Jackson — Marilyn Bray has been a laboratory technologist at the University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMC) since 1969. She loves what she does and has no retirement plans for the near future.
“I tell them at work that I guess I’ll die there and they can just come in and move my body out,” she said. “I love what I do, the employees and all the docs here, and I’m in good health, so I’m sticking around.”
Bray, director of laboratory services of the Medical Center’s Pavilion, believes the future of medical technology will bring about more in-depth testing and such strides that medical personnel will be able to tell anything about a person by drawing a tube of blood. She plans to be around for those strides.
She’s seen many changes in her field since she came to UMC.
“The technology is the greatest change,” she said. “It was so manual back then. All tests were done by hand. It was not nearly as advanced as it is now. Our chemical instrumentation is state-of-the-art, giving us a faster turn around time and less interference with tests from things such as high cholesterol.”
The Pavilion’s lab has the same instrumentation as the Mayo Clinic, Stanford University and other well known medical facilities. Theirs was the first in the state to have the most advanced technology and Bray says people came from all over to see it. These advancements have brought more testing in house and resulted in better pricing.
“We can run direct measures for good and bad cholesterol and there’s no fasting necessary for patients,“ she said. “Also, we can have test results so quickly for heart patients that the physicians can decide on medication while the patients are here. The patients don’t have to worry about the results, call back or come back in for a visit.”
Bray says she must read every night to keep up with advancements, pointing out that new instrumentation comes out every two years. She and the other technologists must take continuing education courses through the hospital, vendors and on their own.
The Pavilion is where medical school faculty physicians see private patients with 160 practicing there. Between 600 and 800 patients pass through the clinic each day. Bray says that keeps the laboratory staff hopping.
She helped set up the facility in 1987 through the Hospital Corporation of America.
“It was the first set up of its kind in the country and was a real big deal,” she said.
She supervises a staff of 22 employees. All 10 of the testing personnel are medical technologists and have the highest level of certification.
Bray explains that laboratory technologists earn four-year degrees and laboratory technicians earn two-year degrees. The laboratory at the Pavilion is always accredited with distinction and for a while was the only one on the UMC campus to have that designation.
“These are a good bunch of folks, the best on the campus,” she says. “They’re the most team-oriented group in the hospital. Because of that we have a low turnover among employees.”
As a supervisor, Bray tells employees to treat patients as though they’re their own family members. She also stresses being organized and carrying through with what they say they’ll do. “We’re here to do a job even though there are hard days,” she said. “We can’t always satisfy everyone. Sometimes we have to step back and take a deep breath.”
There are even times when Bray shuts her door and cries over a patient she can’t help get better. That’s the downside. In general, she finds patient contact the most rewarding part of her profession.
“I get real involved with patients and I love working with children,” she said. “There’s a little girl who’s 12 years old now who was only six days old when she first came in. I’ve formed a relationship with her and her family. I keep up photos of them in the lab.”
Bray grew up in Raleigh and graduated from Jones County Junior College and the University of Mississippi before coming to UMC where she had additional training. She and her husband, Steve Bray, a retired Jackson fireman, have lived in Byram for many years. They are the parents of a daughter, Blakeney Smith, and a son, Steven, and the grandparents of seven-month-old Parker, who she says is the light of her life.
When not working, she tries to keep Parker one night a week and enjoys gardening and helping with her sister’s outdoor furniture business. Surgery for knee replacement last May sidelined her for only a short time. She did great and went back to the lab at the Pavilion with a new resolve to help patients and stay up to date with laboratory technology advances.
Contact MBJ contributing Lynn Lofton at firstname.lastname@example.org.