Meet Heather, our incredible Clinic Manager!
It’s time for another blog that pulls back the curtain to highlight someone special on the TCSC team. Dr. Shenker tells us the whole story.
In the year 1602, William Shakespeare first staged the play “The Twelfth Night”, in which the character Malvolio declares
“Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them”.
Heather, our magnificent clinic manager at The Cosmetic Surgery Clinic undoubtedly had greatness thrust upon her. And over the years, how great she has become!
Here is Heather’s story.
After taking the helm at The Cosmetic Surgery Clinic on November 1, 2007, it very quickly became clear to me that I was going to need more administrative help at the clinic than I had been used to at my previous office. We were seeing more patients. We were doing more procedures.The staff was larger. The infrastructure was more complex.
Heather was recommended to me by an existing staff member.
The job opening Heather applied for was for a part time front desk receptionist position. In February 2008, just four short months after I took over the Cosmetic Surgery Clinic, Heather started working with me. At first, Heather worked just two days per week. Invariably, real talent is impossible to hide, and it was clear from the start that Heather was extremely bright, inexhaustibly hard working, and in possession of an effervescent personality and a thousand watt smile. Our patients embraced her unreservedly, and Heather’s march toward greatness was underway.
Then, suddenly, and not too long after Heather started with us, the other half of the front desk administrative team left unexpectedly. Heather was instantly promoted to full-time front desk administrator and the next step towards greatness was achieved.
Heather quickly became a master of every aspect involved in running the front desk. She worked closely with me, the rest of the staff, and especially with my office manager at the time. It soon became clear that many, if not most of the best ideas for running the clinic were actually coming from Heather, and not from my office manager. In hindsight, I should not have been surprised.
The Cosmetic Surgery Clinic continued to steadily grow.
We were offering new services and we had a number of new clinical staff members joining us to do non-surgical procedures.
All the while, Heather kept everything running smoothly and seamlessly:
- She remembered the name of every patient who ever walked in the door.
- She remembered the name of their children and their spouses.
- She remembered what procedure they had done and what skin care products they had purchased.
- She got to know the product sales representatives, and the plumber and the roofer and the couriers and the mailman and electrician, and the decorator and the gardener and the website designer and the painter, and literally everyone else who walked through our door.
Throughout all of this, I watched Heather’s progress and adaptation to her new job, but I was also getting constant feedback from everyone who had any dealings with her. What I heard over and over again was how professional Heather was. How courteous Heather was. How pleasant Heather was. How easy to deal with Heather was. How smart Heather was. What an asset to the clinic Heather was. Through their feedback, these people thought they were telling me something about Heather I didn’t already know. But I knew.
When my office manager parted ways with the clinic in 2014, the decision about who should take over the managerial position could not have been more obvious to me. With some trepidation, Heather accepted the position of full-time office manager. And so the next level of greatness was thrust upon Heather.
At this point it’s important to point out that while Heather certainly had experience in the workforce before joining us at The Cosmetic Surgery Clinic, it was not as the manager of a surgical clinic. Heather had excellent customer service experience from her days in retail sales at a store in a local mall. Heather had also previously held a job with enormous responsibility when she ran her own daycare center for young kids.
So while Heather was no stranger to customer service and to serious responsibilities, she was now working at a whole different level.
Heather was now in charge of a medical clinic dealing with the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, the Ontario Ministry of Health, The Independent Health Facilities Act, the Canadian Association for the Accreditation of Ambulatory Surgical Facilities, and the Out of Hospital Premises Inspection Program. To add to the importance and weight of what we do here, The Cosmetic Surgery Clinic also responsibly and safely puts hundreds of patients to sleep on our operating table for their procedures every year. Of course Heather is not giving out anesthetics, holding a scalpel, or providing the nursing care in the recovery room; but for all of us in the operating room, we’re doing our job well because Heather has done her job first.
There are additional responsibilities to running the clinic that Heather coordinates.
In addition to making sure that the operating room runs smoothly, there are staff to hire. There are certifications in check. There is Inventory to manage. There are finances to take care of and payroll to manage. There are special events to plan and websites to design. There are marketing professionals to deal with and banks to negotiate with. There are computer systems to buy and clinical photography rooms to set up. And every now and then there are even grumpy surgeons to placate. And occasionally grumpy patients to deal with too. Over the years, Heather has dealt with all of it with patience, intelligence, creativity, and thoughtful professionalism.
