Love for Animals Sparked Cancer Registry Career

Vol. 12 •Issue 16 • Page 11
Professional Profile

Love for Animals Sparked Cancer Registry Career

For 11 years, Judy Jacobs Williams, RHIT, CTR, owned two boarding kennels, two grooming shops and one pet store. In addition to her own business, she use to show dogs and had a Pembroke Welsh corgi that was the top corgi in the country for three years and is still the youngest corgi champion in history. After producing 14 champions and having a successful career, Williams decided to retire her champion corgi when he was five. But, just around the time she retired him, she discovered that he had Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma. She took her champion to the University of Pennsylvania and started him on chemotherapy, but after one year in remission, he died.

That experience is what sparked Williams’ interest in cancer registry. “After going through that, I realized how interested I was in the process, treatment and cure of cancer,” explained Williams. Her business was a 24-hour, 365-day commitment and had started to burn her out, so she decided to sell the business and enroll in the health information management (HIM) program at Louisiana Tech University in Ruston, LA. Her first clinical was in tumor registry. She found it extremely interesting and when she graduated in 1990, she decided that registry was the field for her.

There were no openings in registry at the time, but just after six months of coding at the HCA North Monroe (LA) Hospital, a registry position opened up at the Louisiana Tumor Registry. After one year in Louisiana State’s tumor registry department, she was made coordinator of a region. In the two years spent at the state registry, she attended the Cancer Patient Data System Methodology program at the University of California, San Francisco, and earned her certified tumor registrar (CTR) certification.

After her youngest child had graduated from high school, she was ready for a change. Williams wanted to acquire more experience with hospital registry and found a position in Beaumont, TX, at Christus St. Elizabeth Hospital. She moved there and spent nine years as the cancer program coordinator.

During that time, she became a field staff representative for the software she was using, which IMPAC Medical Systems Inc. eventually purchased. “That’s how my relationship with IMPAC started,” explained Williams. “I was an ambassador for IMPAC and always knew it was a company I would like to work for, if ever given the chance.”

The year 2000 held that chance. Williams was offered a position at IMPAC and has been a product specialist in education for almost two years.

“In my current position I teach registrars about the [company’s] software. My job allows me to travel the country and meet so many new and exciting people. I find my job to be truly rewarding and interesting,” added Williams.

She has been involved with the National Cancer Registrars Association (NCRA) for years and was the editor of the NCRA newsletter for two years. She was also very active in the Texas Tumor Registrars Association, serving as president in 1999-2000.

With a new husband; a move to Albuquerque, NM; twin sons, age 32; a daughter, age 28; and three granddaughters, ages four, three and four months, this HIM professional feels very lucky and grateful for the life she has and the work she has done.

“I truly believe everything happens for a reason, and the reason is there for us to learn from, if we choose. I chose to learn from my loss and not ignore my interest in cancer. Now I honestly feel good about what I’m doing and know that the work I have accomplished in the cancer registry field will someday help cure cancer, and I will be so happy when that day finally comes,” concluded Williams.

Tricia Cassidy is an editorial assistant at ADVANCE.

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