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Quay Kester wasn’t always a senior consultant and executive coach for IU Health’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion. She started her career as Methodist Hospital’s first medical illustrator.
Before she could even talk, Quay Kester was drawing stick figures.
“I remember when I realized arms and legs have two lines. There’s never been a time that I have not made art,” said Kester, a Senior Consultant and Executive Coach for IU Health’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion.
Little did she know as a toddler, those basic drawings would one day lead to more sophisticated anatomical illustrations.
Kester grew up in northern Illinois in what she calls the “middle of nowhere.” With a population of just about 1,000 residents, the Village of Chebanse is translated in the Potawatomi language as “The Little Duck.”
At the University of Illinois, she worked alongside first-year medical students learning anatomical pathology and histology on her way to becoming a medical illustrator. She joined IU Health 35 years ago as Methodist Hospital’s only medical illustrator.
“It means I can draw and label the parts,” said Kester, who continued with that role for 12 years. “My artwork was always for people to learn from so when people approached me for artwork it might be for a brochure, illustrating a new surgical technique, it might be photographing a patient condition, it might mean making exhibits.”
Mainly, her work was focused on patient and physician education.
Today, she sees the mix of medicine and art as tools for drawing a bigger picture.
“I’m comfortable being creative and doing things other people consider risks,” says the woman who has enjoyed skydiving, kayaking, spelunking and 100-mile bike tours through southern Scotland. “I live in a 100-year-old house in Irvington and I love construction. That’s what I’ve done my whole life. I’ve built new ways of doing things, from new departments to constructing new ways of learning. .”
Beginning with her first job at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine where she created a medical illustration department from scratch, and again at Methodist Hospital, forming a consulting company, and now at IU Health in a newly created position Kester has been an architect of change. In her role as a senior consultant and executive coach she spends a lot of time listening to IU Heath leaders and team members offering suggestions and asking questions.
Those questions might be: “How can I develop agility to skillfully manage my own biases in various contexts?” “How can we have productive conversations in the workplace about complex cultural dynamics?” “How does a leader support a transgender team member who is transitioning?”
When Kester answers her phone, she’s never sure what the questions or requests might be.
“Part of what I do is think of creative and effective ways for people to learn and because there are 33,000 employees - who all have their own learning styles - part of what I’m helping this office do is to create well-grounded strategies for people to take hold of their own learning,” said Kester. “Typically, supporting learning means I intently listen first. Sometimes I coach by asking powerful questions. I hope to support others in building confidence to develop the skills to work through cultural conundrums, rather than avoid them.” She also works with the system’s affinity groups including Women Leaders, Minority Professionals and IU Health Pride (LGBT and Allies), and Young Professionals, and is mentoring three team member led affinity groups.
Much of her work relies on confidentiality, thought, intuition and experience to blend diverse cultures and backgrounds.
Her experience extends beyond the hospital setting.
As a doctoral candidate at IU, she based her research on developing a new system of learning to explore the meaning of illness through the language of imagery. Patients and their practitioners separately drew symbols and images defining the illness and used the system she developed to discover unique aspects important in healing. She completed her dissertation and coursework in six years, while working full time at Methodist Hospital. She currently uses this method in strengthening teams.
Her learning on the international level extended to traveling annually with teams to Guatemala, Sierra Leon, the Philippines and St. Croix, training local health workers how to educate residents about proper healthcare. And later, she joined “Teachers in Africa,” as a visiting professor at the University of Cape Coast, Ghana, preparing healthcare professionals to become nursing, and other healthcare educators, including conducting community health assessments. Their practicum entailed assessing the campus community, which included six traditional villages, after a two-month drought.
Besides travel, Kester says she still loves art.
“I mostly do painting and photography,” said Kester. “I can’t imagine ever having a time in my life when I don’t do art.”
More about Kester:
-- By T.J. Banes, Associate Senior Journalist at IU Health. Reach Banes via email email@example.com.