UA Little Rock to honor Golzar, Williams as 2021 Distinguished Alumni

Dr. Jaafer Golzar and Helaine Williams are UA Little Rock's 2021 Distinguished Alumni.

The University of Arkansas at Little Rock will honor outstanding graduates Dr. Jaafer Golzar and Helaine Williams with the UA Little Rock Distinguished Alumni awards during a Nov. 4 ceremony at the Clinton Presidential Center.

Dr. Jaafer Golzar, a cardiologist and chief medical officer for Avinger, Inc., will receive the Distinguished Alumnus Award. Helaine Williams, Sunday Style editor at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, will receive the Presidents Award.

“Dr. Golzar and Mrs. Williams are examples of the very best of UA Little Rock,” said Kristi Smith, senior director of alumni and development at UA Little Rock. “He was a traditional student from the Historic Little Rock Central High School, educated at UAMS, and has made an indelible mark in interventional cardiology, while she returned to complete her education while creating a name for herself in journalism. As a graduate of the university myself, it is my pleasure to showcase these outstanding alumni to Little Rock, the state, and beyond.”

The UA Little Rock Alumni Association annually awards the Distinguished Alumnus Award to a Little Rock Junior College, Little Rock University, or UA Little Rock alumnus. The award is reserved for individuals who have achieved extraordinary distinction in their chosen field and made special contributions to the community.

“My experiences at UA Little Rock and with the Donaghey Scholars program were paramount to the trajectory of my career, allowing me to succeed in my career,” Golzar said. “I am forever grateful for and will always treasure the relationships and opportunities this special place afforded me. I will continue to strive for excellence and to make a difference in the world, carrying this honor with me.”

In addition to his position at Avinger, Golzar is an interventional cardiologist with Advocate Medical Group, the director of Limb Salvage and Endovascular Intervention at Advocate Trinity Hospital in Chicago, and a key opinion leader in the treatment of peripheral artery disease.

A native of India, Golzar moved to Little Rock with his family at age five. He is a 1991 graduate of Central High School, a 1995 graduate of UA Little Rock with a bachelor’s degree in biology, and a 1999 graduate of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.

An interventional cardiovascular specialist with 15 years of experience, Golzar is board certified in internal medicine, cardiology, and interventional cardiology. He is also a leading educator on interventional techniques and technologies and the founder of the Chicago Endovascular Conference, the first large-scale medical educational conference in the Midwest.

As a recognized leader in the endovascular community, Golzar has received multiple accolades including the prestigious Pioneers in Performance – North America Award in 2014. He is a fellow of the American College of Cardiology and the Society for Cardiovascular Angiography and Interventions.

“As a physician, clinical thought leader, and innovator, Dr. Golzar has been a critical contributor to all of the advancements we have made at Avinger,” said Jeff Soinski, Avinger’s president and CEO. “More than that, in his leadership role as our chief medical officer, Dr. Golzar inspires each of us to do our best to achieve our mission of radically improving the way vascular disease is treated; a mission he personifies in the work he does every day.”

Golzar has also spent time volunteering in acute medical disaster relief efforts around the world, including serving as a consultant for Nigeria’s efforts to reform the medical infrastructure of Ogun State.

The Presidents Award was established to recognize UA Little Rock graduates who achieved success in their career, donated time and talents to their community, and remained in touch with their alma mater as a volunteer and resource person.

Helaine Williams is an icon in the Little Rock journalism industry with more than four decades of experience. She started her career as a city desk news assistant at the Arkansas Democrat in 1981. Williams is a 1980 graduate of Wilbur D. Mills University Studies High and UA Little Rock, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism in 2000.

“I may be a so-called wordsmith. But to go from being a 1984 college dropout to finally finishing my degree in 2000 – and, 21 years after that, being chosen for the Presidents Award – evokes emotions I can’t adequately describe,” Williams said. “I can only hope that I inspire someone who thinks it’s too late for second chances, especially at a university I most heartily thank for giving me one.”

In 1989, Williams became the principal writer of “Let’s Talk,” a column she has called her own for the last 32 years. She has also written for the Active Style, Family, High Profile, Weekend and Style sections of the Democrat-Gazette, drawing numerous honors along the way.

Williams was inducted into the Arkansas Writers Hall of Fame this year. She and her husband, Renarda “Dre” Williams, are 2019 recipients of a John H. Johnson Journalism & Media Award by the Arkansas-based Friends of John H. Johnson Museum. Williams has also received honors from the National Association of Black Journalists and the Central Arkansas Association of Black Journalists for advocating and elevating the work of Black journalists.

In addition to her work with the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Williams is the president of The Umoja Network and founder of its subsidiary, Make it Plain Ministries. Through these organizations, she is able to share her skills and knowledge with others by providing invaluable assistance to new writers and authors working to get published, public relations-related consultations with organizations seeking to make positive impressions with their audiences, and guiding the content creation process for print materials.

An active member of the community, Williams is a lifetime member of the UA Little Rock Alumni Association and served on its Board of Directors from 2013-2019. She is a member of “That.Church” in Sherwood and a past chairwoman of the Board of Directors for United Cerebral Palsy of Arkansas, where she currently serves as secretary. This year, Williams will participate in the “Dancing With Our Stars” event with Stephen Stone, associate professor of dance at UA Little Rock, to raise funds for the Children’s Tumor Foundation.

Golzar and Williams will be honored at the university’s annual Distinguished Alumni Luncheon at 11:30 a.m. Thursday, Nov. 4, at the Clinton Presidential Center. For more information, contact Smith at klsmith4@ualr.edu.

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