Thursday, October 13, 2011 12:04 PM

Karen Kister remembered by her Community

On July 28, 2011, Community Medical Centers and our entire community lost one of its quiet leaders in Karen Kister. For more than three decades, Karen worked to leave her mark on Community Medical Centers, beginning as a medical technologist and ending as laboratory manager. Karen was instrumental in designing new medical laboratories at Community Regional Medical Center and Fresno Heart & Surgical Hospital and was heading up efforts to design the expanded laboratory at Clovis Community Medical Center.  Since 2006, Karen worked at Clovis Community to help design the lab and build its laboratory team. She was also an advocate of the Clinical Lab Scientist Trainee program that put an emphasis on mentoring students to become Community’s laboratory future. Karen was both liked and respected by all who were fortunate enough to work with her.

Here are some of their memories:
Domingo Valdez, Clinical Lab Scientist at Clovis Community Medical Center was hired by Karen Kister in 2005 and she was his lab manager during his first year at Community Regional Medical Center and then again in this last year after Domingo transferred to the Clovis hospital. Karen not only became one of his best friends, but was someone he considered part of his family. He wrote: 

“Karen was compassionate as a co-worker, manager, and person.  She was approachable and kind.  She didn't waste her time and energy in things that at the end of the day were meaningless.  Karen devoted her life and career to patient care, and she had a vision for the future unlike no other.  She was always able to think ahead and she always had the best interest of the patient, the lab, and her employees at heart.  She was intelligent, efficient, hard-working, fair, and an exquisite person overall.  But above all, she carried herself with the highest degree of integrity, always taking the higher road.

“Karen had multiple ways of contributing to the community during her life, but none more important, I feel, than the lives she touched.  In doing so, Karen helped most of us realize that the best way we could give back to the community, especially for her, is to simply be better individuals in society, and in life, because as a whole, we would all benefit from striving to be better.

“She had such a great influence on me professionally and personally and her passing is truly a loss that is very difficult to handle. She brought out the best in me, and she always believed in me.  I will miss our talks, laughs, coffee breaks, and dinners...she was just one of the most pleasant people, I felt, that anyone could be around. I always will remember her wonderful smile, laugh, compassion, and positive outlook she had on many things at work, and in life.”

David Slater, MD, Pathologist, Transfusion Service Medical Director of Community Medical Centers Laboratories, met Karen just after he came to Community in 1988 and worked with her in the hematology lab at what was then Fresno Community Hospital. He and Karen were teammates on lab inspections around the nation for the College of American Pathologists (CAP). He wrote:

“I met my wife-to-be at the home of Karen and husband Craig, and Karen's Post-it notes on my computer monitor helped insure that our relationship would get going in the beginning. My memories of her are… Karen elegant and gracious in her elegant home at the parties she and Craig so expertly gave; Karen doing a fantastic job as a lab inspector on our CAP trips, no matter how stressful the situation; Karen immediately knowing the answer to some lab question or having immediate knowledge of data on request; Karen smiling and being self-effacing and shy; also, Karen being strong and optimistic during her final illness.

“Karen was a joy to work with because of her work ethic and depth of knowledge; because of her strong but not at all overbearing management style that built team spirit, loyalty and personalized the work place; and because she never forgot that the lab is there to serve the patient.

“Karen and Craig were strong members of their faith community, their neighborhood community (we live a block from them), their non-profit community, and Community Medical Centers’ foundation.  They raised their two wonderful daughters to have a strong sense of obligation and community mindedness.

“I will miss her professionalism, her warmth, her ability to build teams and find humor then that was just what was needed. I’ll miss her pretty smile and that "  --K --" she signed her e-mails with.”

Linda I. Kerns, RN, Director of Ancillary Services at Clovis Community, was on the team that interviewed Karen and then chose her for the hospital’s lab core manager in 2006. She became Karen’s boss. Kerns wrote:

“Karen was the epitome of managerial perfection.  Her attention to detail, organizational and people skills, and complete understanding of the hospital lab systems was exceptional.  Karen was graceful, considerate, soft spoken and a patient/employee/physician advocate. One of my fondest memories is asking Karen why she kept her maiden name of Kister.  She just smiled (her usual Karen smile) and said, “because I like the name Kister” – just that simple and to the point.

“Karen was loved and respected by all, especially me and there’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think of her.  I really miss her.

“Setting up a memorial fund in Karen’s name was a great idea.  Karen’s been a part of the Community Medical Centers system for 31 years.  That alone is a legacy, but I know Karen, and she would want to share something with her staff.” 

The Karen Kister Memorial Fund was established to honor Karen’s contributions to her fellow employees, especially those working in medical technology, and to support their professional development and leadership through scholarship.  Through this Memorial Fund, Karen’s vision and values will be carried on.

Dr. Slater explains, “I know that Karen's family feels very strongly that Karen deserves an organized and structured legacy at Community, and specifically at Clovis Community, which Karen worked hard and effectively, to make it the great place it is today. She was busy planning for the hospital's future at the time of her illness, and so there is a special draw to memorialize her as Clovis moves into its next chapter as a hospital.  Karen's and Craig's many friends around the country, and Karen's Community colleagues and friends, feel the same way.  This is a person to take every opportunity to honor and in whose memory to make good things happen at Clovis Community.”

Karen’s colleague Domingo Valdez adds, “The Karen E. Kister Memorial Fund will make sure that those who never got the opportunity to meet her and/or know her, realize how much of a difference she made in her profession, and in the lives of all those who knew her.  She truly was one in a million.”

To carry on Karen Kister’s legacy click here.