Dr. Bridget Cole Williams, M.D., is dedicated to wellness.
Dr. Bridget, who specializes in family practice and cannabis medicine, was once overwhelmed by numerous frustrations in medicine. However, after seeing how cannabis altered a patient’s life for the better, the physician pivoted to a fulfilling career and life in the world of cannabis.
Presently, she’s the founder of Embody and a medical cannabis interactive clinic based in Ohio, where Dr. Bridget was ahead of the game when it came to treating patients with cannabis. She has quite a story to tell about her journey in medicine, but now, she’s helping others tell their stories.
Dr. Bridget will soon present Courage in Cannabis, Volume 2: The Triumphant Stories. Volume 1 was full of moving stories ranging from all corners of the industry. Now, Volume 2 will feature stories and contributions from Tyson 2.0 co-founder Adam Wilks, Ed Rosenthal, Tyrone Russell, and Johnny Curry, to name a few.
Recently, Dr. Bridget told us about her life in wellness and cannabis, as well as Courage in Cannabis.
High Times: You met a breast cancer survivor, Renee, who changed the course of your life and led you to cannabis. How many years ago was that?
Dr. Bridget: I’m going to say about 15 years ago. I was very early on in my career. It was within the first three years of me working full-time at the clinic. You know, things happen for a reason. I met her and this other guy, who was angry at his doctor, and came to me because he was 35 and on five blood pressure medications. The change actually started with the guy, I should say. I started spending more time with him and learning about his lifestyle.
He was 35, had three kids, and had a hard time dealing with this new lifestyle, trying to make enough money. Once I learned about who he was, then we really got into how we get you to a better place, mentally and emotionally. It’s a question of, what does wellness mean to you? We defined what wellness means for him. I started working on diet and exercise for him and other patients, but for him, I got him down from five to one medication.
Renee was a breast cancer survivor. I met her right at this moment when she was a new diabetic. She was like, “I survived this breast cancer and now I have diabetes.” We learned again, what does wellness mean for you? Do you care about these numbers? Do you understand why we want you to be on these meds? What else do we do? Are you interested? Do you know that if you really changed how you’re living your life? I just spent a lot of time with them.
In the course of it, Renee asked me about cannabis. Well, I’m not that cool, you know? (Laughs) I was like, this lady is off her rocker, so I’m going to pull up some information to tell her why this is such a bad idea. Now, I knew that there was stuff going on, let’s say out West, but I didn’t know that. I never paid any attention.
Different world at that time.
Different world. When I realized that she was coming from something I had no understanding of, I looked into it and said, “Yeah, let’s give this a try.” I don’t think I thought that long about it being illegal in Ohio. Once I was learning about cannabis, I learned this is kind of like insulin, to be honest. If you take it at night, it’ll help you sleep, but then it actually will help regulate your sugars by the morning. And so, I saw her sleeping better, she was more productive at work, and her anxiety was so much better.
We were seeing the blood sugars actually under as well. She was doing the diet and exercise. I pulled her off of the metformin. And so, I kind of just put the information away after that experience. When it became legal in Ohio, all of a sudden it sparked, you know, this experience I had had years before. I wanted to learn more about this and dig into it.
When you announced to your colleagues you were going into cannabis, the reactions were skeptical and far from encouraging. How’s the perception changed over the years?
The thing is I care less, that’s a part of it. In the beginning, it was deer in headlights. I had decided to go into the cannabis space and looked for the reaction. Now I don’t look for the reaction. I’m sure there are still people that are like, Oh my God, why’d you throw your career away? I still do medicine. I’m very conscious that I’m doing cannabinoid medicine. I’m not just writing you a card, so you can go to the dispensary. I’m very conscious of your medical conditions. I practice it just like I do regular medicine with a little life coaching.
What I realized over time is what people thought of the cannabis physician, and that probably bothers me more. I know I’m probably happier than most of the people that would judge me. Most of the doctors I know are pretty miserable people, to be totally honest with you.
When I say I’m a cannabis doctor, people think you’re doing it for extra money and taking advantage of the fact you have a medical degree. Now, when people think I’m one of those, that bothers me. I did an interview once with a guy, and we were teaching at the same place at the time, and he had a podcast and invited me on. He’s introducing me to the audience, like, “We all know what we think about these cannabis doctors, how grungy, scammy, and how horrible they are. But then I met Dr. Bridget.” I was kind of sitting there like, Whoa, is it that bad?
It was a big shock for me. I was already in a place where I took it seriously probably because I had those experiences [with patients] years ago. People are so accustomed to everyone’s getting high, and it’s just about access to get the weed. There are people that think the whole medical aspect is just a front for people that want to escape and get high.
I have so many cancer patients, and I have so many people that have chronic pain, and they’re all desperate to not be in pain. Fibromyalgia, which is horrible to treat, I’m trying to help them find relief. We’re tweaking what they’re taking and figuring out what will work best. I think probably the average cannabis doctor isn’t doing that. They’re just writing the card. But I really work hard with people to bring them some form of health and wellness, and people don’t expect that.
So, you were very unsatisfied with your work before your career changed and focused on cannabis. As a physician, how was it finally finding joy in your work? What did you hope to accomplish?
