Dr. Willis is Emeritus Distinguished Professor of Medicine at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine in Chapel Hill. A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Michigan Medical School, he was first appointed to the full-time faculty of the Department of Medicine, at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, in July 1980. A member of the Division of Cardiology, he served as Associate Division Chief (1995-2005) and Vice Chief for Academic Affairs (2005-2016) before retiring in April 2016.As Director of the Training Program in Cardiovascular Disease at UNC Hospitals for the past 33 years, Dr. Willis was primarily responsible for the post-graduate medical education of 160 academic and clinical cardiologists. Also actively involved in medical student education throughout his career, Dr. Willis received numerous teaching awards, including the Hyman L. Battle Distinguished Excellence in Teaching Award in the Basic Sciences, and was named a Teaching Scholar in the University of North Carolina School of Medicine. Pursuing his long-standing interests in congenital heart disease and diagnostic cardiac ultrasound, Dr. Willis initiated new clinical services, and expanded access to care, for adolescent and young adult North Carolinians with both post-operative and unoperated heritable cardiac conditions. He also authored 51 original manuscripts and book chapters principally related to the diagnosis and management of this particular patient population.
Throughout much of his academic career, Dr. Willis served as a volunteer physician with the South Orange Rescue Squad. Working both in the field and through institutional committee leadership roles, he was instrumental in developing advanced life support protocols and improved emergency medical services for the community of Chapel Hill and surrounding areas. Since moving to Salt Lake City in November 2015, and joining UPHE, Dr. Willis has become actively involved in environmental health advocacy and community education. He is particularly interested in the adverse cardiovascular effects of air pollution along the Wasatch Front.