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Larry MacIntyre
Office of University Communications

Last modified: Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Opera legend, 'father' of medical record systems receive IU President's Medal

Sept. 8, 2009

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Indiana University President Michael A. McRobbie has awarded world-renowned operatic soprano and former IU voice professor Camilla Williams and Clement J. McDonald, distinguished professor emeritus and a pioneer in electronic medical record systems, with the President's Medal for Excellence. The awards are among the highest honors an IU president can bestow.

Camilla Williams

Photo courtesy of IU Archives

Camilla Williams

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Williams and McDonald received their awards on Friday, Sept. 4, in Indianapolis, in recognition of sustained excellence in service, achievement and leadership.

"Both Camilla Williams and Clem McDonald are legendary pioneers who have reached the pinnacle of achievement in their professions," McRobbie said. "Throughout their long and tremendously distinguished careers, they have each made history, whether it has been breaking opera's color barrier or revolutionizing the world of medical records. And along the way, they have demonstrated an equal commitment to be among the very best in their fields. Indeed, they represent the very best of Indiana University's proud traditions of excellence."

Williams, a professor of voice at the IU Jacobs School of Music from 1977-97, is known worldwide as the first African American soprano to perform in mainstream theaters and opera companies. In 1946, she broke the color barrier at the New York City Opera, singing the title role in Puccini's Madama Butterfly, and in 1954, she became the first African American to sing a major role with the Vienna State Opera, performing her signature part of Cio-Cio-San. She performed throughout the United States and Europe with some of the world's leading opera companies until her retirement from opera singing in 1971.

Born in 1919 in Danville, Va., she sang the national anthem at the White House in 1963 and, that same year, before 200,000 people prior to Martin Luther King's legendary "I Have a Dream" speech at the Lincoln Memorial. She was one of the pioneering African-American opera singers profiled in the 2000 PBS documentary Ada's Brothers and Sisters: Black Voices in Opera. She was also profiled in the 2006 PBS Documentary The Mystery of Love.

Williams, who lives in Bloomington, was the first African American voice professor at IU and first African American professor at Beijing's Central Conservatory. She was one of eight women honored in 2007 by the Library of Virginia during Women's History Month. More recently, she was honored during a "Tribute to Camilla Williams" program, presented this past February by the New York City Opera and The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.

Clem McDonald

Clement J. McDonald

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McDonald is an internationally respected leader in medical informatics whose research has focused on the development and use of computer-stored medical records systems to improve health care. He has served as Regenstrief Professor of Medical Informatics at the IU School of Medicine and director of the internationally recognized Regenstrief Institute for Health Care. Currently, he is the director of the Lister Hill National Center for Biomedical Communications, a research and development organization that seeks to improve access to biomedical information for individuals around the world.

McDonald developed one of the nation's first electronic medical record systems, the Regenstrief Medical Record System. Additionally, he established the next generation of electronic medical record systems, the Indiana Network for Patient Care, a community-wide informatics network that spans all five major hospital systems in Indianapolis.

McDonald has been a leader in the development of the medical informatics standards needed to transmit patient data from source systems to electronic medical records and research databases. He was one of the founders of the Health Level 7 (HL7) standards, which guide electronic data interchange in health care, and he also developed the Logical Observation Identifier Names and Codes (LOINC) database of universal codes for clinical observations, including laboratory tests, clinical measurements and reporting.

He is a member of the Institute of Medicine and recipient of the Morris F. Collen Award from the American College of Medical Informatics, among many other honors. He currently serves on the Board of the American College of Physicians. He is a past president the American Medical Informatics Association and a past member of the NLM Board of Regents.

About the Award

The President's Medal for Excellence is a reproduction in fine silver of the symbolic jewel of office worn by the president at ceremonial occasions. Criteria for recipients include distinction in public service, service to IU, achievement in a profession and/or extraordinary merit and achievement in the arts, humanities, science, education and industry.

The award was first presented on Sept. 20, 1985, to members of the Beaux Arts Trio. For a complete list of winners, go to: medal list.shtml.