William (Bill) Pieratt, DO, became dean and chief academic officer of the Burrell College of Osteopathic Medicine on Tuesday, Sept. 1. The Office of Institutional Advancement recently sat down and chatted with Dr. Pieratt about his life, experience as a physician and his new role.
Prior to joining Burrell College, Dr. Pieratt served as associate dean at the Texas A&M College of Medicine, interim chairman of the Department of Primary Care & Population Health and medical director of the A&M Integrated Medicine Program.
Q: Where are you originally from?
A: I was born and raised in Giddings, Texas, a town of about 2,700 people between Austin and Houston, Texas.
Q: Tell us about your family.
A: My wife and I have been married for 26 years now. We have two kids. My son is 25 and pursuing a career in commercial real estate. My daughter is 23 and in her second year of law school at Southern Methodist University.
Q: Did you always want to be a doctor?
A: My father was a pharmacist and had a retail drug store. I grew up around health care in a small town with community physicians. It was always a natural assumption that it was something that would be a good career and an opportunity to serve and interact with people. So, I kind of grew up with this intent to go into health care and more specifically, medicine, as I got older.
Q: What drew you to internal medicine?
A: I enjoy internal medicine because of the diagnostic challenges as well as the opportunity interact with patients who have both chronic and acute problems. There’s a problem solving nature to internal medicine and also the opportunity to bond with patients over a short or long period of time.
Q: What drew you to the Burrell College of Osteopathic Medicine?
A: I’ve been very impressed with what Burrell has established and the direction that its leadership has taken it. I think it’s an amazing opportunity and challenge to help forward the vision and the mission as far as educating students and providing physicians for the region. I’m thrilled to be part of it.
Q: How do your past experiences help you as our new dean?
A: I like to think that my experiences have taken me full circle. Starting out in private practice and direct patient care and then transitioning to a medical education role. Within medical education, I took on leadership responsibilities that ranged from a department to a campus to a longitudinal education program, where I interacted with both students, faculty and staff. I think this really prepared me well for this role.
Q: What’s your vision for our college?
A: My vision aligns with the college’s vision. The education and training of physicians to improve diversity and access for a more robust workforce in health care for the community, the region and the border area.
Q: What are your priorities in your first year as dean?
A: I’m on a bit of a steep learning curve. My initial priorities this first three to six months are really to listen and to learn about what is going on at Burrell; what’s going well; and what are the opportunities for improvement within the college and externally in the community when it comes to associating with our affiliate partners. Finally, executing a plan to approach those opportunities and working with our faculty, staff and students as we try to advance those goals.
Q: How would you describe your leadership style?
A: I like to think of myself as a relational leader. I tend to be collaborative. The concept of shared governance is important to me, so while the ultimate responsibility may lie with me, I want input from our faculty, staff, students and stakeholders. That includes community engagement and input from our affiliate partners. I enjoy working with others and leading by example.
Q: Why did you choose to be a DO versus an MD?
A: The philosophy of osteopathic medicine appealed to me because of its focus on wellness and prevention and the whole patient, in addition to the more traditional focus on disease and treatment. I’ve always aligned with trying to achieve wellness and maintain wellness.
Q: What are you looking forward to?
A: Bonding with students — that’s really been the thing that has brought me the most joy in medicine. Not just the patient care, but the opportunity to help educate and to share my experiences and knowledge with students has really been something that I’ve found rewarding. Being able to follow their career through residency training and on into practice has been a great source of joy. I look forward to making those same bonds with Burrell students.
Q: What advice would you give current medical students?
A: Learn to listen well and keep thank you notes.
Q: Do you have any hobbies outside of work?
A: I’ve been somewhat of a serial hobbyist. Over the years, I’ve enjoyed golf, bicycling, hunting, hiking. I enjoy the outdoor opportunities that exist here; I’m looking forward to that.