I knew I was unhappy. I got in front of a patient, and that was my bliss. When I get in a room with a patient and help them help themselves, that makes me happy. But the whole system sucks, to be direct.
My undergrad major is psychology, which I still love to death. At one point, I was literally thinking about leaving medicine. Then, I had this deep feeling that you can still do it, just do it differently. And so, I googled options… You gotta love that, right? You can just Google your life (Laughs).
(Laughs) I do it every day.
I googled psychology and physicians, and the Physician Coaching Institute popped up. It’s a program to become certified life coaches, but it’s all health-related, and physicians that get certified. They basically help utilize your background in medicine and helping people, and then put that into a coaching realm. I was like, okay, this is it. This will give me a start at something different.
At the same time, Ohio was going legal, and I was so curious about that experience that I had with Renne eight years ago. I actually got a job with a card company, because I was like, this will be great, I can do cards, and I’ll do life coaching. Now, when I start talking about treatment plans, research, surveys, and follow-ups, they’re like, “Whoa. We are cards for cash. We don’t care about any of that.”
For me, this is the time for a change. I got certified as a cannabis educator and then I was already doing the life coaching thing, so I decided to open my own offices. Most offices or apps are doing 10 or 15-minute visits with patients, while we do a 45-minute visit.
Anyway, I was in search of something I didn’t know. I really didn’t know what it would be. I thought it would be fun to dig in and learn more about cannabis, but I did not know that cannabis would give me life. I had no idea.
I do appreciate that, because of these intensely negative experiences you had in the medical industry, you found a way to bring more positivity to others.
No, absolutely. I don’t mean this in the way you see it in memes or whatever, but I’m not one to lose. I’ll pivot. I will change the rules (Laughs). I also believe you have experiences for a reason. You can take that and do something good with it, even the worst experiences, or you’re going to get beat up by it. I don’t want to be beaten, and I don’t want to throw in the towel. I just feel that’s too depressing. Make something out of those experiences.
You survive. You have some horrible experience and you survive it. I’m not going to sit around saying, “Oh, look at my wounds.” I’m going to turn it into something that says, “Look at what I’ve been through, but look at the cake I made.” (Laughs) It’s just a mentality.
Well, I think that’s part of the reason why the book works. You have stories within the cannabis industry that, really, could apply to so many different industries, right?
Oh, absolutely. So, Courage in Cannabis really comes out of the fact that I started seeing patients and I’m excited, you know? The buzz in Ohio at the time is how high the prices are, we don’t have homegrown, and the lab testing, all of the political talk and all of the whining around all the issues.
I had this patient, a big burly truck driver. I still see this guy’s face. I’m handing him his card, and he was like, “I am going to show this to my son and I’m gonna tell him I’m not a pothead; I’m a patient.” I was like, okay, nobody’s talked about this. A woman comes in and she’s like, “I am taking this to church because I have feared going to church all these years because I’ve been using this for help.”
I actually started writing down these stories. I had someone that really was interested in publishing it. I was just at the beginning of writing, getting some of these stories together, and then I had this horrible gut feeling… These aren’t my stories. I don’t know if I should do this, you know? And so, then COVID happened. I started doing an online conference, believe it or not, with a bunch of spiritual and religious life coaches from the south.
How was it?
It was fun. First of all, the personalities are amazing. You can imagine. One of the people I met was working on an anthology and she said, “I want you to be in it. Everybody writes their own story. They get to financially benefit from writing their story and selling the book.” I was like, That’s how you do it. I was in her book, I wrote a version of the story that you see in Courage in Cannabis. Once I was done, I told her, “I want you to help me to make Courage in Cannabis.”
Now, I was a huge fan back in the day of Chicken Soup for the Soul. It’s a book series of inspirational stories, all sorts of stories. At one point, they went into themes. So Chicken Soup for the Soul for Nurses, Chicken Soup for the Soul for Pet Owners, all these themes. I realized I wanted to do a Chicken Soup for the Soul for inspirational stories around cannabis. And so, that’s really where the books came from.
So you have the book, your practice, and your non-profit, what else are you working on for this year? What else would you like our readers to know about the book?
I’m expanding and probably switching up my card company to multi-state because I do so much traveling. I want to create something as an alternative to the quick app card company and hire doctors that really want to do cannabinoid medicine.
We should be publishing Courage in Cannabis, Volume Two this spring. The difference with this book is that it’s not just like the chapters as you’ve seen with this first book, but we have what I call small sparks, whether it’s a quote or a paragraph from other people within the industry itself.
What’s very dear to me is a contribution from Alice O’Leary Randall, who’s the widow of Richard C. Randall, the first legal government cannabis patient. Richard has passed on, but Alice submitted some of his writings to be in the book. Mike Tyson submitted a quote for the book. People that I’ve come across over the last couple of years with a voice in the cannabis space are the sparks, for the most part.
With all the other stories in there, it’s definitely a larger book, a much bigger undertaking, but when it’s done, I probably will be even more proud of this one. I was naive with the first book, but now, I know what this book could do and what it does for people. So, it’s all very exciting and very overwhelming.
But very fulfilling?
Definitely. Oh Gosh, if you can get that, what else can you ask for?
Courage in Cannabis, Volume 2: The Triumphant Stories is available this spring.
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