Q&A with Administrative Assistant Deb Thompson

photo of Thompson family
The Thompson family at a recent wedding in St. Louis, from left: Deb, Anthony, Allyson, Madalyn, Zachary and Jim.

Ever wonder what it might be like to raise triplets? Deb Thompson has done just that. Here she fondly reminisces about how they managed with the help of family and the remarkable bond these siblings now share.

What are your current duties and how long have you been with Washington University?

I am currently administrative assistant to Jason Rich, MD, Lauren Roland, MD, MSCI, Matthew Shew, MD, and Cameron Wick, MD. I have been with the Department of Otolaryngology for six years.

I have been with the university for a total of 33 years.  Prior to working with our department, I worked for the Human Research Protection Office (HRPO IRB) as their office manager.  I started there in 1988 as a secretary and worked there for 10 years, left for 2 years to move to Cincinnati, came back to the area and was re-hired by my old department and worked there until moving to Otolaryngology in 2017.

What do you like most about your work here?

photo of Deb and Jim with arms full of kids
With the triplets just six weeks old, Deb and Jim quickly learned how to balance care for four young children and the importance of help from extended family.

I love working with my team of physicians and administrative assistants.  Everyone I have encountered here has been welcoming and extremely nice. I especially enjoyed filling in on the pediatric side. It has given me a much better understanding of the whole department.  

What was your childhood like?

I grew up in a small town in Freeburg, Il, about 24 miles southeast of St. Louis.  When I graduated from high school, the town population was around 2500.   My dad was a postal worker in East St. Louis and my mom was a stay-at-home mom.  I have a brother that is just 13 months older than me and two younger sisters.  When growing up, we had three gardens – one at our house, another at our grandmother’s house, and a third on our rental property. I was kept very busy working the gardens, canning, selling produce and cutting grass.  As a child, I did not fully respect the hard work that went into gardening that I do as an adult now. How I miss having freshly grown veggies at my fingertips every day! As a child growing up in the 70’s and 80’s, we had to find ways to entertain ourselves.  Our neighborhood was full of kids, so we were always outside playing baseball, kickball, tag, riding bikes, fishing, catching fire flies, etc.

What spare time activities bring you the most joy?

In my spare time, I love spending time with my family.  I have been married to my husband Jim for 34 years and we have been blessed with four children, Zachary, 24, and soon to be 21-year-old triplets, Anthony (AJ), Allyson, and Madalyn.  We also have two dogs, Cain Robert and Layla Rose. When the children were in school they were very active and I enjoyed going to their band and choral performances, art shows, and all their sporting events. Zachary still acts in Community Theater, so I just love watching him perform. Some of my hobbies include, walking, hiking, and working outside in the yard.      

photo of the Thompson dogs
Cain and Layla are the latest additions to the brood at the Thompson household.

Do you have a favorite indulgence?

I love watching Yellowstone and Succession.  I also love strawberry ice cream. But my greatest obsession is probably volleyball. Even though I no longer play and my daughters do not play, I still enjoy watching high school volleyball.  I currently work part-time at my local YMCA and I have coached girls’ volleyball and I am currently a volleyball referee.  I would like to become licensed so I can officiate junior high and high school volleyball games.  I also serve as tournament director for a local St. Louis volleyball club team in the winter months. That takes up my weekends and some very long hours, but I love it.  I have been doing this over 7 years and I have watched a lot of young ladies turn into awesome players and have developed friendships with these kids as well as their parents.  

What would most surprise your colleagues to learn about you?

One of my biggest accomplishments would be birthing and raising triplets and a three year old as a young mother. Everyone always asks, “how did you do it?” I always answer that yes, it was challenging, and it still has it challenges, but I wouldn’t hesitate to do it all over again. We were blessed to have three healthy babies that made it to 35 weeks (without bed rest and me still working full time) and spent little time in the neonatal intensive care unit. To say we were overwhelmed when they were all home is an understatement, especially since Zachary was still just three years old. We were extremely lucky to have my parents, my in-laws and my sister-n-law help us with the kids when we were figuring out the newborn phase. Was it hard?  Extremely, but we managed. Now as adults, the girls say that they have built in best friends for life, and watching the three of them interact is just amazing. Even though they are currently attending school in three different states, to hear that they face-time everyday just makes my heart feel so warm.