August 18, 2014
What happens when you send a letter to a patient or your care team?
BY Lindsey Garner
Did you know that MD Anderson has its own post office? Located in the Main Building, the post office serves patients, visitors and employees. It's also where patient and Main Building employee mail is delivered and sorted by a team of three mail clerks.
From letters to parcels and interoffice to international mail, MD Anderson has 24 employees working behind the scenes to ensure that more than 268,000 pieces of mail each month are transported and received. Most of our mail clerks and transportation representatives had long careers in the mail industry prior to coming here, either with the U.S. Postal Service or in mailrooms at other organizations.
How our mail gets sorted
By 7:30 a.m., Mondays through Fridays, large bins of mail are picked up from the post office and brought to the mailroom at an MD Anderson facility offsite from our main hospital campus.
A team of eight mail clerks sorts the mail into bins for each building. Next, the team fine sorts the mail in an area of the mailroom with floor-to-ceiling cubbyholes. Each little box is labeled with a unit number, and the mail is filed accordingly. Many have memorized most of the 700 unit numbers and many employees' names. After quick glances at the recipients' addresses, the mail flies out of their hands and into unit mail boxes.
Once the mail is fine sorted, it's bundled by unit numbers and placed in boxes for each building. By 9 a.m., 13 transportation representatives begin delivering the mail to 29 buildings on our Texas Medical Center campus. In addition, they fulfill courier requests throughout the day -- traveling between our buildings and external locations, like area hospitals.
Helping our patients stay connected
Mail Clerk Ruthie Houston keeps our patients top of mind while she's sorting mail at the post office and preparing it for delivery.
"It's important for patients to get their mail the day we receive it," she says. "You don't know how much the message could mean to them."
Patients often stop by this post office to look for mail they're expecting or to send mail. Many patients have their personal mail forwarded to MD Anderson while they're undergoing inpatient treatments.
"Mail is very important to our patients, and they look forward to receiving it because it helps them stay connected to their home and loved ones," says Francine Beverly, a senior mail clerk. "I feel like I've helped them in some way by making sure they get their mail."
While manning the front window, Houston often lends an ear to our patients.
"I try to be there for them and listen to their stories," she says. "It makes me happy to lift people's spirits, especially when they don't have family with them."
Like Houston, many of our mail clerks form connections with our patients.
"There are only three of us, so they get to know us and will ask for us by name," Beverly says.
It's especially meaningful for Beverly and Houston when patients they've gotten to know stop by to see them during annual follow-up appointments at the clinics.
In addition, to delivering letters and care packages to patients, MD Anderson also takes care of mail that contains information essential to treatment, like X-rays, records and patient slides.
Lawrence Furr says he sees firsthand the impact of mail when he delivers mail to Mays Clinic, the Lyda Hill Cancer Prevention Center, Pickens Tower, the Mendelsohn Faculty Center and the Rotary House.
"I'm amazed by how much peoples' faces light up when they get their mail," he says. "They'll often tell me a story about the person who sent it to them."
Furr is glad to know that by delivering mail he not only helps support our mission, but also brings a smile to someone's face every day.
A longer version of this article originally appeared in Messenger, our bimonthly employee publication.
It's important for patients to get their mail the day we receive it. You don't know how much the message could mean to them.