Imagine what the union of telecommunications systems and the health sciences could mean for the medical community and people in general. Computers and other communications tools could disseminate research information much more quickly and efficiently than done now.
Educators, doctors and patients would benefit, as well as other scientists. This is the goal R.O.W. Sciences in Rockville has set for itself. The company, and the dream, are the brainchild of Ralph O. Williams.
"I started the company because I was frustrated with the whole process of getting out the research," says Mr. Williams. "Scientists tend to hang on to research and publish it when they are ready and then just hope it gets into practice, not only medical practice, but social practice as well. I wanted to improve the health of people by getting research results out without the slow and cumbersome bureaucratic handicaps." Owning his own business is something that Mr. Williams, who never worked more than three years at any one job, badly wanted. He was always looking for the next opportunity.
The Howard University graduate, at one point in his career, purposely ducked the opportunity to achieve career status and security in his government job as chief of planning at the National Institution of Health to avoid getting so comfortable that he would stand still.
"You get career status after three years," says Mr. Williams. "This means you get to compete for government positions with only other government employees. One month before my third year was to end, I left so that I would not yield to that temptation. I knew I had to do this to make a go of it."
Mr. Williams, married and with two children, was born into a business environment. He grew up on the Caribbean island of Grenada above a grocery store owned by his parents, who were his inspiration. His father exuded confidence and his mother exuded an abiding faith in God.
It was also a nurturing environment in which obtaining an education was a natural presumption.
"We are a people of pride and independence. It is a given that you would get your education, leave home and seek your fame and fortune. Buying and selling for profit is something I saw every day," he said. "Seeing the independence it gave my parents was attractive to me."
Equipped with the intent to help and the insight to see an opportunity and fill it, Mr. Williams founded R.O.W. Sciences with two people in 1985 in his basement. He started doing medical research for law firms representing major chemical companies until he began to have philosophical problems with defending these corporations. He was supplying supporting evidence against people who could not afford to pay for this service.
R.O.W. now employs more than 300 people with offices in five cities. According to Mr. Williams, the business is now geared toward growing in four areas:
*Research and management, which means staffing government research facilities and developing management tools for government to assess how the research is being done.
*Health communications and education. This is actually getting the research into the mainstream.
*Research and environmental services, which is government support in the area of policy, planning and program evaluation.
*Information systems and telecommunications and computer systems/assembly. R.O.W. will become more directly involved in biotechnology with the advent of a biological research facility due to open in Gaithersburg in March.