Predicting the Future – Hywel Williams, our Yogi Berra, Is at the Plate

Hywel Williams

One of Yogi’s famous quotes — or misquotes — is that “it is very tough to make predictions, especially about the future.” Hywel Williams is one of Dermatology’s experts in explaining the present and predicting the future of health related events using quantitative data. He has been given the responsibility for directing the NIHR Health Technology Assessment Program for the UK National Health Service. Essentially all 400+ current major clinical trials within all medical specialties will be under his purview. A wonderful recognition of his analytical skills and his ability to put together large groups of investigators in endeavors such as the International Cochrane Skin Group systematic reviews and various national clinical trials within the UK Dermatology Clinical Trials Network, which he founded. Hywel likes to understand and predict events, so it is important to understand the path that brought Hywel to this next stage of his academic life.

Hywel Dda (Hywel the Good)

Even more important than Hywel’s horoscope, which is still being crunched by my supercomputer, is the name “Hywel.” “Hywel” is Welsh for ‘eminent’ or ‘remarkable’; thus he was given his life’s direction from the get-go by his family. Hywel comes from the small hillside village of Cymmer Afran in South Wales, and he attended a tiny comprehensive school there. Hywel Dda (meaning “Hywel the Good”) was a ninth century Welsh king whose major accomplishment was codifying Wales’ laws and customs and for ensuring equal rights for women. Yes, our Hywel has followed the direction of his namesake king and has given extraordinary service in codifying clinical trial data and global burden of disease, both in the United Kingdom and internationally.

Just go through Pubmed listings for HC Williams and you cannot help being impressed by the extent and breadth of his interests and accomplishments. In addition to the big picture items, Hywel’s most recent paper in the British Journal of Dermatology (2015) looks at the micro-level on how to improve teleconferencing; for him no issue is too big or too small to be studied and improved. His multiple accomplishments and awards are easily searchable on the University of Nottingham web site. When I was the Editor of the JID, Hywel was clinical trials Editor, and he improved the Journal‘s approach to clinical trial data and publication. His service to our specialty has been extraordinary and exemplary.

We know that the entire British National Health Service and the individuals it serves will benefit from having Hywel in his new position. Although Hywel comes from Nottingham, he is no Robin Hood and will be judicious in supervising the reviewing and awarding grants for clinical research. It is his nature and in his name.

3 thoughts on “Predicting the Future – Hywel Williams, our Yogi Berra, Is at the Plate

  1. I recently had the great pleasure of beginning an interaction via email with Dr. Williams as I seek new authors for several Research Techniques Made Simple articles on excellent and important topics that he has suggested. I have been so honored to already be mentored by this distinguished gentleman through our emails and I hope to one day meet him in person. Best of luck in your big transition, Dr. Williams! Jodi Johnson, Associate Editor Research Techniques Made Simple, Journal of Investigative Dermatology


  2. I am not sure if it is de rigueur to respond to a blog about oneself, but I just wanted to say thank you and goodbye to the JID in my role as clinical trials editor for the last 11 years. I am so humbled by Dr. Goldsmith and Johnson’s kind remarks. How Dr. Goldsmith managed to dig up all that history about Hywel Dda is beyond me, but it is all historically true! I just want to reassure academic colleagues that despite being in charge of publically funded pragmatic clinical trials in the UK, I am still engaged in research at our Centre of Evidence-Based Dermatology and I still believe passionately in international collaboration to make progress with the huge uncertainties facing us and our patients. Long live the JID and the high quality clinical trials and methodology that it supports!


  3. Hywel’s commitment to propagation of high-quality research methodology and clinical trials is indeed phenomenal, and it hardly leaves untouched any corner of the globe. When we ventured to form a nucleus here in India in order to train dermatologists in research techniques, and also to design and carry out independent clinical studies, he was the obvious inspiration, and he did not think twice before offering suggestions on his own! Similarly, he is usually the first person to send a mail whenever he notices something that is not kosher in a published RCT in the journal with which I am associated as an editor. I am sure he will stamp his class in HTA before it is long. Saumya Panda, Executive Editor, Indian Journal of Dermatology


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