Karla Dukes is the front desk registrar in University Physicians Surgical Specialties Clinic. Jay Ferchaud/ UMMC Communications
Karla Dukes is the front desk registrar in University Physicians Surgical Specialties Clinic.
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Front and Center: Karla Dukes

Published on Monday, June 13, 2022

By: Ruth Cummins

A dedicated employee who values her patients and their care.

A great teacher of new coworkers and a team player quick to encourage others.

One heck of a king cake baker.

They’re just a few ways that Karla Dukes’ University of Mississippi Medical Center family members describe her. Dukes, the front desk registrar in University Physicians Surgical Specialties Clinic, is dedicated to, as she says, “doing it right.”

“I’m a rule follower,” said Dukes, who began her tenure at UMMC about 10 years ago following a long career in the insurance industry. “I want to make sure that our patients are informed. If I hand them a form, I want them to understand what they’re signing, what’s going to happen on their visit, and why. That’s the teaching part of me.”

Dukes shares her talents where they are needed, whether that’s being a floater in the Pavilion, working in University Transplant, helping get one of UMMC’s sister clinics off the ground at Merit Health Madison, or her current position as part of the team in Surgery at the Pavilion’s Suite K.

“I actually just wrote Karla a thank-you note for her service last week,” said Paul Bird, director of ambulatory operations for the Department of Surgery.

Many things set Dukes apart in the world of medical office assistants, Bird said. “Instead of just learning what buttons to push, Karla wants to understand the system behind it.  This makes her invaluable in testing new processes, training new employees, and troubleshooting issues,” he said.

“She finds opportunities to improve new workflows and will work to make sure everyone in her area understands the changes,” said Tammy DeLaughter, manager of ambulatory operations for University Physicians Surgery. “She takes pride in ensuring the new employees are taught correctly.”

Dukes is a leader who builds other leaders, said Sara Porter, a registered nurse ambulatory supervisor in Surgery. “She is successful at building a great team by delegating tasks appropriately, helping to push her peers to their full potential, ensuring all of her team contributes to managing the clinic, and helping with ordering supplies for the clinic,” Porter said.

“She is an exceptional mentor for new employees, teaching with patience and insight,” Bird said. “We use her routinely to train new medical office assistants and new schedulers because of her understanding of processes and ability to communicate.”

The ability to first float, then work longer term in one area “allowed me to see lots of different departments and work with lots of doctors and nurses,” Dukes said. “I didn’t come here from a medical background. It was fascinating, and I find every day interesting.

“I enjoy a challenge,” she said. “I was the first front desk person for University Transplant in Suite H all those years ago, and I was the first and only front desk employee at our clinics at Merit Health Madison for two years.”

Her coworkers value her not just for her job skills, but her baking talents as well. “She makes some of the best king cake that I have ever tasted,” Porter said. “We all love when she brings a tasty treat to the clinic. Karla's other main hobby is sewing. She is very talented and has often helped many of her co-workers who need custom alterations.”

“I’m whole hog into decorating for holidays,” said Dukes, who has a side formalwear alterations service. “I had a skeleton who lived with me at Merit, and it wore seasonal outfits.”

Her inspiration for king cakes came from her son during his days in culinary school. “He learned how to make yeast bread, and I wanted to learn, too,” Dukes said. “What better yeast bread than a cream cheese-filled king cake?”

Dukes will tell you in a minute all about her precious grandchildren, ages 7 and 4, her coworkers say. She and husband Dee have been married for 42 years, “and we knew each other for seven years before that.” The two enjoy going to car shows and spending time with the grandchildren.

Her home is in Terry, but it’s also at the Medical Center. She said her vision for the “big picture” is key to making sure whichever department is her base can offer patients a great experience. “I like to give 100 percent,” Dukes said. “I’m probably harder to work with because of that.

“I try to do it right to the best of my ability, and when people come here to train, I make sure that is the expectation.”

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