Proud to Be #1: Billy R. Williams


One of Billy R. Williams’ most cherished possessions is a photo album chronicling the day he made medical history by becoming the first person in the world to undergo focused ultrasound treatment for essential tremor. “I always wanted to be Number 1 at something, and this was it,” he says of his participation in the Focused Ultrasound Foundation-funded pilot essential tremor study at the University of Virginia. His treatment experience, which has been reported in print and video interviews, has inspired thousands and offered new hope to others in the essential tremor community.

Following his focused ultrasound treatment, which significantly reduced the tremor in his dominant hand, Williams says he felt like a new man. Once again, he was able to perform daily activities and participate in church and social activities.

Billy Williams and his wife, Iris (center), received a photo album from University of Virginia neurologic physical therapist Diane Huss, PhD. The album, which chronicled Williams’ history-making focused ultrasound treatment, has become one of his prized possessions.

Williams, who is now retired but was on-site at the Pentagon during the September 11 terrorist attack, has suffered with essential tremor for years. The medications he took worked for a while, but eventually became ineffective. By the time he enrolled in the UVA study, his hands shook so severely that he could not eat without spilling, do yard work or tee-up a golf ball. Williams even had to give up a favorite pastime, doing crossword puzzles. Embarrassed by his disability, he had stopped going to church and social events.

The Focused Ultrasound Foundation conducted video interviews with Williams at one month and at one year after his treatment. Although his hand tremor increased slightly during the year, Williams remained pleased with the outcome and with his distinction of being “Number 1 in the World.”  – Written by Ellen C., McKenna

Video and broadcast interviews:

One-year follow up with Billy Williams (Produced by the Focused Ultrasound Foundation, May 2012)

Interview with Billy R. Williams, world’s first essential tremor patient treated with MR-guided focused ultrasound (Produced by the Focused Ultrasound Foundation, April 2011)

Treating tremors with ultrasound (Produced by Discoveries and Breakthroughs in Science, August 2011)

News stories:

U.Va. uses scalpel-free brain surgery to treat tremor (Richmond Times Dispatch, March 11, 2011)

Early results of essential tremor study promising (Richmond Times Dispatch, June 13, 2011)

Soundwaves as effective as brain surgery at treating essential tremor, trial finds (Science Blog, May 20, 2012)