The old saying “a jack of all trades and a master of none” doesn’t apply to Mary Alice Crum.

Mary Alice Crum isn’t one to back down from a task, no matter how heavy the burden. That and her ability to lead are two of the reasons why she has been selected September’s Employee of the Month.

She masters them all.

Crum has managed or supervised eight laboratories in her 25 years at UAB, including running multiple labs at once – and she’s done it quite well.

Just a couple of years ago, while managing the molecular diagnostics and immunology lab she was called upon to supervise the clinical microbiology lab during the search for a new supervisor. That supervision lasted more than three years. Now, she’s doing it again.

“I guess you can teach an old dog new tricks,” Crum says.

Crum’s extensive knowledge of laboratory tests, her numerous managerial duties and the respect and help she gives to others are just a few of the reasons she has been selected September’s Employee of the Month.

Crum, known as Mac by her co-workers, never has backed down from a task, no matter how heavy the burden, says Stephen A. Moser, Ph.D., associate director of Clinical Microbiology. He cites her ability to oversee the clinical microbiology lab in addition to the molecular diagnostics and immunology lab simultaneously as a key example.

“The clinical microbiology lab was in turmoil with a change in supervision, and although this is not an area within her technical expertise she was undaunted and instrumental in establishing order and discipline,” Moser says. “I have seen many management styles and personalities. Mac stands out as one of the very best in her management style and dedication to high-quality patient care.”

Crum’s leadership and management style is cited frequently by her colleagues as strengths. She says her management methods are simple.

“The people I work with know how I value quality, and hopefully I give them positive reinforcement for that,” she says. “I try to treat each person fairly and respect their strengths. That’s what I try to do.”

Superior supervisor
Moon H. Nahm, M.D., director of the clinical immunology laboratory, says Crum is the best supervisor he has worked with in more than 25 years as director of a clinical lab.

Nahm says Crum has an extensive knowledge of various laboratory tests and many faculty and resident physicians rely on her for help. In fact, part of Crum’s job involves resident teaching “for which she is quite adept due to her knowledge,” Nahm says. “She’s always making time for the residents and showing patience and understanding at every turn.”

Nahm says Crum’s leadership is a key reason he is able to depend on her, whether she is supervising routine laboratory tests or other administrative skills.

“She has taken care of and mentored numerous lab technologists working in the clinical immunology lab,” he says. “Her leadership in this area is best summarized by noting that no one has transferred out or left the clinical immunology lab during the past six years.”

Ken Waites, M.D., head of the section of Clinical Microbiology, praises Crum for maintaining her skills so that she easily can step in and perform diagnostic assays at a moment’s notice. He says this is not only a measurement of her versatility and dedication to diagnostic medicine, it’s also a key component to the difference she makes in the lives of patients whose health depends on correct and timely laboratory diagnoses.

“I cannot imagine how we would have survived without her in Clinical Microbiology during these two recent time periods when we depended on Mac’s leadership to help us keep the laboratory functioning with no adverse effects on patient care,” Waites says.

Crum says she is humbled by the kind words of her co-workers, but adds she couldn’t provide her services without the help of a dedicated staff.

“The key to being a good manager is the people that work with you,” she says. “Without my techs, my director, my pathologists and everyone I work with, I couldn’t do this.”