Jeani Parsons has always been interested in health care. After her daughter Melissa went off to college, Jeani began her volunteer career and found a natural outlet at Fairfield Hospital. She volunteered there for 15 years, working as a patient escort for pre-surgical patients and then charting in the endoscopy unit. After this long stint, she decided to take a year off. By the time she was ready to dive back into volunteering, she found VIM. She staffs the receptionist desk at VIM all day on Mondays and on Tuesday afternoons, and has been doing that for almost five years.
As Jeani says “ I’m organized. I like to run the show.” VIM receptionists are the first to greet the patients; they put them at ease, gather their information, answer their questions, and then refer them on to a clinician. “ I know some of the patients so well I can call them by name, and they me, and I like that”.
Volunteer Coordinator Susan Minnich says “Receptionists are critical to the smooth functioning of the clinic in so many ways. They set the tone for the experience that follows … whether a patient, a funder, a possible volunteer or someone else, the receptionist is the first person involved. They need to be fluent with our patient check in/check out system. They need to know how to field inquiries, when to answer questions, when to refer the call. They need to know how to handle a myriad of details that cross all aspects of clinic operation. If reception gets mired down, or lost in the process, the entire clinic is affected. Jeani … what can I say? We would love to clone her!”
Jeani has been slowly learning some Spanish. She took a Conversational Spanish course at Berkshire South Community Center and also uses an app on her phone to increase her vocabulary. While she doesn’t consider herself at all fluent, working at VIM has helped her be more confident in using Spanish, and she loves to practice what she’s learned.
Jeani notes that one of the reasons it’s so great to volunteer at VIM is that the “patients are so grateful for what we do for them here. The staff is amazing and easy to get along with. I can be in the worst mood when I leave the house, but the minute I walk in this door, my whole attitude changes. Patients are so appreciative it makes you WANT to work – it’s magical!”
Jeani is a lifelong resident of the Berkshires. She was born and raised in Great Barrington. She attended Searles High School, finishing her final year there as the school was preparing to move to their current Monument Mountain site. Her husband, Mike, was a year behind her in school, and she always knew he was the man she would marry. They dated for 6 years and became engaged two years before he graduated from college. They have been together for 44 years, have a daughter, Melissa, and two granddaughters.
Jeani took her first job while she was still in high school. She worked at Montgomery Ward, the catalog store. After graduating, she worked at The Home Gas Corporation, where she was the assistant supervisor of the cylinder department. She continued there until Melissa was born, and then chose to become a full time stay-at-home mom.
She is proud of her daughter’s successful career as a scientist in the field of cancer genetics. Melissa has a PhD from Emory University in Atlanta and met her husband while they were both involved in research at St. Jude Children’s Hospital in Memphis. Melissa’s husband, Dr. Alan Pourpak, works at Baylor Miraca Genetics Laboratories in Houston, where he is the Director of Product Development and Strategy. They live in Houston and have two daughters: Ava, age 3 and Evelyn, who is almost 1. Jeani and Mike try to get down to Houston every 8 to 10 weeks. They have a condo and a car there so they can be self-sufficient when they visit. She clearly wishes Melissa and the grandchildren lived closer to the Berkshires so she could see them even more frequently.
Jeani’s hobbies include walking, reading biographies, historical fiction and non-fiction. She loves animals and crossword puzzles – “I like to solve things”. She and Mike often spend relaxing weekends at their cottage on the Otis Reservoir. Mike stays busy as a land surveyor with his business, Kelly, Granger, Parsons & Associates in Great Barrington.
Jeani is impressed with the physical changes that have taken place at VIM with the recent building expansion. “Everything seems much more streamlined.”
by Tricia Bevan