Named one of the Best Places to Work in 2022 by the Baton Rouge Business Report, Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center is home to nearly 500 employees, each one trained to deliver the kind of care and compassion they’d want for their own family.
“When someone is on the appointment books, it says they’re a ‘patient,’ but when I see them come through the door, they become family to me,” said Deirdre “Dee” Alexander, a 20-year employee currently working in Guest Services at Mary Bird Perkins’ location on the campus of Woman’s Hospital.
Alexander’s face is often the first they see upon arriving as they enter the building. She welcomes patients with warmth and kindness and helps them find their treatment areas. She also ensures they leave safely with a companion or family member.
“I know they’re nervous, and I try to make them feel as comfortable as possible,” said Alexander, a recipient of the organization’s prestigious team member award for kindness and compassion in 2019. “I’ll even pray with them if they want, or I’ll say a silent prayer for them.”
Having studied the appointment register the day before, Alexander calls new arrivals by name as soon as they approach the welcome desk.
“I think you have to greet people with authenticity,” she said. “I absolutely love my job. I’ve gotten to meet so many different people.”
For medical assistant Tremaine Jackson, Mary Bird Perkins is a place where employees feel valued. She recalls a company-wide holiday dinner during which she shared gumbo with an executive. “He said, ‘I might make big decisions, but y’all make all the important decisions,’” Jackson said. “That really stuck with me.”
Supporting hematologists and oncologists Drs. Lauren and Sanjay Juneja, Jackson is the direct line of support for patients who arrive for visits at Mary Bird Perkins’ location on the campus of Baton Rouge General, as well as the Cancer Center’s locations at Woman’s Hospital and Gonzales. She keeps their charts up to date, takes their vital signs, and lets them know what to expect.
“I feel really confident telling them they’re in good hands, and that while this situation is new for them, it’s not new for our doctors,” said Jackson. “I thank them for letting us be part of their treatment and I tell them we’re going to do everything we can to help them heal.”
Alexander and Jackson are part of the Mary Bird Perkins public face, while many others are providing high-quality care behind the scenes.
One is dosimetrist Nick Toups, who takes a physician’s orders for radiation and creates a tailored treatment plan that ensures the highest level of radiation is delivered with the fewest possible side effects.
“Not a lot of people have heard of our profession, but it’s a key role that ensures everything is factored in when treating a tumor,” Toups said. “That includes, where the tumor is located, its density, and the healthy tissues and organs surrounding it.”
Toups previously worked as a Mary Bird Perkins radiation therapist, but returned to school at the University of Texas San Antonio to earn a degree in dosimetry. Toups returned to Mary Bird Perkins after his training, where he’s worked in this new capacity for the last year. He also participates in the Cancer Center’s outreach to underserved LGBTQ+ community members.
“I knew I wanted to come back to Mary Bird Perkins,” Toups said. “We are one-hundred percent focused on patients and our mission.”
Toups says that part of his motivation to work in cancer care was the prevalence of the disease in his own family.
“I love that we’re focused on local care,” he said, “and on bringing a high level of treatment to both large and small communities in the region.”
Mary Bird Perkins, which was founded by community members, has served the community for 52 years with many passionate team members such as Alexander, Jackson and Toups propelling the mission forward generation after generation.