Your Neighbor: Meet Dr. Fonz Williamson

Published 12:05 am Thursday, September 28, 2023

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By Mandy Haggerson

For the Clemmons Courier

Dr. Fonz Williamson shared a groundbreaking opportunity with High Point University this weekend. It was a great reminder to him that following your passions and never being scared to try new adventures can work out even better than you had hoped.

Growing up in Clinton, Williamson’s parents discovered from an early age that he was a gifted pianist.

“Initially, my younger sister was taking piano, and I would do her assignments,” Williamson said. “So, in the 5th grade, I started my formal training with the piano and loved it tremendously.”

Once a week, Williamson would also receive a lesson from Dr. Charles Bath, the music department chair at East Carolina University.

“He had heard me play and offered to train me further,” Williamson said. “As an introvert, taking piano gave me the time and space to do something that was just me. If I put in the effort, I’d see the results from it.”

Williamson saw great progress from his hard work, earning a scholarship to attend the North Carolina School of the Arts.

“My parents were both principals, and education was emphasized in my childhood,” Williamson said. “When I was given the opportunity to attend School of the Arts, I was very excited.”

“I stayed there from 11th grade to college with the mindset that I would earn a degree in music education so I could be a music teacher. The time I spent at the School of the Arts was one of my best times of my life. Being surrounded by peers that immersed themselves in their disciplines, regardless of what it was, felt like such a wonderful experience.”

While Williamson enjoyed honing his skills at the School of the Arts, afterward, he decided to join the United States Army for several years with his roommate from school. His father was a Southern Baptist preacher, in addition to being a principal, and his family always valued service to others.

“One of the best parts of my tour was that I landed in El Paso, Texas, and met my wife, Sabrina,” Williamson said. “She’s the best decision I ever made.”

Williamson knew that he wanted to return to North Carolina to be near his family. After several years in the Army, he headed back home.

“I did teach music for about a decade in the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County School System,” Williamson said. “However, in the back of my mind, I had always wondered about going to dental school and being a dentist. After having a conversation with my wife and parents one day, I decided to go back and take classes from Winston-Salem State University to allow me to apply.

“After I obtained the courses needed to apply, I got into Howard University, where I earned my doctor of dental surgery (DDS).”

Working hard for four years in dental school for 8 hours of class each day had paid off for Williamson. He opened his private practice, Williamson Family Dental.

“When we started our family practice, we had already had our three kids, Dylan, 17, Max, 15, and Gigi, 13,” Williamson said. “With having kids and their activities and growing a business, I didn’t have much free time for playing the piano. However, I still participated in my church, First Baptist, as their coordinator of music and organist for the past 35 years. I simply enjoy it and love traditional and contemporary things. I love music. I particularly like anthems and spirituals. We play for other people, but for me, it’s personal. It helps me get through the week.”

Williamson realized recently, too, the value of his time and health.

“I had a health scare where I went into cardiac arrest,” Williamson said. “Like many others who are going and going, it allowed me the opportunity to reflect on how to slow down and also reprioritize things. Upon that reflection, I decided to sell my practice. As it happened, a wonderful opportunity presented itself that intertwined some of my passions.”

High Point University was looking to acquire 30 local dental practices to become part of their Workman Dental School of Medicine dental program.

“It will allow the students to have a hands-on experience in an actual practice setting,” Williamson said. “I will be serving as an associate professor of clinical dentistry. I love that they will be given the opportunity to learn management and business training. That was not taught to me in dental school, and there is a huge need for it. I will get to be a part of all the good parts and none of the stress. It’s really a bold move and will equip these future dentists with the business acumen they need to become successful.”

With the excitement of the groundbreaking ceremony, it served as a reminder to Williamson that hard work and creating opportunities around your passions pay off.

“It is really taking off right now,” Williamson said. “We are doing a lot of workshops and training. We just got the necessary accreditations. I am looking forward to this new venture that will provide a valuable service.”

Williamson is also looking forward to being able to continue to support his own children’s passions and interests more.

“They are all great kids with many different interests,” Williamson said. “As you learn with parenting, it’s nothing like the books tell you with raising kids.”

“But you meet them where they are and support them the best way that you know how.”

Part of parenting includes showing your children by example. Williamson recently bought a grand piano to allow himself some more time to get back to what he loves doing to recharge.

“I haven’t used it yet, but I plan to do so and hoped by getting it, I’ll have a good excuse to play a bit more in between the new job, the kids’ activities and taking care of my aging parents,” Williamson said.