" time counseling students on their rights and options in the draft system and was "of counsel" on the winning school’s moot court competition team. His academic focus had turned to philosophy and he began in the graduate program at Harvard in the fall of that year. Peter completed his Ph.D. in 1973 having written a dissertation on "The Norm of Reciprocity" - an analysis of the meaning of that concept in sociology, law, psychology and philosophy. During the year he was completing his dissertation Peter was an assistant professor and taught philosophy at Wheaton College in Norton, MA.

Peter moved to Stony Brook in the summer of 1973 and began working both in the department of philosophy and in the interdisciplinary program in the medical school that has now become the Medicine in Contemporary Society course in the Department of Family, Population and Preventive Medicine. His classroom work in the former has been in ethics, philosophy of law, and the teaching practicum–helping philosophy graduate students hone their pedagogical skills. His appointment at the medical school has allowed him to teach ethics and law to students and practitioners in the health care fields represented here and, in the 1980s, to organize and chair the hospital ethics committee an consultation service on which he still serves.

Peter came to play an active role in curricular reform at the medical school through his appointment in 2000 as Vice Dean for Academic and Faculty Affairs. The position allowed him to nurture and instantiate his interests in educational methodology and team development while maintaining close contact with undergraduate medical students. In February, 2011, Peter left the Dean’s Office and returned to the Department of Family, Population and Preventive Medicine as a Senior Fellow at the Center for Medical Humanities, Compassionate Care and Bioethics .

Peter’s writing and research have focused on social and ethical issues in medicine, with a special interest in malpractice reform and moral reasoning. As one of the early entrants to the now well-established field of medical ethics, he helped form and has held offices in various professional organizations dedicated to the interface of humanities and health care.  In the past decade Peter’s research attention has turned to matters educational and he has written and spoken about the impact of medical education on character and creativity.  Peter still occasionally turns his attention to contemporary issues in health care policy and ethics.