78 Photo Essay: Dr. Emily Williams

Words by Terrell Manasco | Image by Blakeney Clouse

It happened just over a year ago. A patient walked into Dr. Emily Williams’ office in great distress, barely able to breathe. “He was leaning forward, really struggling,” Emily recalls. 

She ordered numerous tests to pinpoint the problem. When the lab results came back, they weren’t encouraging. “He had one of the biggest blood clots I’ve ever seen, saddled in his chest. It actually went into his heart,” Emily says in a somber tone. 

Emily grew up in a small town called Excel, near Mobile, Alabama. Her formative years were spent at the doctor’s office where her mom worked. “I became interested in medicine around the sixth or seventh grade,” Emily says. “The general surgeon would do skin cancers and mole removals and let me observe. I worked in the front office from age 16 until I left for college. Eventually, they let me help out in the lab and take vitals,” she grins.

After graduating from the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Medicine, Emily did her residency in Tuscaloosa. She was practicing medicine back home in Monroeville when Dr. Mark Keating and Dr. Charles Cross passed away in 2012. She got a call from Dr. Ty Blackwell, whom she knew from medical school, about an opportunity in Jasper.“We came up in January to look, and didn’t even know where Jasper was,” she says. 

A year has passed since the day the patient walked in, and even now she speaks about it in hushed tones. Staring at lab results which painted a grim picture, Emily phoned a structural cardiologist at Princeton Hospital, who told her to send the patient immediately. 

What happened next was a game-changer. “They suctioned the clot out of his heart,” Emily recalls, astonishment in her voice. “It’s unbelievable. He’s still alive, but he should have been dead.”

Exactly one year later, the patient was back in her office. This time, he gave her a calla lily — a flower symbolizing rebirth. “I told him, ‘You’re one of my miracle patients,’” she says. 

It’s an example of why Emily loves family medicine. There are many reasons, but if she had to choose only one, it would be the personal rapport she builds with patients. “I like continuity of care. I like being able to walk in the room and tell if you’re having a good day or a bad day, just from how you look,” she says.

Despite growing up with little, Emily was able to go to college and medical school. Although the road has been long and sometimes rocky, she believes it was for a reason. “It’s been a rough time getting here, but I will tell you that God’s hand has been in it the whole time,” she says. “I know without a shadow of a doubt that I’m doing the right thing. It’s a peace that I can’t explain. I thank God every day that I’m here.”  78

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