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On the Job with: Alvin Henson


His life was saved at Bayview. Now Alvin Henson, an enterprising receiving supervisor, is returning the favor.

Asked if he knows many people at Bayview, Alvin Henson replies in all seriousness, “I know everybody.” The funny thing is, he probably does. The outgoing, indefatigable receiving supervisor is one of Bayview’s most familiar figures. As Henson himself puts it, he’s always “moving and shaking.”

Indeed, last year, when a construction worker fell from a tower to the rooftop of the Triad Building, a call went out on the radio asking for sheets and towels. While others sat at their desks wondering how they could help, Henson sped to the nearest nurses station, grabbed an armful of linens, and dashed up to the rooftop, where he aided the injured worker as an ED team was on the way.

Based at the National Institute on Drug Abuse’s Bayview headquarters, Henson is one of more than 100 Bayview employees who work on a federal contract in support of NIDA’s intramural research program. As receiving supervisor, he handles all the federal purchase orders. He keeps track of everything that comes in—chemicals, reagents, antibodies, delicate equipment, hazardous materials and the like—and everything that’s shipped out. He enters information into the federal procurement system. He oversees the mail room, NIDA’s receiving operations at two other Bayview buildings, and he supervises four employees.

Scientists at NIDA study the causes and effects of addiction. Rubbing elbows with these men and women makes Henson proud. A longtime resident and native son of East Baltimore (he grew up on Washington Street), Henson knows firsthand the toll drug addiction takes on a community. “The things happening here at NIDA will one day abate that problem,” he says. “I feel the work I’m doing is worthwhile.”

Seventeen years ago, Henson was stabbed on the streets of East Baltimore. The butcher knife went through his arm, severed his radial nerve, penetrated his chest and punctured a lung. He was taken by ambulance to Bayview. It took him several years to get back on his feet, and during that time, he was out of work and on welfare.

Then, through a federal jobs program, Henson wound up at Bayview. He was determined to give back to the very institution he credits with saving his life, and after eight weeks, he was hired, an official Bayview employee. “It was September 1992. I’ll never forget it.”

Henson’s climb up the career ladder began in Housekeeping, where he cleaned floors in Labor and Delivery. He soon became a patient aide. When, after two years, his position was abolished due to cost-cutting strategies, he worked on the A Building loading dock as a materials handler in Maintenance of Facilities. He was promoted to inventory control specialist, maintaining a $300,000 inventory. In October 2003, Henson landed his current job.

“He’s the best hire I ever made,” says Henson’s supervisor, NIDA operations manager Charles Valentine. Since Henson’s arrival, Valentine adds, “our top scientists have noticed a difference. The staff deliver packages on time, they’re always smiling, they go the extra mile.”

A perennial volunteer who typically takes a role in the annual United Way campaigns, Henson has won his fair share of employee awards, including the prestigious “Shining Star.” It’s this type of involvement, says Henson, that makes people gravitate to him. “My phone never stops ringing, my e-mail never stops coming. I’m just involved. That’s how I try to motivate other employees. I try to lead by example.”

—Anne Bennett Swingle

 

 

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