Getting to Know You: Ursula Jean-Baptiste

Feb. 13, 2017

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Ursula not only provides administrative support to both the department chair and the department administrator, she also coordinates the complex process of vetting candidates for faculty positions.

Looking at Ursula Jean-Baptiste, you’d never know she got to Radiology by digging a hole.

The polished and ultra-professional senior assistant to the Department of Radiology and Imaging Sciences’ top brass was repairing a plumbing line on a private residence which happened to be the home of the then-director of Human Resources. 

“Not many people know I’m a plumber,” Ursula says with a mixture of pride and humor. “I recently fixed a sink in the gym where I work out because it didn’t get hot water.”

That can-do attitude landed Ursula in Radiology nine years ago. “I mentioned my interest in working at Emory in a professional capacity and the HR director sent me to interview with Jane Goldberg (who was assistant director of imaging services for Wesley Woods and Emory Orthopaedics and Spine Hospital). Jane liked me and offered me the job of administrative assistant. Not long after that Dr. Torres stole me away and I’ve been supporting the Executive Leadership Team ever since.”

The Rewards of a Job Well Done

Ursula not only provides administrative support to both the department chair and the department administrator, she also coordinates the complex process of vetting candidates for faculty positions.

“The most rewarding part of my job,” she says, “is that I can make a candidate’s visit seem effortless.”

It’s no easy feat. A candidate for a position like vice chair for quality, one of more than a dozen faculty searches Ursula currently manages, has to meet with 20-30 different people over a two-day period. Ursula has to secure the meeting times on every participant’s schedule, taking care not to let meetings interfere with Radiology faculty members’ clinical care responsibilities and their own travel schedules. She also has to consider proximity between meeting locations so candidates aren’t spending most of their time commuting from one location to another. Ursula arranges for transportation—air and ground—as well as lodging, and venues for dinners and lunches.

If the candidate is brought back for a second visit, the arrangements get more complicated: candidates are paired with real estate agents and other friends of the department to help them get to know metro Atlanta and see where and how they might like to live.

It’s a lot when you consider the department vetted nine candidates in November alone.

“I have an awesome coworker and partner in Marisela (Hererra),” she says. “Together we get it done!”

Life Outside the Office

Ursula will be getting a lot more done when she begins classes this month for her MBA at Columbia Southern University. “I’m excited to get back to school,” she says, and admits to aiming for the top. She graduated with honors from the BBA program and intends to do the same with the MBA. “I believe that if you keep doing your best, your talents will make room for you.”

Downtime is important for maintaining balance, she says. To de-stress and recharge, she works out regularly with a group of dedicated women. “We’re training to run the Peachtree Road Race,” she says. It’s her first Peachtree so she’s running as many races beforehand to get it top shape. She just competed in the Hot Chocolate 15K/5K, which was “tasty.” “It keeps me grounded and level-headed so I can handle what gets thrown my way on the job.”

Service and Success Straight from the Heart

Her unfailing professionalism and good cheer come from deep within. “When you love what you do, even if you get interrupted 3,000 times a day, there’s nothing you can’t handle, nothing that bothers you. I love my work. I love my leaders. I look forward to coming to work every day, even when it’s hectic.”

That positive attitude is essential for handling far more than travel itineraries, scheduling, and about 150 emails a day. “Trust me,” she laughs. I get the weirdest requests because my phone number for some reason is listed online as the main Radiology contact number.”

A deep desire to provide outstanding customer service also helps. It comes from the heart. . . and from exceptional customer service training she received years ago working at Home Depot.

“They taught us never to abandon the customer,” she explains. “If someone asks for directions, don’t point to where they need to go, take them! Go the extra mile; otherwise, they might get lost. Marisela and I always walk patients and family members where they need to go if they look confused or stop us and ask for directions.”

“It’s the little things that make a big difference in a person’s day, in their life,” she says, passion punctuating her sentences.

She then shares how a gentleman once called her, his voice quivering as he explained he was looking for a saint pendant on a chain. He had lost it and the last place he’d been was imaging at Winship Cancer Institute at Emory. Connecting with the man’s distress, Ursula did not call over to Winship to ask if anyone had seen the pendant. She went herself to look for it.

“And do you know I actually found it?” she says, still incredulous.

After calling the man to share the good news and to get his mailing address, she bought an Emory card to send with the pendant. “I could tell this means a great deal to you,” she wrote before sealing the envelope and sending the pendant on its way home.

A few weeks later she received a card from the gentleman thanking her and telling her how much it meant to him. She pulls the card out of her desk as she tells the story, her own voice quivering.

“He wrote to tell me his wife had given him that pendant, which was of St. Benedict, and he was so upset thinking he might have lost it. It meant so much to get it back he sent me a $20 gift card to Starbucks as thanks. He was so nice!” She says, downplaying her own kindness.

Ursula herself is incredibly nice, and that niceness spills across her desk when she greets you in the executive suite, soaks into your ear when she answers your phone call, even when you’re the 25th caller or visitor of the day. “Kindness is essential to excellent customer service,” she says.

True, but how does she manage to sound so upbeat on the twenty-fifth call of the day?

 “You get back what you put out there,” she explains. “It’s interesting to look at your face when you speak. Put a little mirror by your phone,” she suggests, “and I guarantee, you can’t help but notice what you’re putting out there. If you’re frowning, you’ll put negativity into your words. If you smile, you’ll not only sound nicer, you’ll actually feel better.”

Sound advice from someone who reflects the highest standards of customer service.