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On the Job with: Barbara Weiss

At the hands of “the Queen,” an X-ray is an unforgettable experience.

Little do patients know what lies in store when they arrive for a bone density test on the third floor of the Outpatient Center. There, “the Queen” awaits.

The queen, as she is affectionately known among her colleagues, is Barbara Weiss, senior DEXA technologist in Nuclear Medicine. DEXA, for dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry, is a specialized scan that determines bone density, generally of the spine and hip.

It’s hard to imagine anything more programmed or perfunctory than a radiological procedure, but Weiss, with her cheery demeanor and downright kookiness, makes DEXA an experience that few can forget.

Central to that experience is Weiss’ special shrine. Covered with a pink felt cloth and topped with a miniature, pink velveteen tree, it is chock-a-block with glittery hearts, plush pillows, and stuffed poodles and teddy bears. Her bejeweled nameplate announces her title: “Queen.”

The best time for DEXA is on holidays, for that is when Weiss dons her pink feather boa and tiara. The best holiday is Halloween. On that day, she always wears her rhinestone-rimmed glasses and carries her wand.

“Patients go nuts,” she says. “They say, This is not like a hospital. Grown men—important business people—love my shrine. They go out to the waiting room and bring back their wives.”

Some are part of the Executive Health Program, the daylong series of exams, tests and consultations tailored specifically for those with busy schedules. “I’ve had princes and princesses and others who are incredibly famous and have appeared in People magazine. And they are wonderful,” says Weiss. “They come in a year later and remember our conversation and pick up as if nothing had happened.”

DEXA, at the hands of Weiss, may be an over-the-top adventure, but underneath it all lies a seasoned tech with 37 years of experience and a genuinely caring individual. Weiss really knows how to reach out to her patients—among them postmenopausal women with osteoporosis, men on hormonal treatments, teenagers with eating disorders, women in breast cancer studies, transplant patients, children with osteogenesis (brittle bone disease) and people with spinal cord injuries.

“Some have been through so much, but when they come in here, they feel comfortable,” says Weiss. For one terminally ill boy, she worked with the Make-A-Wish Foundation to line up a meeting with the child’s sports hero.

Such efforts have not gone unnoticed. The Department of Radiology’s Outstanding Community Service Award and Outstanding Service Award grace Weiss’ lavender walls. (She obtained special permission to paint over the standard-issue beige.)

But it’s only fair to say that, as deserved as they are, the official plaques do look a bit out of place—next to the rhinestone-rimmed clock.

—Anne Bennett Swingle



Johns Hopkins Medicine

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