Dr. William Bill Billmeyer of California has worked hard to become the leader in his field and the top Urology surgeon in Santa Clara County and San Jose, California. After graduating from the University of Iowa with the highest distinction with a major in biology and a minor in chemistry, he was selected for membership in the Phi Beta Kappa honor society. After serving as an officer in the United States Navy, he attended medical school at Northwestern University Medical School, where he was elected to the Alpha Omega Alpha medical honor society.
His childhood memories:
I don’t remember much from the early years of my life. There’s an occasional snapshot of something, but not much in the way of major memories. One that I do remember is sitting on a porch and waiting for the school bus to arrive each morning because my father had given up driving after his third accident and wanted me home each day as quickly as possible. I would go out and see if I could meet any neighbors when they got up in the morning, which wasn’t very often considering we moved around so much. But it was great in that it was a community that really looked out for one another – someone would always help you when they saw you struggling with your lawn mower or taking care of your lawn by themselves or even feeding stray cats without fail…
Preparing himself for medical school:
After graduation, he headed back to Iowa City, where he lived and worked for two years before entering medical school at the University of Michigan, in Ann Arbor. He graduated from there in 1978 and then entered a five-year residency program in urology at Michigan State University Medical Center. He is now a full-time surgical staff member there and one of the most sought-after urologists in the Midwest region.
Graduating from medical school:
Billmeyer began his medical career as a urology surgeon at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center in New York City, where he also served as an assistant professor of urology and the first head of the department of adult urology. In 1978, Dr. Billmeyer joined the world-renowned Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston and took on several new positions including director of urologic oncology, head of the program for kidney stone disease, chairman of their Institutional Review Board, and medical director for research programs that involved human participants in clinical trials. He helped found the Association of Professors of Clinical Urology (APCU) and is currently president. He is an honorary member of APCU and is president emeritus of the American Society for Clinical Oncology (ASCO).
Becoming a urologist:
By the time he graduated from medical school, Dr. Billmeyer had known for a long time that he wanted to become a urologist. The field of urology appealed to him not only because it is one of the specialties with the most demand and fewest available qualified physicians, but also because urological surgeries are often high-tech and require a deep understanding of all aspects of human anatomy and physiology. In college, Dr. Billmeyer researched all aspects of becoming a urologist in depth and concluded that he would have four years after medical school to gain experience in any subspecialty that interested him before committing entirely to urology; since almost every specialty will help round out his skillset as an overall physician, this approach seemed very prudent.
What does it take to become an expert at something?
Why are some people better at things than others? What sets them apart? A lot of it comes down to talent, of course, but there’s also a science behind the secret sauce that lets certain people shine in a particular field. What does it take to become an expert at something? We asked Dr. Billmeyer to share his wisdom on this topic after reading about his remarkable success as a urology surgeon. One thing you might not know about becoming an expert is that your brain has some secrets of its own! Dr. Billmeyer says that an essential first step is figuring out what you’re good at and starting small with those skills until you get the hang of the new knowledge.
Recently, I was able to help a 9-year-old girl overcome problems with an undescended testicle. The surgery involved less than an hour in the operating room and went perfectly. Her mother reported that she has been back to school and playing with her friends!
No other profession allows us these privileges. We get to share the joy of seeing patients smile when they walk out of our office or hospital after being cured of what may have caused them pain or embarrassment for years.
Advice to young people who want to become physicians:
I would recommend young people get in touch with their local hospital and find out who the department heads are, what the requirements are for their specialty, where they go to medical school, and how much money is involved – because it’s a long-term commitment that requires financial stability. In my opinion, the first two years of medical school are more difficult than any surgical year because you’re in training mode as opposed to being more autonomous. Learn all you can about your intended specialty as early as possible so that you’re not just guessing on your career choice
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