Employee of the Month – Helen Luikart

January 2018, Cardiovascular Medicine

Helen Luikart, RN, MSN, CCRC, is a fixture in her division. She’s worked at Stanford for 29 years—as she puts it, she arrived as “a young travel nurse in 1985 from Baton Rouge, Louisiana,” and with the exception of a two-year travel gap, she’s been here ever since in various capacities. She’s currently the Clinical Research Nurse Manager for the Stanford Heart Transplant Program in Cardiovascular Medicine.

Coworkers describe her as “the quintessential great nurse manager” and a “consummate professional.” And learning more about her career serves as a lesson in multitasking.

A wide scope

Ask Luikart about her day-to-day responsibilities, and you get a truly astonishing amount of information. Broadly, she says, “I project manage about 8 clinical and translational research projects.  Some enroll patients, so I go to transplant clinic to screen and talk to patients 2 days a week, enroll and consent.  Depending on the project, I set up and coordinate collection of lab sample and tissue. If it’s a drug study then I coordinate the placebo and drug elements. I supervise two CRCA who each take on two of the bigger studies.”

In case that wasn’t enough, she adds, “I go to a lot of meetings, most importantly with my PI Kiran Khush, an incredible clinician, person, and researcher. I also go to many internal clinical conferences so I can keep up with the clinical protocols as well as track adverse events and anticipate study-related issues.”

But that’s not all: she also recruits and hires staff, provides guidance and mentoring to existing staff, monitors projects, develops budgets, and much, much more. Sharon Hunt, MD, adds, “I have known her and been her friend for many years and can’t think of anyone more appropriate for this award.”

The “instutional memory” of a program

Luikart’s PI, Kiran Khush, MD, MAS, her supervisor for the past ten years, overflows with praise for her.

She describes Helen as “incredibly dedicated,” “a great teacher and a great role model. She is excited about her work, always willing to learn about and help launch new research projects, is a tireless patient advocate, and just makes sure things get done, and get done right.”

Julie Gordon agrees, citing Luikart’s “incredible institutional knowledge: she’s everyone’s go-to when they have a question.”

With so much on her plate, you’d imagine that Luikart would have to love her job. And she does.

“I have been fortunate to have worked with pioneers and then and now some of the most amazing, brilliant, dedicated individuals whom I respect and enjoy,” she says. “What I get to do is an honor--to take care of these brave patients who get a second chance in life. I try to never take this for granted.”

Her other interests

One thing that becomes immediately clear about Luikart is that she doesn’t really slow down. When asked about hobbies and interests outside of work, she talks about volunteering. She’s been the staff advisor for the Heart Transplant Patient and Family Advisory Council since 2011, which she calls “very gratifying, interesting and a fun way to give to a group of very grateful patients.”

Or she talks about teaching, as an associate non-salaried clinical professor at UCSF, or taking on graduate nursing students for clinical rotations.

Her actual (somewhat restful) hobbies include traveling, snorkeling, skiing, exploring national parks and being a foodie, with a special emphasis on her southern Louisiana roots. She loves to do all of these things with her husband of 30 years and her two sons. As she puts it, “We like to cook and eat a lot. We are very fortunate.”