All in the Family
"That best academy, a mother's knee."
-James Russell Lowell
|This side, clockwise from left:
Beverly and Kevin Comegys, Kathy Brown and Crissy Watson,
Juanita and Nicol Jenkins, Deborah Bradley-Garland and Angela
Garland, Evelyn and Terri Mullins, Nikiya Walston and Fraun
||This side, clockwise from
upper left: Stephanie Reel and Heather Cass, Torey Serio and
Cindy Delinski, Dorothea English and Maurice Elmore Jr., Hope
and Jeff Marsh, Stacey and Joan Becker, Chanelle Matthews
and Myra Turner.
How many people who work throughout Johns Hopkins Medicine are related
to each other, particularly mothers and their children? Statistics seem
not to exist, but given the thousands of people employed here, one would
guess the number could be significant. Anecdotally, at least, that's what
Dome found from a highly unscientific survey. Here are the stories from
just a few of the pairs we unearthed.
As a kid, Kevin Comegys liked to take things apart and could
talk his way out of anything. His mother, Beverly, thought he'd
become a lawyer. Perhaps that was because she'd worked at Hopkins Hospital's
legal department for 12 years before taking time off to have her family-two
sons and a daughter. She returned, as a School of Medicine employee,
and today, she's assistant to vice dean Michael Klag.
In high school, Kevin became interested in computers, and after graduation
he landed a summer internship at the Johns Hopkins Medicine Center for
Information Services. When JHMCIS offered him a part-time job, he jumped
at the chance. He juggled college and work for three semesters, then
decided to work full-time. His superiors tried to talk him out of it,
afraid he wouldn't finish his degree. But he has yet to miss a semester
and expects to finish next year. Now a network technician in desktop
computing, Kevin's says "I learn more here than at the university,
and they pay me to be here."
Debbie Garland was at her usual post in the dining room with
books flung across the table. Her daughter, Angela, interrupted.
"Ma, What's scoliosis?"
Debbie, studying for her pathophysiology mid-term, shooed her away.
But her daughter's curiosity came back to haunt her: The first five
questions on the exam were on scoliosis. "She was 10," says
Debbie. "Even then she was interested in the medical field."
Debbie and Angela are a lot alike. They worked in the same fast-food
restaurant, graduated from the same nursing school (Coppin State) and
now work as nurses on the same Hopkins Hospital unit (Weinberg 4). Angela
remembers her mother "not exactly struggling, but she did whatever
she could for her children."
Angela halts, turns away, her eyes filling up, then plows ahead. "It
wasn't easy for her, raising three kids, going to school, working full-time,
and making sure we had everything. She helped with our homework, took
us shopping, took us places. We had a really happy childhood!"
Given her mother's example, Angela knew exactly what she wanted to pursue.
"I was lucky to have someone to show me that nursing wasn't only
about blood and washing people up," says Angela. "All my friends
wanted to do cosmetology."
Debbie, an assistant nurse manager, didn't tell anyone when Angela got
a job on her unit last year, but within the first two hours everyone
knew she was "Debbie's daughter." In September, she begins
graduate school for dual master's degrees in nursing administration
and business administration. Just like her mother.
Juanita Jenkins has worked at Hopkins Hospital for 30 years,
the entirety of her daughter Nicol's life. As a child, Nicol
would wave to her mother through the glass of a nearby daycare center
or sometimes wait for her mother until the end of her shift as an escort
Juanita moved into a clerical position in human resources after 10 years,
then became an administrative secretary in the Department of Nutrition
a decade later. She thought Nicol would follow her into the clerical
field. "She liked paper, pens and she always wrote me notes when
she was unhappy." In 1989, Nicol was offered a full-time job in
Hopkins Hospital's admitting office and is currently staff assistant
at the Comprehensive Transplant Center. "I wanted her to
work here," says Juanita. "Hopkins offers good programs. I
thought it'd be a good stepping stone for her." Yet few people
know they're related. "She doesn't want anybody to know she has
a daughter my age," laughs Nicol. "She always says, 'Be professional.
I work here. People know me.'"
Growing up, Heather Cass wanted to be a teacher or a nurse or
maybe a meteorologist. Her mother thought she was born to be a nurse.
