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PRMC microbiology supervisor says farewell after 45 years

DanaHoog01Friday was Dana Hoog’s last day as supervisor of the microbiology lab at Paris Regional Medical Center after 45 years on the job.

“One day, I decided it was time,” she said. “I’m ready to do something else. I like to work in the yard, and I’ve got other projects I’d like to do.”

One of the first things she plans to do is take part in a family trip to Hawaii with her son and daughter-in-law. The idea of leaving work has not really impacted her just yet, but she said once she gets back and settles down, it might start feeling weird not having to punch a clock.

“I’ve always kept my interest. I live and breathe it. It’s kind of a part of me,” she said. “It’s probably going to be like, ‘What happened here?’”

Hoog is certified as a medical technologist and a specialist in microbiology with the American Society for Clinical Pathology. She started as a generalist, working in the blood bank, chemistry, microbiology and other areas of the lab. She “morphed into” microbiology in the 1980s, largely because no one else wanted to do it.

“I enjoy the work. It’s very challenging,” she said. “Microbiology is the growing of organisms to see what’s causing infection.”

Given that her job is basically looking for what makes people sick and helping to determine the best treatment, there is little surprise Hoog has seen a lot of odd things over the years. She said one of the strangest was looking for parasites in a child’s stool sample. What she found puzzled her, and she wasn’t sure her prognosis was correct until she consulted an expert – in this case, a veterinarian. The child had a dog tapeworm.

“The child had been eating the dog food, and the dog had fleas,” she said. “We’ve seen worms in diapers that were still alive. You want to talk about freaky, that was freaky.”

DanaHoog03Hoog has been interested in medicine since she was a freshman in high school, but she knew she didn’t want to be a doctor because of the years of training and long hours. The decision cemented when she had an opportunity to attend a couple of presentations on career day of her junior year in high school. She picked flight attendant and medical technologist. The medical presentation left her with little doubt where her career would take her.

After attending Paris Junior College and University of Texas, she spent 13 months training on rotation at Baylor in Dallas before graduating with a degree in medical technology. While “medical technology” is a more general term now, then it meant specifically lab equipment.

Hoog started her medical career in February 1969 at McCuistion Regional Medical Center. Her family was here, but she did not intend to remain in Paris for more than a couple of years. But she wound up getting married, raising a family and settling here. Unless they moved or she commuted a great distance, the hospital was the only place for her to work. The camaraderie and support of her co-workers has meant a great deal over the years.

“I loved where I worked, and the people I worked with,” she said. “There are about six other people who have been here 30 and 35 years I have worked with all that time. So that was a big part of it.”

The biggest change in that time is the reliance on computers and automated procedures, she said.

“In the distant past – I hate to put it that way, but it’s true – we did the testing in actual test tubes,” she said. “Now the machines run most of it.”

The transition came slowly. The first laboratory computers did not work well and “bombed horribly,” but technology advanced. Hoog said she has never had a problem adapting with it.

DanaHoog02“It is a little scary when you’re so manual,” she said. “It always worked out. We have embraced it.”

These days, most lab work is is more or less completely automated, although Hoog said microbiology still requires some manual input and decision making.

“You have to look at it and say, ‘This is a respiratory specimen. Is this ordinary bacteria or something else?’” she said.

The next big thing will likely be molecular testing to look at the DNA and RNA of infectious organisms. It’s already being done in some areas, Hoog said, and it speeds up the microbiology lab work a great deal. Which is important, as the trend in medicine is to not keep anyone in the hospital any longer than necessary. The more traditional method, as is done here, is to take a sample and grow cultures, which can take a couple of days.

“You can do a glucose test in about 10 minutes, but if you’re going to grow a culture and see if a person is infected, that’s going to take 36 to 48 hours,” she said. “We’re still a little on the slow side.”

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