Work Transformed: Jamie Williams ’10 at UNC Health

by Barbara Wiedemann

Jamie Williams ’10, executive communications manager at UNC Health, has been with the 11-hospital health system for over five years. At Carolina, Williams majored in journalism and political science with a minor in creative writing. He honed his skills at The Daily Tar Heel, UNC’s student newspaper. We spoke with him yesterday about how his work is transforming under the pressures of the coronavirus pandemic.

Before COVID-19, Jamie Williams ’10 crafted executive communications for Drs. Wesley Burks and Cristy Page, UNC Health’s CEO/dean of the School of Medicine and executive dean at the school respectively. 

What are his workdays at the 11-hospital UNC Health system like now?

Since before the virus reached North Carolina, Williams and colleagues spanning communications, marketing, consumer insights and community relations have been “all hands on deck,” supporting each other across departments to get internal and external materials out with the speed and brevity required by the pandemic.

Williams’ job pre-COVID-19 was to work with Burks and Page developing speeches, presentations, videos, internal emails and other materials. His goals: plain language, no jargon, shared with clarity and precision.
That work continues, but is squarely focused on COVID-19. With the coronavirus redefining every element of operations, Williams stresses the need for even more clear, concise internal and external communication balanced with regular expressions of gratitude and a transparency about how hard people are working. Internal materials require an awareness of the impact that working on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic has on work and family life for the system’s faculty and staff.

“That clarity matters more because we’re all working from home and spread out across four or five counties,” he points out. “So I even try to keep my own emails and meetings direct and shorter. It’s not like popping down the hall to ask a question. It’s one in a long line of emails or text messages.”

He’s grateful for the teamwork and patience of his colleagues.

The team’s Consumer Insights group shares the latest data analytics on the type of information the people of North Carolina are looking for about the virus and its effects on our state and on their families. The communicators use that data to tailor their approach and try to produce content that provides the information the public is seeking today.

Technologically savvy teammates have helped get everyone up to speed on productivity tools like Trello, Asana and Slack. 

Williams expresses gratitude for the patience granted by his communications colleagues during such an unprecedented and fast-moving situation. 

“There is just so much work to be done,” he says.

He finds himself closing every email with, “What else can I do to help?”

What can we do to help?

Williams notes that if you are safely able to donate blood, you can participate in a blood drive; you or your company can donate masks, hand sanitizer or other essential medical supplies at UNC Health drop-off locations; and most significantly, you can follow the most recent CDC guidelines for social distancing and staying home as much as possible. Find details about all of these suggestions here. #StayHome


Stay tuned for more Work Transformed stories on how UNC Hussman alumni are adapting to this unprecedented time:

Alumna Caroline Bass ’19, a health writer and communications specialist at N.C. DHHS, talks about being on the front lines of the state’s COVID-19 response.