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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 Bellamy.   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 in radiology.

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 the tradition.

Chanelle is a third-generation employee. Until she retired, Vivian Parham, Chanelle's grandmother, supervised the cafeteria. Chanelle's mother, patient
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 me."

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, I do."

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 Delinski.

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 his resume."

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

 

 

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