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Proud New Grads

blank Ed Norton
Newly minted surgical techs, from left, Deborah Louden, Erion Williams, Marquisha Phillips, Robin Price, Deirdre Wright and Melissa Lee.

Deborah Louden had always found surgery fascinating. But much as she dreamed of becoming a surgical tech, the veteran secretary in Bayview’s Department of Neurosurgery recognized her limits. The grandmother of four was pushing 50 and had earned only a few college credits.

Nevertheless, Louden did a little digging. Her investigation led her to Project REACH, a workforce development program originally funded by the U.S. Department of Labor and now by Human Resources. Since it began in 2004, hundreds of Health System employees have been trained for allied health care jobs like respiratory therapy and pharmacy techs.

Project REACH developed a surgical tech program under the grant. It would be the only one in Baltimore to offer an associate degree, not just a certificate, and it would do so in half the time it would normally take. Employees would work at their Hopkins jobs three days a week and attend school three days a week at Baltimore City Community College.

Before long, Louden was shopping for school supplies.

More than 300 employees competed for 10 spots in the coveted program, crafted jointly by the college, HR and the surgery departments across Hopkins affiliates. “In the end,” says Project REACH career coach Sue Bergamy-Willinger, “we came up with a first-rate group.”

The program was no cakewalk. Because it was accelerated, prerequisites and coursework were more demanding. In the end, six employees, including Louden, received degrees. At their May graduations, Bergamy-Willinger sounded more like a parent than career coach: “I’m proud beyond words of all of them.”

After turning down several offers, Louden, who graduated with honors, accepted a surgical technician spot at Bayview. Looking back, she observes, “I didn’t have a minute to myself, but it sure paid off. Now I can be part of the great clinical care in the OR.”

Judy Minkove



Johns Hopkins Medicine

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