High school student Bill West got some marching orders from his father, a surgeon in Memphis. “He wanted me to do anything that I wanted to do in life — as soon as I finished medical school,” West says. That direction became clear when he was a senior in college when his mother died of cancer. “I was going to medical school and into a new field called oncology, cancer medicine. That would be my destination.”
It would be an extraordinary journey.
West worked for a while at the National Cancer Institute in Maryland but returned to Memphis where he realized cancer care needed rethinking. “Historically cancer had been in the hands of the surgeons,” he says. “I love surgeons, my father was one, but they’d have the inclination to think that they can cure everything all on their own.” Patients were going to different doctors around the city and admitted to the hospital for simple chemotherapy. “Obviously there needed to be a better system for patient care, an integrated system.”
West and his team developed the concept of a day hospital. They brought in radiology and outpatient chemotherapy. “It was a matter of knowing that patients needed integrated care and support,” he says. “Everything just naturally flowed from what was good for the patient. Someone who’s just learned they have a life-threatening illness needs things organized and they need support. Everything in one place is the best.”
He further realized that clinical trials in Memphis were necessary. “That’s the hope component,” West says, “and if we’re not bringing in new drugs for a given cancer then we’re not doing very well. We wanted to offer something new and more hopeful.”
West was always clear on what needed to be done, but there was no instruction manual. “We took risks,” he says, “because risk always meant better care and that’s what we were all about.”
West’s achievements earned him membership in the Society of Entrepreneurs. Winning the Master Entrepreneur Award signifies that he embodies the self-direction, determination, creativity, leadership, and integrity necessary for membership in the Society.
While he no longer actively practices at the West Cancer Center, he’s been applying his single-minded devotion to other projects. His LLC, The Prevention Group, acquired Lifesigns, now a full-service employer-focused primary care provider that does annual prevention exams. His group also bought HealthyHere, which provides preventive care services at the worksite for employees. “The idea of HealthyHere is to make a clinic on wheels so it could be shared, from larger corporations to very small companies,” West says.
And that’s how a master healer becomes a master entrepreneur.