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The history of Arizona's physicians is rich in mystery, controversy, innovation and pride. Since the settlers first inhabited the territory, physicians have been a part of Arizona's legacy. They helped shape the culture of this Great State and set the standard for the quality of care delivered to its citizens. The Physicians of Interest page on this website highlights the historical work of Arizona's physicians and the roles they played while shaping the State's future. The biography of a new physician will be added each month and in time, the page will represent a patchwork of the names and faces that brought medicine in Arizona to life.

William B. Helme, M.D.

For many, earning a medical degree is a major accomplishment and a rite of passage upon which future achievements and successes seldom compare. For William B. Helme, M.D., earning that degree was just one step on a path to several successful careers. From FBI agent to neurosurgeon, Dr. Helme epitomized the meaning of enthusiasm and dedication.

Dr. Helme's career began in the military when he entered on duty as an FBI special agent from 1941 to 1943. He served domestically and in a special intelligence division in Argentina. In 1943, Dr. Helme resigned from the FBI and accepted a commission as lieutenant commander in the Navy, where he volunteered for assignment in a torpedo boat squadron. He was later sent to the South Pacific where he served with distinction and was decorated for bravery in action.

In 1946, Dr. Helme returned to the states and gained employment as an administrative assistant to the President of United Airlines and later, assistant to the President of Taca Airways in Miami, Florida. However, as chance would have it, the Intelligence Agency, which was the predecessor to the current CIA, asked him to head a mission to Poland, a Russian satellite country. The mission was cancelled and it was at that time William Helme decided to become a doctor.

At the age of 32, he enthusiastically tackled pre-med, medical school at Loyola University, and postgraduate study at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. After practicing privately for several years in Wisconsin, Dr. Helme moved to Arizona, where he continued a prosperous neurosurgery career.

In addition to his practice, Dr. Helme successfully navigated his way through professional associations and earned the respect of many of his peers. He held offices as the first President of the Maricopa Foundation for Medical Care and President of the Maricopa County Medical Society (MCMS) in 1970, as well as membership in the Harvey Cushing Society (specialty society for neurosurgeons). Additionally, at the request of the Arizona Medical Association, it was Dr. Helme's convincing testimony before the Arizona House Commerce Committee in 1976 that pushed forth legislation regarding professional advertising and a physician's ethical duty to subordinate financial reward to social responsibility.

Dr. Helme was awarded the MCMS Doctor Clarence Salsbury Medal in 1970 for leadership in establishing and developing the Maricopa Foundation for Medical Care and the MCMS Distinguished Public Service Award in 1964 for leadership in effectuating ambulance control laws. In 1994, Dr. Helme was awarded the MCMS Doctor Joseph Ehrlich Medal for his lifelong, successful pursuit of excellence in medicine and as stated by MCMS, "His unquestioned dedication to his patients, his family and his friends is in the true spirit of medicine. His life defines integrity."

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