AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — You may know Dr. Sheryl Williams from her vital role, as Medical Director of Quality, in the BSA healthcare system.

Being an Arizona native, Dr. Williams went to college in Tuscan at the University of Arizona.

Dr. Williams said, “I ended up working for NASA as a computer programmer, doing data-base management.”

However, eventually she felt like she had an even higher calling.

“Finally decided that if I’m going to have to get up at 2 o’clock in the morning to fix a computer program, I’d rather it be a person,” she explained.

Later, Dr. Williams said that she applied to medical school on a bet and moved to Amarillo in 1987.

The plan was to stay in Amarillo for three months. However, that was 30 years ago.

The current Medical Director of Quality has worked at BSA over the past 13 years, wearing many various hats and titles.

Dr. Williams shared, “I formed the group, the hospitalist group here, and eventually a couple of years ago I gave the directorship to my partner, Dr. John Bush, so I could become Medical Director of Quality.”

For those not familiar with the term ‘hospitalist’, this occupation involves taking care of patients in the hospital.

However, Dr. Williams explained that the title of “Director of Quality” means that they are trying to improve “the way we deliver care to bring the highest quality- the highest chance for doing a good job for our patients and not causing harm.”

With there being so many ways to care for a patient, Dr. Williams chose to describe going into Quality, being similar to a team sport.

However, even with a decade of experience, nothing could have prepared Dr. Williams and her colleagues for the COVID-19 pandemic.

“2020 said, here’s the problem and solve it today. Here’s the problem, come up with the best information that you can, the best process you can.. and by the way, it may change tomorrow but do what you can today,” said Dr. Williams.

Even with countless meetings and discussion, she shared that nothing seemed to help. Additionally, there were no books for healthcare workers to reference.

Speaking on this learning transition, Dr. Williams said, “You’re writing the book. In 2020, we’ve all become authors and we’re writing the book on how to take care of people with COVID.”

Even though typically, Dr. Williams holds an administrative role, the COVID-19 pandemic has required all hands-on-deck.

So throughout the past year, she has had to split her time between administrative responsibilities and providing care to patients out on the floor.

During our interview, Dr Williams mentioned, “This is probably the first day I’ve worn real clothes to work in nine months, because I wear scrubs because I see patients.”

Additionally, she touched on the emotional rollercoaster this has been for healthcare workers and families affected by COVID-19.

“There’s no rhyme to reason on some of these patients. I mean, you can have a young patient come in, and in their 30’s, and die. That shouldn’t happen,” said Dr. Williams.
She continued, “And it’s not that there’s a difference in therapy. It’s not the difference on how we treat them. It’s just.. COVID does what it wants to do.”

Also, Dr. Williams mentioned how healthcare workers have had to reiterate how to take care of these patients as the data comes available.

In fact, she shared that as more data has become available, they found out that these COVID-19 patients “throw clots.”

“There is so much information out there that you have to sort of sift through a lot of this, and watch who you are using for your information. You know, there’s a lot on the internet,” said Dr. Williams.

Another difficult aspect to being on the frontlines, is keeping her family safe yet informed.

Dr. Williams said, “The most terrifying thing for me is going home, because my elderly mother lives with me and the last thing I wanted to do is give her this virus because she would not survive.”
She continued, “She has not understood a lot of what is going on and why I’m so, you know.. cautious. Why I haven’t let her get out of the house essentially for months.”

Dr. Williams is also a mother of two daughters.

However, as much as Dr. Williams has endured this past year, she believes brighter days are ahead.

“So it’s been an interesting year. It’s going to get better. It has to get better.”

For now, she strongly recommends the public to continue washing your hands, wearing a mask, getting vaccinated when possible, and getting tested when someone believes they have been exposed or are feeling sick.

Thankfully, Dr. Williams believes the vaccines will be a game changer.

“This has not been a flu season that goes away in two weeks. This has caused so much pain and death. This is just not a simple little virus that’s going to go away in a few weeks,” said Dr. Williams.