Dr. Brian H. Williams at Harvard Book Store


The Bodies Keep Coming:
Dispatches from a Black Trauma Surgeon
on Racism, Violence, and How We Heal

in conversation with AMBER PAYNE


September 28, 2023
7:00 PM ET


Harvard Book Store
1256 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138


This event is free; no tickets are required.

Harvard Book Store welcomes DR. BRIAN H. WILLIAMS—Air Force Academy graduate, Harvard-trained surgeon, and former congressional health policy advisor—for a discussion of his new memoir The Bodies Keep Coming: Dispatches from a Black Trauma Surgeon on Racism, Violence, and How We Heal. He will be joined in conversation by AMBER PAYNE, Publisher and General Manager of The Emancipator.

About The Bodies Keep Coming

Trauma surgeon and professor Dr. Brian H. Williams has seen it all: gunshot wounds, stabbings, and traumatic brain injuries. In The Bodies Keep Coming, Williams ushers us into the trauma bay, where the wounds of a national emergency amass.

As a Harvard-trained physician, Williams learned to keep his head down and his scalpel ready. As a Black man, he learned to swallow the rage when patients told him to take out the trash. Just days after the tragic police shootings of two Black men, Williams tried to save the lives of police officers shot in Dallas in the deadliest incident for US law enforcement since 9/11. Thrust into the spotlight in a nation that loves feel-good stories about heroism more than hard truths about racism, Williams came to rethink everything he thought he knew about medicine, injustice, and what true healing looks like.

Now, in raw and intimate detail, Williams narrates not only the events of that night in 2016, but the grief and anger of a Black doctor on the front lines of trauma care. Working in the physician-writer tradition of Atul Gawande and Damon Tweedy, Williams diagnoses the roots of the violence that plagues us. He draws a through line between white supremacy, gun violence, and the bodies he tries to revive, and he trains his surgeon's gaze on the structural ills that manifest themselves in the bodies of his patients. What if racism is a feature of our healthcare system, not a bug? What if profiting from racial inequality is exactly what it was designed to do?

Black and brown bodies will continue to be wracked by all types of violence, Williams argues, until something changes. Until we transform policy and law with compassion and care, the bodies will keep coming.

Praise for The Bodies Keep Coming

"The hallmark of a great surgeon lies beyond the ability to perform surgery. Those who transform medicine, make us question medical and societal establishments, and are brave enough to put racial equity front and center are the real heroes. Dr. Brian H. Williams is one of those extraordinary physicians. In The Bodies Keep Coming, he shares frontline stories through his eyes as a trauma surgeon. Dr. Williams is a masterful storyteller, and you can hear and feel his authenticity on every page. Empathy, anger, humor, and, ultimately, hope accompany you as he takes you on this literary ride." —Dr. Nancy Snyderman, surgeon and former medical editor for NBC News

"In this beautifully written memoir, Dr. Brian H. Williams reveals through jarring personal remembrances the destruction of violence in the American medical system and our society. Although he could have simply offered up a narrative devoid of hope, Williams leaves readers hopeful that healing exists for us all through love." —Dr. Deirdre Cooper Owens, author of Medical Bondage: Race, Gender, and the Origins of American Gynecology

"Dr. Brian H. Williams's stunning book is simultaneously an inspiring testament to the skill and dedication of the people working on the medical front lines of America's enduring tragedy of gun violence, and a searing indictment of the pervasive institutional racism that brought us that tragedy in the first place and continues to sustain it. It is not a comfortable read, but it is an essential one." —Dr. Elliott Currie, author of New York Times Notable Book of 2020 A Peculiar Indifference: The Neglected Toll of Violence on Black America

Mask Policy

Masks are encouraged but not required for this event.

Amber Payne
Amber Payne

Amber Payne

Amber Payne is Publisher and General Manager of The Emancipator. She was a 2021 Nieman fellow at Harvard University. Amber formerly served as managing editor of BET.com, leading editorial and digital video strategy; executive producer of Teen Vogue and Them; and, in 2015, launched NBCBLK, a section of NBCNews.com dedicated to elevating the conversation around Black identity, social issues, and culture. Amber started her career at NBC Nightly News producing breaking news and feature stories.

Dr. Brian H. Williams
Dr. Brian H. Williams

Dr. Brian H. Williams

Dr. Brian H. Williams is an Air Force Academy graduate, a Harvard-trained surgeon, a former congressional health policy advisor, and a nationally recognized leader at the intersection of public policy and structural racism, gun violence, and health equity. He has treated gun violence victims for more than two decades. Williams has served as a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health Policy Fellow at the National Academy of Medicine and as a professor of trauma and acute care surgery at the University of Chicago Medicine. Williams and his work have been featured in outlets like the Chicago Tribune, Dallas Morning News, CNN, and Newsweek.

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