I was born in Matamoros, Mexico, which is more than 900 miles from the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital campus in Memphis, Tennessee, but I have never felt more at home than in the past year.
That’s because I feel so fortunate to be surrounded by a supportive group of colleagues who have welcomed me with open arms since my first day on the job as a patient scheduler in October 2014. I am one of 21 registered nurses in the Patient Scheduling Department, and our jobs involve coordinating the scheduling needs of patients assigned to each of our primary clinics.
I am grateful to work at St. Jude because of the talented people with whom I work and collaborate on a daily basis and for all the hope they give to our patients and families. I am thankful to be a small part of that and to contribute to such a great mission.
Even though we work with patients and families who are going through challenging times, everyone remains positive, and I think it is a blessing to work at St. Jude each day. It feels like family to me, and my co-workers made me feel like part of the team right away.
I have lived in the U.S. for two decades as a permanent resident, but in September I officially completed the process to become a U.S. citizen through naturalization. The three-month process included applications, verbal and written tests and concluded with a final oath. I was excited to become an official citizen—and one of my co-workers showed up to my ceremony along with her family to show support. Along the way, my co-workers quizzed me on U.S. history and current events for the verbal exam. I was happy and proud to answer each one of those questions correctly.
With true American spirit, my entire department shocked me with an American-themed surprise party at work, complete with hot dogs, baked beans, potato salad and a huge cake with the Stars and Stripes in red, white and blue icing.
I felt the U.S. had sort of adopted me already, but as Thanksgiving approaches, I am excited to celebrate the holiday for the first time as an American citizen. I look forward to waving the flag on the Fourth of July and to voting for the first time—I’m really excited about that.
St. Jude is a truly international institution that’s had employees from more than 100 countries throughout its history. The flags of each of those nations hang in our research tower as a reminder of our diversity. Although many of us are far from home, I am grateful to come to work each day to a place that makes the world seem a little bit smaller and a whole lot brighter.
Laura Conrad, BSN, RN, is a patient scheduler in the Nursing Department and works in the Solid Tumor and Hematology clinics.