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The Story of My Practice

The Story of My Practice: 
Vernon B. Williams, MD, FAAN

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, my guidance counselor (who I can honestly say I had never had more than a few conversations with… ever) approached me about whether I wanted to pursue 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. Both accepted me. 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 being accepted into their prestigious Inteflex Accelerated Pre-Med/Medical Program. Interestingly enough, my application was a 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 (and how impossible acceptance would likely be), I decided NOT to check that box on my actual application. The second/"live" application, with the polished and rewritten 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 forcing me to turn in the original draft-copy at the 11th hour. The Inteflex box was checked "Yes" for consideration on that application. They accepted me.

During my first year of Neurology residency in Baltimore, my chief resident asked if I wanted to moonlight. Not in an E.R. or doing insurance physicals like many 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 accepted an offer for a fellowship position in the Department of Anesthesiology and Critical Care where I could 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.

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