I’m a lifelong Memphian who always knew St. Jude was an amazing place, but it wasn’t until I joined the staff three decades ago that I learned how remarkable the institution is.
I was born with cerebral palsy and didn't speak on a regular basis until the age of 7. Now, I’m happy to tell anyone about how working at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital has helped me achieve goals and overcome challenges that I was once told were out of reach.
During much of my childhood I needed the assistance of crutches, braces and wheelchairs. Doctors told me I would never work and would have difficulty doing life's most basic things. Today, I have an internal drive to succeed that's constant, and I even enjoy karate when not at work.
I’ve adopted a mindset of meeting challenges head-on, enough so that my colleagues have given me the tag line of "pushing the envelope." In June, I will celebrate my 30th anniversary at St. Jude.
A lot of people don't know I have cerebral palsy. I love to be challenged because I came up through so many challenges. I haven't been limited from doing what I like to do.
I began at St. Jude in 1989 as a floor care attendant in Environmental Services. After working in a few other positions in laboratory sterilization, I transitioned to Environmental Health and Safety, where I now work as a senior hazardous chemical technician in the department's Industrial Hygiene division.
I had the idea that I had more to offer to St. Jude, so I went back to school. I earned an associate's degree in Fire Science and later a bachelor's degree in Criminal Justice with a concentration in Homeland Security Counterterrorism, which involves knowledge of explosives and chemical weapons.
My work involves the disposal of on-campus hazardous chemicals as well as educating staff members on the importance of proper labeling and disposal techniques. It's intensive work that requires an extensive knowledge of hundreds of types of chemicals, suiting up in personal protective equipment and continuous training to prepare for all situations. In addition to education and disposal, I am also part of the hospital's Emergency Response Team.
Once the chemicals are collected, I transport the 55-gallon drums to the campus' hazardous waste storage facility, where chemicals are stored for no more than 90 days before removal by a vendor.
What I love about my job is there's something different going on every day. There's always some complex issue or situation that you've never heard of that's not in the book.
My team also removes universal waste, which includes lamps and all types of batteries. My work takes me across the entire campus, which means I get to know colleagues in other departments.
I love my department, and we are like a family. I love St. Jude because I feel like I am a part of every department that I work with. I feel like I am a part of the big St. Jude family.
Terry Ivery is a senior hazardous chemical technician in the Environmental Health and Safety Department at St. Jude.