Vikki Mills: Leading with Her Heart

Quincey and Vikki

Quincey and Vikki

Within two minutes of meeting Victoria “Vikki” Mills, Associate Director of Research Administration Operations at Memorial Sloan Kettering, you recognize that you are in the presence of a powerful, positive force to be reckoned with, someone who is happily and energetically creating the life she wants to lead. She is deeply satisfied with her work and delighted with her family, which will soon expand — Vikki is expecting her second child in August with her fiancée, Shauna.

Loving Life

Vikki spent the first years of her life in San Diego. She remembers “good weather, trips to Sea World, and lots of diversity.” She had a “melting pot” of friends, racially and ethnically diverse, with whom she still maintains strong connections to.

When she was nine, her parents, both native New Yorkers, moved their family to Queens, returning to the city where they had grown up and where Vikki and her older brother could be raised surrounded by extended family. Vikki had a typical urban childhood — riding her bike around the neighborhood, playing Double Dutch, and “falling a lot.” An exuberant, extroverted child, she was a social butterfly who loved being around people and made friends easily.

Although never a bookworm, Vikki was a strong student who always had an interest in healthcare. After graduating from Hillcrest High School with a focus on nursing, she went to Queensborough Community College, where she earned an associate degree in health sciences.

“I toggled between clinical and administration majors in college and finally decided to go the administrative route,” she says. Several years later, after getting her bachelor’s degree in health services administration from Lehman College in the Bronx, she went to Baruch College in Manhattan for a master’s in public administration.

Along the way, she held a series of jobs, none of them in healthcare. “I worked as a bank teller, a restaurant hostess, I sold shoes at Sears,” Vikki recalls. After five years as an administrative assistant at the advertising agency, McCann Erickson, headquartered across the street from MSK’s midtown Manhattan offices at 633 Third Avenue, she passed her resume on to a friend who worked at MSK.

Creating a Career

Although Vikki can’t say for sure where her resume went after she gave it to her friend, it eventually led to an interview with Jamie Ostroff, an MSK psychologist and the Joseph Gaumont Chair of Cancer Prevention, who offered Vikki a job on her team in Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences as an administrative research secretary. It was time to start that career in healthcare she had always dreamed about.

Vikki was thrilled. “Finally, I was working in a hospital! I told Dr. Ostroff during my interview, ‘I’ll learn anything I don’t know, and I will succeed in this job.’ I was so glad to join MSK and I never looked back.”

In 2020, she accepted a manager position in the Office of Research and Project Administration (ORPA). A few months later, she was promoted into her present position, Associate Director, Research Administration Operations, overseeing the research administrative operations team.

“I realized in Psychiatry that I love the research field and wanted to continue in it,” she says. “Moving to ORPA allowed me to keep doing the same kind of work that I enjoy and also introduced me to a new area of MSK.”

Creating a Family

Vikki is the mother of 4-year-old Quincey, who has joined her in marching with MSK’s LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer) employee resource network (ERN) in previous Pride Month parades, handing out MSK sunscreen and thoroughly enjoying the festivities. She still marvels at the confluence of events, and the concerted effort, that led to the wonder of Quincey.  

“Quincey’s dad is a gay man, who’s married, and lives in Boston,” says Vikki. Several years ago, they learned, while exchanging comments on Facebook, that they both wanted children. When their Facebook exchange turned into discussions over the phone, the idea of becoming parents suddenly seemed like a real possibility — and embarking on this path together, through a budding friendship, was exciting to each of them.

“I had already looked into sperm banks and was planning to start that process when this other possibility presented itself,” says Vikki. “It seemed like a great solution for both of us.”

They made the decision to co-parent and set about planning for the pregnancy, which led happily to the arrival of Quincey in 2016. Quincey lives with Vikki in the Bronx but sees his dads often.

“I function like a single mom,” says Vikki, adding that it was especially difficult during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. “This situation wouldn’t work for everyone, but we make it work. It allowed us to have Quincey, who we all love very much.”

Quincey at PRIDE March

Quincey at a Pride March

As she looks forward to the birth of her second child, a girl, due in early August, Vikki is also planning to marry for the first time.

“I met [my fiancée] Shauna at a Fourth of July barbecue in 2018,” Vikki says. “She was working the grill at one point, and I flirtatiously asked if she would make sure I got one of the shrimp skewers as soon as they were ready. That was the beginning.” To this day, Vikki still teases Shauna for giving her the very last two skewers of the batch, rather than responding to her request for the first one, hot off the grill.

They dated for several months and then formed a serious relationship the following year, 2019. Shauna proposed to Vikki on December 31, 2020, during one of the darkest periods of the pandemic.

The baby Vikki is carrying was created through reciprocal in vitro fertilization (IVF) — Shauna’s embryo was used, but Vikki is the one who will soon give birth to their daughter. Reciprocal IVF gives lesbian partners the chance to both be actively, physically involved in building their families. It was also important to Vikki, who already had a child that she was genetically related to, “to see Shauna in our baby.” Sharing pregnancy and birth with her romantic partner is a transformative joy that she wasn’t sure she would ever experience.

Shauna and Quincey also share a special dynamic, an underlying connection that Vikki calls their “instant Leo bond,” which she attributes to them having August birthdays about a week apart. “When Shauna and I first met at the barbecue, Quincey — who was just about to turn two — was right there with me, so she was well aware that I came as a package deal,” says Vikki. “One of the things I have appreciated about Shauna the most is that she always included Quincey in our outings and even at times selected places for us to go that were kid-friendly and centered around him having a great time,” she says.

Quincey knows that a wedding is in the future — “He is able to tell you that Shauna put a ring on Mommy’s finger that stays on forever” — and a new baby; he is very excited to become a big brother. And Vikki is excited to have finally found her life partner and to be a mother to boy/girl siblings.

“I used to dream of this life, and now I’m living it,” she says.

The Meaning of Pride Month

Pride is a very personal, reflective time for Vikki. “I remember who I was when I was younger, suppressing crushes and feelings, not being forthcoming about how I felt,” she explains. “Today, I’m so proud to be who I am and to have navigated life the way I wanted to.”

She appreciates the support she’s received from colleagues at MSK and her involvement in the LGBTQ ERN, where she has served for a few years on the communications council, which has enabled her to meet people from across MSK who have had similar experiences to her own. She is also grateful for the health insurance available to her as an employee: Because her health insurance covers IVF, it has enabled her to build her family as she has. 

“I appreciate MSK’s commitment to its employees, with all our differences,” Vikki says. “It makes me feel seen and supported; it has allowed me to create this life I’ve always wanted.”