Sue-mei Portugues is the global patient access manager for the Department of Cardiac Surgery at Boston Children’s Hospital.
What’s your role at the hospital?
I assist some of the families that come from all over the world for cardiac surgeries throughout the second opinion process. I’m often the first person they connect with when they reach out for a second opinion. I help them gather medical records, provide information essential to plan their stay here, get families familiar with the hospital when they first arrive, assist then through their stay and provide medical records that they can bring back to their local providers.
Why did you want to work at Boston Children’s?
I always liked working with kids and was interested in a role that would use my language and international skills. I speak English, Spanish, French, Italian, and Portuguese. We speak only Spanish and Italian in our house with our two girls, who are 13 and 15.
I’m originally from Puerto Rico, but got my undergraduate degree and MBA at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in upstate New York and did a one-year exchange program in Bocconi University in Italy. After that, I lived in Europe for 25 years, working for multinational companies doing branding and marketing. We moved to Boston eight years ago, because a good friend of mine from Italy was living here.
What do you like most about your job?
It’s really rewarding. At the multinational companies I used to worked for, the key focus was profit. Here, the families are forever grateful and I get to make a lot of personal connections and feel like I’m doing something to help.
What’s the hardest part of your job?
When you get really involved with the families, it’s hard to leave your job at work. I talk with a lot of really stressed parents who just want to get the best care for their child. So when patients can’t come here because of a lack of funds or problems with their insurance, it’s frustrating. I always do my best to help, but sometimes it’s just not possible.
What’s one of your favorite memories?
I have so many. But the other day, four Chinese families showed up together in my office with a thank you letter. They didn’t even really know each other, but I had set them all up with family housing, who do an amazing job of assisting the patients and families that come here for cardiac surgery. One of the fathers had tried several times to get a visa, and I was able to help him finally get it. I get a lot of people coming in personally to thank me and bring me sweets and other gifts. It’s always nice to know people are so grateful.
Is there something about you that might surprise us?
I worked for the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory as co-op intern in 1986, and was there when the Challenger’s fatal accident occurred, which was really awful. But I also got to see images that the Voyager 2 sent of Uranus’ 10 new moons and two new rings, and that was really cool. Voyager 2 was the first human-made object to fly past Uranus.
What three words would you use to describe your job?
Rewarding, engaging, motivating.
What music are you listening to right now?
Marc Anthony. I really just listen to whatever my kids are listening to, and they listen to him all the time.
What do you like to do when you have a day off?
What I’d like to do is see New England. What I really end up doing is being a chauffeur to my two kids. But that’s fine because I like to spend as much time with them as I can.
Learn more about the Department of Cardiac Surgery.
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