From diagnostic imaging to global medicine, each employee has a unique story that led them to work at St. Jude. These are some of their stories. #GiveThanks
When a calling becomes a career
“Every day I feel so excited to come to work,” said Thirumala-Devi Kanneganti, Ph.D., of the Immunology Department. “I dream of finding cures for all these diseases. We are so fortunate to be at St. Jude where they value research so much—which is really basic, fundamental for drug discovery. I still think about the same questions that I used to ask as a school student and still we’re working on it.” At St. Jude, Kanneganti focuses on how the innate immune system recognizes and responds to pathogens and how genetic mutations in innate immunity affect the development of infectious, inflammatory and autoimmune diseases in humans.
As St. Jude was being built in the early 1960s, Mary Ann Coleman and her family had front row seats from their Memphis home. Soon after, she started working at the fledgling hospital. Today, Coleman is a records specialist in the Diagnostic Imaging Department. The department focuses on diagnostic and therapeutic imaging that includes body imaging, neuroimaging and a nuclear medicine clinic. “Never ever did I think I would end up working here,” she said. “And, now it’s just like a little city. I’m happy with how we’ve grown, the direction we have gone what we’ve and accomplished. It’s been amazing. To be a part of that for 40 years, it’s amazing.”
More than 80 percent of children with cancer live in low- and middle-income countries. Most of those children will die from their diseases. Through the Department of Global Pediatric Medicine, St. Jude works to enhance programs and collaborations to change this statistic. Carlos Rodriguez-Galindo, M.D., is the department chair and director of international outreach efforts at St. Jude. Along with his colleagues, he focuses on giving children with cancer access to quality care no matter where they live. “We all need to look back and look at the face of the child that we once were and make that child proud of who we have become,” he said. “If every one of us could do that, I think that’s the secret of life.”
As a young adult, Terry Fletcher lost his teenage brother Eugene to cancer at St. Jude. He was serving in the Navy at the time Eugene passed away. After he was formally discharged, Terry came to work at St. Jude where he currently works as a manager in the Facilities Operations and Maintenance Department. “Being at work every day is a constant reminder of him,” Terry said. “Even on the days when it’s tough, I have to say ‘Eugene would want me to do this, so I’m going to do it.’ It reminds me of why I’m here. We are making a difference. I feel like we are. They were so good to me, so good to my family. I consider myself a St. Jude zealot, if you will. I just can’t imagine working anywhere else.”