From 1960s southern Kentucky to nuclear medicine radiology technologist

Across a five-decade career, Lillie Coffey built strong bonds with patients and watched with pride as their health improved.

In 1963, John F. Kennedy was president, the Beatles were becoming famous and the University of Louisville School of Medicine launched its first radiology technologist program.

Word of the new curriculum reached a young woman living in her South Central Kentucky hometown.

“I chose to enter the new radiology program because I wanted a good-paying health care job,” Lillie Coffey said. “Most of all, I wanted to help sick people get better.”

Lillie moved to Louisville to pursue a radiology technologist degree. Little did she know that 53 years later, she’d still find her career incredibly rewarding. She’s now a nuclear medicine radiology supervisor for Norton Healthcare.

Lillie and her classmates focused on two essential areas: classroom and technical knowledge, and clinical education and experience. After she graduated in 1968, Lillie joined Norton Healthcare’s new radiology technology and nuclear medicine department.

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“Not only did I perform lifesaving diagnostic imaging, Norton Healthcare also enabled me and other radiology technologists to closely work with the nuclear medicine radiologists,” Lillie said.

Those physicians used radioactive materials in producing images of the body, facilitating diagnoses and treatment of diseases. The collaboration helped Lillie learn the nuclear medicine field, too. She passed her nuclear medicine board exams in 1971 and became Norton Healthcare’s first certified nuclear radiology technologist.

Kindness and empathy builds strong bond with patients

Today, Lillie serves nuclear medicine patients at Norton Children’s Hospital, Norton Hospital and Norton Healthcare Pavilion. Her passion for her patients is stronger than ever.

“It’s really gratifying to watch patients become better with our care,” Lillie said. “I remember so many of them, even those from decades ago.”

Her strong bond with her patients is evident. Lillie takes pride in posting pictures on her office wall pictures patients have given her or that she finds when a patient is profiled in a newspaper. Often, she’ll bump into a former patient in public, or they’ll call, email or send her letters.

Lillie credits her longevity at Norton Healthcare to her tightknit team, which has a combined 176 years of service in the department.

“There’s eight of us and we always support each other. We respect each other’s input and opinions and have shared a lot of ‘teaching moments,’” she said.

Lillie believes that kindness, compassion and empathy are at the heart of quality care.


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