Dr. David Rhys Williams
|updated July 22, 2011|
David Rhys Williams M.Sc. M.D. C.M. F.R.C.P. F.C.F.P. L.L.D. (Hon) D.Sc. (Hon)
Dave Williams was born in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, is married and has two children. He is a commercial pilot with multi-engine and instrument ratings, a NAUI scuba instructor, and enjoys hiking, sailing, kayaking, canoeing, downhill and cross-country skiing. He attended high school in Beaconsfield, Quebec. Graduated from McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, with a Bachelor of Science, Major in Biology (1976) and obtained a Master of Science from the Physiology Department, a Doctorate of Medicine and a Master of Surgery from the Faculty of Medicine, McGill University, (1983).
Completed a residency in family practice in the Faculty of Medicine, University of Ottawa, (1985). Obtained a fellowship in emergency medicine from the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, following completion of a residency in emergency medicine at the University of Toronto (1988). He is a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons and the College of Family Physicians of Canada.
He has received many honourary degrees and awards including the NASA Space Flight Medal (1998); Melbourne W. Boynton Award, American Astronautical Society (1999); Ramon y Cajal Institute of Neurobiology, Spanish Council for Scientific Research (CSIC) Bronze Medal for contribution to neuroscience during Mission STS-90 (1999); Rotary National Award for Space Achievement (2000); NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal (2002); Patron of the International Life Saving Federation (2002); Spokesperson for the Life Saving Society Canada and Honorary Ambassador of the SmartRisk Foundation; NASA JSC Space and Life Sciences Directorate Special Professional Achievement Award (2003); and the NASA Exceptional Service Medal (2008). He has received honourary degrees from the University of Saskatchewan, the University of Wales, Cardiff, McGill University and Queen’s University. Prior to his selection as an astronaut with the Canadian Space Agency in 1992 he practiced as an emergency physician in Toronto and Kitchener-Waterloo. In June 1992 the Canadian Space Agency selected Williams as one of four successful candidates from a field of over 5300 applicants to begin astronaut training. He completed basic training, and in May 1993, was appointed manager of the Missions and Space Medicine Group within the Canadian Astronaut Program. His assignments included supervising the implementation of operational space medicine activities within the astronaut office and organizing the Canadian Astronaut Program Space Unit Life Simulation (CAPSULS) analogue research project.
In January 1995 Williams was selected to join the international class of NASA mission specialist astronaut candidates. In April 1998, he participated in STS-90 as Mission Specialist 3 aboard Space Shuttle Columbia. During the 16-day flight, called Neurolab, the seven-person crew served as both experiment subjects and operators for 26 individual life science experiments. These experiments, dedicated to the advancement of neuroscience research, focused on the effects of microgravity on the brain and the nervous system. Williams also functioned as the crew medical officer, the flight engineer during the ascent phase, and was trained to perform contingency spacewalks.
From July 1998 until September 2002, Dave Williams held the position of Director of the Space and Life Sciences Directorate at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. With this appointment, he became the first non-American to hold a senior management position within NASA. He concurrently held a six-month position as the first deputy associated administrator for crew health and safety in the Office of Space Flight at NASA Headquarters in 2001.
In October 2001, he became an aquanaut through his participation in the joint NASA-NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) NEEMO 1 mission, a training exercise held in Aquarius, the world's only underwater research laboratory. During this seven-day exercise, Williams became the first Canadian to have lived and worked in space and in the ocean. Subsequently in 2006, Dave Williams took the lead of NEEMO 9 as the crew commander of this mission dedicated to assess new ways to deliver medical care to a remote location, as would be done in a long space flight.
His second spaceflight on STS-118 (August 8-21, 2007) was the 119th space shuttle flight, the 22nd flight to the station, and the 20th flight for Endeavour. During the mission Endeavour's crew successfully added another truss segment, a new gyroscope and external spare parts platform to the International Space Station. A new system that enables docked shuttles to draw electrical power from the station to extend visits to the outpost was activated successfully. Williams participated in three of a total of four spacewalks (EVAs) and was the lead spacewalker in two of the three EVAs. Endeavour carried some 5,000 pounds of equipment and supplies to the station and returned to Earth with some 4,000 pounds of hardware and no longer needed equipment. Traveling 5.3 million miles in space, the STS-118 mission was completed in 12 days, 17 hours, 55 minutes and 34 seconds.
A veteran of two space flights, STS-90 in 1998 and STS-118 in 2007, Dave Williams has logged over 687 hours in space including 3 spacewalks (EVAs) totaling 17 hours and 47 minutes. Dave Williams retired from active astronaut status in March, 2008 to join the clinical staff at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton and the Faculty of Health Sciences at McMaster University as a Professor of Surgery and Director of the McMaster Centre for Medical Robotics. He is a faculty member in the McMaster University School of Biomedical Engineering and also serves as Director of the McMaster Centre for Space and Remote Care Medicine.