By K. Richard Douglas
St. Charles, Missouri has been on the map since the late 18th century. It was Missouri’s first state capital and is a short drive from St. Louis.
SSM Health St. Joseph Hospital is a provider of health care services to the people of St. Charles. The hospital is part of SSM Health, a Catholic not-for-profit health system serving communities across the Midwest.
Jessica Chambers, MHA, RT(R)(CT), is the director of Imaging, Vascular Lab/Procedure, Neurodiagnostics and Pain at SSM St. Joseph Hospital in St. Charles.
It may have been the experience, several times, of laying under an X-ray machine that piqued her interest to find out what it is all about.
“I was a wild child growing up; by time I was finished with elementary school, I had already broken multiple bones, had multiple stitches and was a pretty frequent flyer in the emergency room,” Chambers says.
“I knew at a young age I wanted to work in health care. After attending a year of college, I decided to follow in a family tradition and joined the Air Force. It was when I was reading the job descriptions at the recruiters office that ‘diagnostic imaging’ stood out as something that I would enjoy doing, so I picked the job and signed the dotted line to do this profession as I served my country,” Chambers says.
Chambers attended phase one training – mostly the didactic part of schooling – at Sheppard Air Force Base in Wichita Falls, Texas. She then went to Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas to complete phase II of training, which she says, was “basically your clinical.”
“After working as an X-ray tech for about three years, I then received on-the-job training in CT at my first duty assignment at Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield, California. I then separated from the Air Force in 2007, and further advanced my career by utilizing my GI bill to obtain my bachelor’s and then [a] Master of Health Administration. This gave me the skill set to advance my career into a leadership role, where I currently am the director of imaging and network CT consultant for the St. Louis Region of SSM,” Chambers says.
Her journey in imaging led her to working as a general radiology technologist. Working the night shift, Chambers says that the night techs had to learn basic non-contract CT, since there wasn’t a nighttime CT tech available. She says that she fell in love with CT and applied for a position working with this modality.
“Upon making the rank of staff sergeant, I was granted an interim noncommissioned officer in charge (NCOIC) for the CT department, and this is when I learned the basic skills of leadership, as I managed the CT department for a little less than a year. I then separated from the Air Force and was hired on as the CT supervisor at SSM DePaul Hospital in St. Louis. I led this team for about two and a half years, when I was promoted to assistant team leader and began to lead the entire diagnostic imaging department,” Chambers says.
Life Lessons from the Martial Arts
Away from work, Chambers is an expert grappler and knows how to submit an opponent.
“I hold a purple belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. I train with Gracie Barra. I actually was the first female to achieve this rank at my gym, which was a pretty awesome compliment for me. I not only train, but compete; this is what helps keep everything in perspective,” she says.
Chambers says that although she has won many gold, silver and bronze medals, she has lost just as many matches as she has won.
“Training in Jiu Jitsu is something I did to stay active and fit, but it has become so much more than that for me. It, honestly, probably helps me in the way I tackle projects and goals at work too. One saying that has stuck with me is that you never lose in Jiu Jitsu; you learn, maybe you made a mistake and got submitted, but you learned not to make that mistake again,” Chambers says.
She says that this has carried over into her career, where she might take a little more risk when trying to identify opportunities and achieve goals.
“It’s not so crushing if I don’t meet the goal. I just maybe need to approach it differently and try again,” she says.
Chambers says that her family are die-hard Dodgers fans and that she grew up in Southern California. All three of her children have Dodgers-related names.
“I have three children; Brooklyn, Ebbet, and Raleigh. Brooklyn is 15 and going into her sophomore year of high school. Thanks to her training in Jiu Jitsu, she wrestled on the varsity team last year as a freshman and had an amazing year. Ebbet is going into seventh grade and Raleigh is going into fifth grade. They too train in Jiu Jitsu and I anticipate they will follow in their sister’s footsteps and wrestle in high school,” Chambers says.
Chambers says that she is in leadership because she genuinely cares about improving outcomes and assisting employees in career advancement. In addition to this, she also won an innovation award at her hospital.
With a competitive nature and the philosophy of learning from every experience, Chambers is bound to lead her imaging department to great things.