Dick Williams: Great urologist, better person

July 1, 2010

When I talked to urologists at the recently concluded AUA annual meeting about Richard D. Williams, MD, they all described Dick Williams, the person, first: Unassuming. Dedicated. Soft-spoken. Genuine.

Dr. Williams, former chairman and professor of urology at the University of Iowa in Iowa City, died May 28. He fought a courageous year-long battle with cancer.

I remain touched, but not surprised, by the very personal tributes to Dr. Williams made by those who knew him well. Many spoke of his wisdom and skill as a mentor and teacher. Others spoke of his dedication to research and patient care, his collegial nature, and his service to the underprivileged, namely the people of Haiti, to whom he provided volunteer surgical care for more than 20 years.

"Dick Williams is the reason I am a urologist today," Jeff Moody, MD, wrote to Urology Times. "As a medical student at the University of Iowa, I had the unique privilege and opportunity to see Dr. Williams make urology a human, interesting, progressive specialty. He was the consummate mentor and gentleman."

I was also fortunate to learn from and befriend Dr. Williams. When I met him after being named editor-in-chief of Urology Times in 1997, I sensed almost immediately that in his position as an editorial consultant, which he held for 20 years, Dr. Williams would serve this publication and its readers very well. As it turned out, I was right.

Over the years, Dr. Williams was not afraid to share with me his opinion about a wide range of issues concerning this magazine, but he never forced it. He applauded articles that were fair and even-handed. He was less pleased if an article looked self-serving or promotional.

I once watched Dr. Williams in the operating room as he helped remove a high-risk patient's kidney tumor. I was awed by his surgical skill but also his concern about the patient and his family, wondering to myself whether all surgeons made this many calls from the OR to waiting family members.

Dr. Williams' influence on urology will not be forgotten, but his gifts as a human being will be cherished above all.