Employee Spotlight: Merita Williams
From Making Rock Stars’ Guitars to Cleaning Surgeons’ Scalpels
Many of us have undergone or will undergo some type of surgery or medical procedure in our lifetime. Therefore, we inevitably place our trust in the skillful hands of the surgeon. But have you ever thought about how clean a surgeon’s instruments have to be before they are used on a patient? Merita Williams has, because she cleans them.
Williams, who goes by Lolita, is a Central Sterile Materials supply tech at Hattiesburg Clinic’s Lowery A. Woodall Outpatient Surgery Center. Her primary responsibility is ensuring all surgical tools are thoroughly sterilized before each procedure.
“I work in the sterilization room. I get all the instruments ready for the next day,” says the 62-year-old New Augusta native. “I also make all the [doctors’] dressings.”
Williams says she goes by a specific process when sterilizing the instruments and that they even use a special washer “so they get double cleaned.” She actually had to undergo special onsite training for her role. And because the field is constantly changing and improving, Williams is required to participate in ongoing education through videos, online sessions, etc. In addition, she is tasked with keeping surgical supplies in stock for the center’s six operating rooms.
“I basically order most of the supplies for the surgery rooms. I have six surgery rooms. When the supplies come, I have to unload them and put them where they need to go. The other day I had 167 boxes.”
Williams is no stranger to work that requires careful attention to detail. One of her earlier jobs was working in Eddie Van Halen’s Peavey guitar factory in Leakesville, Miss. There, she would sand down the rough edges of guitar bodies once they came off the machine. She says their factory only had one AC unit running during her six years there but she didn’t mind.
“I loved that job because I loved working with wood.”
She says Van Halen even visited the factory once while she was there. But that perhaps pales slightly in comparison to her most notable accomplishment while working at the factory.
“I made a purple guitar for Prince. It’s true, because I even put my initials in it and everything. This was the only time I had ever heard of a guitar requested by an artist [at our factory]. I don’t know if he ever received it.”
Besides her love for woodworking, Williams says the other thing that drew her to the guitar factory is her own relationship with music.
“I’ve always wanted to be a country singer. I used to play my guitar and sing country songs…I used to sing pretty good. I used to play piano at the church. So that’s why I liked it at Peavey, because I liked the guitar already and I liked music.”
The Peavey factory eventually closed and in 2002, Williams began working with Lowery A. Woodall Outpatient Surgery Center. She says she likes her coworkers because everyone is always helping one another for the sake of the patient.
“We have a good group. Everybody’s really upbeat. And everybody’s willing to help you. Our number one commitment is patient care. The patient comes first.”
She says her coworkers know her as “being very fast” and always getting things done, and that’s something in which she takes pride.
“I’m always trying to get it done. And that’s my motto. Get it done,” she says, but quickly notes, “I don’t half do anything here…because you would have to start all over again.”
“I think I like sterilizing the instruments the most. It makes me feel good knowing that I’m kind of helping the doctors [and patients] and making sure they have something to use.”
Williams lives in Richton with her husband of 43 years. She has two kids and three grandkids. When she’s not sterilizing instruments, you can find her buried in a good book.
And while she may not be making guitars for iconic rock stars or touring the world as a country singer, there’s something else she has fun doing just as much.
“I know this sounds weird, but I love weed-eating. I can’t help it. I just love to see it when it’s through. And we have five acres so I do it a lot.”