For Immediate Release

Nov. 16, 2021


John Lyon
Strategic Communications Manager


ACHI Also Announces Research Fellowship Named for Dr. G. Richard Smith

LITTLE ROCK ― David L. Williams III, Ph.D., of Fayetteville, a longtime Arkansas leader in the behavioral health field, is the recipient of the 2021 Dr. Tom Bruce Arkansas Health Impact Award, the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement announced Tuesday.

The health policy center also announced the establishment of a research fellowship named for Dr. G. Richard Smith, ACHI’s founding director.

On behalf of its health policy board, ACHI presents the Dr. Tom Bruce Arkansas Health Impact Award each year to one or more individuals who embody the late Dr. Tom Bruce’s lifetime of service by demonstrating courageous leadership, serving as catalysts for improving the health of all Arkansans, and exemplifying the core values of ACHI: commitment, initiative, trust, and innovation. ACHI President and CEO Dr. Joe Thompson and ACHI Health Policy Board Chair Annabelle Imber Tuck presented this year’s award to Williams during ACHI’s annual Friends of ACHI Appreciation Event at the Clinton Presidential Center on Monday night.

Williams served as president and CEO of Ozark Guidance Center, a nonprofit behavioral health center in Northwest Arkansas, for 30 years before retiring in 2008. He then worked for the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences Psychiatric Research Institute’s Northwest Arkansas clinic, where he was instrumental in reestablishing inpatient psychiatric services to the region after a significant period without local acute care for adults with serious mental illness. In 2010, he helped lead local community representatives in developing an update to the Northwest Arkansas Adult Acute Care Mental Health Plan.

Williams was previously honored with the Eagle Award for Outstanding Health Leadership by the Washington Regional Medical Center Foundation. In 2007, he was honored by the National Council for Behavioral Healthcare (now the National Council for Mental Wellbeing) with its Lifetime Achievement Award. He and his wife, Pattie, continue to work tirelessly in support of diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts in Arkansas.

“It’s really difficult to overstate how Dr. Williams has had an impact on behavioral health in Arkansas,” Tuck said. “Undoubtedly, the behavioral health landscape in our state, especially in Northwest Arkansas, would look enormously different without his immeasurable influence.”

“I’m glad to accept the Impact Award for this year on behalf of all the people at Ozark Guidance Center that work so tirelessly, so caringly, so competently on bringing a range of behavioral health services to Northwest Arkansas,” Williams said. “I am so grateful that that has happened in the time that I got to work there and continues to happen.”

The late Dr. Tom Bruce was dean of the University of Arkansas College of Medicine for a decade and a pioneer in the field of community health. He is remembered for improving and expanding the College of Medicine and addressing a shortage of physicians in the state’s rural areas through the formation of the Area Health Education Centers, which bring physician trainees to less-populated areas of Arkansas. He and his wife, Dolores, also helped paved the way for the establishment of ACHI with a seed donation.

ACHI also announced the establishment of a one-year research fellowship, to be awarded beginning in 2022 to individuals who are pursuing advanced academic degrees or starting out in careers that align with ACHI’s mission.

“I’m honored and proud on behalf of ACHI to announce the G. Richard Smith, MD, ACHI Fellowship in Health Services Research,” Thompson said. “Rick was the founding director for our center. ACHI would not be here without Rick.”

Smith, a former dean of the UAMS College of Medicine and executive vice chancellor of UAMS, retired this year as director of the UAMS Psychiatric Research Institute. He was instrumental in securing tobacco settlement funding to help launch ACHI in 1998 as well as serving as the center’s first director. He currently serves on the ACHI Health Policy Board.

“I’m grateful for this honor, to have a fellowship that can start young people on the path to being successful in this area. Thank you all,” Smith said.

ACHI is a nonpartisan, independent health policy center that serves as a catalyst for improving the health of all Arkansans through evidence-based research, public issue advocacy, and collaborative program development. More information about the Tom Bruce Award, including a list of past recipients, is available at