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C2|Thursday, December 24, 2020

Community Champion Keepsake

The Columbus Telegram

Coutesty Photo
Elizabeth Alexander, Columbus Community Hospital’s director of laboratory services, poses for a photo during a break from her work.

‘I enjoy the adrenaline of it’:
Alexander takes pride in becoming director of laboratory services at hometown hospital

MATT LINDBERG
The Columbus Telegram

Editor’s note: This story first published May 16.

E

lizabeth Alexander was never one of those
people who had trouble figuring out what
she wanted to do with her life. She knew
pretty early on.
While in high school, she took a career assessment
test that essentially solidified her desire to enter the
world of research.
“I liked science, so that took me in that direction,”
Alexander said. “I went into the medical/technology
program because I decided I wanted to go into research – cancer research, new testing studies, anything out there in the medical field.”
Fast forward years later, Alexander is Columbus
Community Hospital’s longtime director of laboratory services. As the laboratory director, her primary
responsibilities include planning, organizing and directing the CCH laboratory department that provides
chemistry, hematology, coagulation, immunology and
microbiology testing for use in diagnosis and treatment of diseases. She also ensures laboratory services
are of the highest quality, cost-effective and carried
out in an expeditious manner. In addition, she makes
sure departmental operations remain in compliance
with state and federal regulations and accreditation
standards.
“Elizabeth has a long and stellar track record of
excellence, cooperation, open communication, and
trust. Those attributes, along with her thoughtful
support, have helped Columbus Community Hospital craft a positive response against the COVID-19
pandemic,” said Amy Blaser, CCH vice president of
physician relations/business development. “During
the past two-and-a-half-months, Elizabeth has built
on her knowledge and work experience to be a source
of strength and leadership in her role on the incident command team and has led her direct reporting
teams, providing the clinical support for the diagnosis
of COVID-19.”

COLUMBUS GROWN

Born and raised in the self-proclaimed “City of
Power and Progress,” Alexander relished growing up
in the then-small (smaller than today), rural Nebraska
town.
“I enjoyed Columbus. Columbus to me had the
right size,” she recalled. “You felt comfortable going
out anywhere you wanted to go.”
Often, Alexander hopped on her bicycle and made
her way all over town to join friends in various activities, such as swimming at the community pool or
roller skating excursions. She attended St. Bonaventure throughout grade school and eventually went on
to Scotus Central Catholic High School. At the latter,

she truly discovered her passion for science and research. Upon high school graduation, she was ready to
take her ambition to new heights.

THINGS COME TOGETHER

Alexander opted to attend Wayne State College in
Wayne, where she enrolled in its 3-plus-1 program
to pursue her interest in research. Students enrolled
in this program study for three years at their home
university and then applied for a one-year internship.
She got hers at the Research Medical Center in Kansas City, Missouri. There, she underwent rotations
throughout the department’s microbiology, chemistry, hematology and coagulation divisions, among
other things.
“I truly enjoyed it, she said. “It was a larger hospital
facility in Kansas City, so there were many types of
exposures to different types of testing.”
Alexander got her Bachelor of Science (now called
a medical laboratory sciences degree) in 1989 from
Wayne State. While there, she also met the love of
her life, Colin. The couple married the same year she
graduated – on Sept. 30.
The Alexanders for about a year continued to live in
Kansas City, where she got a job working for the Community Blood Center of Greater Kansas City metropolitan area.
“They had a research area in their virology and immunology department,” she said, noting she was part
of a team conducting HIV research at the time.
The time she spent part of that team was rewarding
and also a chance for her to get valuable experience.
But it would only be the start of her journey in health
care.

HOME SWEET HOME

In 1990, the couple decided to move back to Columbus after her husband got a job in town. As fate would
have it, Alexander found a job of her own at CCH as a
generalist in its laboratory department. She did that
for three years before getting promoted to transfusion
medicine supervisor, a position she held for 14 years. In
2008, her efforts paid off again as she was promoted to
her current role. She hasn’t looked back.
“I’ve been here about 30 years,” Alexander said.
Although her work is an important part of her
life, it’s only one aspect of it. She takes a lot of pride
in her family. She and her husband are approaching
their 31-year wedding anniversary, and in those three
decades since they’ve tied the knot, their family has
grown exponentially. The couple has three grown sons:
Matthew, Aaron and Cole. Matthew, 29, and his wife,
Kasey, have a 2-year-old son, Aiden (Alexander’s first
and only grandchild as of now). Then there’s 26-yearold Aaron and 24-year-old Cole.
When she’s not working or hanging out with family,
Alexander enjoys going for long walks and knocking

out a challenging puzzle.
Of course, free time is a bit of luxury these days
with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. She’s been an
instrumental part of CCH’s Incident Command team,
helping the health care facility manage the challenges
that come with dealing with the ongoing pandemic
firsthand.
“Elizabeth has worked round-the-clock to procure
swabs for specimen collection, coordinated efficient
courier transportation to both state and commercial
reference laboratories, led the addition of instrumentation and improved reporting mechanisms, and helped
to coordinate new procedures such as rapid, on-site
testing and convalescent plasma along with associated
staff training,” Blaser said. “Elizabeth is an excellent
and reliable resource called upon frequently to provide
guidance to physicians and staff alike. She has proven
to be an expert in building relationships and has helped
build exceptional teamwork between the nursing and
laboratory staff.”
Alexander supervises 32 people, who under her
leadership share some of the occupational characteristics of frontline medical personnel, and have to be
mindful of their personal safety as they perform their
work. It doesn’t stop there, though.
“In addition to her work in the laboratory, Elizabeth
has been an important part of the COVID-19 hotline
team. While she does not take 24/7 calls, she has been
available 24/7 for questions related to testing and her
eye for detail ensures that important details are not
missed, which makes everyone’s job easier,” Blaser
said. “Elizabeth has worked very hard and has done an
outstanding job during the pandemic.”
It’s undoubtedly challenging at times, but Alexander
has always been proud of what she does day in, day out.
“What I like about my job is the patient and position satisfaction. I come in every day and no day is the
same, every day brings a new question …” she said,
noting that her parents’ love and support allowed her
to be the person she is today and helped her get to
where she’s at. “It’s like trying to solve that puzzle or
research that new test out there so you can get more
information.”
Alexander said she has no idea when the pandemic
will end, but stressed that she and others at CCH will
continue to work hard to keep people safe and healthy
as best they can.
“It has been fast and furious, but enjoyable along
the way because everyone is working as a team here at
the hospital,” she said. “Every day is a different challenge that I have to meet, but I enjoy it. I enjoy the
adrenaline of it.”
Matt Lindberg is the managing editor of The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at matt.lindberg@
lee.net.

Courtesy photo
Elizabeth Alexander with
her family.

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