Michael Letson, a fixture in Tucson Medical Center’s communications efforts for more than 21 years, is celebrating the Labor Day weekend with the prospect of having very little labor to speak of in the near term.
We caught up with Letson to ask him a few questions about his time here:
- How did the moniker “The Voice of TMC” come about? I had been working in radio news prior to coming to TMC, and at that time, TMC was made up of a number of different entities at different locations, from our physician groups to our health plan and what was then our new behavioral health hospital. They weren’t as integrated as we felt they could be, so the thought was to have our own TMC radio newscast to make sure everyone knew what was happening across the organization. So was born the 60-second update, every Friday. Of course, this was in 1995, when there was no intranet, and I had to record the updates on a tape recorder and then feed them to six different voicemail systems. Technology has come a long way since then.
- You really had three careers, between radio, hospital communications and working for what was then Hughes Missile Systems. What’s next for you? Well, I’m used to working at 90 miles per hour in this fast-paced environment, so it’s going to take some time to adjust to the new pace. After that, it’s hard to say what’s next. There are just so many things to do and experience in life.
- What was one of your favorite memories of working here? I remember back in 1996, my son had been injured and I was here all night with him. On my way home, I received a phone call to come back to the hospital to handle the media because Kerri Strug was coming to visit patients in our pediatric unit – this wasn’t long after she had landed her vault and cemented the gold medal in gymnastics at the Summer Games. My son had a chance to meet Kerri, and with all the volubility and eloquence of a young boy, said in an interview he found the experience to be “pretty cool.”
- What have you found most rewarding about your time here? It was always a good feeling to work for an organization that serves the community and cares for those when they are at their most vulnerable. And that’s one thing I’ve appreciated about TMC: Even though they have explored other options over the years, they’ve always come back to the belief that they can best serve this community by operating as a nonprofit hospital that answers to the community, and isn’t beholden to other entities.
- Many would say one of your legacies, aside from your sense of humor and penchant for one-liners, is that you’re a walking, talking encyclopedia on TMC history. How did that happen? I’ve always been interested in historical things and I just found TMC to be an interesting story. I’ve been told I’m a great suppository of historical knowledge.
- You’ve been key in helping to organize the annual Centenarian event that celebrates those in their 100th What’s the best centenarian joke you’ve got? A doctor was surprised to see his 100-year-old patient out jogging in the park with an attractive young woman. Although the man had seemed quite feeble at the last visit, he was the picture of health and happiness now. “Doc,” the man said, “I did what you ordered. I got myself a hot mama and I’m being more cheerful.” The doctor, looking perplexed, clarified, “No, I said you’ve got a heart murmur and be more careful!”
- Your relationship with TMC actually goes back long before you came to work here. Yes, we had five TMC births and one adoption. The first TMC birth was when I was in radio, the next two came when I was doing communications for another hospital, and the last two came when I was at Hughes.
- And you have helped your wife Marjorie over the last 30 years to provide childbirth education to the community as well. Back in the 60s and 70s, there was really an effort to reclaim the right of people to actively participate in births – something that had happened for centuries, but had been relegated to the medical profession for the first half of the century. At the time, childbirth education was really something that was consumer-based and at first wasn’t provided by hospitals, but TMC was one of those hospitals that decided this was important education to share with the community. I’ve already been told by our director of volunteer services that I might not report to my office every day, but I’m definitely still expected to report for volunteer duty.