Mary Jo Freeman remembers several mentors and respected colleagues throughout her career at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, including a group of supportive female coworkers when she first arrived at St. Jude in August 1981.
As a high school student, she took advantage of a co-op program that gave her the opportunity to work in the file room in the Radiology Department at St. Jude. That experience spurred her growing interest in the medical field.
After graduating and receiving a degree in radiologic technology, Freeman joined St. Jude as a radiologic technologist. Her co-workers made the transition into the position easier, including lead record specialist Mary Ann Coleman, who still works at St. Jude.
“Mary Ann was almost like my mom,” Freeman said. “My co-workers back then kind of took me on as their kid and helped me to grow in my job.”
Freeman’s mother, Cora Freeman, was also an important source of inspiration and support.
Since her first day, Freeman, who is now a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technologist in the Diagnostic Imaging Department, has seen a lot of change on the St. Jude campus.
Radiology occupied an entire arm of the original, five-winged building when St. Jude opened in 1962. The wing included an ultrasound room, two X-ray rooms, a reading room, doctors’ offices and a nuclear medicine room. St. Jude shared a computed tomography scan machine with nearby St. Joseph Hospital, which was located on the current St. Jude campus. An underground tunnel connected St. Jude with St. Joseph.
“We would take the patients through the tunnel to get their scans,” Freeman said. “The first time I went through, it was pretty fascinating.”
St. Jude now has multiple MRI machines and the capability to provide a world-class level of diagnosis and treatment. In nearly four decades on the job, Freeman has become skillful in adapting to the field’s evolving technologies.
“Learning new things has been great and has opened up a lot of opportunities,” Freeman said. “I didn’t realize there was so much to learn, but it has been awesome.”
As an MRI technologist, Freeman is with patients throughout their procedures—walking with them from the waiting room, screening them for metallic or electronic devices, and preparing them for sedation when needed. For patients who stay awake during MRI scans, Freeman is quick to offer words of reassurance and support.
“I’ve always felt that I’ve contributed in my own way here working with the patients and their parents,” Freeman said. “The MRI can sometimes be a little overwhelming, but I feel that my experience in knowing how to comfort them makes it a little easier. I truly love my job.”