An Interview with Maureen Coleman
Q: When did you first start with the Department?
A: I started as a temp in the Department in January 1989 in the Division of Pediatric Nephrology. It was supposed to be a two week assignment to help with clinic dictations. In April of 1989, I took the job full time and have been here ever since.
Q: What is one of your favorite memories/most memorable moments about your career?
A: From the very first day that I started as a temp, I was impressed by the people in the Division of Pediatric Nephrology. Dr. Robert Chevalier was the Division Head and his lab and office were located in the MR-4 Building. That is where I was to work. The office was tiny and shared by two secretaries, but the warmth and welcoming atmosphere in that lab was palpable. When I was asked to take the job permanently, there was no question in my mind that this was the place I wanted to work.
Another favorite memory is when the University decided to take part in a teaching exchange program with the King Faisal Hospital in Saudi Arabia. It was a multi-university project of which UVA was one participant. Dr. Chevalier was named the coordinator for the project for the entire School of Medicine, and it was my job to make the arrangements for faculty and their families to go. This involved obtaining visas from our contact in Washington, DC, communicating flight information with the staff in Saudi Arabia, and sending weekly Federal Express packages to the faculty who were there. The King Faisal Hospital also sent fellows to UVA for training for varying periods of time. I helped arrange their living accommodations on Grounds and coordinated their visit with several Internal Medicine Departments as well as Pediatrics. This was such a wonderful opportunity, and I treasure the memories of all of the people I met through this project to this day.
Q: What has changed the most over the years?
A: The way we communicate has really changed. We used email, but there was no way to attach a scanned file. Fax was the best way to get a document from one place to another. Minutes and other documents that had to go to the faculty had to be photocopied, collated, stapled, and then affixed with a mailing label before being sent out. The process could take two hours for something that can be done now in less than a minute.
Q: What achievement are you most proud?
A: Working in Pediatrics has allowed me to feel that I have made a contribution, indirectly to patient care by typing notes and communicating with families, and directly, for most of my career, by working with the faculty and staff.
Q: What advice would you give to someone just starting out?
A: For those who are just starting out, I would say to take advantage of as many educational opportunities that you can, and also to find a job that you are passionate about. It is very important that you work in a job in which you feel that you are making a difference and are having a positive impact.
Q: What will you miss the most?
A: I will miss the people with whom I have worked the most.
Q: What will you do in your free time?
A: My plan is to spend time with my family, be involved in community outreach, and do some serious gardening!
A Note From Dr. Robert Chevalier, MD
“Maureen Coleman worked as my administrative assistant for over 20 years, initially when my office was in a research laboratory. She quickly became expert not only of the business of laboratory management, but of processing grants and communicating with a variety of granting agencies. She also became very accomplished in dealing with a variety of students, residents and fellows, solving numerous problems as they arose. At the same time, she needed to communicate with patients and their families, which whom she always showed the greatest compassion. Maureen is so helpful with everyone that she personally takes it upon herself to follow up on every detail, even if she has many other competing tasks.
When I became Vice-Chair for Research in the Department of Pediatrics, Maureen took on many additional responsibilities, all with quiet self assurance and professionalism. When I became Chair of Pediatrics, she had a significant increase in the variety of persons with whom she interacts, both in person and on the telephone. Her bearing with everyone is uniformly friendly, caring, and helpful. She has really become the “face” and “voice” of the administration of the Department of Pediatrics, pulling together the many threads that bind the clinical, teaching, research, and administrative activities. Maureen is supremely professional, knowledgeable, discreet, and above all: helpful. She has an extraordinary institutional memory for all aspects of administration and operations of the Department. Her interactions with all of our faculty and staff have earned their absolute trust in her, which is also the case for her interactions with departments and organizations across the University, the nation, and even internationally.
One of the tasks that Ms. Coleman took on with relish and at which she excelled was managing the University of Virginia arm of the Saudi US Universities Project. This was an extraordinarily complex and sensitive operation that she administered superbly. She has also played a central role in the organization of two international workshops, one at Airlie, Virginia, and the other in Stockholm, Sweden. She deals routinely with physicians, investigators, and students from all over the world, as well as with patients from all walks of life. She has served as an exceptional role model for dozens of individuals throughout the Health Science Center.
Many individuals who have been helped or touched by Ms. Coleman have taken the time to express their appreciation. A small sampling:
‘My survey of Pediatrics was a great success, and your help played a tremendous part.’ (A student)
‘I very much enjoyed my visit and achieved my objectives, thanks in a large part to your kindness in arranging my accommodation, in helping to organize my programme and transport and also in directing me around the centre.’ (A visiting scholar from the United Kingdom)
‘You were always so gracious and helpful from the very beginning to the last question.’ (A coworker at the Medical Center)
‘For her organizational skills and her knowledge of the system, Maureen is exceptional. She is also one of those rare people with true generosity of spirit, whose work reflects her commitment to all of us in the Department of Pediatrics.’ (A Pediatric faculty member)
Most importantly, Maureen leads by example. She is always willing to take on one more responsibility, and to see it through, maintaining the highest standards of excellence. For decades, she has served as a key leader of our Department of Pediatrics, and as an ambassador for the UVa Children’s Hospital.”
Robert L. Chevalier, MD
Department of Pediatrics
A Word From James Nataro, MD, PhD, MBA, FAAP
“Maureen Coleman is a unique individual who brings her heart to work every day. She cares deeply about the people with whom she works, but she also truly loves the Department of Pediatrics. She is a genuine treasure.”
Filed Under: Features