Merrilyn Blackmore is a Radiologic Technologist with the Yukon Kuskokwim Health Corporation (YKHC) in Bethel, and a graduate of the UAA Radiologic Technology program. Merrilyn became interested in radiology when her sister visited in the summer of 2002 and encouraged her to look into the field. “I didn’t think there were any programs in the state, but with the help of my sister, we discovered that UAA had a program.
I already had a degree in Human Services, so I just needed to take two semesters in anatomy and physiology and medical terminology in order to have my prerequisites to apply to the program. I made sure I completed all the items listed on the application even down to getting all my immunizations.”
Merrilyn was born in Michigan and raised in New York. She came to Alaska 22 years ago after spending time in Oregon and California, where she met her husband. Merrilyn traveled to Alaska from Oregon because she had a good friend here and was excited about all the job opportunities. “I have never been sorry about the move. I lived 3 years in Nome, 3 years in Seward, 1 year in Anchorage, and the remainder in the Matsu-Valley. I must admit I miss the little town of Palmer and the mountains.”
During Merrilyn’s time in the two-year UAA Radiologic Technology program, she did a two week clinical rotation in Bethel. She loved the atmosphere and was impressed with the staff at YKHC. When offered a position after graduation in May 2005, she jumped at the chance.
Merrilyn is a registered x-ray technologist and recently passed the Mammography exam needed to perform mammograms. Her shift typically begins with warming up the mammography processor, which contains the chemicals used for processing the mammogram films. Once the processor is ready, Merrilyn pulls up her schedule of mammogram patients for the day and collects the information she needs on those patients. She usually does anywhere from 4 to 10 mammograms a day. In the afternoons, as time allows, she completes paperwork such as mailing out mammogram results to the patients, checking mammogram films in or out of the office, and filing back mammogram jackets. There is also quite a bit of Quality Assurance that needs to be maintained on a daily basis in Mammography.
Prior to obtaining her Mammography license, Merrilyn spent most of her day performing general x-rays, which in Bethel are all digital. YKHC has 3 outpatient family medicine clinics, a pediatric clinic, an ER, and an Inpatient Wing. The Radiographers image patients from all of these areas on any given day. “This work is the most exciting because you never know what type of exams you might get. It could be a hand x-ray out of the clinic or a trauma case in the ER that you have to image with the portable x-ray machine.”
One unique aspect of working as a radiologic technologist in a rural environment is the weather, which can substantially impact the day. Many of Merrilyn’s patients are from villages in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta region who have to fly into Bethel. Weather sometimes prohibits them from traveling. So, Merrilyn may image several patients in a day, or maybe only three or four patients if the planes aren’t flying. “Every day is different and this is one of the aspects of my job that I love.”
Merrilyn says she not only enjoys the hands-on work, but also likes “helping people and letting them know they will be taken care of.” She likes to treat people the way she would want her loved ones to be treated.
When Merrilyn is not at work, she enjoys spending time with her family. Her husband, daughter, son-in-law, and granddaughter all live in Bethel. She also likes to sew and embroider with her computerized sewing machine. Now that she has finished studying for her mammography exam, she hopes to get involved with a local quilt guild.
Advice to students…
Merrilyn says,” If you want a job that is fast paced with a lot of variety (where you are not sitting in front of a computer all day), then you should definitely consider the radiography field. It’s a fun career and a great stepping-stone through which you can cross-train into other modalities such as Nuclear Medicine, Computed Tomography (cat scans), MRI, Mammography, Radiation Therapy, Quality Control, or even Imaging Sales Representative.” She says obtaining a Bachelor’s degree will also allow you to work in administration. “It’s a great field because there are so many jobs available in many parts of Alaska and in the lower 48.”
This page was last updated by janice on January 19, 2007