The Story of My Practice: Vernon B. Williams, MD
Sports Neurology and Pain Medicine found me. I can't say that I ever
had a revelation to choose these fields of medicine. I didn't carefully
consider and weigh the options or agonize over a decision to pursue this
or that medical career. My practice found me.
As a high school junior, I was approached by my guidance counselor (who
I can honestly say I had never had more than a few conversations with…ever)
about whether I was interested in a summer job as a research assistant
at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit. My response? "I guess so.
As long as it doesn't interfere with football practice." I was a good student. I was in the chemical biology curriculum at
Cass Tech High School. But so were many of my friends. Why was I asked?
I didn't know. Why was I assigned to the Department of Neurology basic
science lab? I didn't know. Not then. But I do now. I was being set up.
Two years later, I applied to college at two schools: Yale University and
the University of Michigan (U-M). I was accepted to both. I could choose
Yale, where I would play football and room with a good friend from my
high school football team. He went on to play there. I did not. I chose
U-M after having been informed that I was accepted into their prestigious
Inteflex Accelerated Pre-Med/Medical Program. Interestingly enough, I
was accepted by mistake. Sort of. I checked "yes" next to the
box requesting consideration for the Inteflex Program on my draft-copy
application to U-M. After visiting the campus and learning how competitive
and difficult the program was (as well as how impossible acceptance would
likely be), I decided NOT to check that box on the actual application.
The second/"live" application, with the polished and re-written
essay, wouldn't be unnecessarily cluttered with an unrealistic dream
of acceptance into Inteflex. I thought, "Just accept me into the
regular university Bachelor of Science program, thank you." Besides,
I was leaning towards Yale anyway. Only I misplaced the second/"live"
application and was forced to turn in the original draft-copy at the 11
th hour. The Inteflex box had been checked "Yes" for consideration
on that application. I was accepted.
During my first year of Neurology residency in Baltimore, my chief resident
asked if I was interested in a moonlighting job. Not in an E.R. or doing
insurance physicals like many of the other residents, but in a clinical
trials center where I would interview and examine patients with various
types of headaches.
Three years later, I had taken medical histories on and examined thousands
of patients with headaches, and had acted as a primary or sub-investigator
on dozens of clinical trials related to migraines.
My former chief resident was now on staff at Johns Hopkins and offered
to introduce me to the director of the Pain Management fellowship program.
I was offered a fellowship position in the Department of Anesthesiology
and Critical Care where I was able to pursue a year and a half of intensive
clinical training in Headache, clinical trials training in Headache, and
interventional training in Pain Management with internationally renowned
experts in these respective fields.
About 8-10 months into my fellowship program at Johns Hopkins, my fellowship
director suggested that I contact an orthopedic surgery group in Los Angeles
that was recruiting a non-operative spine and pain specialist. They were
also interested in a Neurologist. Maybe with me, they could kill two birds
with one stone. At the time, my immediate reaction was negative, to put
it mildly. I liked the East Coast. My family was back in Michigan. What
on earth would possess me to relocate 3,000 miles to Los Angeles? Well,
let's just say a trip to L.A. can be a powerful thing for a young
man born and raised in Detroit. Especially if that young man is an athlete
and sports fan (who achingly missed the opportunity to play college football)
being interviewed by the premier sports medicine group in the country.
When I accepted the offer to interview I had no idea Kerlan-Jobe Orthopaedic
Clinic's physicians were team doctors for every major sports team
in southern California. A neurologist… practicing pain medicine…in
an orthopedic clinic…in Los Angeles. I can't pretend to have
planned or pursued this beginning to a medical practice. Simply put, my
practice found me.
I joined the Kerlan-Jobe Orthopaedic Clinic in 1997 and initially developed
a multidisciplinary pain program by adding pain psychology, biofeedback,
acupuncture, and alternative physical therapy techniques under the Pain
Management umbrella. My next goal was to develop more "Sports Neurology"
activities and significantly expand into the areas of concussion and head
injury as well as evaluation and management of neurologic consequences
of sports and other types of performance. Cosmetic neurology and the concept
of maximizing neurological function, not only in the diseased and afflicted
but also in the healthy population interested me.
Peak performance and assisting those interested in being "better than
well" became a goal. As such, the
Center for Sports Neurology and Pain Medicine at Cedars-Sinai Kerlan-Jobe Institute was born.
I have also augmented my clinical accomplishments with teaching and training
activities. I founded and direct the Kerlan-Jobe Sports Neurology Fellowship
Program, only the second of its kind in the United States. I routinely
educate physician specialists as course director and/or lecturer at national
and international meetings. I also enjoy educating the lay public through
community-based talks and seminars focused on concussion, safe participation
in sports and pain management. Finally, I carefully designed and grew
a non-traditional form of "teaching" by developing a medical-legal
consultative practice. I perform medical records reviews, Independent
Medical Examinations, expert reports, expert witness testimony, second-opinion
evaluations, and attorney consultative services as part of this practice.
It provides me with the opportunity to use my communication skills and
"teach" by taking complex medical information and providing
expert, objective, and non-biased information in a way that is valuable
and understandable to all stakeholders, including adjusters, attorneys,
judges, jury members, and/or mediators and arbitrators.
For the past 20 years, I have made the field of Sports Neurology my life's
work. I am actively engaged in researching and developing innovative and
effective treatments and technologies that help people recognize symptoms
of a neurological injury sooner so that the work of treating them can
happen faster, and with less potential for permanent damage.
I serve as a neurological medical consultant to local professional sports
organizations such as the Los Angeles Dodgers, Los Angeles Lakers, Los
Angeles Kings and Los Angeles Sparks. I also assist local college and
numerous high schools and youth sports/club athletic teams in this capacity.
Living and breathing this field of medicine means striving to educate
every athletic population I can about the need for serious attention to
neurological injury risks in players at every level of the game.
My practice is healthy, busy, specialized, varied and unique. And I'm
thrilled that it found me. And I'm honored to share it with you.