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Debra Kraska R.T., (R), (M), Mammography Supervisor, UMass Memorial – HealthAlliance Hospital

Debra Kraska, caregiver, UMass MemorialDebra Kraska supervises the busy mammography center at UMass Memorial – HealthAlliance Hospital, where she and her team of five mammographers work with 60 patients a day. She knows the test can be stressful and uncomfortable for patients, so she does her best to alleviate their fears and help things go smoothly. "The most important thing is to show compassion and empathy," Debra said. "We take our time with patients to make them as comfortable as possible."

The unit provides digital imaging for both screening and diagnostic mammograms. Women who come in with a lump or other breast abnormalities are understandably anxious. While Debra and her team can't give them test results, they can provide comfort and help them understand the steps involved in the process. "We also reassure them that it's good they came in for a mammogram," she said.

Debra's team works directly with the radiologists who read the mammograms. "It's important to relay patient information to the radiologists so they're getting patients' stories from us first-hand," she said. Debra is also responsible for maintaining quality control on the mammography machines to ensure her unit is in compliance with regulatory requirements.

Debra says she and her fellow caregivers work as a team, covering for each other if someone needs time off. "We all pick up the slack," she said. "Patients wait for their appointment date and we don't want to disappoint them. It's all about teamwork." Debra has seen many advances since she began working in mammography in 1989, including the digital and 3D technology that is available at HealthAlliance Hospital today. "The technology has changed, and we can pick up things now that are really tiny," she said.

She enjoys meeting people at hospital community outreach events, such as the Johnny Appleseed Festival in Leominster. "People have a lot of questions," she said. "I love that we can educate people and make a difference in their lives." She adds, "Patients ask, How do you do this all day? We do this because we love our jobs. We offer compassion and information when people are going through tough times."