Mary Lopas is a proud Door County native. "When I was young, I couldn't wait to get out of here," she remembers, adding, "So I went to school at the UW, but then quickly discovered that I missed home - Door County is a beautiful place. When I returned, I got married, raised our family, and began working in my field."
In 1978, Mary began a career at Door County Medical Center that would span 42 years. "I started as a Medical Technologist," Mary says. She continues, "Med Techs draw blood and run tests. I like to say, 'We know what's wrong with the patient before the doctor.' We know if the patient had strep throat, or leukemia, or if they need a transfusion. So, while Med Techs are not doctors, we are a key part in giving them the information."
"My path and successes at Door County Medical Center are due in part to the previous CEO Jerry Worrick, who joined the hospital in 1987," Mary says. "Being the type of person that I am," she adds, "I always felt free to tell Jerry, 'Well, we should do this, or we should do that.' One day he came to see me, and he said, 'Okay, this is what's going to happen. You're going to become the lab director or you're going to quit complaining.' So, that's how I became Laboratory Director."
With Jerry's leadership and mentorship, Mary would go on to become Director of Imaging and IT in addition to her role as Laboratory Director, and eventually—as technology boomed in the early 2000s—she became Chief Information Officer at Door County Medical Center.
"Jerry Worrick had a vision—to make Door County Medical Center the best rural healthcare facility possible," she recalls, adding, "That was a large goal, but it continuously drove me to make sure this hospital could offer the most current technology to our patients. I wanted our patients to feel as though we could provide the care they needed—that we had skilled and compassionate people along with the best technology available. And, as a smaller hospital, Door County Medical Center has always had some pretty high-end technology in imagining, in the lab, and in IT. In many instances DCMC equipment is newer and more cutting-edge than what is available in Green Bay."
"In a way, I was driven by three things: what best serves the patient, what best serves the community, and what is best for our employees."
Of her time at Door County Medical Center, Mary points to two accomplishments that she is particularly proud of: "We have always been able to provide the community with an excellent facility. I mean, the physical building is amazing for a critical access hospital—we have a world-class Cancer Center, we can provide MRIs, CT scans, we have a lot of the technology you see in larger facilities. At the same time, while I was at Door County Medical Center, we had incredibly high employee satisfaction. I knew all of the employees— and making sure they had what they needed to do their job was very important to me. Conversely, not being an expert in Imaging or IT, I needed to listen and learn from the staff—they spent a lot of time educating me, and helping me be successful. So, I think my best accomplishment—our best accomplishment as a hospital—was that we built a really high-quality healthcare facility that was staffed with happy, content employees."
Looking back Mary feels the best part of her career was the people—the patients and the employees. "The hospital, and the way it interacted with and served the community, created a great family atmosphere," she says, adding, "Not only that, it was a significant influence in my children's life. Occasionally my boys would have to come with me to work, and so they'd look through the microscope at the slides. It instilled in them a curiosity—how does this work, and how do you do that. Today, one of my sons is a physician and my other son works in the development of creating models and prototypes. I would like to think that their sense of curiosity was fostered by my work and lead them to follow their own paths in development and service. The hospital was a big part of my family for 42 years."
These days, Mary loves to travel, and particularly enjoys the natural world. She enjoys hiking and riding her bike—exploring many of the locations the Door County Land Trust has to offer and recently completing 50 miles of the Peninsula Century Spring Classic ride. "I'm rediscovering who I am now—what's important." And what's more, I am privileged to do it in Door County.