Imaging. Boxes. Mummies. Mentors. And squirrels.
What do these have in common?
They’re all important elements of Jamie Dennis’ story.
As manager of Radiology Service at Emory Johns Creek Hospital, Jamie is responsible for ensuring the day-to-day operations of imaging services run smoothly and all staff and patients are well taken care of. That’s the short version of a large job in a growing larger hospital.
When asked to describe a typical day, she laughs.
“Ever on the go, multitasking, and talking with people,” she says. “Some days I don’t even make it into my office I’m so busy working with our technologists and other frontline staff. There is no routine. Every day is very different.”
She enthusiastically calls it “not having a box.”
“I am a big multitasker,” Jamie explains. “Some days I am working on projects and getting things in place. On other days I’m assisting the staff with challenging patients. Every day, I’m responsible for making sure all the moving parts are moving together and in the right direction.”
Although Emory Johns Creek Hospital is considered small compared to Emory University Midtown and Emory University Hospital, it has nearly the same wide range of modalities, including bariatrics, neuroradiology, breast imaging, and interventional radiology. Along with Chrystal Barnes, Director, Jamie oversees operations, or “all the moving parts” for all of them.
“We see a lot of diversity with our patient population. The case load is a big mix and I think it keeps the staff and I on our toes. We might have an ortho case one minute and a neuro case the next. That’s exciting but also a lot to keep on track.”
While she thrives on the fast pace, she finds the work fulfilling for another reason. “It makes it rewarding knowing that what we’re doing is making a difference in people’s lives. If we’re doing everything well on our end, then it flows through the whole process and results in a great experience for the patient.”
The care team’s experience is important, too. “I am really enjoying working with different staff to see what we can do to improve departments. We’re constantly asking how we can grow and improve the patient experience in each modality. It’s a challenge because what works for one area doesn’t always work for other areas.”
As the hospital grows, so, too, does Radiology. A second MRI suite opened this fall. On deck is a new 8-bed radiology observation care unit/critical care unit, or ROCU. “I love multitasking but I do have ‘squirrel’ moments when I am all over the map,” she admits. It’s part of being an out-of-the-box thinker. “I’m always looking at situations from multiple sides. I actively listen and want to know all the facts before making decisions.”
When things get too squirrelly, Jamie decompresses by getting away. “I love to explore new areas. I will go off on a trip and have no real schedule or agenda. I like wandering around and seeing where the day takes me.”
Jamie’s career path in radiology is no less out-of-the-box.
“I always knew I wanted to be in the medical field, I just wasn’t sure which direction I should go. After doing some research, I was drawn to radiology and its interworking with other aspects of patient care. Once in school, I loved CT and the way it views the body in different planes. I was more challenged in CT and loved the fast pace of it and never knowing what to expect from one patient to the next.”
After graduation, she did what most students did, started at the ground level, fully expecting to work her way up the pyramid. Unlike most students, Jamie actually worked at the ground level, imaging mummies, although there were no pyramids.
Jamie joined a group of radiographers led by Rick Carlton, then director for the Center of Medical Imaging at Arkansas State University, to excavate and x-ray mummies in the foothills of the Peruvian Andes Mountains.
“I heard him talk at a conference and knew I had to be part of his team,” Jamie says.
Like others on the trip, she paid her own way, eager to help Carlton and bioanthropologists understand the Chiribaya, an ancient society of Peruvians. Jamie learned a great deal not just about the Chiribaya, but also about x-ray imaging techniques.
“I was involved in correlating femur length with overall body height. I spent part of my time x-raying or working in the labs and part of the time I actually got to help excavate remains. It was fascinating.”
Jamie loved the work so much, she signed up for a second year and served as a radiographer leader.
Jamie has put the skills cultivated during her time in Peru to good use at Emory Johns Creek. She started as CT lead when the hospital opened in 2007. She subsequently was promoted to level-4 clinician for CT, ultrasound, and MRI before becoming a supervisor and then manager.
As her responsibilities have grown, so, too, have Jamie’s opportunities for leadership skills development.
“Chrystal is a fantastic mentor and has taught me a lot leading by example,” she says. “I’m also very big in local and state (radiologic technologist) societies so that’s another way I’ve developed expertise in organizing and managing,” she says. She served two terms as president of the Georgia Society of Radiologic Technologists.
Jamie also completed Emory Radiology’s Radiology Leadership Academy in 2016. “Now I get to use that knowledge to help the staff I work with.” Her team appreciates the way Jamie leads by example: she was nominated for the Outstanding Leadership award as part of the Faculty and Staff Awards program in 2015.
Imaging. Boxes. Mummies. Mentors. Squirrels. They’re all part of Jamie’s fascinating story, but what matters most to Jamie are the people.
“This is my family. Many of the staff have been here for 5 or more years and they are amazing! This is the best staff, team and department I could ever ask to work with and for. Everyone really does care about each other, there is a big team camaraderie and at the end of the day everyone is here for one another. I know I could not find a better group of people to work with.”
According to her colleagues, the feeling is very much mutual.