The Career of a Lifetime

Vol. 19 • Issue 2 • Page 9
Professional Profile

Ask Mary Zannis, RHIT, for a story and she’ll give you five. After 60 years in HIM, the 94-year-old retiree is well-equipped with tales of triumphs and travels-all fully loaded with details down to directors’ names. Zannis has led medical records departments and taught medical sciences throughout New York, and her experiences earned her the inaugural spot in the New York Health Information Management Association (NYHIMA) Hall of Fame.

Zannis was first exposed to the medical industry in the midst of World War II. Living in Athens, Greece, Zannis applied to be a translator for doctors at the British Army hospital. While her intentions seemed patriotic, Zannis admitted she had other motivations for signing up. “I was young then and I wanted to meet the surgeons and doctors,” she said.

Zannis was dedicated to the job, developing English-to-Greek and Greek-to-English translation guides for doctors to use in her absence, though she rarely missed a day of work. When she returned to the United States-after a 4-month evacuation journey-she kept medicine in mind.

Zannis landed a job at St. Luke’s Hospital in New York City and began taking courses in medical sciences. Over the next 6 decades, Zannis worked at a number of hospitals, taught college courses and eventually earned her registered health information technician (RHIT) credential. Her duties ran the gamut from chart assembly to monitoring coding and physician queries.

From 2 years in Buffalo to 20 years at Beekman Downtown Hospital in New York City-“the Tiffany of all hospitals,” Zannis recalled-to her final stint teaching at Touro College in New York City, Zannis’ skills and experience increased with each new venture.

And so did her appeal.

Though she retired at 80, Zannis continues to receive job offers. “I worked for 60 years; that’s a long time,” she said. “And you know what? They won’t let me go.”

While she enjoyed her own success, Zannis said the most rewarding part of her job was helping launch others’ careers. She often stayed late to tutor clerks and teachers so they could earn credentials. “They have come to the point where they’re in charge of their own hospitals now,” Zannis said. “And that is wonderful to see.”

Zannis continues to pave the way for young HIM professionals. She founded an annual scholarship in her name that benefits a New York State student enrolled in an HIM program.

An active member of the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA), New York HIMA and HIMA of New York City, Zannis is a self-proclaimed familiar face among her peers. “I’m like an old penny-everybody knows me,” she said.

But when NYHIMA members unanimously elected Zannis to be the first inductee into the chapter’s Hall of Fame, the HIM veteran was flabbergasted. “I couldn’t believe it,” she recalled.

At the award ceremony last June, Zannis regaled the crowd with stories from her years in the field. The chapter president said she stole the show. “The speech was supposed to be 15 minutes and it lasted forever,” Zannis admitted.

The retiree is now spending her time writing thank-you notes for the flowers and congratulatory gifts she received. “I can’t begin to tell you-it’s a great feeling,” she said.

Cheryl McEvoy is an editorial assistant with ADVANCE.