Catherine Coop, MT, team coordinator, Laboratory Services, Southeast Georgia Health System Camden Campus

A hospital is comprised of many departments and team members, from medical staff such as doctors, nurses and technicians to nonclinical departments, including environmental services, safety and security, and facilities. Working together, they strive to keep our community as healthy as possible on the frontlines of a global pandemic. One such team member is Catherine Coop, MT, team coordinator for Southeast Georgia Health System Camden Campus Laboratory Services. “We keep the well-oiled machine that is our lab functioning,” Coop says. “Without the lab, there is no hospital.”

Her team’s responsibilities run the gamut from clinical chemistry and hematology to microbiology, immunology, toxicology, transfusion medicine and virology. Laboratory team members not only analyze and test samples taken from hospitalized patients, they also serve the Senior Care Center-St. Marys and the Health System’s affiliated physician practices as well as various clinics throughout Camden County.

Coop’s ability to adapt in an ever-changing, fast-paced work environment may stem from her upbringing. A self-described “Air Force brat,” she moved throughout her childhood, living “everywhere from Florida to Alaska.” While a resident of the 49th state, she actually experienced and lived through the Great Alaska Earthquake of 1964.

Coop credits her parents for helping her succeed in life. “I’m grateful for my mother and father. They were great role models with strong work ethics. I began working at the age of 15.” Her Air Force family’s willingness to embrace change also served Coop well. “The achievement I’m most proud of is the winter I drove from Fernandina Beach, Florida, to Portland, Oregon, by myself, to work at the Veterans Administration Medical Center,” she says.

Her tenure at the Health System dates back to 1985 when she began working at the Brunswick Campus. She left to move out of state as an agency lab technologist for a few years, but eventually, she returned to her home at the Health System in her current role as team coordinator for the Camden Campus Laboratory Services, a position she has held for the last 12 years.

“Cathy has extensive knowledge of the laboratory,” says Brendon Winstead, MT (ASCP), FACHE, director of Laboratory Services. “She is a tremendous resource and always performs at a high level. Thorough and dependable, Cathy does what’s right for our patients.”

Like most lab technologists, Coop prefers to work behind the scenes, focusing on the task at hand — delivering fast, accurate results for patients and health care providers. Coop and her team are crucial to patient welfare. The data they find helps doctors decide prognoses and develop treatment plans. The lab was busy before the pandemic, and the demands on their services have increased exponentially ever since. Coop and her fellow medical technologists, as well as pathologists, medical technicians and phlebotomists, all play an integral role in combating the coronavirus through testing.

Coop isn’t interested in accolades or fanfare. Like many in the community, she is “just trying to make it through COVID-19,” and looking forward to a time when everyone, especially her daughter and grandson, can feel safe again. Throughout the pandemic and beyond, her ultimate goal is to focus on doing right by Health System patients. “If everyone did one more thing above what they thought they should do, we would all experience better, more fulfilling lives,” she says. “And that’s the attitude I strive to live by every day.”

To support your community hospital, call Southeast Georgia Health System Foundation at 912-466-3360.

Today’s Frontline Heroes is sponsored by Southeast Georgia Health System. Visit their website at sghs.org.

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