The best preparation for working with radiology residents is four years of military service.
That’s what Angela Huff says and she should know. As coordinator of the Diagnostic Radiology Residency Program, Angela works closely with each class of residents and is responsible for ensuring they have everything they need to succeed. It’s no easy job.
Angela juggles more than a dozen different responsibilities on a daily basis, perhaps none more important than gathering and maintaining the volumes of documentation required for certification and accreditation for each of the 61 residents. It’s currently accreditation and contracting season, she explains, which is why it’s taken several tries to schedule her interview. We’re talking at 6:30 in the morning, and Angela’s already well into her day.
“This is not an 8-hours a day job,” she says with a laugh. “Accreditation is our number one goal so I’ll do whatever is needed to ensure every bit of documentation is completed properly and on time for every single resident,” she says. “If I have to get on a shuttle to go down to Grady and then go over to Midtown to get their contracts or certification forms signed, I’ll do it.”
While she’s riding herd on the accreditation paperwork, Angela, along with Ranitta McDowell and Monique Stanback, is handling all the details for the graduation party for the fourth-year residents and the welcoming reception for the newest class of residents who start in June. Match just concluded for residents who won’t begin training until 2019, but after five months of organizing the recruitment and candidate interviewing activities, there’s now another round of paperwork for Angela to manage.
It’s a labor of love.
“I love each and every one of those residents,” she says. “The residents have been my smile, my reason for my dedication, my push to go above and beyond. They’re the core of this department.” There’s no mistaking the passion in Angela’s voice. “They work their tails off and it’s an honor to support them.”
Honor is important to Angela. It comes up several times, along with integrity and dependability: doing what needs to be done before someone says it needs to be done and doing it to the best of her ability. She’s incredibly disciplined and organized and all of these core character traits she says she honed during four years of active duty with the United States Army.
“I was just a little girl from one of the roughest parts of Atlanta, and they turned me into a grown woman,” she says of her time in service to her country. “I have a business degree, but that didn’t make me. It didn’t grow me, develop my integrity or my work ethic like my military training did.”
Angela joined the Army in 1994 as a 92 alpha, or automated logistical specialist (92A). In the civilian world, she explains, that’s a supply specialist. She was responsible for ordering equipment including helicopters and tanks and made sure they got where they were needed. The work was especially demanding on the front lines in places like Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, where she deployed several times.
“I learned that if you don’t take things seriously, if you don’t do what you say you’re going to do, what’s expected of you, that’s someone’s life on the line.”
That same mindset drives her today. She understands how what she does or doesn’t do to ensure proper certification and documentation for each resident could seriously affect their careers. She also makes it her business to teach them all about kindness and about service excellence by modeling the way.
“I want to give them (the residents) my best. I might be the first person they meet here and might be the last one they see when they leave, so I want to be the best example of what it means to serve with kindness. I want them to learn from me how to be kind. I want them to know this is a place to develop the people skills they’ll need to be successful.”
Angela arrived at Emory Radiology five years ago as a temp. She had been working on the business side of commercial construction and realized she wanted more than just a job that paid the bills.
“I wanted a career, something I could feel proud of, something that sparked my passion.”
People are her passion so working in an academic research center seemed like a good fit. When asked what she thinks helped her move from temp to perm in Emory Radiology, she shoots straight. “I delivered quality. What I had to learn in the military—the people skills, the relationship building skills, my organizing skills—that’s what makes me good on the job today.”
Developing strong bonds also is something Angela learned from her military experience. “Because we were in foxholes together, we huddled in the rain together, lived in tents together, we built relationships that never fade away. When lives are on the line, they mean more. You don’t just let go of people you’re responsible for.”
That’s why Angela’s favorite item on her to-do list is welcoming new residents. The saddest part of the job? Saying goodbye to the residents four years later when they graduate.
“It’s hard. You develop friendships, we’re on a first name basis. I make it my business to know them, each of them, because I’m with them for four years—in the trenches, so to speak.”
She pauses, thinking. “I know they go hand-in-hand: bright young minds coming in and brilliant graduates going on, but it’s hard when they go. When I see them later at conferences, though, they give me a real hug and I see how much we mean to them. They always call me and want to know if their class is better than the new ones. I say yes, but every class is awesome.”
When she finds time to get away from the office, Angela heads to water. “I enjoy water. I love going to the beach. Water is soothing to me.”
Her favorite beach? “Diplomat Beach Resort in Hollywood, Florida. It was so beautiful and soothing. I remember watching the sun rise and thinking it was perfect.”
She also enjoys time with her son. Now an adult, he was just one the first time Angela and his father were deployed. Leaving her baby behind was so hard so as soon as she could, she hung up her uniform and devoted her time to raising him.
Angela leads by example and looks to other leaders for her inspiration. “Dr. Ho and our education leaders are awesome!” When asked why, she doesn’t hesitate. “I love great leadership. Great leadership is easy to follow.”