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On the Job with: Maria Amador

It’s 4:30 a.m. Hair freshly brushed, posture erect, attitude upbeat, Maria Amador, patient services coordinator, is ready to start her shift. She checks the day’s roster, preparing to greet and guide as many as 2,000 people who will arrive that day, as ever, at the Outpatient Center.

You can’t miss her.

For the past seven years, Amador has been the first person visitors encounter—after the security guard—at JHOC’s main entrance. Until 2 p.m., when her shift ends, she is the chief keeper of the gate. She makes sure patients are on the roster. She creates the orange patient ID cards and updates personal information. She gives directions and handles countless requests, like where to find hotel accommodations, senior services, babysitting and, of course, the best crab cake in town.

Three people once handled her job, but now, with backup from four other patient services coordinators, she manages the work herself—and then some. Fluent in Spanish, Amador often assists International patients. With the rising number of Hispanic patients in East Baltimore, Security frequently calls on her.

Eight years ago, Amador was managing an apartment complex in Glen Burnie. In her ninth year there, the job was getting her down. One day, while taking a break in the hallway, she started crying. Tenant Kimberly Koonce, a JHOC senior patient services coordinator, happened to overhear her and urged Amador to apply for an opening in her department. Two days later, Amador was granted an interview.

When the interviewer ended the meeting with a pat “don’t call us,” Amador pleaded, “Look, I’m made for this job. Give me 90 days, and I’ll fire myself if I can’t handle it.” Astonished, the interviewer laughed. “Just go downstairs and do the paperwork. You’ve got the job!”

Amador’s supervisors have no regrets. “Maria puts customer service first,” administrative supervisor Anna Sterling-Soto says. “She sets the tone and is driven by quality. Patients come in crying, scared. Maria always calms them down.” Children are her specialty. Amador prizes watching her JHOC “babies” succeed, after seeing them arrive so sick. “Look, Mrs. Amador!” one child exclaimed recently. “My hair’s growing back!”

“I came to Hopkins and reinvented myself. I enjoy connecting with people on a human level,” says Amador. For the 400,000 patients and families who cross the JHOC threshold every year, that message is written all over her face.

—Judy Minkove




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