WSU Vancouver alumna lands Fulbright Scholarship for Philippines research

PULLMAN, Wash. – Imee Williams, WSU Vancouver neuroscience alumna and future physician, has received a 2018 Fulbright U.S. Student Program grant to investigate sociocultural aspects surrounding families raising children with disabilities in the Philippines.

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Specifically, Williams plans to explore the influence of family support and perceptions on intervention outcomes for children with cerebral palsy. She will work with an education professor at the University of the Philippines-Diliman, northeast of Manila.

“Through my research, I will identify barriers to the care of the children and articulate a message of hope to their vulnerable families,” she said.

“Being a Fulbright Scholar is a great honor for me personally, and it is certain to open doors for me in my native country and lead to opportunities to improve lives there,” said Williams.

“Imee spent her early childhood in the Philippines and is passionate about improving the quality of healthcare, living conditions and level of respect for disabled children,” said April Seehafer, director of the WSU Distinguished Scholarships Program. “Her Fulbright will go a tremendous distance to support her interests and efforts.”

Early goals

Williams was only five years old when her family moved from the Philippines to America to escape terrorists. She is the youngest of the four children born to Donald and Jorie Williams, residents of Portland, Ore. Today, Williams’s brother Geoffrey lives in Oregon, Donnie serves in the U.S. Army, and Benjamin — who has a mental disorder — lives with their parents.

“The discrimination and stigmas my family faced (related to Benjamin) shifted my views on mental health, and fueled my passion for medicine and research,” wrote Williams in her Fulbright essay. As a teen she spent long hours in public libraries researching psychiatric and neurological disorders and asking questions of her brother’s doctors.

“I was curious, and I have a heart for those with disabilities.”

She determined that helping others was of top priority to her, and she set a goal to become a doctor. Over the years, she has honed her plan, thanks to new ideas and knowledge gained through jobs, an internship, laboratory and clinical experiences, and, of course, college courses and research.

Heading into her Fulbright, she has firm plans to build a career as a pediatric neurologist, work for a non-profit hospital in the United States, and open a free medical clinic in the Philippines for underprivileged children with neurodevelopmental disorders.

Research to meet a need

“It’s important to understand the barriers that influence parental attitudes and decisions to care for and support their child with special needs so that the local government agencies and healthcare professionals may help to improve the quality of delivery and planning of services,” Williams wrote in her Fulbright application.

“People with disabilities make up the largest minority group in the world. There are more than five million children with disabilities in the Philippines, of whom only one percent receive proper diagnosis and treatment. Cerebral palsy is the most common childhood motor disability and currently affects more than 2 million Filipinos.

“The stigma of mental and physical disability continues to thrive (there), where the lack of public knowledge and understanding generates shame and discrimination for many families. Denial among family members leaves neurodevelopmental disorders undiagnosed and unaddressed, leading to lifelong consequences.”

Williams said she intends that her research will help to change attitudes and instigate actions.

WSU’s Fulbright recipients

Williams’s award brings the number of WSU students and recent graduates receiving a Fulbright to 61 since 1949, according to data on the national Fulbright website. The awards were begun in 1946 under legislation introduced by the late U.S. Sen. J. William Fulbright, of Arkansas. Designed to increase mutual understanding between Americans and people of other countries, the Fulbright program is sponsored by the Dept. of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

More information about WSU recipients of this and other national awards is available online.



  • April Seehafer, director, WSU Distinguished Scholarships Program, 509-335- 8239,

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