As a breast cancer surgeon in Virginia, Dr. John P. Williams dedicates his professional career to advancing quality cancer care in his community. On a national level, he advises the President of the United States regarding the National Cancer Program serving as chairman of the President’s Cancer Panel. He credits Dr. Michael E. DeBakey and his many associates in the Department of Surgery for their guidance in finding a larger personal mission beyond excellent clinical care of patients.
Dr. Williams, a 1997 graduate from Baylor College of Medicine’s General Surgery Residency Program, is deeply passionate about patient care, he is equally committed to advocating for patient education and advancing cancer policies in the United States.
When Dr. Williams began his education at Duke University as a freshman, he knew his goal was to become a doctor. He was fascinated by the complexity of the brain and eventually began performing neurology research at Duke University School of Medicine.
“I still wanted to be a neurologist until I realized that surgery fascinated me more than the brain,” Williams said. “My need to diagnose a problem and be capable of fixing it was insatiable. I interviewed all over the country for a surgical residency position and my travels ultimately led me to Houston and Baylor College of Medicine.”
Medicine runs in the Williams family. Dr. Williams and his father, Dr. L. Polk Williams Jr., both trained to become surgeons under the guidance of the legendary Dr. Michael E. DeBakey at Baylor College of Medicine. Williams’ grandfather was also a family physician in the small town of Edenton, North Carolina, in the early 1920s.
“Dr. DeBakey’s life motto was ‘The pursuit of excellence has been my objective in life,’ and you can’t be associated with him without learning that principle and striving for excellence in what you do,” Williams said. “Dr. DeBakey demanded the very best of you. It was unacceptable for you not to give your best, and I saw this level of commitment at Baylor and in all the professors there.”
Dr. Williams initially practiced general surgery, but ultimately specialized in breast surgery during a 15-year period. “I appreciated surgery, and specifically breast cancer surgery, because it represented an opportunity for me help those in need, facing the complexities of a diagnosis of cancer. Being a surgeon, the relationships that you make with people in crisis, and becoming connected with them as a confidant for years—all of these things drew me into breast cancer surgery.”