42 years, more than 8K babies: Dr. Howard Williamson, beloved by his patients, retires

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Dr. Howard Williamson and his grandson, Brock Spiegle (contributed)

CULLMAN, Ala. – After 42 years practicing obstetrics and gynecology in Cullman, Dr. Howard Williamson recently retired. Williamson, who began practicing in 1978, estimates he has delivered more than 8,000 babies.

After taking a leave of absence due to COVID-19, he explained in a letter to his patients, “I have had to reassess continuing to practice medicine. Regretfully, I feel it is time to retire.”

Williamson is originally from the tiny town of Oak Hill in Wilcox County.

“I grew up in the country and thoroughly enjoyed it,” he said. “That was one of the reasons I did come into Cullman because I really didn’t want to stay in practice in the big city.”

Williamson completed his undergraduate degree at Birmingham-Southern College and medical school at the University of Alabama School of Medicine. After completing his residency at Carraway Methodist Medical Center, he joined the obstetrics and gynecology practice of the late Dr. Herman Ensor and Dr. Virgil (Tommy) Baccus. He began practicing in Cullman June 1, 1978. In 2013, he joined Cullman Primary Care OB/GYN.

Williamson came to Cullman in 1978 with his wife Judy, whom he met at Birmingham-Southern in botany class.

He said of the decision, “When I decided to come to Cullman, I think other than talking my wife into marrying me, that was the best decision of my life- to come to Cullman and practice OB/GYN. It’s been a very satisfying career. I told somebody once that after a while, your patients become your friends. I feel like I have a lot of friends, and I’ve gotten lots and lots of cards from my patients since I retired and I appreciate that, too.”

Williamson said there were big changes in his field over his 42-year career, and going from the old Cullman hospital to what is now Cullman Regional.

“Things have changed dramatically,” he said. “Obstetrics and gynecology, it’s just amazing the improvement and how much better things are as far as minimally-invasive surgery and things we didn’t have, good ultrasounds and ways of monitoring mothers before the baby came, just terrific advancement. Of course, now we have our beautiful hospital. We were in what is now the Folsom Center back then.”

Williamson reflected on his career in Cullman, smiling, “There’s a tremendous amount of satisfaction that comes from that type of medical practice. It’s a happy practice because you are delivering babies, and the vast majority of the time, things go well and you bring a new life in the world and see all these happy faces. As time goes by, some of those babies you delivered come back to you 20 years later and they’re pregnant and you get to deliver them, too. That’s really a special thing when you are in the delivery room and you’ve got the grandmother of the baby, who was your patient, and her daughter that I delivered delivering their child. That’s a very special thing. (It was) a very satisfying career, and I don’t think I would have done things any differently.”

He added, “I really don’t think you will find a better hospital in the state of Alabama, and maybe in a lot of places, than Cullman Regional. If it were me as a patient, I would prefer to be there. The nursing care is so good and the type of people who work there, they really make it what it is. Everyone can have a nice building or equipment, but it’s the nurses, the physicians and the anesthesiologists and all those people that make it special.”

Retirement is bittersweet for Williamson, who said he will miss seeing his patients, some he has seen for more than 40 years, but, he said, “I will be 71 in September so it’s probably time for me to cut back a little bit. I don’t have any big plans. Maybe after all the COVID-19 is better, we can do some things, but I guess we’ll just be careful and not do any traveling or too much right now.”

The Williamsons have two children and one grandson who is 9 years old.

“We do a lot of things together even with the current situation,” he smiled. “We are very, very careful about not getting exposed, but we still see each other at least once a week. I think before long we’ll be able to do a lot of things. I used to play golf quite a bit, but I haven’t played in years. I’d like to pick that up again. Dr. Baccus, when I came here, he and Dr. Ensor were the two OBs and I joined them in practice and he retired about 14 years ago. He plays golf about three days a week, and he’s inviting me. Even when we were playing, he beat me. I am mediocre at best.”

Joining Cullman Primary Care OBGYN in August will be Dr. Taylor Massengill.

Williamson said of her, “She is originally from Gardendale and her husband is from Hayden. So, they know Cullman and I think they are just going to be a perfect fit for the community. It’s going to be nice for us; right now, we don’t have a female OB/GYN in Cullman Primary Care OB/GYN. That’s needed because there’s a lot of patients that would prefer to see a female. I think she’s going to be very busy. She’s trained at the University Mississippi, so she’s well-trained. They have a great academic program there in Jackson, Mississippi.”

Massengill is also certified in robotic surgery.

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Christy Perry

christy@cullmantribune.com