Monday, February 16, 2015

Celebrating Jennifer McPhee, Med Lab Science, UAlberta (1972-2015)

Updated: You can still contribute as 'Anonymous'!
Recently, I experienced the equivalent of a kick in the gut. Jennifer McPhee, who was in Medical Laboratory Science (MLS) at the University of Alberta when I first came to MLS in November, 1977 (~38 yrs ago), announced her well deserved retirement. I knew Jennifer was to retire in 2015, but seeing it in print made it real. Jennifer will hate me for this blog but it has to be done.

Jennifer has always been associated with MLS in one way or another, whether as a student, graduate (1972), research technologist, instructor, or MLS coordinator, a post she held since 1988 (more than 25 years). 

I encourage you to use the Comments section below to relate anecdotes about Jennifer, anything that strikes your fancy. You can do so as 'Anonymous' and add your name and graduation year (if relevant) at the end of your post, or not. 

Below is an excerpt from a letter I wrote to support Jennifer's nomination for a University of Alberta award, tailored for the award. 

Otherwise, my comments would be more personal, such as how the heck Jennifer, someone who runs every day and is in great shape, could ever tolerate my smoking in my early MLS years. Or how when I came to MLS, only the second non-MLS graduate on staff, she kindly showed me where everything was, from the toilets to the cafeteria, and gave the scoop on who the big-wigs were. 
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I'm delighted to write a letter to support the nomination of Jennifer McPhee for an Academic Staff Recognition Award. I have known Jennifer as a colleague in Medical Laboratory Science (MLS) and Laboratory Medicine and Pathology (LMP), where I taught for many years. 
 Jennifer played a key role in the careers of so many staff and students and continues to do so. As LMP's APO, Jennifer has been the glue that holds the Department together. During her tenure Jennifer has seen many Department Chairs come and go, all with different personalities and agendas. Throughout she presented a steady presence that staff and students have come to rely upon. Of particular note, Jennifer piloted MLS through the era of government cutbacks in the 1990s when Alberta cut payments to medical laboratories by 40%. 
Throughout her entire career, Jennifer consistently fostered a positive culture among academic and non-academic staff and encouraged us to be creative in dealing with new realities. During the darkest days of the 1990s, I never saw Jennifer anything but upbeat. She was a beacon to students and staff alike. For example: 
1. When as a blood bank instructor, I considered applying on MLS’s behalf to conduct a 5-day continuing education conference in Saudi Arabia for the health care system of Saudi Aramco, but felt insecure about it, Jennifer encouraged me to 'go for it'. As a result of her encouragement, MLS and LMP won the Saudi contract.

Indeed Jennifer encourages all staff to 'go for it' and consistently holds up a mirror that shows us in our best light.  
2. In 1996, when MLS instructional staff had to create ways to accommodate more than double the number of clinical students due to restructuring of Alberta’s medical laboratory system, Jennifer encouraged us to do whatever fit our individual situations. Most importantly, by example, she kept us enthused with her can-do approach to seeing ‘problems’ as challenges to be met.  In retrospect, the year we had to transmogrify our clinical training is one of MLS and LMP’s finest hours, due in no small part to Jennifer's leadership.

3. Jennifer is an astounding ambassador for the University of Alberta's MLS program and laboratory medicine in general. She promotes University of Alberta programs on many levels, including recruitment in local high schools and via university open houses. 
4. She also serves as an assessor for the Conjoint Committee forAccreditation of Educational Programs in Medical Laboratory Technology for the Canadian Medical Association (CMA). By volunteering as a member of the CMA's accreditation team, Jennifer has given the University of Alberta's MLS program and its clinical sites a high profile across Canada. In assessing other programs, she’s a natural at promoting the ideals of what an excellent program should aspire to be, yet she respects the challenges faced by all. 
 In summary, when staff and graduates think of MLS, they cannot help but think of Jennifer McPhee with affection and gratitude. I admire her greatly. She is a most worthy recipient of an Academic Staff Recognition Award.
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Please comment as suggested above: Do so as 'Anonymous' and add your name and graduation year (if relevant) at the end of your post, or not. Or contact me and I can add your comments.

Many thanks. 
Cheers, Pat