Rochester Medicine

T. Franklin Williams: Geriatrics Visionary

Nov. 1, 2022
T. Franklin and Catharine Williams

Into his late eighties, one of the founders of modern geriatric medicine rode his bike to work every day from his home on Park Avenue to Monroe Community Hospital (MCH).

Rochester’s reputation for aging expertise can be traced back to T. Franklin Williams, MD. Long before the specialty had a name, he trained a generation of geriatricians who went on to become leaders in the field.

Williams and his wife, Catharine Carter Catlett Williams, a social worker and early advocate for restraint-free nursing homes, came to Rochester in 1968 from the University of North Carolina. He was recruited as a professor of Medicine and to direct MCH, which remains a major center for geriatrics care and education in the Rochester community. Teaching was one of his greatest joys, former fellows recall, and he established one of the first geriatrics fellowship programs in the country. As his reputation grew, he was asked to lead the National Institute on Aging, which he did for eight years in the 1980s and ’90s under two administrations. When he was done, Williams returned to Rochester to continue his work for another 20 years.

“We were lucky to have Frank and his wife, Carter. They were really the beginning of it,” says geriatrician Robert McCann, MD, former chief of Medicine at Highland Hospital and CEO of Accountable Health Partners, URMC’s clinically integrated network of hospitals and physicians. “He was such a humble, wonderful man.”