Assistant Vice President for Integrated Labs
Start Date: 1969
ONLY TWO UNITS BUSY ON 9-11
I was administrative director for the 13 departments that make up MedStar Washington Hospital Center's "Laboratory" on the morning of September 11, 2001, when one of the pathologists yelled for me to get to the nearest TV. It was sheer pandemonium as everyone scrambled to find out what was going on, what might be next, and to locate friends and loved ones. The hospital went into high gear to get ready for the expected influx of Pentagon casualties. We weren't prepared for what happened next.
As word of the tragedy spread, people began to show up in droves at the Blood Bank. Moved to action, to do anything they could to help, they assumed a big supply of blood would be needed to treat the wounded.
We were overwhelmed, but so grateful for the community's response that we didn't have the heart to turn anyone away. We recruited every available lab employee who had ever drawn blood to pitch in, after a hasty re-training on procedures. Sometime after midnight, sheer exhaustion finally forced us to close the doors and turn the remaining donors away. They returned the next morning.
Of course, as everyone knows, very few victims survived. While the entire hospital was on red alert, only two areas were actually affected - the Burn Unit, frantically working to save the survivors, and the Blood Bank, busy serving those who wanted to help.
THE LABS, FROM THE BOTTOM UP
After graduating from college with a Bachelor of Science, I became a medical technology student at the Hospital Center in 1969. We lived in the old nurses' residence, now the East Building, along with nursing and radiology students and residents. To supplement my meager stipend - I think I earned $.43 an hour! - I moonlighted as a switchboard operator for Mrs. Oelberg, the residence's administrator.
During the course of my career, I moved up through the ranks from a bench tech, to an education coordinator for our medical technology program, to a laboratory information systems supervisor - MedStar Washington Hospital Center installed one of the first computerized labs in the area in 1982! Later I was promoted to director of operations, then administrative director. Today I work with all the MedStar hospitals as Assistant Vice President for Integrated Labs. That's one of the wonderful things about the Hospital Center: there's room and opportunities to grow.
Of all the positions I've held, one of the most rewarding and instructive was when I was the newly appointed Director of Operations. At the time, patients came to the lab, versus going to what is currently called a draw station, and my office was right next to the waiting room. Well, it could get pretty busy and noisy, so I asked my boss, Dr. Mary Kass, whether I could move further down the hall.
"Absolutely not," was her reply! "Your office is exactly where it should be. You need to keep your door and your ears open, so you can make sure that patients are being taken care of and hear what's being said!" It was great advice, and an approach to customer service that I still try to follow. Of course, it also provided me the opportunity to develop relationships with patients that were "frequent flyers" and to meet many of the key individuals involved with the hospital, including Ken Samet's (then the hospital's president) mother and grandmother. What a wonderful diversion from our everyday work.
ALL IN THE FAMILY
I met my husband Ron while we both worked as medical technologists in 1970 and married him a year later. We often worked in the same lab, but tried to keep our personal and professional lives separate. As a result, many people didn't realize we were husband and wife, even though I had taken his name! There were many family affairs at WHC, in the lab alone we had as many as eight married couples working in different sections at one time. Ron retired in 2001 from MedStar Research Institute, after 35 years of service.
During high school, our daughter Nicole volunteered and held summer jobs at the Hospital Center. In 1999, then a registered nurse, she joined her father and me on the Hospital Center's payroll until she moved out-of-state in 2005. Now, our future daughter-in-law has just started on 3F as a nurse. And our son was so influenced by a tour of the helicopter pad when he was 8 that he made flying his career. He began working as a pilot for Air Wisconsin in August 2007. Talk about your workplace playing a part in your life! I've been blessed to work for the MedStar Washington Hospital Center and MedStar Health.