In fact, when Cass was small, her mother used to whisper in her ear,
Become a nurse, become a nurse while her daughter slept. "I'm dead
serious," swears Stephanie Reel, the chief information officer
for both Johns Hopkins Medicine and the Johns Hopkins University. "She's
unflappable, and I intuitively thought she should go into nursing, because
she can be both compassionate and objective."
As a college freshman, Cass chose nutrition for a major. Then she read
about Hopkins pediatric neurologist John Freeman and his ketogenic diet
for kids with epilepsy. The idea fascinated her, and she wrote to Freeman
offering to do anything in exchange for an unpaid internship. She spent
that summer following nurses and doctors and going to clinics. She decided
to become a nurse.
Today Cass, who's expecting her first child this month with husband
Nathan Cass, a medical technologist in immunology, is working with John
Freeman again as his research coordinator. Her stepfather, Howard Reel,
is director of facilities for Hopkins Hospital. The one she's least
likely to see at work, however, is her mother. Once, they had lunch.
"We walked and ate frozen yogurt, from the cafeteria to her next
meeting," says Cass.
Yet her mother's career has had a huge influence on her. "I grew
up with parents who were so very equal," says Cass. "It taught
me to feel the sky's the limit. That was her best gift as a mother."
For Chanelle Matthews and Stacey Becker, Howard County
General Hospital is in the blood. Growing up, both lived across the
street from the hospital and knew a lot of the staff. Their mothers
are long-time employees of HCGH, and now Chanelle and Stacey are continuing
Chanelle is a third-generation employee. Until she retired, Vivian Parham,
Chanelle's grandmother, supervised the cafeteria. Chanelle's mother,
financial coordinator Myra Turner, has logged more than 20 years
on the payroll.
Stacey Becker always had an interest in medicine but couldn't decide
how to channel it. She tinkered with respiratory therapy, art therapy,
and psychology in college, then became a medical records coder at HCGH
where her mother, Joan Becker, has worked since the hospital opened.
Stacey loves coding. "You're a
detective all day long," she says. "You have to figure out
everything that was done to the patient."
Meanwhile Chanelle Matthews, 19, works as a telecommunications specialist
for Stacey's mom, Joan Becker, who is director of telecommunications.
"It's like a family here," says Stacey.
In the nearly six years she's been with Bayview's rehabilitation services,
starting as a referral coordinator and working her way up to office
manager, Terri Mullins has earned quite a reputation. And her
mother is the one who hears about it.
"So many people have stopped to tell me about her helpfulness,
her kindness, how she's done something to make their job easier. That
makes me think, Hey, Mom, you raised her right."
The work ethic Evelyn Mullins instilled in her daughter is evident
in the way she attacks her own job. Team leader for outpatient medical
records at Bayview, Evelyn pulls about 600 existing charts a day, creates
75 new ones, and handles up to 45 records for prescriptions alone. "That's
two and a half feet of paper," marvels Terri. "On the Saturdays
when I've come in to help her, I end up saying, Mom, you're killing
Evelyn's been keeping Bayview patient charts in line for 15 years. After
high school, Terri worked with Bayview rehab services as an outside
vendor. When an opening cropped up at the medical center, she took it.
Recently, she was offered a higher-paying job at another hospital, but
turned it down. "I do want to move up," she says, "but
I have no plans to leave here. I enjoy the people. And I love working
with Mom. She has been my best friend and my biggest hero."
As the assistant to Assistant Vice Dean Christine White, Cindy Delinski
is used to fielding unusual questions. One of her favorites: Do you
know how I can get hold of the mail guy? Her instantaneous answer? "Yes,
Salvatore Serio knew his mother worked at Hopkins, but didn't
think much about it when he was a kid. During middle school, coming
in for doctor visits, his main impression was that the hospital was
strange and big. "Torey did love the elevators," remembers
Delinski. "He could have ridden up and down them forever."
Four years ago, at age 19, Serio returned home after a hitch in the
Army. When two months went by and he hadn't found work, Delinski told
him about openings in the Hopkins mailroom. "What she said,"
cracks Serio, "was, You have to get a job."