Two of Heather’s many positive traits that I cherish and admire are her loyalty and dedication to the ongoing success of the Cosmetic Surgery Clinic, and her willingness to do any job that needs doing, no matter how small, how big or how extraordinary. Heather would go to extraordinary lengths to insure the success of the Clinic.
One particularly telling event happened in 2009, just a few weeks after the finishing touches of our first round of renovations to the clinic were completed. Heather called me early in the morning as I was driving to work. She told me there was a bit of a leak and a flood happening at the clinic. I (wrongly) suspected that it was not quite so bad, and I asked Heather to simply turn off the main water valve, and I would be there in a few minutes. Well, when I arrived, I found that Heather had waded through about three feet of water in the basement of the clinic in an effort to get to the main water inlet valve in the utility room way at the back of the basement. What Heather described as a small flood was actually a catastrophic destruction of the entire Clinic. We had to move out for more than 3 months while the clinic was rebuilt. You can imagine the potential disruption to the running of the practice. Can you picture it? Chaos. Pandemonium. Total upheaval. Actually, none of that occurred.
What really happened, was that Heather managed the crisis like a superhero. In the end, not a single surgery was cancelled and we were installed in temporary office and operating room space within just a couple of days. The practice carried on undisturbed with Heather at the controls. It was a remarkable feat of juggling, organization, sweet talking, negotiating and stress management. No one I know could have managed that situation better than Heather did.
Heather’s value to the clinic goes far beyond the fact that she can get things done quickly and efficiently. Heather is also in possession of the most finely tuned moral compass that I’ve ever encountered. No matter what issues we face, Heather always knows the right thing to do. Occasionally, we have to make difficult decisions about issues at the Cosmetic Surgery Clinic. Sometimes those decisions are about our patients. Sometimes they are about the staff. Sometimes they are about the future direction of the Cosmetic Surgery Clinic. Most of the time I know what to do. But sometimes I don’t. And at those times, it’s Heather that I turn to for advice and guidance.
Heather also provides advice and guidance to the rest of the team. Not a day goes by that a team member is not up in Heather’s office seeking advice, asking for help with decisions, or simply just checking in with the boss.
Not all of Heather’s talents centre around clinic management. Heather has other hidden skills which have come to the forefront over the years. At our open house events I’ve had many people ask me which florist did our flower arrangements. Imagine their surprise when I tell them that Heather did everything from choosing the flowers to putting together all of our beautiful arrangements. Heather’s green thumb is not limited to small flower arrangements. Heather has dug out the gardens at the clinic, pulled weeds, planted shrubs, and set up our outdoor seasonal arrangements.
When it comes to care and maintenance of our beloved building at 50 Albert Street, Heather has refinished furniture, hung the artwork, changed every lightbulb, moved every piece of furniture, and done everything short of driving the snow plow to clear the parking lot.
But perhaps Heather’s greatest achievement is simply her longevity. She has been working with me at the Cosmetic Surgery Clinic essentially since the day I started. She has overseen incredible growth. She has overseen some tumultuous times. Heather has guided the clinic through challenges, but mostly through our tremendous success and progress. Heather has proven herself to be smart, tough, sensible, practical, as well as compassionate, sensitive and understanding.
I have come to rely on Heather as a friend, colleague, sounding board, advisor and as one of the key key pillars that maintains the viability of the Cosmetic Surgery Clinic.
One principle I learned early on when I took over running the Cosmetic Surgery Clinic is that when confronted with a problem I find difficult to solve, the essence of my struggle is that I’m asking myself the wrong question. I’m asking myself how I could solve the problem. The question I should be asking is who should solve the problem. Clearly I am only equipped to do one thing well, which is to perform plastic surgery. From that day in February 2008, just four months after I took over the Cosmetic Surgery Clinic, Heather has been my “who, not how.”
At this point, 13 years after she started, Heather has done just about every job in the clinic except wield a scalpel. I know that if push came to shove, she could probably do that too.