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After 30+ Years, a Fond Farewell

Staff Spotlight: Susan Gray reflects on her time at MAHEC as she retires

A new kitten, gardening, hiking, traveling, spending time with family and friends, and home improvement projects—those are among the activities Ob/Gyn Senior Administrative Assistant Susan Gray is looking forward to when she retires from MAHEC on February 24, 2023.

Susan began her career at MAHEC in the early 1990s. Before laptops and electronic health records, she used shorthand to take notes, and “rows and rows” of patient files took up office space. There’ve been numerous changes in locations and names—for example, MAHEC Ob/Gyn was once known as MAWHS, or Mountain Area Women’s Health Services.

But throughout the years, Susan says, “One thing has remained constant: The OB department's commitment to excellent, collaborative healthcare for women in Western North Carolina.”

As we bid a fond farewell and deepest appreciation for more than three decades of service to MAHEC, we asked Susan to share her memories and experiences with us.

How did you end up at MAHEC?

I was born in northeastern North Carolina and fell in love with the Western North Carolina mountains in Cullowhee (felt I was a misplaced soul who should’ve been born here). When my husband and I decided to stop going back and forth from Asheville to Colorado every year (spending our winters in Colorado), I went to an agency for a temp position to explore possibilities of employment in Asheville.

MAHEC was my first placement—organizing files for a physician. Dr. Hal Lawrence offered me a position when he learned of my typing and secretarial skills. I had no medical terminology experience and learned from transcribing patients’ office visits from Dictaphones and tapes. Words and abbreviations of which I was unfamiliar had to be looked up in a book–there were computers but no internet!

An application for an obstetrics and gynecology residency was in the works and being finalized; collaborative practice was embraced.

How have things changed over the years?

My first office was located at 60 Livingston Street, then at 93 Victoria Road. Before the realization of having all of OB in one space, there was also an office on Hendersonville Road called ROGS (Regional Ob/Gyn Specialists). There have been name and logo changes (for example, OB was once known as MAWHS or Mountain Area Women’s Health Services).

I saw the implementation of access badges for employees and direct deposit paychecks. EHR—Electronic Health Records—now exist, freeing up physical space where rows and rows of patients’ files resided and had to be retrieved for each patient’s visit. We can now communicate 24/7. Having the ability to take a laptop to meetings for notes and minute-taking—what an improvement and timesaver over handwritten and then transcription from shorthand (yes, I even took shorthand!).

I saw the transition of the Southern Ob/Gyn Conference to MAHEC’s Regional Services [now Continuing Professional Development] and the addition of MAHEC’s Credentialing Department. In recent years, the MAHEC Biltmore campus has even gone through transformations with the addition of buildings, the removal of parking on ground floors, shuttles, and now the construction of a parking garage.

Throughout my years here, and having witnessed so much of MAHEC’s tremendous and institutional growth, one thing has remained constant: The OB department's commitment to excellent, collaborative healthcare for women in Western North Carolina.

What’s a favorite memory of your time at MAHEC?

I have no “favorite” memory, but lots of fun ones, including babies being born onsite, to April Fool pranks, to Halloween costume contests. I've observed many interns and residents fulfill their time to become successful care providers, many of whom are now MAHEC faculty. I’ve also seen coworkers advance their degrees/careers while working by taking courses at night. I have witnessed my family of coworkers’ successes, loves and losses, and personal tragedies, and they have been there for mine.

What is something you are most proud of?

I am proud and honored to have been hired by Dr. Hal Lawrence and to have had the privilege of working with him and others over the years–Dr. Bill Brannan, Dr. Arthur Ollendorff, Dr. Bill Gist, Dr. Carol Coulson and the Maternal-Fetal Medicine Division and the current director, Dr. Beth Buys. I’ve learned about domestic violence, wellness, and mindfulness. It is a privilege to be included in [Administrative Director] Heidi Boone’s and [Clinical Manager] Tiffany Woods’ amazing family/admin team with my “sisters” [Administrative Assistant] Stacy Wise and [Logistics Coordinator] Carla Hudson.

What has surprised or delighted you about your job?

Being able to continue working, remotely, through the COVID crisis and being proud of MAHEC’s successful implementation of COVID testing and the Acute Care Clinic.

How do you plan to spend your free time upon retiring?

I plan to start my retirement by spending more time with my family and friends, tending to my gardens, hiking and exploring Western North Carolina, traveling, tackling home improvement projects, and, later, entertaining volunteer possibilities. Oh! And getting a new kitten.

What else would you like to tell us?

Where’s the Kleenex? Just writing this makes me cry.

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