Jerome Williams, Jr., officially retired from Williams Medical Practice at 3409 North Union Blvd just over a month ago. For 60 years, Williams carried on the three generational family legacy of Black doctors who served the health care needs of St. Louis’ citizens.
His grandfather, William R. Williams, MD, and his father, Jerome Williams, Sr, both practiced medicine in St. Louis.
He compared his “Salute to Excellence” recognition to that of St. Louis American Publisher Dr. Donald M. Suggs, and the longevity of the newspaper.
“Just like the dedication I have to improving healthcare in the city, I look upon the St. Louis American as a vehicle to improve the lives of African Americans in the city and county. I am in awe of what the publisher and the paper has been able to do all these years in our community.”
Williams’ retirement and recognition comes amid a global pandemic that highlighted the discrepancies and deficiencies of healthcare in communities of color. He realizes the important role that private practices like his, located in the heart of a low-income community, have in serving marginalized communities.
For example, he shared his concern about African Americans who are still hesitant to get vaccinated against COVID-19. Williams has been able to convince many of his long-time patients to get inoculated. The key to their conversion, he stressed, were intimate conversations with a practitioner his patients trust.
“When you’re one on one, the most important thing to do is listen to the patient and find out what is most important to them. It may be their grandson’s graduation, their daughter’s wedding or maybe their grandchildren. When you listen, you find out what’s most important to them, and help them select what will benefit them personally. But, it’s those face-to-face conversations, not just lecturing them,” he said.
Williams doesn’t believe the coronavirus will ever disappear. Infection rates “will most likely go to its lowest level where it’s not affecting hundreds of thousands of people,” he said. But the virus, with its various mutations, will probably remain.
He hopes the virus has inspired medical institutions like Washington University and St. Louis University to do more in addressing inadequate health care afforded to the poor.
“I’m just hoping that once we work our way out of this pandemic through herd immunity and vaccinations that people don’t forget about these discrepancies and disparities and continue to work to make those changes.”
Williams is pleased that his practice will live on after his retirement. He spent two years finding physicians he felt could carry on his family’s tradition. Most, he said, didn’t fit the criteria he sought, which included a desire to make the practice their number one priority.
He’s very pleased, however, with the two physicians, Dr. Aunita M. Hill-Jones and Dr. Larry Cayce Buck II, he’s hired to take his place.
“I feel very strongly that they are committed to providing good medical care,” Williams said. “Their credentials are unparalleled, their interactions with the patients are top-notch, and they’re driven by excellence.”
Williams is looking forward to the life of a retired physician. With three grandkids and another on the way, he plans to take a little time to do for himself by eating better, exercising, and traveling to see his grandchildren.
Williams said he eagerly awaits turning off his alarm clock and not rising every morning to practice medicine. With many pressing social and political issues on the horizon, he also will choose the topics he’s most passionate about and address them through lectures, seminars and other forms of public outreach.
“I’m accepting this award for the Williams Family and the tradition of providing medical care for the community.”
Sylvester Brown Jr. is The St. Louis American’s inaugural Deaconess Fellow.
The St. Louis American Foundation's 21st Annual Salute to Excellence in Health Care Awards will be celebrated as a free virtual event at 7 p.m. Thursday, July 29. For additional details and registration, please visit givebutter.com/2021HealthSalute.