Pilkinton’s versatility vital to genetics program success

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Sandra Pilkinton was answering phones, greeting patients and collecting insurance information at the front desk of the genetics clinic when Nathaniel Robin, M.D., arrived at UAB more than eight years ago.

Sandra Pilkinton’s knowledge, work ethic and upbeat demeanor have earned her the honor of being named February’s Employee of the Month.

Pilkinton’s knowledge, work ethic and upbeat demeanor impressed Robin, a professor in the Department of Genetics. Others also told Robin how valuable Pilkinton was to the genetics enterprise, and when an office associate position opened up, Pilkinton was asked to take on the role.

Since that time, Pilkinton has kept the schedules of four doctors, edited their letters and papers and in many ways kept their life organized. “She made me a much more productive and efficient faculty member,” Robin says. She’s also expanded her role to include program coordinator for Robin’s medical genetics residency program and played a key role in preparing for the genetics residency re-accreditation this spring. Because of her efforts, Pilkinton has been named February’s Employee of the Month.

“It really is an honor to be named — one I appreciate very much,” Pilkinton says. “But this is totally out of my comfort zone. I do things behind the scenes, and I love what I do. I’ve been able to learn so much.”

Pilkinton’s primary job is the scheduling and coordination of clinical activities for Robin, Lane Rutledge, M.D., Maria Descartes, M.D., and Edward Lose, M.D. Rutledge describes Pilkinton as a self-starter who finishes her tasks outstandingly, efficiently and with a positive attitude.

“She is in charge of four doctors and probably should lock us all in our offices,” Rutledge jokes. “But she keeps us organized, functioning and running smoothly. I know that if I give Ms. Pilkinton something to do, I no longer have to even think about it. I know it will be done and done well.”

Pilkinton says that’s exactly how she views her role — as the first line of support for the doctors. Her goal is to make their lives easier, and she says that comes with a big benefit.

“These are such brilliant and dedicated doctors that we have, and they have got so much to be responsible for,” Pilkinton says. “If I can help them on my end with the mundane and administrative, it enables them to do their work better. And if they can do that, that only improves the education and patient care at UAB.”

It was just this past summer when Pilkinton was given the extra responsibility of the educational activities for the genetics residency program by James Camel, administrative director of genetics.

Pilkinton was thrust into the role of resident coordinator despite having no experience, minimal training and no real transition phase. She quickly adapted.

“Sandra actively pursued learning opportunities, attending all the program coordinator meetings and asking all the right questions,” Robin says. “In fact, in the past year, she has helped me engineer revisions to our residency program, including the review process and educational curriculum.”

Pilkinton is the first line of contact for many medical students and physicians who are interested in applying for a position in the residency program. She also coordinates the clinic schedule for the many medical students and residents rotating through genetics.

“This is no small feat given that we have genetics residents and genetic counseling students already in our clinics, which are limited with regards to the number of people who can observe them,” says Katie Rutledge, director of Genetic Counseling Services. “Sandra is a vital member of this program.”

Pilkinton just finished one of her biggest tasks — preparing for the re-accreditation of the Genetics Residency Program.  The program’s continuation is contingent on a successful review.

Pilkinton has been preparing packets, pushing out correspondence, touching base with faculty, tracking down past residents, formulating statistics and documenting past performance.

“It was a big task,” Pilkinton says, “but also a great learning experience.”

Co-workers say it’s that type of work ethic and attitude that make her so deserving of the award.

“Sandra is the type of person on whom you can always count,” Katie Rutledge says. “Regardless of what she is tasked to do, she accomplishes each undertaking to the very best of her ability and with a positive and helpful attitude. She is a huge asset to the Department of Genetics.”