Blue Devil of the Week: Bringing the Human Touch to Computer Technology

IT Manager Shelton Perry helps ensure Duke Health System’s online backbone stays strong

Duke Health Technology Solution's Shelton Perry helps keeps the vital computing functions of Duke Health System going.
Duke Health Technology Solution's Shelton Perry helps keeps the vital computing functions of Duke Health System going.

Name: Shelton Perry

Title: IT Manager, Service Operations, Duke Health Technology Solutions (DHTS)

Years at Duke: 29

What he does: The scale of the facility that houses the Service Operations wing of Duke Health Technology Solutions illustrates just how big its job is. Rooms filled with servers and network equipment sprout from the long hallways in the warehouse-sized building in Research Triangle Park. Nearby, support staff operate a call center, solving whatever quirks users on the other end of all this computing infrastructure encounter.

This is where the guts – both hardware and humans – of the sprawling computer system that keeps Duke Health System running reside. Shelton Perry’s office is in the middle of it all.

Perry has worked at Duke since 1987, when he got his first job doing various temporary jobs in the health system. Since 1997, he’s worked at DHTS, where he’s seen technology, and the needs of Duke Health System, evolve.

These days, Perry manages a staff of 12 analysts who monitor the performance of the systems that handle patient information, scheduling systems and lab data, making sure it all functions smoothly. 

What he loves about Duke: A Durham native, Perry’s relationship with Duke began in 1978 when, a gun accident left his eight-year old body riddled with shotgun pellets. He ended up spending a month at Duke University Hospital as doctors saved his life and brought him closer to normalcy.

He distinctly remembers the joy a young doctor showed when, after taking a bandage off of his damaged right eye, Perry could see again.

“He jumped up and down,” Perry said. “He grabbed my mom and picked her up. They were both just celebrating.”

“It’s not just Duke,” Perry said when speaking about what he loves about Duke. “It’s what behind Duke, it’s the people. Ever since that incident, I knew I wanted to have the same tenacity and caring that was given to me by the people that worked at Duke and gave me that care.”

Memorable days at work: Hanging behind his desk is the Presidential Award Perry received last year. He was given the award for his positivity and selflessness.

The habit that was singled out by the co-workers in his nomination was his willingness to hop in his Ford F-150 pickup truck whenever snow or ice hits and bring food to the DHTS staff on duty. He said he’d often get some meals from nearby fast-food joints or, if possible, bring some homemade baked chicken.

“We’re essential staff, so even when it snows, we have to come in,” Perry said. “And when my co-workers are in, I want to make sure they’re not alone. I’m either going to show up with them or I’m going to make sure they have what they need.”
Most important object in his workspace: On Perry’s desk, he has photos of his family, 13-year old son Daniel, 20-year old daughter Danielle and his wife, Tracey Perry.

“They make me want to work harder,” Perry said. “My job as a parent is to provide for them.”

Best advice received: Perry said advice he received from his father about speaking up for what you believe in has always stuck with him.

“My father would always say that, ‘In order to make a difference, you have to participate,’” Perry said. “He would say ‘Even being silent makes a statement. It’s just the opposite statement than what you want.’

“I use that a lot when I’m talking to my kids. ‘When you’re silent, you’re saying a lot. It’s just not what you think you want to say.’”

First ever job: In addition to his work with DHTS, Perry also oversees Perry & Son Construction, which was started by his late father, James Perry. The company specializes in home renovations.

“Lately I’ve been doing a lot of bathroom remodeling,” Perry said. “I only work on the weekends. That’s the best part about it.”

The elder Perry ran the company and Shelton’s earliest job was that of his father’s helper.

“I did everything from masonry work to carpentry,” Perry said. “I learned everything from that.”

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