Michael Williams thrives on the challenges of being a cardiologist. He enjoys working with people, gaining the greatest satisfaction from helping patients overcome the toughest situations.
As a boy growing up in Gore, he was content to enjoy its small town charm and his leisure time revolved around sport, cycling and fishing. Gore was a conservative place back in the sixties, but teenage trends reached even here and by the seventies boys were sporting long hair. Although radio was very popular in those days, by 1969 the big event was seeing the moon landing on TV. In that year also, another big event happened in Gore with the opening of St Peter’s College and the influx of some highly educated Rosminians from Europe, bringing with them new ideas from a wider world.
By Year 11 he had decided on medicine as a career. Having no experience of hospital doctors, he based this on what he knew about the work of a GP. He did recognise that as a career, it would be challenging, and it also had appeal as a helping profession. The scientific rigour that he learned in chemistry lessons with teacher Chris Belcher, who had come over from England, provided an excellent introduction to university study.
The careers department organised a visit to Medical School for him to see what would be involved and a GP came to school to talk about medicine as a career. Armed with this background knowledge, Michael went to Otago University and began six years of study. At the end of year 3 he got a break with a two month student exchange to Canada, followed by a memorable drive down the west coast of the USA.
Back at Medical school he was aiming for a career as a GP and had studied paediatrics, psychiatry, medicine and obstetrics in preparation for this, but at this point he changed his mind and went into hospital medicine, becoming first a houseman and then a registrar. He then commenced training in Cardiology and worked in this department at Dunedin Hospital until 1993. The National Heart Foundation funded him to spend time training in Boston, Massachusetts, at one of the world’s leading heart hospitals. He returned to Dunedin and completed his Doctor of Medicine thesis supported by the W & GS Dick Research Fellowship from the Southland Medical Foundation.
As a cardiologist he has spent the last twenty years meeting the challenges of this profession and recently became a professor. This new role carries with it responsibilities to his students and trainees and will involve him in ongoing research programmes.
With such a demanding career, Michael finds a balance by relaxing with his family when on holiday with time to wind down. He enjoys reading, but also the active relaxation of skiing and cycling. International conferences enable him to travel widely.
As for medicine as a career today, he thinks it offers young people everything – the rewards are high, but so it the stress. He is still excited about cardiology, where mortality rates have dropped dramatically and new innovations keep on coming.