For Meggan Lilly, a career in medical imaging was the beginning of the second act in her life’s work. Married at 20, Lilly was a stay-at-home mother of two and wife to her husband of 20 years, Jeremy, before beginning to focus her energies on a professional career. With their children fully in school, and Jeremy’s firefighting career well established, her husband turned to her and said, “Now it’s your turn to begin your dream job.”
By 2016, Lilly had graduated from ultrasound school, and over the next few years, worked for a series of physicians before ending up at the Paradise Valley, Arizona location of Banner Imaging, where she is medical imaging lead for the office, with a specific focus on women’s breast imaging.
Lilly has held the position for less than a year, but in its demands – and, more broadly, within the Banner Health system overall – she’s found a niche that fulfills her professionally while leveraging a philosophy of “servant leadership,” with which she resonates personally.
“We’re faith-led people,” Lilly says of her family. “At the heart, I’m driven by my faith and the confidence of who I am and who I’m called to be every day, and arising to that task, wherever it takes us, every single day.”
To Lilly, that perspective involves attending to the needs of her patients and staffers with empathy, presence of mind and a willingness to shoulder the collective burdens of the group with which she’s interacting.
“People want to feel heard; they want to know that you’re listening,” Lilly said. “We’re all part of a team; we’re all individually enabled, but as we all work together for the patient, we’re a part of this huge, beautiful team that just puts all the pieces together.”
Conversely, she said, “patients are in there because something’s hurting,” and their anxieties about their discomfort or health risks can give way to significant emotions. For patients, Lilly believes her role is “to smile, and attend to their needs, and give them the best possible care.” “I’m thankful to be a part of their care, no matter what it is for,” she said. “I assist in procedures and biopsies, and it’s a stressful time. We’re in there to console them, walk them through the process and be there through their time of care.”
To Lilly, embracing a philosophy of servant leadership means being able to identify with the people she’s leading on a personal level, while addressing the demands of her job “without elevating myself above anyone else.”
“I’m on the floor scanning and in the procedures just as much as my staff is,” she said.
“Whatever the circumstance is, we’re going to get through it, one patient at a time. It’s just about how you respond to those circumstances and how you choose to deal with them. I think it’s just about being teachable and adaptable and pliable.”
That same approach guides Lilly in her off-hours, which are spent supporting Jeremy’s work as a fire fighter-paramedic in nearby Sedona, Arizona. A common thread in their relationship is a desire to serve, and to care for others, and as Jeremy heads up the Sedona Verde Valley Fire fighter Charities, Meggan coordinates its volunteer efforts. Together, they support local community organizations serving youth, seniors and victims of natural disasters, but the bulk of their outreach involves coordinating immediate recovery efforts for families who’ve lost their homes in a structure fire.
“We all have needs right now, and insurance takes a while,” Meggan Lilly said. “We activate within 24 hours to respond to whatever the family needs.”
That direct aid can come in the form of clothing, housing and relocation support, gift cards to replace household necessities, and other basic items that families often need right away after a sudden setback like a house fire. The biggest fundraiser the fire fighter charities organize annually is a charity golf tournament, the $20,000 budget for which is paid out of fire fighters’ paychecks directly. Meggan Lilly coordinates the event volunteers, who help host the tournament, “and make sure everybody’s having fun.”
In addition, the charities help fund the Sedona Verde Valley Honor Guard, which provides escorts for departmental deaths, retirements or memorial activities. The guard also travels annually to the International Association of Fallen Fire fighters memorial in Colorado Springs, a trip it funds to support those affected by the loss of a loved one in the fire service.
As if those efforts weren’t enough, through her non-denominational church in Peoria, Arizona, Lilly also participates in a monthly ministry outreach to prisoners in the local women’s jail in her community. Through those experiences, she meets with “women of all different walks of life,” from those awaiting trial to those serving time; from those newcomers who welcome the opportunity for social interaction outside of their cells, to recurring worshipers who find strength in the services.
“These are women who are grandmas, mothers; they’ve had careers, they’ve gone to school,” Lilly said. “They just made a bad mistake, or had a bad circumstance, and they’re having to fulfill the consequences for that. They’re hurting. They just want to be heard. They want to know that everything’s going to be OK; that their kids are being prayed for.”
“We come to relate and identify that they’re just like us,” she said. “There’s nothing that makes us different. We’re there to console them, and be a positive influence, and encourage them that hope is not lost. It is a very dynamic and fulfilling experience.”
When she’s not volunteering her time or caring for her family, Lilly also enjoys fitness and outdoor activities. She’s a powerlifter of 10 years, a travel enthusiast, and takes advantage of the natural beauty of Arizona as often as possible; activities that help renew her spirit and body amid the challenges of operating in at a high level and in a high-stress job.
“During the pandemic, we’ve really just been focusing on our patients,” Lilly said. “A lot of the world shut down, but health care didn’t. At Banner, we never closed. We’re all getting through it.”