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2020 Health Care Champions Technician: Kimberly Grissom

Swann Dermatology and Esthetics

Posted online

Kimberly Grissom never considered any other field but health care.

“My whole family is somehow related to the medical profession,” says Grissom, a histotechnician at Swann Dermatology and Esthetics.

At 18, she started as a certified nurse assistant. After earning an associate degree, Grissom became a radiology technician. She spent a few years in Minnesota before returning to her native Joplin to work at Freeman Hospital. Four years later, she moved to Mercy Hospital Joplin to work in the lab and train in pathology, studying everything from placentas to colons to eyeballs.

“I just found it very interesting,” Grissom says. “Everything that’s taken out of you goes to pathology.”

While she wasn’t at the hospital when the EF5 tornado hit Mercy Hospital Joplin in May 2011, Grissom did go in immediately afterward and worked out of a tent. The devastation was traumatic, and Grissom was open to change when she got the opportunity to join Swann Dermatology and Esthetics in 2011.

“My proudest professional accomplishment is being able to actually start this lab in Springfield from the bottom up,” she says of her work at Swann.

As a histotechnician, Grissom plays a critical role in the treatment of skin cancers by turning tissue samples into microscope slides that the doctor uses during a Mohs procedure, which progressively removes thin layers of cancer-containing skin until only cancer-free tissue remains.

“Kim’s responsibilities are many, but she is the best histotech I have ever had the opportunity to work with,” says Dr. Michael Swann, owner of Swann Dermatology and Esthetics. “Her role couldn’t be more crucial to what I do as a Mohs surgeon. … Her ability to coordinate and control specimens in the lab as well as manage unforeseen issues that arise is beyond exemplary.”

Because her office handles patient referrals from other doctors, COVID-19 has not slowed her work.

“We were able to adapt easily, because we already practice good hygiene and constant handwashing,” Grissom says. “We sanitize our entire office and every exam room, waiting room and equipment. We screen each patient before they enter our office.”

Swann praises her efforts on behalf of patients during the pandemic.

“Kim’s steady leadership helped allow us to take care of the Ozark’s sickest skin cancer patients while other clinics were shut down,” he says.

“Because our elective services were canceled while stay-at-home orders were in effect, Kim cross-trained other staff to help care for our sickest patients in the event that she or others would have to quarantine during the pandemic. … Without Kim’s dedication and courage, many patients with acute cancer needs would have been neglected.”

Grissom says cancer doesn’t wait for COVID to pass, and she takes satisfaction in serving patients with urgent medical needs.

“My motivation is knowing that my patient has skin cancer when they visit our office, and it is very satisfying knowing that when they leave here, they are cancer-free,” she says.

Grissom’s current position is her favorite among all roles she’s had in the medical field.

“It’s so challenging. You would not think it would be after working in pathology, but it is,” she says. “It’s very satisfying. When they leave they are cancer-free.”

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