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Pieces of Eight

Mary Faison, a medical transcriptionist at the Brody School of Medicine, relies on sound, smells and training to make her way without her eyesight, which she lost while in her junior year of college. (Photo by Judy Currin)


Faison Inspires through Dedication, Independence

In coordination with the Recognition and Rewards Committee of the ECU Staff Senate, the Pieces of Eight series honoring exceptional ECU staff recognizes Mary Faison.

By Judy Currin

Mary Faison didn’t pay much attention to the headaches that plagued her during her junior year at North Carolina AT&T State University in Greensboro.

Majoring in social work, she carried a typically heavy workload, attended classes, completed homework and required reading, which often kept her up until the wee hours of the morning.

“I attributed the headaches to keeping late hours and just being tired,” said Faison, now an administrative medical transcriptionist in pediatrics for the Brody School of Medicine.

“Until the morning I woke up without my eyesight.”

Pseudotumor Cerebri was the diagnosis. Faison explained the condition more simply. “Intracranial pressure severed my optic nerve,” she said.

Unable to continue her studies, Faison enrolled in the School for the Blind located in Butner. “It was the first step in preparing me for adjusting to a sightless world,” Faison said.

The first order of business was to learn ‘cane travel.’ She was required to map out routes on a raised map of Durham, pick a point and travel it successfully the next day using the techniques she had been taught. And while the instructor was always near, Faison said he never said a word in reference to keeping her safe.

Faison applied these valuable travel skills when she moved to Pitt County to be closer to her family and enrolled at Pitt Community College. “I learned the entire campus and was able to travel independently from class to class successfully making it on time always,” she said.

While attending the School for the Blind, Faison also learned listening skills. “I had to develop different ways of always being aware of my surroundings by sound,” she said. “Once this was developed it became second hand and even more skills, such as my sense of smell, came into play.” She learned to read Braille and to type on a Selectra II typewriter.

“I had my first transcription class at Butner,” Faison said. “We would visit doctor’s offices and I knew then that this was a career path I would be comfortable in.”

She obtained a degree in medical transcription from Pitt Community College and applied for the position she now holds at Brody.

“My mother and I prayed that God would open the door for me for this job,” Faison said. “He did. That was 23 years ago.”

Using honed travel skills proved helpful in learning how to get around Brody. But the most helpful information came from one of her former bosses at Brody.

“He provided me with a mental picture of the building when he described it as a square doughnut,” Faison said.

She began her career using an electric typewriter with a standard keyboard, a Braille dictionary and a Dictaphone.

“Looking back on those early days, the work was taxing because I had to stop and re-wind the tape recorder again and again to make sure I didn’t miss anything,” Faison said.

Within a year, she received her first computer utilizing a synthesized speech system. And while this program provided voice output of the material displayed on the computer screen, Faison said the voice was so synthesized it was hard to understand. Today she uses Centricity EMR, an electronic medical record system that enables care physicians and clinical staff to document patient encounters, streamline clinical workflow, and securely exchange clinical data with other providers, patients and information systems.

“Mary is a dedicated employee who never allows her disability to hinder her attitude or her drive to succeed,” said supervisor Kim Scarborough. “I am in awe of her independence.”

Faison is a member and regular attendee of New Jerusalem Holy Church where she sings in the choir. “Keeping busy keeps me happy,” Faison said.

And while she has no children of her own, Faison didn’t hesitate to step up her support and encouragement for her nephew, Christopher, when he lost his mother two years ago.

“I just tried to keep him focused and in school,” Faison said. Christopher recently graduated from AT&T State University and is interviewing this month with Lockheed Martin.

“Mary is especially loved by her family,” Scarborough said. “After working with her for several years it’s easy to see why. She inspires me daily.”

This page originally appeared in the October 26, 2007 issue of Pieces of Eight. Complete issue is archived at