People of the U: Kimberlee King
Published on Tuesday, May 31, 2022
By: Andrea Wright Dilworth, firstname.lastname@example.org
All Kimberlee King ever wanted to do was take care of others, so when her four children were young, she chose to be a full-time, stay-at-home mom. A military family, they’ve lived in Germany, Alaska and on a handful of military bases in the United States.
It was during husband Cecil’s tour in Iraq that the family put down roots in Richland, where she still lives.
When the youngest graduated high school eight years ago, she decided to put her caring sensibilities to use elsewhere.
“It was time for me to get out and interact with people, one of my passions,” said the customer service representative at University Physicians Pavilion.
Though she has only worked at the Pavilion since September, King, who previously worked in University Hospital, leaves a lasting impression with patients and their families, like Oko Usun, a Ridgeland retiree who visits the clinic frequently with his daughter.
“She epitomizes what a true health care delivery service employee should look and feel like,” Usun wrote in a letter to Sherry Denny, supervisor of Pavilion Operations. “She doesn’t care how wretched one looks, doesn’t wait for you to ask for directions, she just comes calling.”
She attends to every detail, from greeting guests enthusiastically as they enter the Pavilion, to providing a mask and guidance on wearing it correctly, to making sure everyone’s hands are sanitized, to showing patients how to get from Point A to Point B and grabbing a wheelchair for those who need a little extra help.
“She does these things so effortlessly that you know that it comes from the heart,” Usun continued. “I wish you could have a hidden camera to videotape her as she interacts with the public.”
Denny, though not surprised someone noticed King’s work ethic and caring spirit, was shocked to receive the letter.
“We very seldom get positive feedback such as this, but it is well deserved,” said Denny. “She has a true affection for people, and she isn't afraid to share it. She is the type to remember the little things about some of our regular patients and makes them feel special when she brings these things up in short conversations.
“I've had people tell me I got a good one when I got Kim. I've overheard employees from the hospital say they miss her and wish she was still there, or she needs to come back, things just aren't the same without her. I'm truly blessed she decided to come work for my team, as are the patients and visitors to the Pavilion.”
Even before marrying a career soldier, King had done her share of traveling. Born in Minnesota to parents who had emigrated from Colombia, she spent a few years of her early childhood in her family’s native country, eventually moving back and settling in Sioux Falls, SD in fourth grade.
As her children got older, King’s nurturing spirit led her to Hinds Community College, where she enrolled in the medical assistant program, but those plans quickly derailed when son Brock, then 16, was injured in an all-terrain vehicle accident, leaving him a quadriplegic.
She dropped out of school to stay home and take care of him. Now 34, King’s second eldest son has surpassed her expectations.
“He is much more independent than I ever dreamed and is a fantastic pool player. He is on a team and has even gotten the chance to play in Las Vegas on several occasions. I realized he didn't need my full-time care anymore around eight years ago, which is what gave me the opportunity to go back to work.”
Coincidentally, this was the same year her youngest graduated high school.
Though she was no longer interested in pursuing a degree in health care, she did find herself gravitating toward jobs in the industry.
“When the opportunity to work at UMMC came up, I jumped at it,” she said. “I started in HR, but realized my calling was in customer service and when an opening came up, I took it.”
Her first customer service position was in the Office of Patient Experience, where she worked at the hospital’s entrance assisting patients and visitors, a job she enjoyed until the pandemic, when her role shifted to screening visitors and employees. “My job duties changed drastically when COVID hit, and I wanted to get back to a more customer-service focused position.”
She found that opportunity at the Pavilion, where she assists in transporting patients to their destinations and providing information about their appointments. The role allows her to not only interact with people all day and on a more personal level, but to also make a lasting mutual impact.
“It makes me feel good to know that I am making an impression; however, I never thought I was doing anything special or out of the ordinary. I truly listen to and care about their stories. I make it a point to remember personal things to chat about with patients as a way of letting them know they are more than just an appointment.”
When she’s not working, King enjoys CrossFit training and spending time with her family, which includes nine grandchildren.
“I have NO regrets for choosing the path I have taken,” she said. “I loved being a stay-at-home mom and getting to watch my children grow into the adults they have become, which I am very proud of. I love what I do and the people I meet. I have been truly blessed with the life I have.”