Serio applied for and got the part-time position delivering mail around
the East Baltimore campus, and quickly became full time when a co-worker
went on maternity leave. The work, he says, suits him. "I don't
like sitting still."
They don't meet for lunch ("He says he doesn't have time for that,"
explains Delinski), but Serio's mail route takes him to the dean's office
twice a day, and the two ride to and from work together. "I see
him more now than when he was a teenager living at home," says
As for Serio, now he knows what Delinski does. "There's more to
it than what I thought," he says.
He may be only 17 and just finishing his junior year at Patterson High
School, but Maurice Elmore Jr. has already learned that what
keeps an organization humming is its records. "The toughest part
of my job," says the part-time billing reimbursement file clerk
at Hopkins' Home Care Group, "is when things are misfiled, or when
there should be a folder and there isn't one." The best part? "It's
good work experience," he says. "And the people in my department
are a lot of fun."
Elmore landed the position last July, after his mother, Dorothea
English, learned about the opening and "put in a word"
for him. He worked the remainder of the summer and now comes in every
day he has a break from school.
"He's learning a lot about health care," says English, who
joined the Home Care Group a little over two years ago and helps the
hospice team clinic managers stay on top of their paperwork. "He
likes it because it keeps him busy. I like it because he can start building
Earlier this year, when Bayview employment benefits manager Hope
Marsh asked a colleague to talk to her son, her idea was to get
the new Towson University graduate some practice at job interviewing.
Instead, she says, the recruiter took one look at Jeff Marsh
and sent him off on a real interview.
Jeff, who majored in history and could see himself doing historical
research ("if someone would pay me"), is happy he signed on
three months ago as a secretary in Bayview's Office of Patient Relations.
"I can do customer service," he says. "I'm perfectly
happy making other people happy." Now he's thinking about getting
fluent in American Sign Language. "If I stay in patient relations,
I could be much more useful to the hospital."
Hope and Jeff work in different buildings but get together for lunch
every couple of weeks. They don't talk shop, and Jeff doesn't ask his
mother's advice. "If I have a question," he points out, "I've
got an office full of people to turn to." The two also don't advertise
their kinship, but their pride in each other is clear.
"I got my patience from Mom," says Jeff. "She inspired
my work ethic, seeing how she took care of us kids through five or six
relocations while we were growing up. Now, she's going back to school
for her master's degree." "And," beams Hope, "he's
going with me."
For three years, Fraun Bellamy has been a quality assurance analyst
at Johns Hopkins HealthCare, monitoring how well the organization's
customer service representatives handle telephone calls. The standards
are tough, and Bellamy meets with each of her reps monthly to help keep
them on target. One rep she doesn't audit is Nikiya Walston.
"I'm not saying this because she's my daughter," says Bellamy,
"but she's really caring with the callers. That's why I thought
she'd be good for the job."
The two are close-they live together, eat together, shop together-and
when Walston needs on-the-job advice, she turns to Bellamy first. "She
had me at a young age," says Walston, "but she made sure I
went to school and did my homework. She's always helped me, always been
there for me."
"Still," says Bellamy, "work is work. They all know I
don't audit Niki, and if I did, there wouldn't be any type of favoritism."
"You two act like you're the mother now," Kathy Brown has
said to her two daughters, Melissa and Crissy Watson. Last October,
Kathy, a documentation coordinator for Pharmaquip, was the first of
the three to join the Johns Hopkins Home Care Group. Two months later,
customer service representative Crissy arrived, followed by Melissa,
a Medicare collections specialist, in March. The trio had previously
worked together for another medical equipment supplier, and it was Melissa
and Crissy who encouraged their mother to try something new. Kathy always
expected to be a stay-at-home mom. When her daughters were 12 and 15,
she returned to school to brush up her office skills.
Their move to the Home Care Group has suited all of them. "One
of my main reasons for coming here was because it's more like a career,"
says Crissy. "The people are so nice. I just started in December,
but they had a baby shower for me, and Kaitlyn was born in March. I
also wanted to be with Mom. She is over-protective-'She walked me to
high school!' chimes in Melissa-but that's OK. You know you have someone
to turn to."
-By Mary Ann Ayd and Mary Ellen Miller