Community Connector Leadership – Fred Williams, MD

 

When he was President of the Kentucky Medical Association in 2013-14, Fred Williams, MD, wanted to do something that would help physicians connect with KMA and with their communities.

“The concept is to get docs and people in the community together,” Dr. Williams, an endocrinologist in Louisville, said.

As Williams talked with KMA staff, the idea grew with the recognition that physicians in the commonwealth also could benefit from leadership training. From those early discussions, the KMA Community Connector Leadership Program was born. Dr. Williams was one of nine physicians completing the program in its first year. The Community Connector program aims to develop physician leaders and connect them to their community.

“It’s basically a framework for people to get together. It’s also a way to provide opportunities for physicians to help communities,” said Dr. Williams. “Once physicians interact one on one with people, it changes a lot of perceptions of the whole medical profession.”

Those community relationships are important, Dr. Williams said, as are the relationships physicians build with their patients. As an endocrinologist, Dr. Williams has built long-term relationships with his patients, some of whom he has served for 32 years.

“The thing that gets me excited about going to work has nothing to do with pure science,” he said. “It’s the people that I’ve come to know.”

Dr. Williams has been president of the Greater Louisville Medical Society and KMA, and has served on national boards of various medical societies, but he takes the most pride in the people he cares for.

Dr. Williams saw early in his life the qualities of a good physician. Around the time he graduated from St. X High School, he was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. His endocrinologist in Louisville “interacted with me on a much more personal level.” That relationship, he said, made him feel more comfortable with the physician treating him.

While that physician set the example for traits of a good physician, Dr. Williams was not immediately on the path to becoming an endocrinologist. After graduating from the Vanderbilt University, where he met his wife Sally, Dr. Williams returned to Louisville for medical school. After graduating, he moved to Charlottesville, Va., for residency and fellowship for five years where he fully intended to become a pediatrician or a cardiologist. But he didn’t settle on a specialty until after he worked with several endocrinologists at the University of Virginia.

“I think I’m doing this because I was meant to do this,” said Dr. Williams.

But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t face frustrations, especially when working with patients who need to lose weight, or trying to inspire some patients to quit smoking. “You have to fight that because if patients sense you’re frustrated, you’re basically pushing them away and you’re not going to be able to help them,” he said.

And the state needs help. “Kentucky is always in the top 10 in things you don’t want to be top 10 in,” he said. It has a strong combination of factors, Dr. Williams said, “that have led to this monumental cascade of health issues.” While the needle is starting to move for improvement, public education is the first step in improving public health.

He believes physicians play a key role in moving that needle, and the KMA Community Connector program can contribute to their efforts.