Mary Russo, chief electromyography, or EMG, technologist at the George Washington University (GW) Medical Faculty Associates (MFA), is not only an expert, she’s passionate about what she does. She was named the 2012 Technologist of the Year by the American Association of Electrodiagnostic and Neuromuscular Medicine (AANEM), and she wrote the book, Essentials of Nerve Conduction Studies, in addition to numerous papers. More, she travels the country to lead workshops and help physicians set up their own EMG labs.
“Mary is a highly experienced and respected electromyography technologist,” said her manager, Chinor Collick. “And now, after 30 years of employment at GW MFA, [she] is retiring.”
Here, Russo discusses how she got her start, her legacy, and her retirement plans.
Q. What is your role at the GW MFA and what does it entail?
Russo: The Chief EMG Technologist ensures the overall function of the Electrodiagnostic Laboratory, to ensure a smooth operation. That includes scheduling patient appointments, ordering and maintaining equipment and supplies, performing the neurodiagnostic testing according to physician orders, checking patients’ charts for physician orders, and teaching medical students, residents, and fellows. It also entails maintaining the lab accreditation, which is done annually. The Neurodiagnostic Lab at the GW MFA is accredited with exemplary status by the AANEM.
Q. How did you get started at GW?
Russo: Well, that’s a great story! I met a fellow student with whom I became good friends while taking an evening class in anatomy and physiology. At the time, I was working as a medical technician at a hospital in Boston. My friend kept saying, “You’d be great at my job!” She was the EMG tech at Tufts New England Medical Center in Boston but was leaving to go to nursing school in the fall. So, I went for it! She arranged for me to meet her boss, John Kelly, MD. I had on-the-job training before she left, continued learning, and passed my national registration boards in 1987. Months later, my boss asked me to go with him to GW to start up the Neurodiagostic Lab, where he would serve as chair for many years, and here, I am!
Q. What accomplishments here are you particularly proud of?
Russo: That is a tough question. I’m proud to have been an employee at GW but humbled to have had the opportunity to serve the patients here and to contribute to the field of electromyography. I’ve had the opportunity to teach workshops, author and co-author papers in my field, and publish a teaching book for nerve conduction studies. But the accomplishment I am most proud of is the successful training of Alicia Johnson, R.EEG, NCT, as an EMG tech, who will be taking over my position! Congrats to Alicia!
Q. What lessons have you learned while working?
Russo: There is always so much to learn, but while working here at GW, I’ve learned that we all have an important part to play in creating a successful department. We depend on each other to get the job done right and to provide the care that our patients deserve. We are all part of something bigger than ourselves!
Q. What excites or inspires you the most about your job?
Russo: The environment. Working at a teaching institution is inspiring; there is so much knowledge in people’s heads, and they are all sharing it!
Q. Do you have any big plans for retirement?
Russo: Yes, I’ll be moving to Florida and plan to use my passion for exercise and health coaching for older folks like myself!
Q. Anything you’d like to add?
Russo: It has been my pleasure and privilege to work with so many amazing people over the years. I will always hold a special place in my heart for GW!