Akron Children’s will always be Karen Montgomery’s place of firsts. It’s where Karen, laboratory billing and office manager in the pathology department, got her first job and first used a computer. It’s where she first saw emerging technologies broaden the types of laboratory tests the hospital performs. More recently, it’s where Karen, after a 50-year career, wrote her first, and only, resignation letter to announce her retirement.
When Karen retires on Aug. 16, she’s looking forward to spending time with family, seeing her 93-year-old mother more often, traveling and kayaking. She’s also planning many celebrations, including her and her husband’s 45th wedding anniversary and her daughter’s wedding next year.
What brought you to Children’s?
My father worked in Children’s patient accounting and knew I wanted a part-time job. He told me about a job in the pathology department. I applied, got the job and started the following weekend. There was no new employee orientation then, so I jumped right in!
What was going on in your life then?
I was a senior at Wadsworth High School and planned to attend Kent State University to study foreign languages.
Have you always worked in the same department and role?
I’ve always worked in the pathology department’s outpatient lab billing office. When I started, I worked every weekend and holidays. We used typewriters and typed on carbon-copy forms, separating the pages to send to billing, order different lab tests and file. I helped our patients through the collection process, from test ordering and registration to answering questions and collecting the specimen. I continued to work while at college. I thought I might have to quit while studying abroad in Mexico, but Mark Watson, former laboratory administrative director and then chief operating officer, held my job. After I returned, I switched my major to biology and planned to work in a health department after graduation. Instead, I continued working at Children’s in the outpatient lab, which is the public face of the pathology department. I stayed because this field is complex and diverse. There is always something new to learn and do. For instance, genetics testing and specialized tests have expanded, sometimes requiring us to work with labs all over the world. These tests are expensive, and if the paperwork isn’t filled out correctly, it can be costly for our patients’ families. In my current role, I oversee 14 employees, including those at our 3 outlying labs.
What have your biggest contributions been while here?
Mark Watson was instrumental in ensuring the labs became computerized. I liked “test driving” the computer systems, offering feedback on what worked and what didn’t and being part of our digital growth.
How has Akron Children’s changed since you started here?
When I started, there were no computers. Yes, I’m that old! After the lab became computerized, the hospital implemented its computer system, which has expanded over the years. Technology has made a huge difference in how we work, and the way we deliver health care to our patients and their families.
What gave you the most satisfaction at work?
I like seeing the children and talking to and laughing with their families. Once, a small child and his dad rode the elevator with me. The boy wore Winnie the Pooh clothes and shoes. I said, “Look at you! You have Pooh on your shirt. You have Pooh on your shoes. Why, you have Pooh everywhere!” His dad and I looked at each other and cracked up.
What’s your most memorable moment at Akron Children’s?
I like solving puzzles, and sometimes that’s what it’s like in resolving a billing issue. I’ve received letters from families thanking me. When I was still at Kent, one family from West Virginia was so appreciative that they offered me a job if I ever moved there.
What do you look forward to the most in retirement?
Cooking, camping in our pop-up camper, gardening and playing with my dog, Kelso.
What’s your idea of a perfect day?
Spending a beautiful summer day with my family, reading and being outdoors.
Do you have any advice for people just starting at Children’s?
There’s a lot to learn and learning it all is a process. You’re going to make mistakes. Own up to them, learn from them, move on and resolve to do better.
What music do you like? Where and how do you listen to it?
My musical tastes are eclectic. In my car, I usually listen to country music.
What’s the last book your read?
“Water for Elephants” by Sara Gruen
What’s the last movie you saw?