Employee of the Month – Irina Polusmak

April 2018, Department of Medicine

Irina Polusmak, executive assistant to the Chair of the Department of Medicine, is “the definition of a perfectionist,” according to her colleagues.

Irina’s job requires a lot of multitasking—as she puts it, “My day consists of juggling multiple scheduling and rescheduling requests, coordinating travel and different projects on behalf of my chair, and making sure his life is as organized as possible.” Her colleagues say this is putting it lightly. Robert Harrington, MD, professor of medicine and chair of the department, is “extremely busy,” but Irina is always around to help.

More than what’s asked of her

Many of Irina’s colleagues cited specifically her willingness to do more than what’s asked of her.  “She’s constantly busy but is never too busy to help if needed,” Talia Ochoa says.  “I am a new employee who is still learning the ropes. Whenever I need clarification she is always there to assist. When given a task she takes it and goes the extra mile. If a visitor is lost, rather than trying to give directions she will stop what she is doing and physically take them to their desired location.”

But that’s not all, Ochoa says: “Irina organizes the office events and tries to make everyone feel special. Tonya, one of the administrators that retired, loved Disney. The office agreed they wanted to do a Disney theme cake. Due to copyrights the bakery was unable to provide that option. Irina printed Disney characters, physically cut them, laminated, and glued to sticks to use as cake decorations.”

Helena McCombie, director of administration for the office of the chair, adds, “She helps the new staff in our suite by guiding them around campus, around the ins and outs of financial transactions and travel arrangements. She is really considered a mentor within the group.  Irina has gone outside our office to teach other admins in the department and in the school about travel arrangements and scheduling for executives. Not because she has to, but because she want to share her knowledge.”

Christina Milcarek has yet another example: “I needed her assistance while submitting expense reports.  She quickly had a solution for me, and I was able to get the expenses submitted only moments after I spoke with her.”

And Jeannie Trump says: “She welcomed me to the Dept of Med admin group, showed me the layout of the department, who she reported to and what her role was. Each time I had a question, she always responded promptly and efficiently.”

Grace and poise

Multiple colleagues cite Irina’s “grace and poise” under pressure.  “She is a helpful fountain of knowledge to her colleagues and will pull out all the stops to make sure things are done in a prompt manner,” Francesca Apalis says.

Sonoo Thadaney, MBA, executive director of Presence, sums it up nicely: “Irina is one of those rare employees who always has a smile, is attentive to every detail, gracious and caring. She takes initiative in being aware of what needs to be done and does it! Wish we could clone her!”

Irina, who’s been working in healthcare for 15 years but came to the Department of Medicine 16 months ago, loves Stanford as much as her colleagues love her. She says she loves “being part of ground-breaking science and innovation. You can never get bored at Stanford, because there’s always something big and exciting happening here.”

She calls the award “completely unexpected,” and adds, “I was very touched and proud. I always strive to do my very best for my executive and for my team and it feels awesome to be recognized for your efforts!”

In her free time, she enjoys pet photography “(my King Charles Cavalier Spaniel Toby is my best model,” she says), all things vintage (she’s a member of the Art Deco Society), and hosting afternoon tea parties.