What’s Your Job? Radiation Safety Specialist with Erica Dill

What’s your job? is a series focused on the work of FP&M employees. As the largest and most diverse nonacademic unit on campus, it can be challenging to learn everything our division is responsible for. These stories shine a light on FP&Mers and what they do to keep campus safe, sustainable and successful.

Erica Dill, wearing one of her lead aprons before using radiology equipment. Photo by Veronika Dethart.

Doctors and medical staff do everything in their power to keep us safe, but have you ever wondered who keeps them safe? Meet Erica Dill, a dedicated Radiation Safety Specialist, ensuring the well-being of students, faculty, and staff at UW-Madison. With a passion for her field and a commitment to the welfare of her campus community, Erica’s journey through the world of Radiation Safety is a testament to the critical importance of her role in FP&M’s Environment, Health & Safety (EH&S) department which encompasses different safety sub-departments such as biological, chemical and Erica’s Radiation Safety.

As the coordinator of the Lead Apron Program at UW-Madison, Erica oversees an inventory of 4,000 lead aprons, which serve as critical protective equipment against radiation. These aprons are subjected to two crucial tests to ensure their integrity. The first, known as the transmission test, uses an ion chamber to gauge the apron’s ability to protect against radiation. The second test, fluoroscopy, involves laying the apron on a table and taking a live X-ray to identify any cracks or wear.

Erica’s role also involves tracking the journey of these 4,000 aprons, from their vendor to various hospital departments. Her work involves coordination and quality control which is important for research and medical care on campus. Erica does this by tracking aprons by tag number in a web base and checking the year it was last tested. She spends one-to-two days a week testing as new aprons come in weekly.

Erica Dill testing a lead apron with a fluoroscopy test. This involves an imaging technique that uses X-rays to check the apron. Photo by Veronika Dethart.

Erica has implemented a color tag system to indicate the year it was last tested. This way, those using the aprons can check the color as an indication of if it needs to be tested or if it is still safe to wear.

Despite joining FP&M only ten months ago, Erica brings a wealth of experience from her 15 years as an X-ray technician at UW Health. She appreciates the flexibility her new role offers, transitioning from clinical patient care while still engaging with medical workers and operating room employees. She also enjoys the collaborative aspect of working with the UW healthcare community to help them carry out their daily duties.

Erica’s role allows her to see functionality and design together. In her opinion, one of the most captivating aspects of her job is the diversity in the design and colors of the aprons.

“Our preferred vendor has a wide range of design patterns and colors to choose from,” said Erica. “Some departments elect to use one constant design or color to help differentiate what belongs in what department. Others allow their staff to choose their own design or color to fit their personality.”

Erica also finds value in making sure people are properly protected. She recently launched a web-based training on how to store and care for lead aprons. Over 700 employees have completed the training so far.

“I have had a few comments that it has been a great reminder on best practices and ways to increase the longevity of the apron,” said Erica.

Erica is a Wisconsin native who has called the state home for her entire life. With a background in both early childhood education and radiology, her work for EH&S aligns with her dream of contributing to the medical field and serving her local community.

One of Erica’s proudest professional accomplishments is the transformation she has brought to her current role. When she arrived, there were 1,500 aprons overdue for testing. With her hard work, she reduced this number to less than 500 in her first three months at the job.

Looking ahead, Erica envisions herself continuing to enhance the Lead Apron Program. With a nine-year-old at home, she hopes to stay in Wisconsin working to keep our community of healthcare and research workers safe.

Want to learn more about the Lead Apron Program? More information is available on the EH&S Radiation Safety webpage. You can get in touch with Erica at erica.dill@wisc.edu

By Hannah Rifkin and Megan Wu

Hannah Rifkin is a strategic communications student intern with FP&M Marketing & Communications. She is a senior at UW-Madison majoring in Journalism. Hannah has been working at FP&M since Fall of 2023.

Megan Wu was a strategic communications student intern with FP&M Marketing & Communications last year. She graduated with a B.S. in Psychology and a Business Minor at UW-Madison in 2023, and now pursues a Masters degree at New York University.