Urologist Dr. Joseph Williams has retired after 40 years of treating patients.
Williams officially wrapped up his career on April 30th from MidLantic Urology, where he specialized in diseases of the bladder, kidney and urinary tract. And while he’s going to miss his colleagues and patients, he said the time has come for him to retire.
“It’s been a great journey,” Williams said as he reflected on his time in medicine. “I enjoyed it very much. But it comes a time when you have to say enough is enough.”
The native of Albany, Georgia didn’t initially aspire to become a urologist. He grew up in Philadelphia’s West Oak Lane section and graduated from Olney High School. Williams transferred college credits he earned at Community College of Philadelphia to Temple University, where he earned a pharmacy degree.
After becoming a licensed pharmacist, he received a dental scholarship to attend the University of Connecticut School of Medicine in Farmington, Connecticut. Williams wanted to pursue a career as an oral surgeon, however he transferred to the university’s medical school division after his second summer rotation. In 1975, he received the Outstanding Research Award for work in lead poisoning in children in the inner cities.
After graduating from medical school, Williams trained in general surgery at Hartford Hospital and was the first Black medical intern in the hospital’s 96-year history. He continued his surgical training at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, serving as chief urology resident and instructor from 1979-80. Williams then moved back to Philadelphia and started practicing urology 40 years ago at the Naval Regional Medical Center, achieving the rank of commander. After two years of serving in the Navy, Williams opened a private urology practice. Einstein Medical Center and Misericordia Hospital would become his referring facilities for the next 38 years. He was also affiliated with Graduate Hospital and Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital.
For Williams, taking care of his primarily African American patient population throughout the years has been a rewarding experience. He enjoyed offering a more personalized approach to practicing medicine.
“My patients were like my friends,” he said. “I would sit down with them and talk with them about their problem and then ask them about their wives and their children. When [they] sit down to see me as a doctor, after a period of time they could see me as their father, they could see me as their brother.”
Through the years, Williams focused on the prevention of prostate cancer in the African American community. He has spoken at many area churches, served on numerous panel discussions and participated in radio shows on the topic. He wants men to know the importance of early detection.
“One in five Black men will develop prostate cancer but if you catch it early enough you can go on to be cured and not die from it,” Williams said.
The longtime physician has been recognized by numerous organizations for his civic work. He was honored by Spectrum Health Services in 2017 as a “community gem” for his service.
Williams’ retirement will leave a void in the arena of Black physicians. He was one of Philadelphia’s only two Black urologists. He noted that medical schools have a limited number of urology residencies, which can lead to a dearth of African Americans opting to pursue this subspecialty.
“It is difficult to find a residency that will accept you in urology,” Williams said. “They are very particular about who they will accept.”
This comes at a time when an Association of American Medical Colleges 2016 report has found there has been a decline of Black men in medicine.
A member of several professional organizations, Williams is currently active as a Foundation member of Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity, Delta Epsilon Chapter in southern New Jersey. He has been married to Gwen Gay Williams for 50 years and they are the parents of two children, Leah and Jamison Williams.