Tia Powell is a medical staff assistant in the Department of Urology.
Tell me about your current position.
I support six of our physicians with their academic calendars, arranging meetings, reimbursements, and travel. I help the department with things that they need from an administrative standpoint, helping with recruiting and creating day-of itineraries and those types of travel arrangements. I also help the physicians with some of the committees that they’re on. For example, I help the department’s quality improvement committee: once a month the doctors talk about ways to improve surgical outcomes. I’m there to take notes, make sure that everything’s documented, give out the different review cases that doctors have to do, and make sure they’re turned in on time—which is always important.
How long have you been working in SMPH?
I’ve been working here 10 months. Before that, I was actually working in auto insurance at American Family, so this was definitely a very big switch.
Tell me about that transition. What brought you here from American Family?
I always knew that I wanted to get into the medical field. When this position opened, I really wanted to hop on board. The transition was interesting: going from insurance to medical work, there are a lot of similarities: staying organized, making sure you’re responding to people promptly, the customer service aspect. But it is very different in the type of material that you’re taking care of, and definitely a different pace—which I enjoy a lot more here. People are very friendly and more than willing to help out if you have questions, which I really appreciate. All of the faculty members have been great so far.
What’s your favorite part of your job?
Getting to know the physicians. I support six right now. They’re all a bit different in terms of their preferences—for example, communications.
What is the most challenging part of your job?
Probably the communication! Doctors are very busy people, so if they happen to be in the OR all day long and you have something pressing, that can be challenging at times. But you just have to get creative and make sure you work through it and prioritize.
Give us an example of your typical workday.
Usually I’ll come in, take a look at all of the e-mails that I have, and mentally filter through which ones need to be done right away and which ones can be put on the back burner while I prioritize some of the more pressing ones. Once in a while I’ll have a meeting—whether with the administrative staff or one of my physicians, seeing what they need and catching up with them. But usually I’m at my desk answering e-mails and taking phone calls. We also do FMLA paperwork as needed, which sometimes involves additional follow-up communication with patients.
What has surprised you about this position?
Lots of paperwork! That’s probably been the biggest surprise—all the paperwork that physicians need to fill out, whether it’s for renewing licenses or credentialing, disability paperwork, things like that. That’s sometimes hard, hearing some of the stories from patients about the challenging situations they are facing.
My position requires a lot of imagination and a lot of empathy. I deal with the physicians much more than patients. I don’t have a medical background, so just being compassionate to what they’re doing and understanding that they’re very very busy, and you get only a couple of minutes of their time, at a time, with them. You need to make sure you make the most of it.
Where are you from originally?
I’m from Racine county, from a small town called Yorkville. I then did my undergraduate degree at UW–Madison, studying history and gender and women’s studies. I just recently started my MBA at Concordia University, focusing on Healthcare Administration.
What are some things you like to do when you’re not in the office?
I love to cook—my boyfriend and I are big cooks. I’m also involved with Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Dane County and spend time with my little sister. We’ve been matched almost two years now, and we get together every Thursday. We just went to Pheasant Branch Conservancy in Middleton. That was pretty exciting—I got her outside, which isn’t usually among her strong interests. She’s 9 and she won’t take anything at face value, which is probably a good thing!
Tell us something about yourself that your coworkers don’t know.
I’m ordained online for marriages, and I have performed two so far. I did it on a whim in college. Then I told my family and said, “I’m officially ordained, sign me up for whatever weddings you might need”—as a joke—and my sister asked to take me up on it!
— Interview conducted, condensed, and edited by Laurie Silverberg, PhD