By John Wallace
Mary Myers, BS, CNMT, is the operations manager of CT, PET and nuclear medicine for Valley Health System, Winchester Medical Center. Her imaging career received a boost from mentors along the way.
“Through each stage of my career, I’ve had many mentors,” Myers explained. “I’ve had the pleasure of working for many great leaders and physicians, and with many memorable coworkers. I think that everyone you work with brings valuable snippets that you can use to piece together to develop your own leadership style. My biggest takeaway from my mentorships, is that more often than not, they were unspoken of. The best leaders know how to support you, encourage you and help you to develop your skills without formally or purposefully intending to do so. And that’s so important, because as a leader you have to be cognizant that everything you do—people are watching you. Your team is learning how you move, your intent, your motives, your priorities—everything!—just by watching you be you. As a leader, you have to have that awareness and accept that responsibility.”
Two men are among those who helped shape her approach to leadership within the imaging field.
“My previous manager/director mentor team of Patrick Cook and Jeff Behneke were grooming me to be a leader, long before I knew it,” Myers said. “I started working for them as a staff nuclear medicine tech and, little-by-little, they began giving me projects to work on while walking me through it, guiding me, and then small amounts of responsibility within the department. They watched me grow and develop my skills as a technologist, and they started to trust me to take on more tasks of my own. When the lead tech position opened, I wasn’t sure that it was for me, but Patrick encouraged me to apply. I’ve always taken pride in my work, and by then, I knew I was a great technologist, but did that make me a leader?”
The vocalization of support boosted her confidence.
“Knowing I had their support when I needed it, but allowing me the independence to make decisions on my own, helped me to gain the confidence I needed to develop my own leadership skills,” Myers recalled. “They acknowledged me as a force before I knew I wanted to be. And the more space they gave me to grow, the more I wanted! Then, when I was approached for a promotion to the operations manager position, I felt the confidence I needed to take on a role of that magnitude, because of their constant encouragement over the years. They were always in my corner, and still are. I don’t hesitate to call on them whenever I need a hand, or a listening ear.”
Now, Myers is focused on paying it forward.
“I’d like to think that I’m mentoring, in some capacity, all of my team. Whether it’s on how to be a team player, how to make difficult decisions, how to be a good communicator, or how to develop relationships with others; I hope that my team is learning from me each step of the way,” she said. “I do have a few techs who have shown a natural potential to lead others, and I have been purposeful in my intent to help them to develop those skills by empowering them to take ownership of departmental concerns and allowing them the opportunity to act on them using their own best judgement. With consistent encouragement but allowing others the space to make their own decisions, letting them make mistakes and learn from them, really has helped our team to build trust and confidence within each other. I choose not to ‘manage’ the way every single thing is done, but rather to allow the team to take ownership of the department and help to guide them towards the right solution.”
When asked to describe her approach to leadership her experiences serve as a template.
“To be a good leader, you have to be somebody worth following. First and foremost, I’m a tech. I loved my career as a nuc med tech, and still do! I like to be hands-on in the department,” she said. “My desire to lead started on the floor in the department, and that’s where it continues to grow. In a health care setting especially, the most important thing you can have in a department is trust; trust within your team, and their trust in you to lead them. And that has to come from building a solid working relationship, right on the front line. Once you build that trust, everything else feels easy. When I’m having a difficult day, I always find myself back on the floor. Being right in the thick of things helps to keep you grounded, and remind you of what’s important, and why you’re here. Going back to the beginning, working alongside the team, taking care of patients helps to keep things in perspective. Then, when you get back to making what you thought were difficult decisions, or having those crucial conversations, responding to a few dozen emails, it doesn’t feel so tough.”
Her journey into leadership started thanks to an academic advisor.
“I started out on my university’s pre-professional track to get a BS in natural science without a clear career-path in mind,” Myers said. “While meeting with my academic advisor, she mentioned nuclear medicine as a profession. I had no clue what it was, but didn’t have anything else in mind, either. I just knew I loved science and people; how do you make a career out of that? I signed up to shadow a technologist at the local hospital, and applied for the nuclear medicine program the next day!”
Along with being a successful imaging professional, Myers is also a successful parent. She says that is among her greatest achievements.
“As a young, career-focused female, attempting to excel at work, while trying to maintain a personal life has been most-daunting. Working a physically demanding job through two pregnancies is no easy feat! Then, staying on top of my game while being out on maternity leave, and then attempting to pick right back up where I left off upon my return was no cake-walk, either,” Myers said. “Even now, trying to be successful at work, a present mother, a supportive wife, maintain friendships, get seven hours of sleep, call my parents at least once a week—it’s exhausting! I couldn’t do any of it without the constant encouragement from my husband and my family; I really have one of the best! I’m still working on my greatest accomplishment, but I hope it’s that I was able to have a successful career, while raising two great kids, while not ending up on an episode of ‘Snapped.’ ”
Her family includes supportive husband, Lee, and their two sons, Major and Rygin.